As someone who works with graphic programs intensively, I find that twice a year, the best thing to do is a complete reinstall of WinXP. It's not as hard as it sounds, but it's time-consuming. Things you will need to do first are:
1. Back up your personal files to an external hard drive. They are pretty cheap now and I find that if I keep all my files on the external and all my system files on the "C" drive, crashes aren't so dramatic when they happen. If you collect fonts, you may want to make sure you make a backup of all your fonts as well. Check all your folders!
2. Utilize the "Files & Settings Transfer" wizard. You can access this in WinXP by going to: Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Files & Settings Transfer.
3. Once in the program you want to save your current computer settings from your "Old Computer" to a folder on your external hard drive or to a disc.
4. Next, save "Settings Only". This will save your Favorites, Desktop Settings, your Outlook/Mail settings and contacts, and other settings you don't know about.
5. Once you have done this, make sure you have all your discs for your software and hardware: WinXP, Microsoft Office, printer, scanner, etc. If you don't have a high-speed internet connection, you will need to contact Microsoft and get WinXP SP1, SP2 and SP3 on a disc from them. It's good to have anyway as the downloads are REALLY time-consuming. They'll send it to you for the cost of shipping.
6. Disconnect all your hardware except for your keyboard, speakers and monitor.
7. After you have done all these steps, you are ready to begin a fresh install of WinXP.
8. Insert your WinXP disc, and then turn off your computer.
9. Turn your computer back on while keeping your finger on the F12 key. As soon as you hear the first beep, start pressing the F12 key several times until you come to an options window.
10. Choose option #5 (start Windows from a CD).
11. You will then be asked if you want a "fresh install" or a "reinstall" of WinXP. Choose fresh install.
12. Then just folow the directions for a fresh install of WinXP.
13. After you have installed WinXP. Turn off your screensaver.
14. You are going to start getting all these pop-up balloons from Windows. Turn them off by editing your registry:
15. Go to Start>Run. Then enter "regedit" in the "open" window.
16. Go to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced
17. Add the DWORD value 'EnableBaloonTips' and give it a value of '0'.
18. Plugin in your internet connection and update WinXP from Windows Update (or by disc if you don't have a high-speed connection). This will give you all your security and usually your driver updates. Make sure to read all updates, there are several that may not apply to you. If in doubt, don't install it. If it's something you need, Windows will let you know.
18. Next, you need to install your anti-virus program and update it.
19. Next, go to: Control Panel>Add or Remove Programs>Add/Remove Windows Components
20. Run through the menus and uncheck anything that you don't want installed. Do you really need the MSN Explorer? No. Under games, you may or may not want all of them on your computer. There's a lot of "extras" that you can eliminate.
21. Now, you need to install your hardware (printer, scanner, etc). Run Windows Update after you have installed them in case there is a new driver available.
22. Next, you need to install the drivers for your external hard drive, so you can access it.
23. Once you've accessed your external hard drive, go to the "Files & Settings Transfer Wizard".
24. You want to check "New Computer" this time and have the system files that you saved from the Wizard transferred back to your computer.
25. Now, go back to: Control Panel>System>Hardware>DeviceManager and check to see if there are any conflicts with your drivers. If there is, click on it and download the updated driver from the internet.
26. Also, if you have an Intel chip, check to see if "hyperthreading" has been activated on your computer. This enhances performance of your computer and allows two or more programs to run simultaneiously.
27. In the Device Manager window, click the plus (+) sign next to the processor type. If Hyper-Threading is enabled, the processor is listed twice. If not, you'll need to consult your computer manual on how to activate it.
28. Before installing your programs, run ScanDisk. Go to "My Computer" from the Explorer window, and Right Click on your "C" drive.
29. Click on Properties>Tools. Under "Error Checking" click on "Check Now."
30. Restart your computer and allow ScanDisk to run.
31. After you've run ScanDisk, defrag your hard drive by going to: Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Computer Management>Disk Defragmenter.
32. Click on your "C" drive and click on "Analyze". If you need to defragment your hard drive, click on "defragment" and let it run. Make sure you've turned off your screensaver, disconnected your internet connection, and disabled your anti-vrius program as these will slow down the process.
33. Once your hard drive has been defragmented, re-plug your internet connection and restart your computer. Your Anti-Virus program should automatically reactivate, but check to make sure.
34. Now you are ready to install your programs. I would advise running ScanDisk and Defrag again after you have installed your programs.
35. Don't forget to go to the Adobe.com website and download the latest versions of Acrobat Reader, Flash and Shockwave as these programs run most of the internet. You will also want to go to the java.com website and download the latest version of Java for the same reason.
Doing a fresh install of your hard drive is complicated, but it can be done. If you make a mistake, you can start over again. I would advise doing this over the weekend as it can take upwards of 5-7 hours to do correctly. Don't attempt this unless you are sure you have a certified copy of WinXP along with the drivers for your computer, AND BE SURE TO BACK-UP ALL YOUR PERSONAL FILES BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANYTHING. I also make a list of everything I do as I do it, in case something goes wrong. It's also good to have as a reference when you decide to do it again.