The first step to keeping your computer safe is to perform regular system updates. Apply this when the Operating System has been recently installed, and make sure the system keeps updating itself automatically whenever updates become available. These updates are generally important, and often critical, which in turn will better protect your computer from most vulnerabilities. How to turn on automatic updates (if disabled): Go to the Start menu> Settings>Control Panel>System>Automatic Updates tab.
Install an anti-virus utility. There are many great commercial software out there (typically starting at $50), but in case you are unable to purchase any of these, there are also some free ones that offer the essentials needed to keep your computer safe. Please note that commercial software generally come as a full package, containing advanced firewall features, parental controls, better e-mail filtering, and so on. However, depending on your needs, free anti-virus programs will allow you to at least scan and clean your computer for viruses. See external links for more information on obtaining free anti-virus software
Other than scanning your computer for viruses, keep a spyware-removal tool available. Again, there are free applications out there that perform an excellent job at finding what doesn’t belong on your hard drive; anything from tracking cookies to ad-related files. Why is it important that these malicious files remain off your computer? To provide a general idea, it keeps your personal data protected, and gives your system the potential to remain fast and smooth because no unwanted information will be loaded into the system’s memory (which launches undesired processes and services to run behind the scenes).
Talking about processes and services, make sure your system is not running any unknown application in the background. While this piece of
information may be intended for more advanced users, it is nonetheless a vital step in keeping your computer protected. Note: See general warnings section below for more information.Take some time to see if your hard drive has any fragmented files. You can do this by going to the Start menu>Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter. In short, what this means is that many files are often scattered all over the system into different pieces (as you launch needed applications) and therefore become disorganized, which causes your applications to take longer to launch. Allow this simple application to organize your files, and your system will thank you.
Backup your files regularly. Even if your computer is fully protected by trusted applications, you never know when your system (or hard drive) might crash. These are things that happen when you least expect it. Move or copy all documents and other personal data to other storage device(s) regularly.In an effort to keep your computer running fast, the general rule with an Operating System is to format it every six months. While it is not necessary, it helps keep your system fresh. For these occasions, it is best to image your system with proper imaging software.
Keep your system firewall enabled. Windows XP has a free firewall included. This is definitely not for everyone, but when it comes to keeping intruders out, this guy delivers. See if your Windows firewall is enabled via the Start menu>Settings>Control Panel>Windows Firewall.
Note: Some applications/games may depend on the disability of your firewall in order to establish an internet connection (to perform application updates or expand gaming possibilities.)
Only install needed applications. When excessive programs are installed, your system takes a hit by having to store essential program files into the registry. In the long run, your computer may perform a bit sluggish. If possible, keep your computer clean.The last step is to NOT simply perform all of the above as a one-time activity. Many people forget to perform these duties on a regular basis. Remember, only YOU can tell your computer what to do. See general tips below for more information.
Set up an automatic virus scan. – Setup automatic, regular schedules to defragment your computer. – Try to become a bit familiar with the processes and services your computer is currently running. – Make sure Windows automatic updates are enabled and that your system is always up-to-date.
Modifying active processes and services is for advanced users. If you desire to enable/disable any of these, you may cripple any function your Operating System offers, depending on its nature/job. For reference on toggling services, right-click on My Computer, and click on “Manage”.
When restoring an image of your operating system, make sure you do not overwrite existing data on your computer.
If your computer remains slow despite careful maintenance, it may be in need of hardware upgrades, such as RAM (Random Access Memory) or a more powerful video card (depending on your needs.)