Author Topic: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible  (Read 8590 times)

missundecided

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Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« on: July 17, 2013, 11:35:23 AM »
Hi everyone,

After 13 months of struggling with an unfriendly laptop (after years of devoted service, it just started to rebel despite enlisting the help of a local computer repair guy, who was pretty stumped himself), I finally stomped my foot in a fit of rage and purchased a replacement. Probably deserving of a face punch but too late now.

I'd like to give it the best chance at long-term survival as I can (both from a financial and e-waste perspective).  I haven't done anything yet with it except start the battery charge-up/down cycle and clean out a couple of programs I didn't want on the system (surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of bloatware), but if anyone has any suggestions on the steps I should take to get it on the right foot before I start fully using this computer, it would be greatly appreciated! It's a PC on Windows 7.

Let me know if this is the wrong forum--I wasn't sure if this question should go here or the Off-Topic forum.

Thanks for reading!

dragoncar

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 11:39:52 AM »
Keep it cool.  Heat and mechanical damage are about the only things to worry about

GoStumpy

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 11:41:15 AM »
Almost all things that kill PC's are heat, or moisture.

Keep all the vents clean monthly, including the fan, compressed air is usually your best bet.

Yearly I like to remove the cover and blow out any dust that gets inside.

Battery wise, keep it unplugged and off when not in use, don't leave it plugged into a power source, that'll kill the battery.

Keep it dry, keep it clean, and it'll last until something breaks due to design, not neglect :-)

SaveALLTheThings

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 12:02:10 PM »
There are a few things you can do to ensure your laptop lasts a long time and performs its best.

1)Anti virus/malware software
One of the first things you should do with any new computer is install antivirus software.  It helps protect you from malicious software that can do anything from stealing your personal banking info to using your computer as a member of a huge zombie horde that cracks passwords instead of brains.  There's lot of free software that works perfectly well for personal users, so don't pay for it.  I prefer Avast but there are a few other free alternatives.

2)Good air circulation
Heat is very bad for computer parts and too much heat will wear the computer down faster.  Always use it on a flat surface.  If you're going to use it in bed, on the couch or on your lap, I would suggest investing in a laptop cooling pad for around $10-20 so you have a flat surface that also helps dissipate heat.  This probably has the greatest long term impact on the laptop.

3)Clean out dust regularly
Neglecting this leads to overheating.  Dust builds up pretty fast in your computer.  I would recommend at least using compressed air to clean the dust out of the fan exhaust, and if you're comfortable with it, opening the laptop from the bottom to get better access to clean.  This may void your warranty though, so I would say just do the best job you can from the outside if you don't want to risk that.

4)Do occasional software maintenance
  Every once in a while, go into add/remove programs from the control panel and look for junk to uninstall.  Sometimes there's programs you use once and forget about, and other times stuff you didn't want will hitch a ride with other software you install.  Sometimes these unwanted programs have update wizards or other silly useless things running in the background wasting resources.  Also, make sure you set up an automatic disk defragmentation schedule.  From regular use of your computer, data gets scattered all over your hard drive and it takes longer for the computer to find what it needs.  Disk defragmentation acts like the librarian of your computer.  It reorganizes the data for faster access. The more often you do it, the quicker it goes.

Instructions for windows 7 can be found here: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/configure-disk-defragmenter-schedule-in-windows-vista/

Instructions for windows 8 is here: http://helpdeskgeek.com/windows-8/what-happened-to-disk-defragmenter-in-windows-8/


5)Replace the battery when it goes bad
When the amount of charge on your laptop's battery is low and the laptop is not plugged in, the performance of the device can be affected.  When you first get the computer, the battery should last anywhere from 2-6 hours depending on the laptop.  If you can't browse the internet for more than 45 minutes on a full charge, it's probably time to replace the battery.

« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 12:14:37 PM by SaveALLTheThings »

GuitarStv

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 12:33:51 PM »
First of all, you picked the wrong computer for a long life.  As a rule laptops have shorter lifespans than boxes.  They heat up more in worse areas (small case, tight component configuration), are moved around more and thus get more vibration damage, and lithium ion batteries aren't usually good for much more than 2-3 years because of the way they're designed.

Keep your data and favorite software backed up somewhere else.  This way if you ever have a software problem (or if your hard disk fails), you can just format the computer and start over from scratch with no concerns.

Computer components all work better if they're kept cool.  Get a cooling pad to run your laptop on, and use it regularly.  Cleanliness is better for your computer.  Less stuff stuck to it makes for easier airflow and cooling.  Also, keep an eye on the fan ports for signs of dust (that you will have to clean out).

If you regularly transport your laptop anywhere, get a padded bag or sleeve at the least.  Shocks are bad for electronics!  Don't stress your laptop when carrying it outside of a bag.  Holding the laptop by a corner stresses the case.

To extend lithium ion battery life, you do not want to leave your laptop on the charger after it has reached 100%, this causes overheating and can damage the battery.  (Actually, if you keep it plugged in most of the time you can extend the life of your battery by removing it completely, then putting it in a plastic baggie in your freezer . . . lower temperatures keep your battery in better condition for longer).  You also want to avoid draining the battery completely, as short duty cycles are less harmful than long ones.  Interesting to note . . . an unplugged laptop battery at 40% charge at regular temperatures will stay good for MUCH longer than an unplugged laptop battery at 100% charge.  (http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries)

secondcor521

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 12:44:47 PM »
The advice on disk defragmentation will help maintain the performance of your system but will not make it last significantly longer.

Also, if your new system has a solid state drive, you will not need to and should not defragment it.  Defragmenting a solid state drive will not increase the performance and will unnecessarily use up the useful life of the product.

GoStumpy

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2013, 12:57:44 PM »
For reference, we're still using my wife's Laptop from College, bought in fall 2007... 6 years old, we've replaced the hard-drive because it was making bad noises (didn't die, but it was going to) with one that's 4x the size, and we've replaced the battery.  Other than that, still runs like the day it was bought.

Probably will last another 6 years with any luck!  If she upgrades to a gaming laptop, I'm stealing it for playing Poker :)

missundecided

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2013, 01:11:24 PM »
Thanks for all the advice! I know laptop =/= longevity, but still these are all very helpful tips, even if my question is pretty oxymoronic!

Is there anything I should set up within Windows to optimize it from the get-go too? I'm currently looking into externals to serve as my back-up and main storage device (or are they mutually exclusive?) and once that's done, I'm creating a system restore disk (is that what it's called?) When I was poking around, trying to figure it out on my own, I saw that there's also an imaging back-up option--if I do all of them, is that overkill?

 

daverobev

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 01:12:53 PM »
Don't discharge the battery if you can help it - stay above 50% if possible. Running it down to 0% is REALLY bad for batteries. You do not need to do 'cycles'.

When it comes to AV stuff, I would go lightweight and careful. The big antivirus suites are (excuse profanity) resource hogging pieces of shite. They will slow your computer down, 24/7. I use ClamWin which is REALLY lightweight and does not have an 'on demand' scanner.. but I like it that way. McAfee can use half the computer.. awful stuff. KEEP CLEAR! Ditto Norton. Just avoid it. AVG Free used to be alright but I think it got more bloated.

Pick your laptop up with both hands. Don't just pick it up by the corner with one!

Try not to plug/unplug the cable from the power socket 50x a day. Try not to open and close the lid 50x a day. It's fine - you're using the machine - but screen hinges, screen cables, and power sockets wear out.

If it is a very slim laptop with no real feet but a fan vent underneath, maybe look into raising the laptop up to improve airflow.

When I had mine plugged into a keyboard and mouse and external monitor, I used to sit it on a baking tray - wire thing for putting loaves of bread on when they come out of the oven. Now I have two cork coasters raising the back up.

But honestly, just use it; when it eventually dies, buy an off-lease Dell or similar *professional* laptop. It should be powerful enough, and really solidly constructed. Say $250.

daverobev

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2013, 01:14:54 PM »
Thanks for all the advice! I know laptop =/= longevity, but still these are all very helpful tips, even if my question is pretty oxymoronic!

Is there anything I should set up within Windows to optimize it from the get-go too? I'm currently looking into externals to serve as my back-up and main storage device (or are they mutually exclusive?) and once that's done, I'm creating a system restore disk (is that what it's called?) When I was poking around, trying to figure it out on my own, I saw that there's also an imaging back-up option--if I do all of them, is that overkill?

A system restore will allow you to restore the computer to exactly where it was when it crashed - basically this is for hard drive failures only, as it won't work on different models usually.

If you're organised you can just keep everything in your user folder, and copy the whole lot off; in addition to a system restore, you'd be covered.

VasyaPupkin

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2013, 09:04:33 PM »
As somebody who has finally decided it's time to upgrade from our 2004 vintage Thinkpad X series, my advice would be to get a used (1-2 years old) business class laptop. I tend to like Thinkpads (X or T series). You save about 50% off the new price and there isn't much that can't be replaced if it needs to be. As an example a T410 series "tank" can be had for sub $300. Then when that gets slow, you sell it and get another used one. Just like with used cars, except there is typically way less wear on a laptop in a good condition

Micheal

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2013, 11:46:35 PM »
About once a month let the battery get to below 20% then do a full charge.  This will help the battery charge more efficiently.  Otherwise keep the device charged to above 50% if possible and keep it cool dry and clean.  The computer will fail, it is designed to, but these basic things will help you keep it alive longer.  The other thing to do is what i like to call process maintenance, make sure that only the programs that you want running should be running, this will extend your battery time significantly, and if done regularly will let you know when you have a bit of malware or a virus to get rid of. 

Vilx-

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2013, 01:52:13 AM »
The advice given here is pretty solid. My comments on it:
  • For keeping the battery alive longer there are as many different opinions on the net as there are people. The only solid thing I know is that Lithium batteries dislike being kept empty, so try to keep them as charged as possible. The rest is just speculation. My DELL laptop still has the original battery from over 3 years ago and still runs as new. Granted, I don't use it very much. But I can already tell that (at least for my model) the "don't leave it plugged in" rule doesn't apply. When the battery is full it just stops charging. I know it because the power adapter gets warm when used. So I keep it plugged in whenever possible and no problems. Also - batteries have a luck factor, so don't fret it too much. If it lasts for 2 years - great, just buy a replacement afterwards.
  • I've never seen any effect of disk defragmentation even on my classic hard drives. Of course, SSDs don't need it at all (it just wears them down needlessly). And Windows also has an automatically scheduled defragmentation anyway (for HDDs but not for SSDs), so you shouldn't worry about this at all.
  • On my laptop hibernation gets the computer awake much faster than powering on. So that saves both battery and your time (a bit). So use it to the fullest.
  • Software-wise there isn't much you can do to extend longevity. Indeed, reducing the amount of software running is probably the only thing and that has any effect, because it decreases the power needed and helps you complete yor work quicker. Incidentally, the antiviruses, as mentioned previously, are one of the biggest hogs. And the ones that are more lightweight (clam, Microsoft Security Essentials, etc) also are less effective in detecting viruses. Anyways, while I do recommend an antivirus to all non-computer-specialists, I can also say that they are not a necessity. I've lived without an antivirus on any of the computers I use for over 10 years, and I've never had a virus. These days the computer systems are pretty solid already and infecting them without anybody knowing isn't an easy task for a virus. Hence most viruses use social engineering instead. That is, they arrive in your spam folder and contain a NakedPics.exe attachment (or the like). Or they might send you a link to that NakedPics.exe through facebook or something. But in the end, you'll have to click "Run" on the infected program yourself. So if you're pretty good with distinguishing spam from actual content, you might even skip the antivirus.

Micheal

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 05:53:45 AM »
I've never installed an anti-virus and back-up all my important data regularly.  Thts another one, have hard state data backups (DVD, CD, thumb drive, USB SSD kept in a cool vibration free place, the cloud, ect.ect.ect.) your computer will crash and will need the OS re-installed at some point.

Sparafusile

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2013, 05:59:11 AM »
Uninstall any anti virus software that came with it and install Microsoft Security Essentials:

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download

The majority of complains I get when I "fix" somebody's computer is it's slow. The majority of the time the slowness is caused by the antivirus program. MSE is lightweight and free - use it.

Do not put anything between your keyboard and your screen when you close the lid. It will weaken the hinges and could scratch and/or break the screen.

If your laptop eventually gets slow, gets a virus, or starts having a lot of problem, don't buy a new one. Pay somebody to re-install Windows for you after wiping the hard drive. Afterwards it will literally feel like a brand new computer. This is what I would have suggested you do with your old one before you bought your current one.

GoStumpy

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2013, 06:53:34 AM »
Sparafusile, I give the same advice all the time... However I was talking to our IT Department at work last week, and he mentioned to me that MSE used to be awesome, but now it's gone downhill... apparently it's not keeping up with the new viruses that come out very well, and doesn't detect anything quite often.  He recommended Avast!'s free offering, as well as Malwarebytes...

I still run MSE but am thinking of changing...

Vilx-

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2013, 08:44:42 AM »
Yes, it did pretty poorly in some independant tests. Then again, Microsoft says that the tests do not represent real-world viruses and situations. Go figure. I don't think that it's possible to do an accurate evaluation of "antivirus efficiency". Also, nothing will protect the computer when the user willingly disables the antivirus to check out the latest HalfLife3FullVersionByPirates.exe. Common sense is still the best anti-virus out there.

nawhite

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2013, 09:34:07 AM »
If they gave you the disks for it, re-install the OS from scratch for most PC's. Unless you have a buisiness laptop there will be extra services, programs, and other crapware that you have no need. Re-installing will also likely fix any non-hardware problems on the old laptop.

The other recommendation I have is replace and HDD with an SSD (solid state drive). It costs money and you might have to do a reinstall anyway but it is so worth it. Your old computer with an SSD will feel faster than your new one with a normal hard drive.

Micheal

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2013, 12:24:19 PM »
I used to use grisofts AVG myself, and still install it when a client has to have antivirus, no subscription to list, totally free for non commercial customers, and community serviced so it detects most viruses pretty quickly.  Best of all it used to be pretty lightweight too but I havent done a full fix in a while so i might be wrong here now.

missundecided

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2013, 01:01:29 PM »
Quote
If your laptop eventually gets slow, gets a virus, or starts having a lot of problem, don't buy a new one. Pay somebody to re-install Windows for you after wiping the hard drive. Afterwards it will literally feel like a brand new computer. This is what I would have suggested you do with your old one before you bought your current one.

Yep, did this, and the computer still caused me problems. It basically had a seizure the day I brought it home after the repair guy re-installed Windows/wiped the hard drive. (In fairness, it was having seizures before then, so it wasn't because of him, and I took it back to him many times afterwards because he wanted to fix it gratis. Unsuccessfully, unfortunately.) That was last summer when it first started getting mean, and I lived with its unpredictable fits since then.

But, long story short, you've all been very helpful, thank you! Good stuff to digest.

steveo

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2013, 04:18:43 PM »
My take is this:-

1. Buy a desktop.
2. Build it yourself - its easy.
3. Don't get top of the range but get a little under that level.
4. Use Linux. Its free and no add-on software is required. I also find it cleaner and better as well but the kids tell me they don't like it.

daverobev

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2013, 05:05:28 PM »
My take is this:-

1. Buy a desktop.
2. Build it yourself - its easy.
3. Don't get top of the range but get a little under that level.
4. Use Linux. Its free and no add-on software is required. I also find it cleaner and better as well but the kids tell me they don't like it.

You can't take a desktop to the library, on holiday, to a coffee shop, or to the sofa.

Yes - cheaper. You can buy a 5 year old HP something or other for under $100 that will do EVERYTHING 90% of people need.

iPad? Tablet? The browsers are *shite*. Firefox + adblock plus + flashblock are ABSOLUTE musts for me. I have a Playbook and an iPad 2 and they are AWFUL. I use them but I hate using them.

I'm not everyone, and I have way too many computers (I work in IT - developing stuff - so I need the iPad and so on for testing).

If you JUST need to check your email and write the odd letter, yes, the $100 desktop + monitor will do fine.

If you get a desktop, clean the PSU fan and air intakes if you have carpet and/or dogs and/or cats!

JackandJill

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2013, 10:48:04 AM »
I just want to say, working with hundreds of computers, both desktops and laptops, good laptop batteries can also be found at Batteries Plus (and I have no ties to them)--even for Dells and HPs. Just give them the computer model and they will help you out--I've been impressed with the quality.
Laptop batteries will last approximately 4 years from the date of manufacture. So don't buy 2--they'll run out at around the same time. Get the freshest batteries you can find each time.
Most of our cmos batteries on desktops last 5-6 years and can be found at most battery places and even W-mart, for $10.

prodarwin

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2013, 03:35:53 PM »
If you JUST need to check your email and write the odd letter, yes, the $100 desktop + monitor will do fine.

If you get a desktop, clean the PSU fan and air intakes if you have carpet and/or dogs and/or cats!

Or get one of these:  http://utilite-computer.com/web/home

$100, uses a lot less power than the average desktop, and no moving parts (and as a result is quieter and cooler).  Hook it up to a monitor, or your TV.

daverobev

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #24 on: July 21, 2013, 06:16:55 PM »
I just want to say, working with hundreds of computers, both desktops and laptops, good laptop batteries can also be found at Batteries Plus (and I have no ties to them)--even for Dells and HPs. Just give them the computer model and they will help you out--I've been impressed with the quality.
Laptop batteries will last approximately 4 years from the date of manufacture. So don't buy 2--they'll run out at around the same time. Get the freshest batteries you can find each time.
Most of our cmos batteries on desktops last 5-6 years and can be found at most battery places and even W-mart, for $10.

CR2032 'button cells' should cost nowhere near $10! Check fleabay...

The most frustrating thing with laptop batteries is that each one contains 3-9 cells that are actually AA-sized, and - if the manufacturers had any inclination - could be swapped out for even better than new high quality cells as the old ones failed. For 1/5 the price. Sigh.

worms

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2013, 11:40:03 PM »
The most frustrating thing with laptop batteries is that each one contains 3-9 cells that are actually AA-sized, and - if the manufacturers had any inclination - could be swapped out for even better than new high quality cells as the old ones failed. For 1/5 the price. Sigh.
I'm sure they could also be standardised so that one battery fitted a whole range of laptops!

Appletree

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #26 on: July 22, 2013, 12:07:36 AM »
I have lenovo x200 running now for 4 years and still going strong. Couple things can ease your life.

1. When buying laptop choose around year old model. Then do some googleing if there are any common problems. I you find hate forum dedicated for the model move on.
2. Pick some model which is used in companies. For these models there will be good amount of spare parts.
3. Keep it clean and cool.

When you laptop hit's around 4 years and there are newer models from same computer... You'll get all the fancy parts like docking station ridiculously cheap :) I just bought docking station for 50$. Before it was over 200$. In my opinion background work will save your money and time.

rugorak

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #27 on: July 22, 2013, 07:13:30 AM »
Another option no one has mentioned is with windows (especially older versions such as XP) it is a good idea to every so often to do a clean install. So backup everything (as you will be completely wiping all data from your hard drive) and then reinstall the OS. Preferably from actual OS media and not the restore disks you get from many vendors. It is a pain and can take a while to get all your drivers and software loaded back on. But usually things will hum along much better. I haven't found the need to do this as much with Windows 7 (and never with linux).

I also like Security Essentials and use it myself but be aware it can and does miss some things. I recommend using a plugin like noscript as well. Noscript is a huge pain at first. But as time goes on you can get it set up to allow the sites you frequent (and not some of the crap advertising and so on that those same sites may try and load) and temporarily allow things from time to time to figure out the way things work. And cross site scripting is the most common way to get infected so if you only allow the sites you actually want then you are far less likely to get infected.

daverobev

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Re: Helping a computer to live as long a life as possible
« Reply #28 on: July 22, 2013, 09:13:41 AM »
Another option no one has mentioned is with windows (especially older versions such as XP) it is a good idea to every so often to do a clean install. So backup everything (as you will be completely wiping all data from your hard drive) and then reinstall the OS. Preferably from actual OS media and not the restore disks you get from many vendors. It is a pain and can take a while to get all your drivers and software loaded back on. But usually things will hum along much better. I haven't found the need to do this as much with Windows 7 (and never with linux).

IMHO - and my experience - if you don't install a load of crap, it'll be ok. If you uninstall all that crap, do a defrag, delete temp files, and registry clean (I use... um. ToniArts something or other, really old but does the trick! EasyCleaner, that's it) you do NOT need to reinstall the OS.

I've got better at cleaning out my temp stuff over the years. My computers just don't seem to slow down...