In many ways, Windows XP is able to better take advantage of your hardware than Windows 9x/Me, but that doesn't mean it's configured for optimal performance right out of the box. Because all the software you run is dependent upon the operating system, tweaking Windows for better performance can result in performance gains across the board.
To start off, there are several easy settings that can have a substantial effect on Windows responsiveness. The next few sections explain these settings.
Windows XP adds animation to almost every visual component of the operating system. While these affectations may be cute, they can easily make a 2 GHz computer perform as though it were an antiquated 386. Rather than watch your Start Menu crawl to its open position, you can configure your menus and list boxes to snap to position. You'll be surprised at how much faster and more responsive Windows will feel.
The settings that can affect performance are scattered throughout the interface, but the ones that control display effects are the ones that concern us here. Double-click the System icon in Control Panel, choose the Advanced tab, and click Settings in the Performance section. The Visual Effects tab, shown in Figure 5-1, contains sixteen settings, all explained later.
Figure 5-1. The Performance Options window is a good place to start when ...