This might sound crazy; but I make it a point to reinstall Windows every 6-8 months. I install a lot of tools/applications and over the period of time the PC becomes very slow. Even if I do DiskCleanup and Registry cleanup, its not of much use !
Some of the steps I take before reinstalling Windows
1. Take a snapshot of the Start Menu Programs ! It does help in
2. Check/Backup files in My Documents/Desktop. (Backing up the entire user profile directory might make more sense)
3. Check Program Files (Many a times I have lost important files such as the save files of Games, local blog data etc)
4. Use a tool/browser plugin like Google Browser Sych to backup your browser bookmarks.
My notebook vendor restore CD works like a charm; The installation of Windows XP is done within 20 min, configuration of the OS takes another 10 min and the installation of tools/drivers takes another 10 min. So in less than an hour my notebook is back to the factory configuration !
This phase is more painful partly due to absence of Windows XP SP3. It takes an infinite time for the auto update feature of Windows to download and install all the updates.
Most of the applications that I install don’t run because of the missing .NET framework. Few tools don’t work properly because of the screwed up MS XML parser.
SP2 was released way back in Aug 2004 and I am not sure why SP3 is still not out. The number of patches that have been released after SP2 definitely calls for a SP3; probably the focus of MS is on Vista and not on XP !