Good, Better, Best
First thing we need to discuss is what you have now. Do you have a store-bought bundled computer system or did you build it from scratch? Below are the options you have with each, and what we recommend for fastest performance post-operating system install. Keep in mind these are our recommendations, you may follow them as you wish.
Retail Store Bought Bundled PC
Systems bought off the retail store shelf are the worst to try and maximize performance with. They come loaded with an operating system, a plethora of software and games, and out of the box are only running at around 65-75% of their capabilities. Recommendations are tough with these computers only because Microsoft does not give you access to a Windows XP disc with most of them, which means if you reformat you are only going to load all of that stuff again. We highly recommend building your own systems, that way you get only what you need, minus the extra stuff which ends up being clutter. Skip right to the Windows XP optimizations page and use those resources to speed up your system to make it run close to its potential.
Aftermarket and Home Built Systems (No operating system)
These are the best machines in terms of system performance. Maybe you went to Falcon Northwest, Alienware, or your local shop and had them piece one together with the latest and greatest. Maybe you built it by yourself at home. Either way, these systems are the best for getting Windows running great pre-gaming. You have all options available in terms of installation of Windows and only what you actually need in terms of software will be loaded. For these systems, follow the whole guide, as these systems most accurately follow the blueprint for what a gamer would go out and buy.
*Note: This is a Windows XP optimization guide meant to be used as a resource for maximizing performance of your new system, or to increase the performance of your older system. Use of this article is entirely up to the end user, and FiringSquad bears no responsibility for any software application that may be missing after using any of the methods used in installation, optimization, or tweaking.
Operating System Used and Machine Used
Microsoft Windows XP Professional Version 2002(Non Service Pack)
AMD Athlon XP 2600+ (Thoroughbred core)
FIC AU11 Chameleon nForce2 Motherboard
512MB DDR333 SDRAM
20GB Western Digital Hard Drive
Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse