Monthly Archives: May 2007

Fixing Windows XP’s sluggish behaviour

ICPUG is one of the oldest computer organisations in the UK, having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Almost every year since around 1992, I’ve attended the annual ICPUG computer weekend at the Queens Armes hotel in the village of Charmouth on the Dorset coast.

I’m just back from this year’s event, which was as entertaining as ever (talks ranged from helicopters to pure maths to safe-cracking in Nigeria, and there was even some computing thrown in for good measure). One of the most useful things I came away with, however, was a simple Windows XP that can dramatically improve responsiveness on many systems.

The Start menu on XP has a Documents sub-menu that conveniently lists the last 10 or so documents which have been worked on – very handy if you want to go back and edit a recent file. XP creates this menu from the most recent document shortcuts from the hidden ‘Recent’ folder in your User profile.

However, XP has no mechanism to automatically empty the Recent folder; instead, the more folders, files and documents you open, the more shortcuts accumulate here. On my own system, there were about 1600 shortcuts listed (including many duplicates), dating back to 2004.

Simply emptying out this folder can produce a notable improvement in response speed for things like opening new browser windows, double-clicking document files, and even opening disk folders. I tried it on my system, and the effect was immediate – it felt as fast as a brand new XP installation again.

Because the folder is hidden, the easiest way to get to it is to select Run from the Start menu, then enter:


as the command to run. This will open the Recent folder and you can see how many shortcuts are listed. Then a simple Select All followed by Delete will get rid of them for once and for all.

Credit for this tip must go to Brian Grainger, webmaster of the ICPUG UK site; thanks Brian!

(As a final footnote, the Queens Armes has been sold to new owners as of May 24, 2007, and I believe the name will be changing to Abbotsville or Abbotshead.)