Slow performance can be a very difficult problem to diagnose, as the causes of slow performance are many. What's more, slow performance is often a subjective measurement: "slow" to one person can be "working as designed" to another.
Here's on thing you can count on, however: the longer you use a computer, the slower it's going to respond. Fortunately, XP ships with several tools to help diagnose and correct the causes of degraded performance. These tools include:
Each of these tools is available through the Help and Support Center. Under the Pick a Task section, choose the last option, "Use tools to view your computer information and diagnose problems." For example, say you wanted to see whether the cause of a slowdown was obsolete device drivers. First, you'll want to figure out if you are, in fact, using any obsolete drivers. To do this, choose the "My Computer Information" tool, as shown in Figure 14-9.
Figure 14-9. XP has an awesome set of Tools.
You'll now see a list of specific computer information that can be gathered. If, in this example, you're looking for any possible obsolete drivers, you'll want to "View the status of my system hardware and software." Click this link, and XP will then spend the next several seconds (or longer, depending on your system speed, whose slowness is the reason you're looking, right?) gathering information. The results of your diagnostic check will display in the following screen, as shown in Figure 14-10.
Figure 14-10. View results of a Help and Support Center diagnostic test.
As you can see, the report has identified two potential trouble areas: the network card I'm using is not supported, and the disk space on my D:\ drive is at critical levels.
The new reporting functions available are especially powerful when combined with the hyperlinks under the Help column of the report. For example, I can start to take corrective action for the network card issue by following the Look for Driver hyperlink. The Troubleshooter hyperlinks step you through a series of questions and actions geared toward resolving the problem. There's no guarantee that these actions will resolve system slowdown, but they can certainly take a good many of the more common problems off the table before continuing with other troubleshooting efforts, like buying a bigger hard drive.