This is the basic formula to keep your Windows PC running smoothly:
Keep it clean and simple.
- Buy decent hardware; otherwise it's just an up-hill battle.
- Back up your PC! Always have a backup.
- Install Windows Updates and keep up to date.
In spite of what people say about Windows Updates screwing everything up, it's inadvisable to stay behind; if things do go wrong in an update, you should roll back immediately.
- Install virus protection.
- Install as little software as possible!
Only install trusted software, not every piece of software you can download. Do not install lots of toolbars in your browser! Do not have lots of things sitting on your desktop; get rid of the junk - put it in folders. Do not put files in the top-level C:\ directory; put all your files under "My Documents" or similar.
The less programs you have wanting to be started up when you log in, the faster your PC will run, so keep your installed software to a minimum.
Don't fill up the PC with junk; you should have at least 10% or 1Gb free disk space for the operating system to work with, whichever is smaller.
- For normal day-to-day use, do not run as an administrator.
This is a big problem with Windows XP that was addressed somewhat in Windows Vista and 7 - users should NOT normally have administrator privileges; that is just asking for trouble.