Like probably quite a few people, my Windows XP computer began to run more sluggishy over the months, and I assumed I just had too many services running, and I systematically began to disable the ones I wasn't using. It didn't really help much.
I systematically began to check out each tip I could find, on how to improve your computer's speed. And then, at some point, I found this tip: Use ClearMem To Speed Up XP.
It seemed so strange. It's a little command line utility, only just under 10 k in size, and according to the copyright notice (1190-1993), is over 12 years old, so it must date back to the early days of Windows NT. But it's written by Microsoft, and XP is actually NT, so... I tried it out.
The results were excellent. I don't know exactly what it does, according to some websites it can't even work. You run it only once. Previously, whenever I tried to shut down the computer, it took several minutes for the shutdown dialog box (the one with an orange, a red and a green button) to appear, and now it only takes a few seconds.
I don't know at all what's going on, but I have the impression that the system's disk cache gets severely fragmented after a while, and that this tool cleans it out. The effect even sticks across reboots, which makes me feel that Windows keeps using the same messy cache even across reboots.
Like I said, I don't know at all what's going on, but this is what it would appear to have done to my system. If you have similar troubles, it's worth trying it out.