A clean install of Windows always seems to perform fairly well. Then after 6 months or so the disk has got fragmented, applications you've installed and uninstalled have left cruft lying around the system, a dozen upgrades to Windows and your essential applications has left a legacy of redundant files and dead ends.

It's not just a WindowsXP thing. It's been happening to me since Windows first put a GUI on top of DOS. Oh, and exactly the same happens on my PowerBook with OSX (and I used to find the same problem with OS/2 as well).

I think Microsoft should put aside a dedicated team to developing smart, on-the-fly health-checking and improvement services for Windows Vista. It would possibly mean more to me than Aero and some of the more esoteric features to know that it's actively watching what I do, and tuning the machine at every opportunity to maximise the use I get from the CPU, disk and battery.

Sure, there are a bunch of registry hacks I can go out and search the web for. There are some services I can turn off (and some I really should turn off). There are a bunch of hidden hardware drivers that you don't need running (to see them in WinXP right click on My Computer, select Properties, Hardware, and Device Manager. In Device Manager, select View and Show Hidden Devices.)

I can (and do) regularly run a defrag. And I have anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware apps running to protect me from the evils of the internet. And I regularly manually run a desk cleanup.

The point is that I shouldn't need to do all of this. My computer has plenty of idle cycles when I'm thinking not typing. And plenty more when I go for lunch. If it asked nicely I'd even be happy to leave it on overnight to do a big tidy-up once a month.

Sad thing is that even running the new Live OneCare doesn't do all these things for me.

This of course opens up the market to no end of snake-oil vendors selling applications that apparently will make a Celeron with 256MB RAM perform like a high-end AMD Athlon X2 rig... but somehow they never quite work out for me.

have however recently come across the opposite. A simple, understated app that actually manages some meaningful tweaks - check out TuneXP from D-Force. It may not have a flashy GUI and a world renowned marketing team behind it... but the folks who recommend it are serious about getting every bit of bang from their buck that they can.

I think it'll be a while before the heuristic, holistic, holy grail of self tuning, self optimising software lands on my hard drive but... I can keep on dreaming. And defragmenting. And running the OneCare Tune Up!

.... and it looks like I'm not alone with my issues!