Seeing as this used to be my big topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s now possible to remove Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and other components from Windows 2000 and XP using software from litepc.com.
I haven’t tested it, so I don’t know how much difference it makes, performance-wise. It made a large difference in Windows 98–removing IE caused system speedups of anywhere from 10 to 25 percent, which is more than you gain by upgrading your CPU a speed grade or two. This was mostly due to two factors: reduced memory consumption and inefficiencies in the FAT/FAT32 file systems. It’s been known for about 20 years that performance starts to degrade dramatically once you have more than 100 files in a program or operating system’s subdirectory (Microsoft even said as much in the DOS 5.0 manual).
Since most people run XP and 2000 with NTFS, and since systems with half a gig of memory or more are becoming commonplace, I don’t know if removing IE will make as much difference in this day and age. It certainly makes sense from a security standpoint though–rip out IE, Media Player and Outlook Express and replace them with third-party apps, and you’ve just eliminated most of the programs whose security holes affect desktop PCs. It comes at the expense of compatibility though. Some programs utilize Outlook Express and IE components–although some programs will install the missing DLLs.
But for special-purpose PCs, or other PCs that aren’t running any software that uses those programs, or PCs that are strapped for disk space, it makes sense to give it a shot.