Do not make comments like "There are cell phones faster than that."
First, this isn't true.
Second, it's insulting.
Third, his laptop isn't that poorly performing. My mother has a machine older than that (Athlon XP 2400+) and it still chugs along just fine.
Fourth, computers DO NOT become "decrepit and old" in a few years. They still will do everything that they did when they were young. They may not run the newest version of Windows PhotoWanker 3000 or whatever, but old machines are still perfectly serviceable.
Now the technical advice:
First, the fact that the processor is at 800 MHz is no cause for concern. Laptop processors reduce their speed on the fly to reduce heat buildup and save battery power. They do this even when they're plugged in. No, this won't reduce performance -- you can be confident that whenever you need the full speed of your processor, it'll be there for you.
Second, your computer is plenty powerful enough to do almost anything (bar gaming) that you want it to do. The only thing it lacks is RAM; since WinXP is such a pig, 192 MB isn't really enough.
Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to get more RAM. There's not much demand for smallish sticks of DDR1 RAM any more; you might be able to pick up a 512 MB stick for cheap ($30 or less). If you add more RAM to your computer, it'll solve all your problems (unless you have something else the matter, like a spyware infestation).
Don't listen to the folks that say that you need a new computer. Unless you want to play the newest games, your machine is more than sufficient (once you add RAM to it) to do all sorts of stuff. Sure, there's some stuff you can't do on that machine; I wouldn't want to do computational physics on it. But for what I'm guessing you want it for, it's plenty sufficient.
(Just because there are new cars out doesn't mean I need to junk my '94 Saturn. It still works fine!)
If you can't get more RAM, there are some things you can do to help:
1. Turn off all components of Windows XP you don't need. Set it to Classic Mode (or whatever the oldschool style of display is).
2. Use the web browser Opera (www.opera.com
) rather than Firefox. It has a much smaller memory footprint.
3. Close programs you don't need when you're done with them.
4. When your computer starts thrashing the hard drive and being slow, it's "swapping" things out of memory to disk in order to make room for new stuff. When it does this, don't ask it to do even more stuff until it gets done moving things between memory and disk.