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A Google search for something like "XP speed up prefetch" may produce dozens (or more) of links to sites proclaiming that periodically emptying the prefetch folder will dramatically improve your system's performance.
However, this is not always true. In fact, emptying the prefetch folder may (temporarily) have the opposite effect, since XP automatically (re)generates the prefetch files anyway.
Furthermore, because XP itself limits the number of prefetch files that are created, these files do not occupy vast amounts of space, as some articles suggest.
For more details on the way prefetch actually works, read the following MSDN blog entry.
This was first published in February 2006