I installed the 4 tiles @Arthur mentioned, minus the rootupdates as this would not play ball and just ran Microsoft Update and it worked, far less hassle so will do me.
I'm not sure if this is related to the problem described, but it sounds like it could be.
In the office we refer to this issue as "Windows Cancer" that windows gets worse with age.
Ars have some evidence:
Exponential algorithm making Windows XP miserable could be fixed | Ars Technica
The SVCHOST bug has finally been fixed.
Microsoft Quietly Fixes Windows XP Resource Hog Problem « Redmond Mag
Microsoft indicated this week that it has fixed a Windows XP resource-hog problem associated with the system's SVCHOST.EXE processes.
Windows XP users affected by this problem typically found that the operating system was using up system resources for 15 minutes to an hour after startup, making it difficult to use the machine during that period. The Microsoft Update team had vowed last month to spend the holiday break tackling the issue, which has plagued some users for years.
The fix involved stopping the system from perpetually checking Internet Explorer updates. Microsoft indicated that the fix was rolled out on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Microsoft depreciated legacy security updates for Internet Explorer that had been replaced by more recent ones. We did this to improve customer experience, reducing the time Windows Update requires to check existing updates before installing new ones. This action was purely to improve update performance and does not affect customer security. - Dustin Childs, group manager, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing
There is a microsoft fixit in place. I think it had something to do with enabling auto updates. i had it this morning, clicked more help and the Fixit page came up. Started working fine after that.
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