|Faster and safer?|
To make it faster there are many web pages already of how to improve speed. Simple start is to use system settings for speed versus appearance.
To make it safe, you learn as many best practices as you can and use them. Reduce ports to minimum, reduce services to minimum. Things like host files help. Consider autoruns from systernals to see what is running. Keep all software up to date. There are tons of things that can be done. See MS site for more ideas on best practices.
"Best Practices", Event viewer, host file, perfmon, antivirus, anti-spyware, Live CD's, backups, are in my top 10