Improve Vista Performance: 7 Tips and Tricks to Make Vista Run Faster
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February 18, 2009

7 Tips and Tricks to Make Your Vista Machine Run Faster

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Vista is filled with new features and visual effects that are useful and visually pleasing. But why is my computer so slow now?

The number one complaint I hear from users is the performance of Vista is very slow compared to XP. Most new PCs are well equipped to handle the large appetite of Vista, but for the users that upgraded to Vista, it’s a whole different story.

The video card might not be up to speed to handle the new Vista interface, or you might not have enough RAM installed. So what can you do to counteract the poor performance without losing all of the features of Vista?

I’ve experienced it myself when I upgraded my old laptop to Vista Business; I added a gig of RAM and then installed Vista Business. Immediately I found that it took considerably longer to boot up than it did previously with XP. I also noticed that multi-tasking was pretty much out of the question if I wanted to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time.

So I was like most Vista users, asking myself why I had upgraded in the first place. I just knew there had to be ways to help optimize performance and get my PC running better. After some research and testing, I’ve come up with a list of 7 ways that considerably increase Vista performance.

1. Disable Aero Theme and Adjust Visual Effects

The Aero theme is very nice to look at but if your video card isn’t up to snuff then it can cause some performance issues.

First, try disabling the Aero theme to see if that helps. Right click on your Desktop and select Personalize.

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Then click on Theme and select Windows Classic from the drop down menu.

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Click Apply, and then click Ok. Now the Aero interface is turned off.

The sidebar and other visual elements are not as pretty as they were but this can be a big performance boost if your video card isn’t quite up to par.

If that doesn’t seem to do the trick we can also turn off the other Visual Effects. Right click on Computer, and then click Properties.

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Click Advanced System Settings in the left had column in the Tasks pane.

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Click Allow when you receive the UAC prompt.

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The System Properties window will appear. Click the Settings button under the Performance section.

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Here you can pick and choose which Visual Effects you want to use. For this example we are going to select the option to Adjust for best performance. Next, click Apply and then Ok.

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2. Use Readyboost

ReadyBoost is a new feature in Vista that allows you to use your USB hard drive, or flash drives as memory for your PC. It works in conjunction with SuperFetch to help launch programs faster and speed up boot times.

Most Vista users don’t even realize this feature exists nor do they have any idea how to use it, but it’s really simple.

All you need is a device with a minimum capacity of 256 MB and one that has at least 235 MB free. ReadyBoost can only use up to 4GB of space so there is no need for a huge flash drive just for this.

Let’s take a look at how to make it work for you.

Plug in your USB hard drive or your flash drive and wait for the AutoPlay menu. Select “Speed up my system using ReadyBoost”.

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Click the button to “Use this Device” and select how much space you want it to use.

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Make sure to leave the device plugged in. This can help decrease your boot time and launch programs faster.

3. Change Indexing Options

Indexing is great for finding files quickly during a search, but if your PC is indexing everything all the time you can see quite a performance hit. Try changing what folders are indexed, or turn indexing off all together.

Here’s how you can do that.

Click Start and type “indexing options” and press Enter. The Indexing Options window will appear.

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Now click the Modify button. Then click Show All Locations.

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Click Allow when you receive the UAC prompt.

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Here you can check or uncheck which folders are indexed.

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4. Remove Unnecessary Startup Programs

When you purchase a new computer from a retail shop you will most likely have some additional trial software installed that could be slowing down your boot times. So how do we change it?

There are a couple of ways to remove unnecessary startup programs. Let’s take a look.

You can use MSConfig to remove startup programs from your PC. Just click Start, and type “msconfig” and press Enter. Then click the Startup tab.

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Uncheck the startup items you don’t think are necessary and click Ok. Use good judgment and try not to disable any Windows startup items if possible. Restart your PC to complete the process.

You can alternately check the Startup folder in your Start menu.

Click Start, All Programs, and then look for the Startup folder. Expand it to see if there are any startup items. If so, you can right click and delete it from the Startup folder to prevent it from starting.

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5. Use the Built In Reliability and Performance Monitor to Find Performance Issues

Vista has a great way to identify performance issues built into the operating system; it’s called the Reliability and Performance Monitor.

Click Start, and type “performance monitor”. The Reliability and Performance Monitor window will appear. Expand Monitoring Tools, and click Performance Monitor.

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This is a great tool to watch real-time stats on your PC to help troubleshoot slowdowns. You can also use the Reliability Monitor to check Application Failures, Hardware Failures, Windows Failures and other miscellaneous failures.

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And if you’re interested in checking out the Performance Monitor for Server 2008, check out Jason Zandri’s Server 2008 Reliability and Performance Monitor.

6. Adjust Processor Scheduling and Virtual Memory

You can adjust the way your processor handles operations for programs or background services. Right click on Computer and select Properties.

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Then click Advanced System Settings from the Tasks pane.

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Click Continue or Allow when you receive the UAC prompt. Next click the Settings button under the Performance section.

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Then click the Advanced tab. Here you can change your processor scheduling to adjust for best performance for programs or background services.

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Here you can change your paging file size also known as Virtual Memory. Setting a correct paging file size is critical for performance. Click the Change button under the Virtual Memory section.

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Check to see if you have enough space allocated. The recommended amount is listed at the bottom. Alternately, you can let Windows decide how big you paging file should be.

7. Run a Disk Cleanup and Defrag

Vista now has scheduled defrags and runs automatically, but my computer isn’t always running when the defrag is scheduled to run. So run it manually!

Click Start and type “defrag” and press Enter.

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You can modify the defrag schedule to run when you know your PC will be running and preferably not in use. You can also click the Defrag Now button to start a manual defrag.

How about cleaning up all the temporary files on your computer? Click Start, and type “disk cleanup” and press Enter. Select either your files or files from all users.

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Then select the drive you want to run the cleanup on.

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Now select the type of files you want to cleanup.

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Any Other Tips and Tricks?

These are just a few of the many ways to help improve the performance on your Vista computer.

The tools and utilities in Vista are more efficient and make it easier to keep you running like a champ. There are also 3rd party applications that can help with temp file cleanup and registry errors.

Are there any other ways to help maintain or keep your PC running at peak performance?

Ready to test your skills in Windows Vista Administration? See how they stack up with this assessment from Smarterer, the newest addition to the Pluralsight family. Start this Windows Vista Administration test now.

About the Author

(MCP) is an IT Consultant for small businesses and supports a variety of environments. Eric has an Associate Degree in Computer Network Systems and a Bachelors Degree in Information Systems Security from ITT Technical Institute. He has experience in network administration for banks, churches, law firms, and a number of other small businesses. Eric specializes in Windows operating systems maintenance and administration, and has 5 years of experience in the field.


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