Windows Vista got bad press due to its stability issues, but after Microsoft released a few services packs, the operating system became stable, trustworthy and not half bad.
If you have a Windows Vista machine in the house and you want give it a performance boost, there are a number of simple ways to do so.
Here are our tips to help speed up Vista.
1. Turn off automatic defrag
Having a well defragmented disk improves performance, but background defragmenting can slow your machine down temporarily. Vista schedules disk defragmenting by default. However, you may need to use your PC while it's carrying out this task. You can do this, but there'll be a performance hit.
If this is likely to be a problem, turn off scheduling by launching Disk Defragmenter, then clearing the box marked 'Run on a schedule (recommended)'. You'll need to run Defragmenter manually, so remember to do it once a month.
2. Optimise SATA hard drives
Most PCs running Windows Vista will have SATA hard drives installed. If yours does, you can improve its performance by enabling Advanced Performance on the drive.
Do this by launching Device Manager (click 'Start', right-click 'Computer', select 'Properties' and then choose 'Device manager' from the left-hand pane) and expanding 'Disk drives'. Right-click your SATA drive and then choose 'Properties'. Move to the 'Policies' tab.
Write caching should already be enabled on the disk, but you'll need to tick the 'Advanced Performance' box.
Remember, you should only apply this change on laptops with batteries, or desktop PCs with uninterruptible power supplies, because it's possible to lose data during a write operation if there's a power failure.
3. Enable Reliability Monitor
It's always a good idea to monitor your system to see if your activities have added to its stability or, more likely, degraded it. The Reliability Monitor displays a helpful graph that shows system stability over time, so you can see how each action has affected your computer.
To launch it, open Control Panel and choose 'System and maintenance | Performance rating and tools | Advanced tools | Open Reliability and Performance Monitor'.
Now choose 'Reliability Monitor' in the left-hand pane. Below the graph is a system stability report that lists each of the most recent events and failures for you.
4. Check the Event Viewer
Event Viewer helps you identify any processes that may be failing and introducing delays into the system. To access it, click 'Start', then right-click 'Computer' and choose 'Manage', then opt to continue. This launches the Computer Management console.
Now select 'Event Viewer', followed by 'Windows Logs'. Here, you'll find logs for Applications, Security, System, Setup and Forwarded Events. Select one of these logs to see each recorded event. These events are provided in order, with the most recent one appearing first.
Any errors are flagged for your attention with an icon showing a white cross on a red background, while warnings are illustrated with a yellow icon. Right-click an event and choose 'Event Properties'.
The resulting dialog presents details of the event, including a brief description of what happened, plus a link to further information if any is available.
5. Identify problems with a System Health Report
In Control Panel, choose 'System and maintenance | Performance information and tools | Advanced tools'. Click 'Generate a system health report' and select the option to continue if prompted.
The tool collects information from the Reliability and Performance Monitor to make the report. This lists potential problems like low disk space and suggests fixes.
6. Download Autoruns
Autoruns is a zip file, which you'll need to extract before you can run it. Open it in Vista and extract all the files.
Now launch 'Autoruns.exe'. Each tab displays software that runs automatically according to category. The 'Logon' tab shows those that start when you log into Windows. This includes software that's part of Windows itself, so take care when making alterations.
To disable an entry, select it and clear the tick box next to it. The 'Drivers' tab shows all the device drivers installed on your system. To see if a driver is causing problems, disable it by unticking its box. To delete an entry completely, select it and choose 'Entry | Delete'.
7. Defrag the Registry
Improve performance by optimising the Registrywith the free registry defragmenting tool Registry Defrag. When it's installed, launch the program and click 'Analyse Registry'.
Free Registry Defrag takes a few minutes to examine your Registry. It calculates how much space can be saved by defragging and compacting it. You'll see an estimate of the saving once analysis is complete.
Click 'Compact/Defrag Registry'. Once the process is complete (it may take a while), you'll be asked to reboot your computer to put the new leaner, meaner Registry into use. Click 'OK' to do so.
8. Disable printer sharing
Windows Explorer can slow down while it looks for shared printers. If you don't need to share a printer, you can claw back speed by turning off printer sharing. Choose 'Start | Network | Network and Sharing Center'. Click the icon next to 'Printer sharing' to turn it off .
9. Trim Start menu search
There are several ways to improve the speed of start menu searches. First, remove Messenger chats and emails from the search.
Go to Control Panel and choose 'Appearance and personalization | Customize the Start menu | Customize'. Scroll to 'Search communication' and clear its box. You can also opt to exclude favourites, history and your files here if you wish.
10. Indexing options
Indexing your hard drive hits performance, but makes finding files and folders much faster. It makes sense to ensure that only the areas of your hard drive that you're likely to search are indexed.
Click 'Start', and type indexing options into the search bar and press [Enter]. This shows the current locations that have been indexed. To change these, click 'Modify', followed by 'Show all locations'. Clear the boxes next to any of the locations that you don't want to index.
This will make them harder to search, but will improve general performance. You can always reinstate any area that you need to search later on.
11. Use advanced indexing
You can also opt to remove certain file types from the index to improve search speed and reduce the performance hit background indexing can create. Go back to Indexing Options as above and click the 'Advanced' button.
This launches a dialog that enables you to change more indexing configurations. On the 'File types' tab, you can opt to add or remove certain file extensions from indexing. Consider removing executables and files that you're unlikely to search for.
12. Turn off indexing
If you're convinced that you'll never want to search your hard drive, you can gain a little performance by disabling indexing. Indexing uses up system resources which could otherwise boost performance. For most users, the minor hit on performance is more than enough to compensate for being able to find the files they want quickly.
However, you can turn it off if you want to squeeze out a little more performance. Click 'Start | Computer' and right-click your hard drive. Choose 'Properties'. and on the 'General' tab, clear the box marked 'Index this drive' for a faster machine in the future.
13. Deactivate User Account Control
User Account Control puts in a layer of security that stops you from making system changes without confirming them. However, if you're an experienced user, it can simply serve to slow you down.
To turn this feature off , open Control Panel and choose 'User Accounts and Family Safety | User Accounts | Turn User Account Control on or off .' Clear the box marked 'Use User Account Control' to protect your computer. Click 'OK' and reboot.
14. Remote differential compression
This is a useful service if you move files around a network a lot, but if you don't, it uses up resources needlessly.
Open 'Control Panel', followed by 'Programs'. Choose 'Turn Windows features on and off '. Clear the box next to 'Remote differential compression'. Click 'OK'.
First published in PC Plus Issue 305
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