Fixing Windows Vista

Microsoft really dropped the ball with Windows Vista. Yes, it does have some good features. But they're outweighed by groggy performance issues, bugs and other problems that millions now encounter every time they turn on their PCs.

Microsoft spent years and billions of dollars developing Windows Vista, and so you might, not unreasonably, have expected that it would be better than its predecessor Windows XP. But if you moved to Vista and found that it was slower, resource-hungry, won't run your old software and still has major bugs, you might have been forgiven for feeling, well, a little disappointed.

Fixing Vista's many bugs

Don't give up on Windows Vista just yet, though. We've identified some of the key mistakes Microsoft made during the design process and have come up with a selection of tools, workarounds and solutions you can use to overcome them. You can free up RAM, improve your PC's speed and compatibility, and even fix bugs you didn't know you had. All it will cost you is your time.

Windows Vista's problems begin with its substantial memory footprint. XP could run with 128MB of RAM, but Vista requires 512MB at a minimum. Realistically you'll need at least twice that. A substantial chunk of this is due to Vista's shiny new Aero interface, so if you value performance above looks then it makes sense to turn this off.

Right-click the desktop, select 'Personalize', click 'Window Color and Appearance | Open classic appearance properties...' and choose a non-Aero colour scheme. Click 'Control Panel | System and Maintenance | Performance Information and Tools | Adjust Visual Effects' then select 'Adjust for best performance' and you'll cut down on menu animations, too, along with other CPU-sapping tricks.

Disable unnecessary Windows services

Pruning unnecessary Windows Services also saves plenty of memory. Press [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del], launch Task Manager and click the 'Processes' tab. Select 'Show processes from all users', click the 'Image Name' column header to sort by name, then select the svchost.exe process that's using the most memory (click 'View | Select Columns' and check 'Memory - Working Set' if you can't see how much memory is being used).

Now choose the 'Services' tab and you'll find every service that's using this instance of svchost.exe. Visit a website such as Black Viper to find out more about each one, then run the Services applet ('Start | services.msc'), search for and double-click on each unnecessary service and set its Startup type to Disabled.

vLite is a clever tool that reduces memory requirements, by allowing you to remove all kinds of components from a Windows Vista installation. But be careful how you use it: remove something critical and you could cripple your PC. Don't play with vLite unless you're confident about your Windows knowledge and your ability to easily recover from PC disasters.

Should all that sound too risky for you, then there's always the option of resorting to the time-honoured technique of removing unnecessary Windows Startup programs. Launch Windows Defender and click 'Tools | Software Explorer' to get started.

Windows Service options

Disabling unnecessary Windows Services is useful, but you'll still need to control what's left. Windows Update, for example, is now far more eager to reboot your PC after installing an update. It'll ask first, but if you're not around to say no then your system will restart, even if you're downloading something huge and important.

So if you're leaving your PC running overnight for some reason and really don't want a spontaneous reboot, then temporarily disable the Windows Update service first. Right-click the 'Command Prompt' option, select 'Run as administrator', then enter the command: net stop "windows update"