Feeds

How to speed up Windows Vista: official and unofficial tips

Strip, shutdown, repeat

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Microsoft has published an article on speeding up Vista, aimed at general users.

It's not too bad. Here's the summary:

  • Delete programs you never use
  • Limit how many programs load at startup
  • Defragment your hard drive
  • Clean up your hard disk
  • Run fewer programs at the same time
  • Turn off visual effects
  • Restart regularly
  • Add more memory
  • Check for viruses and spyware
  • Disable services you don't need

Still, it's a bit scattergun. I prefer a two-stage approach to improving performance (same applies to a single application):

1. Find out what is slow

2. Speed it up, or leave it out

For example, the benefits of adding memory tail off after a certain point. Task Manager will tell you to what extent RAM is slowing down Vista. Further, adding memory beyond 3GB is pretty much wasted on 32-bit Vista, since the system can only address 3GB, and the BIOS will likely use a lot of the fourth gigabyte address space. That said, a system that is critically short of RAM (in other words, constantly swapping out memory to the hard drive) is in my opinion broken and unusable. Adding RAM in such cases delivers huge rewards.

Uninstalling programs gives little performance benefit if they are not running (unless disk space is limited). The aim is to reduce the number of running processes, not entries in the Start menu.

Vista defragments your drive regularly, by default. The benefits are often rather small, so it would be equally valid to suggest removing it from the schedule, or scheduling it to run less frequently.

The advice to restart regularly needs examination. Yes, a reboot can fix a sluggish machine. But it shouldn't be necessary, and I recall that keeping Vista always-on was intended to be a benefit of the operating system. Yes, here's a quote from a Power Management in Windows Vista presentation [and here's the PowerPoint]:

  • Windows Vista promotes the use of sleep as the default off state

In the right circumstances, Vista can run for ages without any problem. I've actually had Media Center (Vista Ultimate) run for several months without any issues; though this kind of thing is not very green so that's another reason to do regular switch offs. Still, to my mind "restart regularly" is a symptom of some problem that should be fixed.

Turning off visual effects is reasonable advice, though once again it may not yield much benefit. I tried it on my system and was surprised how little difference it made. Reason: I am running with Aero and a decent-ish graphics card, and hardware acceleration seems to handle the visual effects rather easily. Once again, if it's not the thing slowing you down, then removing it won't speed you up. You can test this quite simply, though it is tedious. Try it both ways. Did it make a difference? Measure it if possible.

It really is worth using the built-in tools, like Task Manager and the Reliability and Performance Monitor, to see which processes are grabbing lots of RAM and CPU. One of the good things about Vista is that such tools are easy to find. Click Start, type "reliability", and click the link.

I'd also like to see mention of some favorite candidates for slowing down Vista:

1. Outlook 2007

2. The indexing service

3. Anti-virus software

4. Windows Defender

Hmmm, at least three of these are from Microsoft. Perhaps they are too embarrassing to mention.

Finally, I suspect disk performance is a big factor in real-world Vista speed. The reason is that many applications are very talkative when it comes to disk access. Here's something to try: go along to the Sysinternals site and download Process Monitor. This gives a good picture of what the actual processes on your Vista box are up to. Note how many events are occurring, how many of them involve file I/O, and which processes are responsible. You will also discover a large part of the reason why Outlook 2007 is so slow.

PS Another article, also just published, has good coverage of swap files and ReadyBoost.

This article originally appeared in ITWriting.

Copyright (c) 2007, ITWriting.com.

A freelance journalist since 1992, Tim Anderson specializes in programming and internet development topics. He has columns in Personal Computer World and IT Week, and also contributes regularly to The Register. He writes from time to time for other periodicals including Developer Network Journal Online, and Hardcopy.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.