BOOT CAMP 495 (25/09/07)

Vista Tuning Tips part 4


In the concluding part of this short series on how to perk up your Vista PC we will be looking at some simple tweaks that together can make a significant difference to the performance, especially on slower, low-spec machines.


The Vista Search facility helps you find things on your computer really quickly – much faster then XP Search -- the only problem is behind the scenes Windows is constantly trawling through your hard drive(s) looking for new files, and changes to old files, which means it’s using valuable resources and slowing your machine down. Switching off Vista’s Indexing system can help speed things up and you shouldn’t notice any change in Search speed if you only use it occasionally. Go to Start > Computer, right-click your C: drive, select Properties and on the General Tab uncheck ‘Index this drive…’ You will be asked for permission, click OK, follow the prompts and when asked select the option to ‘Include Folders and Sub Folders’. Depending on the size of your drive this could take a few minutes.


This next tweak – also available in XP -- can make processor-hungry applications, like multimedia programs, video editors and so on run more smoothly. Windows gives all running programs the same priority when it comes to CPU usage but you can give selected programs a boost by opening Task Manager (Ctrl +Alt + Delete or right-click Task Bar). Select the Applications tab, right click your selected program and click Priority. This displays the Processes tab with your program highlighted. Right-click on it and select Set Priority. The safest options are Above Normal and High, do not choose Real Time as this will give it priority over Windows and probably result in a crash. 


The visual effects built into Vista look very pretty but they gobble up memory and CPU resources. Switching some of them off will make programs open quicker and run faster. Press Winkey + Break (or right-click Computer on the Start menu and select Properties), select Advanced System Settings then click the Settings button under Performance and select the Visual Effect tab. Check the ‘Adjust for Best performance’ option, which switches everything off and see how you get on with that. If you find you are missing a particularly whizzy feature go back into the Visual Effects dialogue box and switch it back on.


Vista’s fancy Aero Glass display also consumes a fair amount of your PC’s resources and the worst offender is the Transparency option. Switch it off, I promise you won’t miss it. Right-click on the desktop and select Personalize then Select Window Color and Appearance and uncheck ‘Enable transparency’ then OK.


Do you use Vista’s automatic Hibernation feature? If not, disable it as it’s constantly running in the background. Don’t worry; you can still put your PC into Hibernation mode manually. Go to Start > Control Panel > Power Options and select ‘Change when the computer sleeps’; on the ‘Put the computer to sleep’ drop down menus for Battery and Plugged in select Never and click Save Changes.


Here’s a couple of quick and easy ones to try if you don’t regularly use a network to move files around, and you don’t connect your computer to a Tablet PC. Go to Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features and click ‘Turn Windows Features on and off. On the list that appears uncheck Remote Differential Compression and Tablet PC Optional Components, click OK and it’s done.


I have never been very keen on Vista’s Sidebar Gadgets, mainly because the get in the way of the Taskbar, which I prefer to have on the right side of the screen (freeing up space for documents and web pages at the bottom of the screen). They are also a drain on your PC’s resources, some more than others, so my advice is keep them to an absolute minimum, or better still, turn the Sidebar off. Right-click into the Sidebar and click Close. If for some reason you want them back click the Sidebar icon in the System Tray, or type ‘sidebar’ in Search on the Start menu.


The last two tips concern memory and there is no doubt whatsoever that Vista needs at least 1Gb of RAM to run comfortably and works best with 2Gb; some systems may benefit from as much as 4Gb but more than that is a waste of money, unless you are running the 64-bit version. If you have less than 1Gb upgrade immediately!


The second memory tip is to take advantage of Vista’s Ready Boost feature. This uses a USB flash drive to provide Vista with some extra memory, for temporarily storing files and data needed by running programs. It’s similar to ‘virtual memory’, which does the same sort of thing, using spare capacity on your hard drive, but USB memory is much faster and many applications will run faster when it is in use. All you have to do is plug in a USB flash drive (preferably one marked as Ready Boost compatible), and it should be between 1 and 2 GB to do any good. Go to Computer and right-click on your USB drive icon. Select Properties then the Ready Boost tab and select ‘Use this device’. The more space you can allocate on the drive the more effective it will be.



Next Week – Ten uses for an old PC





Eye-catching graphics system used in Windows Vista to create translucent dialogue boxes, animated effects and so on



Collection of small programs, displays and interactive elements displayed on the Vista desktop



Compact mobile computer, usually with a touch-sensitive screen instead of a separate keyboard and mouse




Over the years software engineers at Microsoft have developed tools and utilities to change the way Windows looks and works. Initially they were for internal use but since Windows 95 they have been publicly available (but not officially supported) as ‘PowerToys’, the most famous of which is Tweak UI. We are still waiting for Tweak UI for Vista but in the meantime there’s a freeware alternative, called Tweak VI with scores of hidden settings and performance and optimisation adjustments to play around with.




© R. Maybury 2007, 1909

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