BOOT CAMP 513 (26/02/08)

More Vista Tuning Tips pt 2


If you followed last week’s introduction to re-invigorating your Vista PC you will have established how long it takes for it to boot up and identified and fixed any long-term stability problems using the Performance and Reliability Monitor utility. It’s now time to get down to business and we’ll begin with some quick, simple and safe tuning tips that are ideal for novice users.


However, before you do anything get into the habit of setting a new System Restore Point (RP) every time you make changes to your computer’s configuration so that if -- heaven forefend -- anything should go wrong you stand a very decent chance of returning your PC to its pre-fiddled state.


To set an RP press Winkey + Break then go to Advanced System Settings > System Protection tab and click Create. Give the RP a name (the day’s date) and click OK. If a problem arises after boot up go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. If Windows won’t boot press F8 at start-up to access System Restore and the option to Start Windows using last known good configuration.


Now that’s out of the way we can get started with a spot of Spring-cleaning, removing clutter and the dead wood that has accumulated since you bought your computer. Like XP before it Vista has a tool called Disk Cleanup and you’ll find it by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup. But that’s all a bit long-winded; there is a faster, more elegant way to get to most things in Vista using the excellent Search facility. Just start typing the word ‘clean’ and after the first two or three letters Disk Cleanup will appear at the top of the list.


Click on it and a dialogue box opens showing a progress bar as Vista seeks out the detritus. After a few moments you’ll see a list of items that can be deleted, like download files you no longer need, temporary files, junk in the Recycle Bin and so on. A tally of how much disc space you can reclaim is shown at the top of the box. Not all of the items are ticked but the ones that can be safely zapped are, so if you don’t want to take any chances just click OK and the files will be removed. Once it has finished open Disk Cleanup again but this time select the More Options Tab. Under Programs and Features click the Clean Up button and this opens the Vista version of the Add/Remove Programs utility in XP, which you can also get to by typing ‘Features’ in Search and from Control Panel on the Start menu.


This displays a list of the programs installed on your computer and I suspect there’s a few leftover applications that were installed by the manufacturer. Some of them will be time-limited trial and demo versions and if you’re not using them they are just wasting space and should be removed. By the way, if you are thinking about buying a new PC in the near future you should take a look at this week’s Top Tip.  


Work your way down the list and highlight a program that you want to get rid of and click Uninstall/Change. Only remove one item at a time and afterwards reboot the PC; watch out for error messages and make sure that everything is still working properly (particularly your Internet connection if you are removing any programs involved with security or the Internet). Once again play it safe, only uninstall programs that you are absolutely sure about and I advise novices not to touch anything with Microsoft, Windows or Security Update in the name.


If you have deleted several large programs then you might need to ‘defrag’ your hard drive. It may also be worth doing if your PC is more than six months old and you haven’t done it before. Disk defragmenting is a much overrated and vastly over-used performance tool and on most PCs it only needs to be done once or twice a year. Exceptions include PCs that are used for demanding applications like video editing, which create lots of very large data files and depend on a smooth, fast transfer of data. To find out if you need to defrag open Computer/Windows Explorer then right-click on your system hard drive icon (usually drive C:). Select Properties then the Tools tab and click Defragment Now. After analysing your drive it will tell you if you need to run defrag. If it says ‘Your file system performance is good’, don’t be tempted to defrag anyway, it’s just a waste of time, it won’t make your PC run any faster or fix and problems with your computer’s filing system, it might even make things worse…     


Next Week – More Vista Tuning Tips pt 3






Over time the files on a PC's hard disc drive become disorganized - 'defragging' the drive can restore order and speed up data transfer




Facility in Windows ME, 2000, XP and Vista that stores and records changes to key system files, which can be used in the event of a crash or serious problem to restore Windows to a previous known good configuration



Temporary files are created by Windows and other programs and normally deleted automatically though some will remain if Windows crashes or is not shut down properly




I dread to think how many hours I have wasted uninstalling demo, trial and just plain unwanted programs on new PCs, and it seems the cheaper they are the more of this rubbish you have to get rid of. Yes, I know it’s one of the reasons why PCs and laptops are so affordable these days but I still don’t want it and I only wish I’d had something like the PC Decrapifier to save me from this onerous chore. The name says it all, just download and install the program on your shiny new PC, it identifies the junk then offers to get rid of it for you. It’s easy to use and nothing disappears without your permission. Best of all it’s free, but as always the authors are not averse to a small donation, to show your appreciation!


Don't forget, there's a full archive of previous Boot Camp Top Tips at



© R. Maybury 2008, 1302

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