BOOT CAMP 516 (17/03/08)

More Vista Tuning Tips pt 5


We’ve reached the final instalment in this short series on enlivening a sluggish Vista PC and this week’s selection of tips are intended for advanced users. We’ll be tinkering with a part of the operating system that’s normally best avoided for the simple reason that a mistake could result in your PC behaving erratically, or crashing, so consider yourself duly warned, and as usual, you try these tips at your own risk.


After setting a new System Restore Point we’re ready to begin. Go to Search on the Start menu, start typing the word ‘services’ and as soon as it appears at the top of the list, double-click on the cogwheel icon and the Services list opens.


Services are small programs and utilities that run in the background. Some of them are essential and Vista and your Internet and network connections will not work without them but many of them there because Microsoft has no idea what you are going to use your computer for. To make life simple for them, and non-expert users it has included a lot of Services that may or may not be required; the only trouble is the ones that are not needed use valuable resources. The trick is to know which ones can be safely disabled, and which ones to leave alone, and we’ll come to that in just a moment.


On a typical Vista PC there’s often more than 100 Services but don’t be put off, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Take a few moments to look through the list, you may recognise some of the entries from the file names and it goes without saying that the ones that belong to your anti-virus software, firewall and any other essential security software shouldn’t be touched. Most of the others will probably be unfamiliar. You can get a brief explanation of whet they do by clicking on the item but this is written in gobbledegook. Of more immediate interest is the information in the Status and Startup Type columns. We’re mostly interested Services listed as ‘Running’ and ‘Automatic’. Manual Services look after themselves and Disabled are no longer a problem; hopefully there will be a few more of them by the time you have finished.


Before we start the cull you need to know is how to change a Service. It’s easy, all you have to do is double click the item, change the setting on the Startup Type drop down menu, click Stop then OK. If something untoward happens or you get an error message simply return the Service to its former state.


In an ideal world all you would have to do is work your way through a list of Services that you can safely set to Manual or Disabled but it doesn’t work like that and every PC and PC users has different requirements. Fortunately there are a number of web sites that list what each Service does, and hopefully gives you enough information to allow you to make a decision. Don’t try Googling the name of a Service, all this does is throw up lots of spurious websites, many of which imply that you’ve been infected with a virus or malware and try to scare you into buying often useless (or infectious) cleaning utilities.


I suggest starting with the default Vista Services and there’s a comprehensive list at SpeedyVista ( This site explains what each one does in something approaching English, and what the consequences of changing them will be. It also suggests ‘Safe’, ‘Tweaked’ and ‘Minimal’ settings, depending on your level of expertise. As an added bonus this site has downloadable Registry files that return your PC to its default state or apply settings for ‘Tweaked’ and ‘Minimal’ configurations in one ‘hit’.


There’s a similar list of recommendations for Vista’s default Services at (, and this includes entries included with Service Pack 1 (see next week’s Boot Camp) but it is aimed at more advanced users, attempting to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of their machines and some of the suggestions are a little drastic so proceed with caution.


For the thousands of Services installed by third-party applications I recommend two other websites. Castlecops (, lists more than 16,000 Services, whilst Bleepingcomputer  (, has over 21,000, so between them they cover just about every eventuality.


I strongly suggest that you change no more than two or three services at a time, after which you should reboot your PC and watch for error messages, and this is very important, check that your Internet, email and network connections are still working. Take it from me there are few things more annoying than having to go back over scores of disabled services to find the one that disconnected you! Once you have finished carry out a couple of re-boots noting the time Windows takes to load and hopefully it will be a good bit quicker than the benchmark start up time you recorded if you’ve followed the series since part 1 (Boot Camp 512). 


Next Week – Vista Service Pack 1





Starts automatically at boot up, may also stop automatically if not required



Service will not start, even if required by Windows or a program, in which case it will usually generate an error message



Starts only when needed by Windows or when instructed by a program or application




Here’s a final performance tweak suitable for all users. A feature called Windows ReadyBoost makes use of USB 2.0 flash pen drives and memory cards as a secondary cache. A cache is memory used to temporarily store data and normally Windows uses a chunk of hard disc space, but this is relatively slow, compared with solid-state memory. To use it all you have to do is plug in the card or drive (512Mb or more) and on the AutoPlay dialogue box that appears select ‘Speed Up My System’ and follow the prompts


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