Top 7 Windows Vista Tweaks

Posted on 08 August 2008

Microsoft’s Windows Vista is resource hungry to such an extent that It can be termed as resource hog. With vista its always good time to tweak. I have gathered these tips from all over the net and after reading quite a few lists and trying them out on my test machine. I have tested about 25 different tips and tricks and came up with a list of following 7 tweaks that I found very useful. they really improved performance of my Vista Installation to the extent that I don’t miss XP anymore. Par see the peroformance increase is around 90% for general use.

Top 7 Vista Tips & Tweaks

  1. Lose What You Don’t Need
  2. Keep your drivers fresh
  3. Hose Out the Background
  4. Use ReadyBoost
  5. Speed Up the Interface
  6. Miscellaneous Hacks
  7. Defrag Once in a While

Lose What You Don’t Need:

If you have installed Windows Vista yourself and you do have experience in installing other MS Windows Operating Systems, you must have noticed that Windows Vista hardly asks any questions about your computer (and what you plan to do with it) While previous Operating Systems did ask those vital questions. Windows Vista makes all the assumptions about your computing habits and the features you may or may not need, and it inevitably installs a lot of  overhead that you simply can’t afford. You can and you should get rid of all that unnecessary junk from your machine that you will never use. If you can recall, Windows XP had that Add/Remove Windows Features button in the Control Panel’s Add/Remove Programs applet. Windows Vista also has something similar. Here is how to get rid of features you don’t need.

  1. Open Control Panel and click Uninstall a Program to launch Vista’s Uninstall or Change a Program Window.
  2. In the Tasks pane on the left, click Turn Windows Features On or Off.
  3. Check the list of features. Each feature is preceded by a checkbox which, if filled, indicates the feature is installed. If you hover the mouse over a feature, a help tooltip appears to tell you what it is.|
  4. Uncheck any feature you don’t need. Some of the features are headings with a sub-list below them; just click the little + sign to expand. (Note that when you uncheck features, you’re not removing these features from your system; you’re simply turning them off so they don’t sit in the background eating up resources. You can turn any of them back on by invoking this window and filling the checkboxes. )

Remove Any Services you don’t need

  1. Click the Start button and type in services.msc and press Enter. (The cursor jumps to the Search bar in the Start Menu when you click the Start button; you can usually just punch in whatever program or module you want to run right there).
  2. The Services applet appears. Each service is basically a little nest of software support code for something the computer can monitor or do.
  3. The Status column in the Services window shows whether or not the service has been started. Startup Type means how the service starts:
    • Automatic means the service starts when Windows starts.
    • Manual means the service starts when Windows detects that something needs it.
    • Disabled means the service doesn’t start at all.
  4. Most services are either set to Automatic or Manual. There’s no need to change any manual services; they only start when it’s necessary for them to do something. There are probably some automatic services you really don’t need, though. You can find the list of common services here and also know what they do, so you can decide which to keep and which to remove.
  5. To change how a service starts, right-click it and click Properties. If you don’t want a service to load, first stop the service by clicking Stop. Then, pull down the Startup Type list and set the service to Manual or Disabled.If you’re not sure about a service, it’s safer to set it to Manual; that way, if something calls it, it should start up. If you know you don’t need a service, set it to Disabled.  The services you need depend on what you do with your PC. For instance, if you’re not using ReadyBoost, you can disable that service; you can disable Windows Error Reporting if you don’t want to report errors; you can disable Tablet PC Input Service if you don’t want to use Tablet PC features; and so on.
    You can almost certainly disable some services that start automatically by default:

    • Computer Browser
    • Distributed Link Tracking Client
    • IKE and AuthIP IP Keying Modules
    • Offline Files
    • Remote Registry
    • Tablet PC Input Service (unless you’re using a tablet PC)
    • Windows Error Reporting
  6. Some services that you absolutely should not disable include:
  7. Feel free to experiment with services; just keep track of which services you tweak and, if something doesn’t work, re-enable the last service you turned off. Streamline the system by shutting down as many services as you can, based on your own unique needs.

Keep your drivers fresh

There are lots of other Web sites out there that have published quite a lot of information on how to keep Drivers  for Windows Vista updated. Its unfortunate that the quality of updates from manufacturers is slow and poor. Graphics drivers, especially, are hurting in terms of efficiency and stability. It’s likely that the biggest boost you’re likely to see will come in gradual increments as AMD, Nvidia, and other companies work out the wrinkles that prevent their hardware from performing at peak under the new OS.
The first step in optimizing Vista, then, is to keep your drivers up to date. Check for new drivers for all of your hardware often—daily, even. Not only can new drivers enhance performance, they should also gradually enable more features. We’re still waiting for better video quality from AMD’s ATI cards, for instance, and for a full feature set for Creative Labs’ SoundBlaster X-Fi cards.

Hose Out the Background

For the most streamlined operation, it’s essential that your computer has as few programs running in the background as possible. You can tell a bit about how much junk is running behind the scenes by looking at the system tray (the area next to the clock on the taskbar). The more icons you see there, the more stuff is running that you may not actually need.

I recommend a two-step process for getting rid of any background applets that you don’t need. Check out the tray icons and use the interfaces from those programs to disable them natively. Then, run good old MSCONFIG to clean out anything else.

First, look at the tray. Some of the stuff there belongs there; you might see a little speaker icon, a battery power icon, an icon for the Sidebar, network status icons, and a few other odds and ends that Windows puts in the tray. Look for third-party icons; in the picture shown here, QuickTime and Steam occupy parts of the tray.

Right-click on any icons you find that aren’t simple Windows status icons. Look for a settings, properties, or a similar option. Then, in the resulting window, look for a way to prevent the program from loading when Windows starts. For example, to prevent Steam from automatically loading, you would:

  • Right-click the Steam tray icon.
  • Click Settings.
  • Click Interface (see the screenshot below).
  • Uncheck Run Steam When Windows Starts.
  • Click OK.

Quicktime, however, presents a challenge. You can tell it not to display the tray icon, but it will still run in the background. For that, and other programs that don’t always display tray icons, use the second method.

  1. Click the Start button, type msconfig, and hit Enter.
  2. You’ll see the System Configuration window, which operates essentially the same as it does in Windows XP.
  3. Click the Startup tab.
  4. Look at the list of startup items. Each is preceded by a checkbox. You can prevent any of these programs from starting simply by unchecking it.
  5. You’ll note that QuickTime, which wouldn’t let me disable it through its interface, is there. Simply uncheck it to prevent it from running in the background—and sucking up resources. Steam, QuickTime, and many other such programs will start automatically when they’re needed. For example, if you launch an MOV file, QuickTime will start whether or not its little applet is running in the background. Steam will launch if you start a Steam game, even if it’s not running behind the scenes.
  6. Now, some items are necessary. You might see things like a mouse or gamepad applet that’s the hardware needs to offer its programmability. You might see Windows Defender, which, if your computer has constant Internet access and lacks another anti-spyware program, could help protect it.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

If an application in MSCONFIG references hardware, you should keep it. If it references software, get rid of it (unless it’s a vital security program). Hardware applets often supply needed front ends; software applets usually help a software program open faster. Software opens just fine without helper applets, so there’s no need for them to suck up processor cycles all the time.

When you’ve cleaned out the list, unchecking anything you don’t need, restart the computer.

Use ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost is a Vista feature that uses a compatible USB flash device to enhance performance. Note that the oft-misunderstood feature isn’t a replacement for a memory upgrade, and it doesn’t affect game performance—you won’t see higher frame rates by adding a keychain drive to your system.

ReadyBoost caches disk reads on the fly and can often speed up data access. Reads from a USB key or other ReadyBoost device are much faster than random reads from a platter on the hard drive. ReadyBoost data is encrypted, so if someone swipes the flash device he or she can’t tell what you’ve been up to. It’s secure, and it really does speed up access in certain instances.

To enable ReadyBoost, just plug in a flash device (Microsoft recommends one about the same size as your system’s main memory. For instance, if you have 1GB of RAM, grab a 1GB ReadyBoost device). The system will automatically detect the drive and offer to use it either as an external drive or as a ReadyBoost drive. Simply choose the latter, and a window like the one in this screenshot will appear.

You can change the amount of memory on the device is used for speed. Windows will recommend the amount it can use with the most efficiency. Click OK and you’re done.

Adding a ReadyBoost drive isn’t like doubling your system’s memory, but the performance benefits are well worth the price of a USB flash device.

Speed Up the Interface

Windows Vista features what some of us think is the prettiest GUI in the OS industry. Its stylish transparencies and nifty animations—driven by Direct3D and your graphics card—give it a polished look that’s a pleasure to use.

Unfortunately, that shiny, new interface, called Aero, is also a resource hog. If you’re running Vista on a PC that’s near or just above the system requirements, you might want to shut off some or all of those features.

Here are some actions you might want to take to tweak interface niceties:

Lose the transparency.

  • Right-click the desktop
  • Click Personalize,
  • Click Windows Color and Appearance.
  • Uncheck Enable Transparency.
  • Click OK.

Get rid of the Sidebar

It’s cool, but some of those gadgets chow down on memory.

  • Right-click the Sidebar
  • Click Properties
  • Uncheck Start Sidebar When Windows Starts.
  • Click OK.
  • Right-click the Sidebar
  • Click Close Sidebar.

(If you ever want it back, you can simply click the Start button and key in “sidebar” and hit Enter.)

Get rid of some of the visual effects.

  • Open Control Panel
  • Click Performance and System Tools
  • Click Adjust Visual Effects.
  • Uncheck line items for animations, fades, and other effects; or simply click Adjust For Best Performance.

Go with a non-Aero theme.

To get rid of Aero entirely, use the Windows Classic, Windows Vista Basic, or Windows Standard theme.

  • Right-click the desktop
  • Click Personalize
  • Click Windows Color and Appearance
  • Click Open Classic Appearance Properties
  • Choose a theme in the Color Scheme list box.
  • Click OK.

When you perform such tweaks, Windows Vista won’t look as pretty. It will, however, respond much faster. A high-end system might not benefit a whole lot from these adjustments, but they’ll improve low-end computers in spades.

Miscellaneous Hacks

Next up are a few hacks/tips and ideas that I’ve come across during travelling. The first is for systems that have an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) with a reliable battery attached.

If your system is equipped with a serial-ATA (SATA) hard drive.

  • Go to Device Manager (the quickest way to do that is to click Start and punch in “Device Manager” and hit Enter).
  • Expand the Disk Drives entry.
  • Right-click on your SATA hard drive and click Properties.
  • Click the Policies tab, and click Enable Advanced Performance.

This option enables extremely aggressive write caching, which can speed up drive access but also cause you to lose data if the power goes out suddenly.

A couple of tweaks require you to hack the registry. To do this:

Click the Start button, type regedit and hit Enter.

Note: You should make a backup of the registry before you alter it. Click File, click Export, and in the resulting window, make sure All is selected at the bottom. Give the file a name and click Save. This will create a full backup of your Windows registry; if you accidentally hose something, you can go into Windows Safe Mode and restore it. Alternately, you can create a Restore Point before you alter the registry; go to Control Panel, then System and Maintenance, and then System. Click System Protection in the Tasks list. Click the Create… button, and follow the prompts.

I recommend two registry hacks for minor performance gains.

First, turn off the low disk space checks:

  • Using the left side of the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPolicies
  • Right-click in the right pane and select New Key.
  • Name the new key Explorer.
  • In the Explorer key, right-click in the right pane and click New DWORD (32-bit) Vaue.
  • Name the DWORD NoLowDiskSpaceChecks.
  • Right-click the new DWORD and click Modify.
  • Set the Value Data to 1.
  • Click OK.

This will prevent Windows Vista from checking the space on your hard drive and popping up the notorious “Hey, you’re running out of space!” warning balloon.
Next, you can probably safely disable the NTFS habit of creating 8.3 versions of filenames for backward compatibility. DOS is dead, right?

Open the Registry Editor and:

  • Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlFileSystem
  • Find the DWORD called NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation.
  • Right-click it and click Modify.
  • Change the value to 1.
  • Click OK.

You should reboot after you alter the registry. These tweaks mildly speed up hard drive access by removing needless overhead.

Defrag Once in a While

If you’ve somehow gotten the impression that Windows Vista doesn’t need to be defragged, think again. Vista comes with a defrag program (Microsoft’s worst yet, in terms of usability) and it even comes preconfigured to defrag the hard drive once each week.

Unless you keep your computer on 24 hours a day, launch Disk Defragmenter (click Start and type in “defrag” and hit Enter) and disable its scheduler. You can do this on your own, with a better defrag application which, unlike Microsoft’s, still shows you a map of the drive as it defrags.

Unless you install and uninstall programs, move and delete data, and otherwise assault the hard drive regularly, you don’t need to defrag more than once a month. Pick a night after you’re done with your PC, start the Disk-Defrag application, start a defragmentation, and go to bed.

Use It

The last way to speed up Windows Vista that we’ll cover is simple.

Use it.

Vista’s Superfetch feature, its prefetching powerhouse, is incredibly powerful on its own don’t mess with it.

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17 Responses to “Top 7 Windows Vista Tweaks”

  1. Pratyush says:

    Thanks, these tricks really seem useful. Stumbled :D .

    Pratyushs last blog post..Cheat online games and exams – [How To]

  2. I am getting a laptop soon. When I read the customer review of the product, the major complain was about Vista which is pre-installed is sluggish. I guess this post will help me to speed it up.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Nigerian Entrepreneurs last blog post..A Successful Entrepreneurs MindSet

  3. cchiovitti says:

    Thanks for these! I’m going to come back later and pour through all of your suggestions!

  4. Jago says:

    I god Vista defragged and free disk space went from 9 free GB to 5 :(

  5. sampat says:

    i am not using vista still i will say your article is useful to those persons who use vista

    sampats last blog post..Some popular attacks on networks

  6. Michael says:

    Uh, your post on the services is quite dangerous. Why not give a 3 year old a rocket launcher

  7. dark says:

    newbie tweaks

  8. Andreas says:

    Why tweak Vista ?

    Its poor and slow. Use XP / Mac / Linux. Or wait for M$ Windows 7

  9. Abdo says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    Abdos last blog post..تايلند التي رأيت ( 1 )

  10. sOliver says:

    Very useful tweaks. Disabling aero and other graphical things is not an option for all users although.

    Another top 10 annoyance of vista is that it’s always switching the default folder view in my opinion.

    You can find a solution for that

  11. Rick says:

    Great summary article for Vista users. I use a lot of these techniques with client computers, but learned some new ones I will try in the article. Thanks.

    Isn’t it any wonder, though, why Mac users laugh their a–es off when we have to tweak, tweak, manage, and protect the heck out of our Windows systems?

    Ricks last blog post..What kind of computer do 3 teenagers use?

  12. R. MAK. says:

    Thanks for your comments and appreciation…

    If any of you wish to write a guest post or two for this blog please feel free to contact me..

    R. MAK.s last blog post..Black Hole Created By Swiss-France Particle Accelerator Will Eat the Earth?

  13. Mark says:

    August 29, 2008

    Uh, your post on the services is quite dangerous. Why not give a 3 year old a rocket launcher
    Posted by Michael ”

    So you’re a 3 year old? Services are fine to mess with unless you are unbelievably stupid.

  14. stupid says:

    Stupid list. Another one exclaiming to normal users that it’s fine to screw around with system services, until you install some hardware/software which is dependant on one, then think their PC is broken. Stupid. Here’s a tip, don’t install Vista. And what idiot uses steam? a 1st class N00b that’s what.

  15. This is a good post! Thanks for sharing