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Windows Vista has often been criticized for being bloated and slow and everyone unanimously seems to agree that Vista is a beast that Microsoft needn’t have confronted us with. Beast or not though, Vista is here to stay. It is bundled with nearly every computer now sold and it looks like we’ll have to live with it for some time to come.

I’ve been using Vista since it came with my notebook and actually find it to be better than Windows XP. Although I have the benefit of using a fairly recent machine and, even then, I have had to customize Vista quite a bit to save on some memory and speed up daily tasks.

In this post, I’ll share 4 tips to help you speed up Vista PC and live with that bloated beast.

1. Disable Aero

Aero is the fancy marketing term for the not-so-fancy graphics that you see in Windows Vista. Sure, some of those effects look pretty and might even impress your girlfriend (or boyfriend) but Aero is a resource hog. If you are running Vista on an older computer, there is no reason to torture the poor machine and stress yourself in the process.

To disable the Windows Aero look, right click anywhere on the desktop and click Personalize -> Window Color and Appearance. This will open a window like the one shown here.

disable vista aero

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Now chose one of the color schemes in the list. Windows Aero will enable all effects, Windows Vista Basic will disable the snazzy effects you see while switching between Windows using alt-tab, or the window preview that you see if you hover your mouse over the taskbar. The Basic setting is a nice compromise between speed and usability, though. You can try the Windows Standard and Windows Classic settings too if you want to.

You can get some more juice out of Vista by disabling some window effects. Right click on ‘My Computer’ and then click on >Advanced System Settings -> Settings (under the Advanced tab and performance section) and then choosing whether you want Windows to adjust itself for best performance or best appearance.

2. Disable the Vista Sidebar

The Windows Vista Sidebar is a nice looking but mostly useless piece of bloat that most Vista installations can live without. Whatever stroke of genius led Microsoft to let the sidebar be switched on by default, you can actually get rid of it, and save some precious memory in the process.

To remove the Sidebar, right click on the Sidebar and select ‘Close Sidebar’. In the dialogue box that you get, uncheck “Start Sidebar when Windows starts”, and click OK.

3. ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost was one big hyped up feature of Windows Vista. The feature supposedly lets Windows use a flash drive connected to the PC as a memory cache and since most flash drives are faster than regular hard drives, this apparently helped Windows perform faster. The reality is that most people don’t use this feature and for them, it is only slowing down the system. To disable this service, go to ControlPanel -> Administrative Tools -> Services. Double-click on the ReadyBoost service and select ‘disable’ from the drop down box.

disable vista services

4. Disable User Account Control

This tip will not really speed up the computer as such, but will definitely let you use the computer faster. User Account Control (UAC) is one of the most talked about features of Windows. Talked not by Microsoft, but by people who like to hate Vista, for whatever reason. If you’ve Vista used for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve come across this feature. This is the feature with which Vista prompts you with dire consequences if you chose to ignore its warning. The screen goes dark and a pop-up….well….pops up and asks for permission to perform the said task. It is not only annoying, but it essentially serves no purpose, since most people become immune to the warning in just a couple of days.

For those people, it is best to disable this feature altogether. Here’s how :

disable user account control in vista

Click on Start – > Control Panel -> User Account. In the User account window, click on the link named “Turn User Account Control on or off”. In the dialogue box that follows you can disable UAC altogether. Click OK, reboot and move on.

If you guys have any more tips to help speed up Vista, please share them with us in the comments. Have you tried the tips I have mentioned here? Do they work for you?

  1. ISHAN
    August 17, 2009 at 10:24 am

    ur website is good yaaaaaaaaaaaa..........

  2. Pen
    November 8, 2008 at 3:27 am

    You're saying your customer bought a new PC with Vista on it, and it goes slow as all hell? Maybe the culprit was the shitloads of crap that OEMs pack onto their PCs? I'm using a One-week old Studio 15 (3 GB of RAM, 256 MB video memory... not exactly something you could get for a decent price 5 years ago but it's more or less the standard for new PCs these days) right now with the OEM installation of Vista, and I'm encountering zero speed issues. Well, after I spent the first 10 minutes of my ownership of it removing the shit Dell puts on it, it works just fine. I don't have the desktop stripped back, it actually is running full-blown, with a nice DreamScene background and everything. I even set up a dual-boot with XP for comparison, and guess what? No speed difference. XP actually ran a lot of things slower than Vista did. Normally I'm all on board for bashing Microsoft, but please, bash Microsoft about the things they ACTUALLY fucked up on instead of on some nice little nerd fairy tales. k?

    Of course XP is going to be faster than Vista, but Windows 95 is even faster than XP, go use that. While Vista can certainly be accused of being unnecessarily bloated, XP is just as unnecessarily bloated. With new advancements in features comes a need for more powerful hardware, simple as that. Of course, you'll always have the hardcore retards who proclaim that everything that takes up more resources than grep is unnecessary bloat. The "bloat" in Vista is no worse than XP.

    And the speed difference with XP is barely even noticeable on newer machines, which is how most people obtain Vista anyway. It's like the difference between Xfce and Gnome. It's going to make a big difference on older machines (Any PC, built at standard for its time, made after 2005, you can just forget Vista), but on the newer hardware the difference is so small (given a competent user who is able to turn off things like Dell PC Tune-Up) as to be barely noticeable. While the very high spec requirement for Vista IS total bullshit (I can run a Linux box that's 8 years old with all of Vista's features, and more, with better speeds than what Vista gets under a machine that's 3 years old), to say "Vista sux it'z so bloatedz XP ish bettarz" is an even bigger piece of bullshit.

    1. You don't need to strip back the desktop to get better "Performance", as one of the best benefits of Aero is that most of the effects are disabled as soon as a fullscreen or maximized app is launched. If you think that the Aero look is too flashy and you prefer a simpler look, that's fine. But don't make your desktop look like something fresh out of the 80's just to give yourself a false perception of "increased performance".

    2. The sidebar gadgets? Eh, although I personally find desktop gadgets to be a complete waste of time and effort, there are plenty of users who find them useful. I haven't done any surveys to see if the majority of users like the gadgets (thus making the default worthwhile), but my advice is this: If you use it, keep it. If you don't, dump it.

    3. From my experience ReadyBoost's inactive service isn't that much of a performance sucker, even on sub-optimal machines. My advice with disabling services is, with most, just say no. The fractions of seconds you'll save will instantly be negated when the time comes when you DO need that service for some reason and you spend hours frantically trying to figure out what's wrong because you forgot that you disabled the service all those months ago. However, some services (like XP's drive indexing) are just a waste of resources and should always be turned off. As with ReadyBoost, that's up to the user's own discretion. If they don't plan to use it in the near future, go ahead and disable it.

    4. This one I have the biggest quip with. While the UAC's implementation is something I despise and it would have been very difficult for them to have done a worse job at it than they did, the feature itself should never be turned off. UAC increases the security of your PC tenfold. But again, only in the hands of competent users who understand what it is and what it means. If you open up a word document a co-worker emailed you, and the UAC pops up, something terribly wrong is happening here. In Windows World, it's become customary for programs to constantly assume that they are running under administrator rights, and I don't think I should have to explain to anyone why allowing every program the ability to run around and do whatever it wants is a bad idea. A transition needs to be made, and UAC is pretty much the only real compromise that could be done. If I could have it my way, UAC would require you to enter a password as well, but I'm sure many Vista users wouldn't appreciate that <.<

    The problem with UAC is that it can't defend users against their own ignorance. Because most users don't fully understand the UAC, they see it merely as an annoyance, an abundance of "Do you REALLY wanna do this?" messages that exist for no reason other than to piss you off. So they simply ignore the UAC's warning, either through the Soccer Mom method of just mindlessly clicking "allow" every time the window pops up, or through the Power Nerd method of turning UAC off. But if you ignore UAC's warning, it can't do shit to protect you. Power Nerds also tend to think that having common sense and having malware scanners is good enough, but they're wrong there too. Malware authors design their schemes in order to evade your common sense. Of course getting an email from a random person asking you to run this executable file they've attached is a red flag, but most malware authors are smarter than that nowadays. Common Sense just isn't enough to be able to bypass all the sneaky tricks they can pull off to inject malware into your system without your knowing, and there's no intellectual shame in that.

    And with malware scanners, remind me again HOW many viruses simply attack McAfee/Norton to turn your virus scanner off so they can wreak their havoc unchecked? Hundreds? Thousands? Of course most Power Nerds have enough common sense not to use Norton or McShithole, but this applies to every malware scanner.

    The UAC fails for the same reason nearly every "security feature" Microsoft implements will always fail. Security is a process, not a product. A user who understands how to be safe, while never being enough on their own, is a thousand times more useful than a piece of software any day. However, Microsoft has an absolute woody for its "Weld the Hood Shut" interface mantra. Yes users shouldn't have to be experts to be able to work a computer (no matter how many Unix enthusiasts would love to disagree with me on this), but you should at least know enough to be able to be an efficient, effective user. But instead, Microsoft's policy is to "protect" users from all of those "scary geek terms", and this doesn't help anyone. The UAC may work, but an instruction on a "free screensaver" installation website telling them to just click allow negates all of it.

    Even still, the UAC shouldn't be annoying. You can do almost everything on your computer without raising a UAC prompt, provided you're using competent software that doesn't need to constantly gain administrator rights to do the simplest of tasks (and I've never run into this kind of software myself, though I've heard about it. The best option here is just to switch to better software). The only times when a prompt should come up is when you're installing/uninstalling apps, or when you're changing system-level Windows settings. I go most days without ever getting a single prompt.

    So remember kids. The problem in this case isn't User Account Control, it's the user.

    print "End Rant.\n"

  3. Matt Bowers
    October 27, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Under-Powered vs Vista.

    I've 25yrs in computer networking, full time; hundreds of customers.

    I have a client who bought a brand new PC with Vista on it. Fast & plenty of RAM.
    It was slower than his 5yr old PC that he was tossing.
    I formatted it with XP and reinstalled the exact same software.
    The performance difference was at least 100 fold. I wish that I had measured it.
    Just opening Word went from half a minute or more to nearly instant.
    The computer went from the slowest I'd worked on to almost the fastest.

    Installing his apps, then formatting to XP, then reinstalling his apps; I charged him $800.

    That's the real world of Vista. Not just talk.
    I just won't work on a Vista PC & won't sell one with Vista on it.

    What's MicroSoft's problem anyway? The operating system is just there to make the file system work and integrate the hardware drivers.

    • Joshua
      October 27, 2008 at 7:43 pm

      to this I would say... how long ago are you talking about, and did you install fully up to date versions of drivers for vista?

      it's now been proven (even by vista sceptics) across a variety of system that with up to date drivers vista performs better than xp, regardless of 'perceived performance'.

      and who said that's what an OS is for?

  4. brave
    September 21, 2008 at 9:53 am

    somebody help me why my headset loss his sound when i install vista black sp1?please help me..

    • Simon
      September 21, 2008 at 10:37 am

      Vista might have some problem with the headset drivers. Be sure you've installed all Vista updates and check on the manufacturer's website.

  5. Josh
    September 16, 2008 at 3:16 am

    I really don't understand who is supposedly running all these 'underpowered' machines. I haven't seen one computer in the last year being sold with less then 1gig of RAM that's just the cheapest ones. For not even a $1000 you can get a 3ghz comp with 2gigs or more of RAM and that will run Vista just fine. In fact turning off Aero will make NO difference.

    I agrre the sidebar is a hog though and turning it off will make a difference.

    Readyboost makes a huge difference and I would suggest that people who say it doesn't have simply stuck it in the side and expected some big performance boost. It doesn't work like that, use an extra gig flash drive for a month and then pull it out and see how your computer performs.

    UAC is fine... it's safer, it doesn't slow your computer down so why bother turning it off? Apart from the annoying file deletion bug it's not too bad.

  6. Sharninder
    September 16, 2008 at 1:24 am

    While I agree that the intention behind UAC is a good, those prompts just slow me down and that is why I disable them. My view is that the operating system should interfere as less as possible in my user experience.

    The same is true for Aero. The effects just bog me down.

    Most of this post is applicable for PCs which are a little older but speed improvements are always good, aren't they ;)

    • Aibek
      September 17, 2008 at 6:54 pm

      I second Shanrinder here, the UAC often just interrupts me.

  7. Peter
    September 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I agree that disabling UAC is a bad idea. Most people will only see UAC prompts when they first set up their Vista machine or when they install new software. If you are routinely seeing UAC prompts during regular use then either you have poorly written software or something is wrong with your machine. If used properly, UAC is actually one of Vista's greatest benefits.

    Most of these tips are designed to address the situation of an underpowered machine. If your machine isn't up to snuff for running Vista well, just stick with XP, or buy a new machine. If you're trying to run Vista on a P4 with 512 Megs of RAM, it's not going to run well no matter what you do.

  8. gary katsevman
    September 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I really dont think that disabling aero really gives you a performance boost. Plus it is pretty to look at. I understand disabling it before you are playing a game and like video editing, but for regular use it isnt going to do anything.
    ReadyBoost and getting rid of the sidebar will definitely increase performance.
    As for the UAC, I recommend not to disable it, there are tweaks online on how to make it not grab focus (so that it wont darken the screen and task focus from anything else you are doing) this way, you get the protection of the UAC but not it's annoyance, since I really only get it when I am installing/uninstalling something, or moving something to a protected directory like c:/windows and program files

    • Owen
      September 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

      Darn right about aero.
      Get your facts STRAIGHT makeuseof. It is now a well known, and well tested fact, that Aero does NOT effect the performance of your computer. It runs off the GPU (and everyone has a video card these days), so you might as well use it, otherwise your GPU will just use 70% of its life idling anyway.

      The point is, Aero has NO performance hit at ALL.

      • Hamel
        July 30, 2009 at 5:50 pm

        While this is rather true for desktop computers, many, many people on even new laptops, even with fast specs would benefit from disabling aero, because laptops very often use an integrated graphics chip which doesn't have it's own gpu per say, but instead passes off the graphics processing to the processor.

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