There has been much discussion about the performance of Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system since its release two years ago. While the perception of a computer’s “speed” or performance can be quite subjective, the consensus has been that Windows Vista performs slower than Windows XP. The good news is that there are steps for speeding up Windows Vista computers. Here are five steps that you can take to help boost Vista’s performance:
1. Turn Off the Windows Sidebar and Associated Gadgets
On many computers the Sidebar will use significant system resources. The number and type of gadgets in use may also impact the system resource demands. You can start by turning off the Sidebar and judge its effect on your computer’s performance. Results will vary between different computers.
The Sidebar can be turned off from the Sidebar icon in the system tray or by right-clicking on the Sidebar area of the Desktop. The Sidebar can be turned back on by opening it from within the All Programs menu via the Vista Start button.
2. The More RAM (system memory) the Better
Vista will run on a computer with only 1 GB of RAM but it’s generally a pretty slow experience. Vista performs much better with 2 GBs of RAM. Having more than 2 GBs of RAM is better, often yielding noticeable performance benefits. Opt for 4 GBs of RAM if possible.
An important reason Vista likes having more than 2GB of RAM is what Microsoft calls “SuperFetch.” This technology uses excess memory to help speed up hard disk access by keeping frequently used data cached in memory. Since memory access is almost always faster than hard disk access the more RAM your computer has, the more of your most commonly used data and programs will be stored in the faster SuperFetch area. Overall computer performance improves.
3. Install Vista Service Pack 1 and All Current Updates.
If you haven’t installed Vista Service Pack 1 you should do so — soon. Service Pack 1 improved Vista in a wide number of areas including system performance and stability. Also download and install any other critical updates that are recommended by Microsoft.
4. Turn Off User Account Control (UAC)
While turning off the UAC does not physically speed up how Vista works it can make Vista more efficient. Without the frequent UAC boxes popping up and interrupting your workflow or train of thought using Vista may actually feel faster and easier to use. You can turn off UAC by deactivating User Account Control in the User Accounts Control Panel. See my earlier post on “How to Disable Vista’s User Account Control” for more details.
5. Keep All Hardware Drivers Current.
Periodically Microsoft will include updates for “drivers” — compact control programs that handle communications between a hardware devices and Windows. Device drivers can have a significant impact on the performance and stability of hardware components such as video or graphics adapters, sound cards, network adapters, and printers. This can impact overall system performance. The availability of updated drivers will show up in Windows Updates as “Recommended” or “Optional.” Install new drivers as they become available.