Here’s the scenario: a PC bought in 2003 is to be upgraded from Windows XP to Vista Home Premium. Before upgrading, we downloaded the Vista Upgrade Advisor from www.tinyurl.com/23dq97 ,which told us that our PC would be able to run Vista Basic but would not support ‘the Windows Aero experience’ in Vista Home Premium — meaning we wouldn’t get Vista’s new Desktop look. If this sounds familiar, upgrading to a cheap Vista-compatible graphics card may well allow you to run Home Premium with all its graphical flourishes. But, depending on your system’s configuration, you may find that using the machine is like wading through treacle. Everythingmay seemto happen a few seconds too late, or hang for longer than expected. In this Workshop, we’ll show you how to perk things up.
To reduce the drains that Vista’s visual enhancements impose on slower computers, right-click the Windows Desktop and select Personalize. When the ‘Personalize appearance and sounds’menu opens, click ‘Window Color and Appearance’, then remove the tick from the Enable Transparency box. This retains most of Aero’s effects but improves its display speed. For an even bigger boost, switch off Aero by clicking the blue link at the bottom of the ‘Window Color and Appearance’ menu. This opens an Appearance Settings dialogue box like the one in Windows XP. Select Windows Vista Basic and click OK. Gain more speed by turning off special effects. To do so, click Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Performance Information and Tools. In the Task Pane on the left, select ‘Adjust visual effects’. On the Visual Effects tab, select ‘Adjust for best performance’, then click OK.
If the display looks too stark and the text is harder to read, go back to the Visual Effects tab and select ‘Smooth edges of screen fonts’, ‘Use visual styles on windows and buttons’ and ‘Show thumbnails instead of icons’. These reinstate the Vista look and feel without demanding too many resources. If you have been prompted with messages that read ‘Windows needs your permission to continue’, this means User Account Control (UAC) is turned on. Though we don’t recommend it, it is possible to turn off UAC by clicking Start > Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety > User Accounts. Click the blue link for ‘Turn User Account Control on or off’, then remove the tick that activates User Account Control. Click OK, then click Restart Now.
If your hard disk chatters incessantly when running Vista, it is probably struggling to keep on top of the indexing load imposed on it by Vista’s Instant Search facility. You can reduce the background drain by limiting Instant Search to items on the Start Menu. Click Start, then type Indexing. Select Indexing Options, then click Modify.When the Indexed Locations dialogue box opens, remove all the ticks from the locations listed in the upper section. This should leave Start Menu and Users listed in the lower section. Click Users in the lower section, and then remove the tick from Users in the upper section. Click OK, then click Close.
By disablingmore of its background activities, Vista can help struggling PCs run even faster. Click Start, type msconfig, then press Enter. When the System Configuration dialogue box opens, click the Startup tab. This lists background programs that load each time Vista starts. These programs increase the time it takes Vista to load, occupy memory and make small claims on processor time. Untick any you don’t need, which in this example include Acronis, Nero and Quicktime. You may also disable Windows Defender if you have installed third-party internet security software. Click OK, then restart your computer.
When your computer restarts it displays a message detailing the changes you have just made. Click OK to close this and redisplay the System Configuration dialogue box. Click the Services tab to list the background services loaded by Vista. Some of these are rarely needed and can be disabled. For example, untick Tablet PC Input Service if you’re not using a tablet PC, and Terminal Services if you don’t use Remote Desktop. It’s also safe to disable Remote Registry. A Google search for ‘Vista services’ will yield plenty of tips on which of these services can be disabled safely.
To use Vista’s performance-enhancing Readyboost feature you need a Flash memory device, such as a USB memory key, or some other form of memory card and card reader. When you plug in the Flash memory, Vista asks what you want to do with it, and one of the options is ‘Speed up my system’, which you should select. If the device is fast enough to be used for Readyboost, you’ll see a Properties box in which you can configure it. Click ‘Use the device’ and move the slider control to the extreme right to allocate all of it, then click OK. From now on, Vista will use the memory device instead of the hard disk as virtual memory.