Speed Up PC

I was recently asked to speed up a slow laptop. Here are the steps that I took:

  • Apply Windows Updates: The computer had downloaded lots of updates (including Vista Service Pack 2) that were just waiting to be installed. This was a multi-step process since not all the updates could be updated in one package.
  • Run Spinrite: This checks for and automatically fixes hard drive problems
  • Remove Browser Toolbars: Google, Yahoo, and other toolbars in Internet Explorer and Firefox just slow down and junk up the browser without any real benefits.
  • Remove Google Desktop: This is a redundant desktop search tool that just slows down the computer.
  • Open Windows Task Manager, search for processes, and remove unnecessary applications and start-up items. This is done from Add/Remove Programs, from the startup folder and from msconfig.
  • Turn off Windows sidebar: This feature available in Windows 7 and Vista by default just loads pictures and a clock which people don’t use.
  • Remove some Windows features, as mentioned in 12 Ways to Speed Up and Slim Down Windows Vista.
  • Update Firefox: Firefox 4 has significant speed improvements.
  • Remove paid Antivirus and install Microsoft Security Essentials which typically uses fewer system resources and is a good and free Antivirus.
  • Run Disk Defragmenter
  • Update Power Settings: This laptop’s settings were to run the CPU at a max of 50% both when unplugged (to save the battery) and also when plugged in. The max CPU should be set to 100% when plugged in unless the computer is having overheating problems.
  • InstallĀ Foxit Reader: This is faster and less annoying than Adobe Acrobat which I removed.

Missing Vista Recycle Bin

I recently saw a McLean, Virginia, customer’s new laptop with Vista that did not have the recycle bin (trash can) on the desktop by default. She couldn’t find it in the program list or by doing a search for “recycle bin”. Here’s how to get it back.

Right click on the desktop, then choose Personalize. On the left side menu, you should click Change desktop icons.

This will show you the desktop items that you can have appear. Most people will want Computer, Recycle Bin, and User’s Files checked off so that they are easily accessible from the desktop.

Acer Aspire One running Windows Vista

The Acer Aspire One is a fun little netbook, but it’s just not fast enough to run Windows Vista. That’s why Windows XP was included instead of Vista. Right? Well, I put that to the test and found that by modifying Vista as I described earlier, Vista runs great on the Aspire One.

It actually ran more fluidly than Windows XP did. I attribute that mainly to Vista’s support of:

  1. the Atom chipset’s hyperthreading. XP Home does not take full advantage of the chipset.
  2. ReadyBoost, a Vista feature that uses a flash drive to cache and speed up random reads that would otherwise go to the hard drive.

See this video of my Aspire One showing the speed of opening several applications:

12 Ways to Speed Up and Slim Down Windows Vista

Windows Vista is a much maligned operating system, mainly because people say it:

  1. is slower than Windows XP
  2. has a silly security system requiring multiple clicks just to delete a file
  3. looks bad with all the Aero effects

While Microsoft is working to fix these and other problems in Windows 7, these problems can also be fixed today for most people by following these modifications

Note: Only make the changes that you understand and feel comfortable with. Also, if you already have a fast machine there is no need for most of these changes.

1. Turn off Windows Features

Turn off unneeded features by going to:

Start – Control Panel – Uninstall a Program (Under Programs) – Turn Windows Features on or off (on left Task panel)

From here, you can uncheck everything you would like to. On my system, I deleted everything except:

  • Some of the games
  • XPS Viewer (under .NET Framework 3.0)
  • Remote Differential Compression (a network optimizer)
  • Windows Ultimate Extras

2. Consider Disabling Security Center

Security Center is useful, but if you have a firewall, antivirus software, and you are comfortable with the idea, you can disable the Security Center. Open the Security Center from the System Tray in the bottom right. Then click Change the way Security Center alerts me on the left pane. Then select the last option, Don’t notify me and don’t display the icon (not recommended). To finish disabling security center, follow the instructions below in services.msc.

3. Disable Services in services.msc

Services.msc shows you all the services that can run on the computer. Go to:


Then type in the text area (where it says Start Search) services.msc and hit Enter

Services are under the Startup Type categories:

  • Automatic – service starts when Windows starts.
  • Manual – service starts when Windows detects that something needs it.
  • Disabled – service doesn’t start at all.

You can look for automatic services and change them to manual or disabled. Right click and choose Properties for the option to change the Startup Type. TweakHound has a Vista Services Guide listing the services and what they are used for.

This is the list of services that most people can disable:

  • 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

Other services to consider diabling include:

  • DFS Replication
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client
  • IP Helper
  • IPsec Policy Agent
  • KtmRm for Distributed Transaction Coordinator
  • Secondary Logon
  • Security Center (as noted in the above Consider Disabling Security Center)
  • SSDP Discovery
  • Terminal Services
  • Windows Defender

Be sure to NOT disable:

  • Multimedia Class Scheduler
  • Plug and Play
  • Superfetch
  • Task Scheduler
  • Windows Audio
  • Windows Driver Foundation

4. Remove System Tray and msconfig items

Go to the system tray in the bottom right and remove programs that you do not need to be running, or at least remove their system tray portions if you do not need them. This is often available in the application preferences or options. You can also remove services and system tray items by typing in the start bar (where it says Start Search) msconfig and hit Enter

Each of the tabs show startup items that you can edit. There are usually items like iTunes helper, Quicktime, and AOL that are listed here. Even if you use those programs, you may not want them to start up automatically if you use those programs less frequently. They typically allow an app to start up more quickly, but at the price of always running and taking up computer resources.

5. Update your drivers

Device drivers are often updated for motherboards, chipsets, graphics. You can get a boost in performance by checking your drivers for updates. Go to:

Start – Control Panel – Hardware and Sound – View hardware and devices (under Device Manager)

From there you can right click on devices and select Update Driver Software.

6. Use ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost is a feature that uses a flash drive (thumb drive) or memory card (SD card or other) for caching data so that it does not need to be read from the hard drive. Microsoft recommends using a drive one to three times the size of the system RAM. So if you have 2GB of RAM, use a ReadyBoost flash drive of 2GB to 8GB in size.

ReadyBoost is particularly useful if you have a small amount of RAM (512MB – 1GB).

Hard drives are great for large sequential I/O. For those situations, ReadyBoost gets out of the way. ReadyBoost concentrates on improving the performance of small, random I/Os, like paging to and from disk.

7. Remove Transparency

Personally, I find the transparent bars at the top of Windows ugly. They also take up video processing resources.

Go to:
Right-click on the desktop, Personalize, Windows Color and Appearance. Uncheck Transparency

8. Stop the Sidebar

While pretty, the Sidebar takes up memory. Right-click on the sidebar, select Properties, uncheck Start Sidebar When Windows Starts. To get the sidebar back, type sidebar into the start bar.

9 . Shoot the Aero

I prefer Windows Vista Basic to the Aero visual effects. Aero also puts a heavy hit on the computer’s video resources.

To remove Aero, right-click on the desktop, select Personalize, and then Windows Color and Appearance. Click Open Classic Appearance Properties and choose a theme in the Scheme list.

10. Run occasional Defrags

Disk deframenting still helps computers that have been used for some time. But Vista is scheduled to defrag every week. You should defragment whenever you want and turn off the scheduled defrags. Type defrag into the Start area and hit Enter.

11. Turn off Anti-Virus

Yes, it’s a little dangerous. But removing antivirus software, especially standards such as Norton and McAfee will free a lot of resources.

12. Use Vista

Over time, Vista’s speed should improve as it learns how you use it, through a system called Superfetch. This takes often used files and moves them to the outer edge of the disk because the outer edge of the disk is the fastest part. Vista does this by default.