For many, Microsoft Windows Vista is plagued with performance issues. Most point the finger of performance degradation to Aero, but Aero is not alone in misusing hardware resources. There are so many possible tweaks and tune-ups that it would take hours of research and downtime to get the best possible performance from your machine. There is an alternative.

The Vista Services Optimizer is a tool that can diagnose your machine and offer suggestions for eking out more performance. Whether you want to handle the task manually or have the Service Optimizer take care of it automatically, this tool might be just the solution for a sluggish Vista machine. Let’s take a look and see how well it works.

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Getting and installing

The executable binary can be found on Once that file is downloaded, you simply have to undertake the standard Windows installation procedure and double-click the file. There is one thing you will want to pay close attention to: where the executable is installed.

Upon first installation I assumed it would create an entry in the Start menu. It didn’t. After much digging I finally found the executable in C:\Program Files\Smart PC Utilities\Vista Services Optimizer. You could create a shortcut to that file on your desktop or elsewhere if you feel it necessary.

Once you have located the executable, double-click it to open up the main window. Of course this is Vista, and VSO is going to want to access the network, so you’re going to have to allow the program to access the network before it will start up.

The main window (Figure A) gives you an instant idea of how your machine is performing.

Figure A

A quick glance is all you need to see how well Vista is using your CPU.

The first thing you might want to do is run a Service Diagnostic exam. When you run this you are examining performance and security. You will need to select Sharing options (if your computer is sharing files and if it has an network connection) as well as specify attached hardware, firewall options, and current compatibility issues. Figure B highlights these configuration options.

Figure B

The diagnostic tools will use these options as criteria for the scan.

Once you have made these selections, click the Start Diagnostics button to begin the examination. What is surprising is that the results are instant. This, of course, indicates the diagnostics isn’t actually a scan that is run on your machine but results issued based on the criteria you select. The results will be in the form of suggestion that will help to make your Vista installation much more efficient. You may or may not act upon them, but they will at least give you an idea where to begin.

From that point there are two actions you should look at: Manual Tuneup or Automatic Tuneup.

Manual Tuneup

The Manual Tuneup (Figure C) allows you to specify what to change for your tune-up. Under the Manual Tuneup there are four tabs:

  • Performance Tuneup
  • Security Tuneup
  • Network Tuneup, and
  • Tuneup Report

The Performance tab is the tab that will bring about the biggest boost to performance. But that does not mean you should neglect the other tabs. The Security tab will allow you to go as far as disabling all the Microsoft Windows Security features (such as Firewall and Defender).

Figure C

Hover your mouse over each option for a full description.

Automatic Tuneup

The Automatic Tuneup option (Figure D) requires you to answer only a few simple questions that relate to how you use your computer. Based on these answers, Vista Services Optimizer will tune Vista to perform best for your needs.

Figure D

The automatic tuneup is a much easier tune-up but not as complete.

Once you have selected the type of tune-up you want and configured any options, click the Apply Changes to begin the tune-up.

A typically tune-up will take only a minute or so. Once the tune-up is complete, you will receive a detailed report of what was done, and then Vista Services Optimizer will request a restart of Windows to complete the process. Go ahead with this reboot.

Once I completed my tune-up (a manual tune-up where I disabled a number of the Windows security and optimization tools), I noticed quite a bit of improvement with Vista. My average CPU usage dropped from 23 percent to around 12 percent —  a fairly marked improvement.

Final thoughts

The Vista Services Optimizer is certainly worth your time. You get positive results from a free tool, and anything that can make Vista more usable is worth the price of admission.

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