Follow these tips to boost Vista performance

By Deb Shinder

This gallery is also available as a PDF download and as an article.

Windows Vista is packed with cool eye candy, handy new features, and improved security. But all this comes at a price -- and many new Vista users are paying that price in the form of decreased performance as compared to Windows XP. Performance issues are the most common complaint I hear from readers who've just installed Vista or bought a new Vista machine, and my own experience shows that the concerns are valid.

Vista Ultimate runs great on my primary desktop computer, a fast Dell XPS with 4 GB of RAM. No noticeable performance problems there. So I expected the same when I bought a new laptop. I loved my little Sony TX model with XP, so I looked to replace it with an almost identical model running Vista Business Edition. It came with 1 GB of RAM (the XP machine has 512 MB), which I thought would be enough. However, I noticed from the beginning that the new computer took minutes to boot up instead of seconds, and running more than a couple of applications at a time slowed things down to an unacceptable level. Running Vista became the hurry up and wait experience that I'd heard about from other users.

I bought another 512 MB of RAM for it, maxing out its memory capacity, and got a 4GB USB drive optimized for ReadyBoost. All that helped some, but it was still significantly slower than its XP counterpart.

That's when I went looking for more ways to improve the performance of my laptop. Here's a look at some of the things that worked -- and some that didn't.

Turn off the bling

One obvious way to make Vista run more like XP is to, well, make Vista more like XP. Turning off the fancy Aero interface, turning off the sidebar, and otherwise disabling the features that make Vista look and feel unique will help speed up performance. But for most of us, that's not exactly the solution we were looking for.

Identify your bottlenecks

The first step in fixing a problem is to find out exactly what's broken. Vista includes a number of tools that help you pinpoint the cause of performance problems.

Performance Monitor

Vista, like its business-oriented predecessors (XP Professional, Windows 2000, and NT Workstation), includes a performance monitoring tool that allows you to do detailed monitoring of various counters relating to both software and hardware components.You'll find the tool under a new name, Reliability And Performance Monitor, on the Administrative Tools menu in Control Panel. The screen above shows the Performance Monitor, monitoring percentage Processor Time and Memory Pages/Second.

By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...