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  1. #1
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    Optimising Vista

    I thought it would be nice to share some of the things I do to optimise Windows Vista. You might not instantly see speed increases from all tweaks made, but it all helps make the system run as smoothly as possible.

    Turn User Account Control (UAC) Off

    The biggest thing that frustrates most people new to Vista is the annoying UAC window that pops up every time you try to do something, stating "Windows needs your permission to continue". This soon gets very tiresome when installing something or trying to configure some control panel option.

    Luckily it is fairly easy to disable and get rid of.

    1. Control Panel -> User Accounts ->
    2. Turn User Account Control On or Off.
    3. Now decide if you want to untick the box which say: 'Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer'.
    4. Now you have disabled the User Account Control.

    Now you can enjoy Vista!

    Use all your cores

    Most computers these days are now dual core, or quad core if you are lucky. However Vista doesn't use them as standard when booting up. As default it is only setup to use a single core while booting, which is obviously mad.

    This is quite easily fixed.

    Click the start menu and type msconfig into the white "start search" box.

    This will load up the System Configuration utility.

    Go to the Boot tab and click on Advanced options.

    At the top left is the option for Number of processors. Tick the box and select the maximum number available. Then finally click OK and then Apply.

    Many people have reported this can really speed up Vista booting. Sometimes as much as half the time.

    Optimising your startup programs

    While still in the System Configuration utility take a look at the Startup tab. This shows you a list of everything that loads as the system is booting. Try to look through this list and untick any programs you definitely know you don't need to be loaded with the system.

    Things like Quicktime updater, Adobe Acrobat reader and office assistant can all be disabled to stop them loading at startup and speed the system up.

    Please don't just disable something if you don't know what it does though. Normally doing a Google search for the exe file name will bring up a load of sites listing what the process does. Then you can make a decision on how important and needed the file is.

    Never disable something crytical such as graphics driver or sound card utilities unless you know it will work without them running. You could try experimenting by disabling just one and rebooting to see if everything still works. And then repeat with the next one.

    Remove startup programs from the start menu

    In addition also look in your start menu for the startup folder. Anything put in here loads with the system booting. So remove and delete any shortcuts you find in here that you don't want loading.

    Remove startup programs from the registry

    Not everyone is happy directly editing the system registry, so if you are unsure leave it alone. When you edit or delete something in the registry it is instantly changed or deleted. You have no second chance or ability to restore it.

    To edit the registry click the start menu and type regedit into the "start search" box.

    The location of the startup program entries is slightly different in Vista compared to XP, and for 64bir Vista it can again be slightly different. But they are fairly easy to find once you know where to look.

    First of all navigate to the following locations one at a time in the registry:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

    These will show you some of the programs being loaded. Look though them and only delete any you are sure you don't want loading. If you are unsure what an entry does, Google it's name and many sites will list what the process does.

    If you are running a 64 bit version of the OS also look in the following location:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

    Next navigate to the following locations one at a time:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce


    And if you are running 64 bit version of the OS also look in:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

    This should be empty apart from a default entry. If it has more entries then you have to look into why they are there. Normally the RunOnce entries are added after the completion of a new software install, and after being run on the next boot get automatically deleted.

    Sometimes an entry stuck in here can cause a loop, where an installer keeps trying to run very time you boot. If you get this problem look in here first.

    After you have finished editing the registry just close the regedit utility. There is nothing to save because as I said, everything you edit is in real time and perminent. Hence the reason to be careful. If you are worried do a full backup of the registry using regedit before you start editing it.

    Swap File

    This is an old tweak. As standard Windows manages its own virtual memory swap file on the same harddrive partition as it is installed. It is a dynamic size that Windows can adjust as and when needed. This is all well and good in theory, but Vista likes to take over as much physical ram and swap file space as it can which can quickly eat into your hd space.

    The biggest problem with letting Windows manage the swap file and adjust its size is fragmentation. Every time the system changes the size of the file the HD starts to get more fragmented, and this can slowly start to use up more and more space on the HD because often files and the swap file will need continuous blocks of space.

    To fix this you have 2 options.

    If you only have a single harddrive with one partition then the swap file will have to remain on the same drive. However you can optimise things a bit by setting a fixed size of the swap file so Windows doesn't manage and adjust it itself.

    To do this, right click the Computer icon in the start menu (or on your desktop of you have one setup there) and select Properties. From the window click on Advanced system settings.

    Now go to the Advanced tab and clock the Performance, settings button. Now go to the advanced tab and you will see the virtual memory settings at the bottom. Click on Change button to edit them.

    You will now see a list of the harddrives in your system and the size of the paging file (swap file) being used on each.

    If you only have the single drive and partition then you can only change this to a fixed size. To do this select the drive from the list and change the option from "System managed size" to Custom size.

    You now need to work out what size you would like the swap file to be. By default Windows manages it by setting the size to 1.5-2.5 times the amount of physical ram present in the system. So for a system with 1GB of ram it would be 1.5GB to 2.5GB being used. However if you have a lot more ram you don't need this much space for the swap file. I would recommend the following:

    System with 1GB ram = 2560MB paging file size
    System with 2GB ram = 3072MB file
    System with 3GB ram = 4082MB file
    System with 4GB ram = between 512MB and 4082MB filesize (set it lower and if you get any out of virtual memory errors from games or application then make it larger)
    Systems with 8GB ram = between 512MB and 4082MB (again set it low and if you get issues make it bigger).

    For system with 4GB or more they will hardly use it so try 512MB first.

    Also note that on 32bit versions of Vista the max you can set it to is 4082MB due to memory address limits.

    When entering the custom size add the same value in the initial size and maximum size boxes. This will force the system to use a fixed sized file and stop drive fragmentation.

    IF you have more than one physical harddrive in your PC then take advantage and move the swap file to a different harddrive. This will only be useful if it is a real second HD. Just a second partition on the same drive wont speed up anything or offer any advantages.

    To move the swap file to a different HD, select your C drive and select No paging file to remove it from the system drive. Ignore any warnings.

    Next select the alternative HD you wish to use and select custom size and enter the size in both entries as outlined above.

    Finally click OK and OK again. Then reboot the system for the changes to take effect.

    You can optimise things even further by setting up a swap file on two different HDDs. Just do the same again for another different physical drive. Personally I haven't ever seen much gain in doing this.

    Having a clear out

    Vista (and XP) love to fill up the boot drive with lots of temporary files that never get used again. Luckily Microsoft realised this and include a useful tool to clean it all up.

    Just to the start menu and then Program Files/Accessories/System Tools and select Disk Cleanup.

    Select the C drive and wait for Windows to scan everything. Once complete you will get a list of stuff you can remove. You will be surprised how much room might be used up by this. Possible to get back over 6GB of space.

    Safe things to delete are Temp internet files, Startup log files, and temp files. Note: see turning off hibernation below before you do run the cleanup process.

    Also click the more options and consider cleaning up the system restore and shadow copies on the hdd. But do make sure you then reboot and make a new restore point so you have a known good one saved just in case of future problems.

    Turning off hibernation

    When using the cleanup tool you will see an entry in the list called "hibernation file cleaner". If you select this and clean it then the hibernation feature of Windows will be disabled. If you use a laptop you might find hibernation very useful, so don't do this if you want to keep this feature.

    Final tidy up

    Once all of the above is complete the final task is to remove any remaining rubbish from you boot drive. With the swap file moved to a different HDD and the disk cleanup tool run there shouldn't be much, but check and delete all the temp files in all computer account names to make sure. This can free up a lot of space on some machines.

    Defrag

    And finally, with the swap file moved and all temp files deleted run a defrag of each hdd partition to tidy up the drive structure and speed things up a bit more. Once this is complete, because the swap file is now a fixed size fragmentation shouldn't be such an issue in the future.

    Speed up slow network transfers


    In Vista M$ introduced a network compression service that was meant to reduce cpu usage and network traffic load between machines over a LAN using compression. A great idea in theory if compression meant that it actually increased the speed that files were transferred across the network. However this isn't so. For many this gives a big hit to network transfer speed, with the data transfer rate dropping from 10-12MB/s on a 100Mbit network down to under 1MB/s.

    To fix this issue and speed your network back up to full speed is quite easy.

    Go to Start > Control Panel > Programs and Features

    Click on "Turn windows features on or off" on the left side of the screen/window.

    Uncheck "Remote Differential Compression"

    Reboot your PC.
    Last edited by Harrison; 26th July 2009 at 12:36.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  2. #2
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    Great, many thanks for the info. Will do this immedietely this evening when I'm home.

    Tuesday I installed the Windows stuff, which took a long time, due to all the Windows updates available.
    Yesterday I removed all the useless stuff which got installed with the initial install, did the recovery DVDs and partinioning the disk, which also takes long time.
    And today I'm finally gonna put all my software onto it, and then it will be ready to use like I want

    But guess what I'm holding in my hands right now:

    - InFamous
    - Prototype
    - Red Faction: Guerrilla
    - Star Ocean: The Last Hope
    - Grid


    But laptop has to come first, have to stay determined with myself tonight

  3. #3
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    In a new install of Vista don't run the updater and start downloading all the updates. Instead download Service Pack 2 and install that first. This contains most of the updates and removes the time and need to install each one manually.

    Then once SP2 is installed run Windows Update and install whatever else is needed such as IE8 and system updates.

    The same is true for XP. Run the service Pack 3 installer first then you will have hardly any updates to install after that.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


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    Thanks, most of these are helpful on W7 too!

    Quote Originally Posted by Demon Cleaner View Post
    - Prototype
    Cool game.
    It's like a spectacular version "I Am Legend" but "Through The Eyes Of The Monster", all inside a GTA-alike sandboxed environment.
    Enjoying it now.

  5. #5
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    I've just added a new part to the end of the guide detailing how to speed network transfers back up on a Vista machine.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


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    A few days ago I've read about this in an article, and this:
    Quote Originally Posted by Harrison View Post
    Use all your cores

    Most computers these days are now dual core, or quad core if you are lucky. However Vista doesn't use them as standard when booting up. As default it is only setup to use a single core while booting, which is obviously mad.

    This is quite easily fixed.

    Click the start menu and type msconfig into the white "start search" box.

    This will load up the System Configuration utility.

    Go to the Boot tab and click on Advanced options.

    At the top left is the option for Number of processors. Tick the box and select the maximum number available. Then finally click OK and then Apply.

    Many people have reported this can really speed up Vista booting. Sometimes as much as half the time.
    ... appears to be fake, hoax, placebo... whatever you want to call it, it doesn't work that way.
    Here's the short summary of that article.

    The NUMPROC parameter was added to the boot manager way before multi-core CPU's appeared and it was always meant to be used for diagnostic/testing purposes.
    It's only use is to degrade the number of cores used for bootup, while choosing a greater number changes nothing and the system acts exactly as always - using all the possible cores to load. It always does. Why would M$ degrade that for any possible reason?

    Bonus article:
    http://www.withinwindows.com/2008/08...with-msconfig/

  7. #7
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    Interesting Shoonay. However I've tested this setting on 3 different systems running Vista and in my own real world tests it has speeded up the boot time of all 3 systems. One went from about 50 seconds to 30 seconds. So it is doing something.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  8. #8
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    I've now added something else that is very useful and most people would like to do in Vista. Remove the very annoying User Account Control (UAC) alerts that popup every time you tried to do something, such as install a program, and it keeps asking for your permission to continue. Thankfully it is very easy to disable.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  9. #9
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    I turned UAC off, as it's really annoying, but I now have all the time the red alert (when entering the security settings) that something is wrong, but there isn't, only UAC is turned off.

  10. #10
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    That's just Microsoft's insistence that you should keep UAC permanently on, which obviously most of us don't want. It isn't anything to worry about as it just shows it in the Windows Security Center and nowhere else.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


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