Windows Vista Tips

Minimise All Windows Instantly

Cluttered desktop?

To instantly minimise all of your open windows, hold down the Windows key and press the letter M.

Note:This shortcut also works in Windows XP.

USB Stick for Quick Performance Boost

If your system slows down because you are working on a very large file (e.g. PowerPoint presentation or Photoshop image), a temporary boost in memory can help to improve system performance.

A new feature in Vista called ReadyBoost allows a standard USB flash drive to temporarily increase performance.

To use this facility your memory stick must:

  • Be at least USB v2.0
  • Be capable of a 3.5 MB/s transfer rate for 4Kb reads
  • Be capable of a 2.5 MB/s transfer rate for 512Kb writes
  • Have at least 64Mb of free space

The flash memory device serves as an additional memory cache. That is memory that the computer can access more quickly than it can access data on the hard drive.

When a removable memory device such as a USB flash drive is first inserted into a port, Vista checks to see if its performance is fast enough to work with ReadyBoost. If so, you are asked if you want to use this device to speed up system performance.

You can choose to allocate part of a USB drive's memory to speed up performance and use the remainder to store files.

To return to this option, or to enable a previously inserted device:

  1. Open the Computer window
  2. Right-click the USB drive
  3. Select Properties
  4. Click the ReadyBoost tab

Note: Adding system memory (RAM) is normally the best way to improve a PC's performance. However, upgrading memory can be difficult and costly, and some machines have limited memory expansion capabilities, making it impossible to add RAM.

Disable User Account Control (UAC)

Windows Vista includes a new feature designed to help prevent infections from malicious software. It's called User Account Control (UAC). This makes you aware of changes that are about to be made to your computer, and lets you decide whether to allow them or not.

When you try to perform a task that requires administrator permissions, such as installing software or changing system settings, UAC prompts you.

Turn UAC Off

One solution is to turn UAC completely off.

To do that:

  1. Click Start
  2. Choose Control Panel
  3. Click User Accounts
  4. Click Turn User Account Control on or off
  5. Click Continue if prompted by UAC itself
  6. Uncheck the box, and click OK
  7. Choose a restart option when prompted

After the restart, you will no longer be bothered by UAC prompts.

Create an Elevated Prompt

Another approach is to keep UAC running but use a special command prompt with evelvated privileges when you have a lot of system tasks to do.

This will allow you to launch applications and issue commands without constantly triggering UAC confirmation prompts.

To do this:

  1. Click Start
  2. Choose All Programs, Accessories
  3. Locate the command prompt (cmd.exe) entry
  4. Use the right-mouse button to drag it to the desktop
  5. Release the mouse button and choose Copy Here
  6. Right-click the new shortcut and choose Properties
  7. On the General tab, rename e.g. to Admin Command Prompt
  8. On the Shortcut tab, click Advanced
  9. Check Run as administrator
  10. Click OK

The next you need to do system-related chores, launch your admin prompt. Provide one UAC confirmation when you first open the command prompt. Then all tasks that you perform from within this prompt will be UAC prompt-free.

Check Your Windows Experience Index Score

In Explorer, right-click Computer and choose Properties. Next to the Rating score, click the Windows Experience Index link.

The item with the lowest score is the biggest drain on you getting a better performance from Vista.

For example, if the lowest score is attributed to Graphics, it may be time to invest in a new graphics card, or at least go online and check for updated drivers.

Turn Off Vista SideBar

If you don't need the clock, news or slideshow features of the Vista Sidebar, or simply like to use the full width of the desktop, you can disable it.

To do so:

  1. Right-click the Windows Sidebar icon in the taskbar tray
  2. Choose Exit
  3. Click Start
  4. Choose Control Panel
  5. Click Windows Sidebar Properties
  6. In the Appearance and Personalization category, uncheck Start sidebar when Windows starts
  7. Click OK

Improve Graphics Performance

If you have an older or less capable video card, it may struggle to cope with Vista's demanding graphics effects. Overall performance can then suffer noticeably.

To disable some or all of the additional graphics features:

  1. Click Start
  2. Type systempropertiesperformance, and press Enter
  3. Click Continue if prompted by User Account Control
  4. Select Adjust for best performance
  5. Click OK

Or you can select Custom, and pick any options that you would like to retain. However, the fewer checkmarks you select, the greater the performance boost.

Disk Cleanup and Defragmentation

You can use Vista's disk cleanup and defragmentation tools to remove unwanted files and to rearrange data on the disk so that files are not fragmented.

Both of these actions will help increase disk access performance.

To open the Disk Cleanup tool:

  1. Click Start
  2. Select Performance Information And Tools
  3. Click Open Disk Cleanup from the left tasks pane
Or access the cleanup tool via the Start Menu, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools menu.

The Disk Cleanup tool allows you to select whether to clean up files from your own user profile only or the files of all users. When you select a specific drive to clean up, the tool will calculate how much space you should be able to free up.

Turn Off Windows Aero

Windows Aero is the premium visual experience of Windows Vista. It features a transparent glass design with subtle window animations and new window colours.

The following editions of Vista include Aero:

  • Vista Home Premium
  • Vista Business
  • Vista Enterprise
  • Vista Ultimate

If you experience poor display quality while using the Aero colour scheme, try changing to another colour scheme, such as Windows Vista Basic, to see if performance improves.

To select an alternative scheme:

  1. Click Start
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Click Appearance and Personalization
  4. Click Personalization
  5. Click Window Colour and Appearance
  6. If the Appearance Settings dialog box is not displayed at the bottom of the page, click Open classic appearance properties
  7. In the Colour scheme list, select another colour scheme
  8. Click OK

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