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The beginner’s guide to speeding up Vista

Posted on: March 1, 2009


Give your computer a new lease of life in just a few minutes

Free up hard drive space

The very first thing to do is check whether your hard drive has enough free space. If it’s completely full, your PC will crawl. The general rule of thumb is to leave at least 15-20 per cent of your hard drive empty, so if you have a 500GB hard drive, you should keep at least 60-70GB of space free.

Start by removing any installed programs that you no longer use. You can do this by going to Start > Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program. Click any programs you want to remove, and select Uninstall/Change.

If you’re struggling to find those last few gigabytes, then it’s worth doing a disk cleanup. This will get rid of all the unnecessary files that have been left on your PC after you’ve been surfing the web or when a program has crashed. Windows Vista comes with a pretty good tool for cleaning things up as standard (Start > Disk Cleanup) but there are other programs available that do a more thorough job.

CCleaner scans your hard drive and automatically removes anything you don’t need. Depending on how old your PC is, you can expect to gain, at the very least, one or two gigabytes of extra space.

If you’re willing to go one step further, you could consider deleting your System Restore points, as each of these take up a lot of space. You obviously want a recent one, but the rest aren’t really needed. To do this, you need to open the Disk Cleanup utility, and when prompted select Choose to clean files from all users of this computer. Then, in the More Options tab, click Clean up underneath the System Restore and Shadow Copies option.

Once you’ve had a good tidy, now’s a great time to give your hard drive a re-jigging. If your hard drive is fragmented, it will take much longer to open files or programs. Click Start, type disk defragmenter and then click Defragment now.

Speed up boot times

One of the most common gripes with Windows Vista is the time it takes to start up when you turn on the PC. One of the biggest factors in a lengthy start-up time is the number of programs that load during this time. You can easily speed up your start-up time by removing anything you don’t need.

Click Start and type msconfig. In the System Configuration window that appears, select the Startup tab. This will show you all the programs that are opening when you turn on your PC. Clear the check box of each program you want to remove from the startup and click Apply.

You can improve the overall speed of Windows Vista by removing the eye-candy that makes it look so nice: Windows Aero. This is especially pertinent to those who have slow graphics cards – the kind you get with basic desktop PCs and laptops. Turning it off is easy – right-click the desktop and choose Properties > Aero off. If you turn off the Windows Sidebar as well, you’ll get even better performance

Add more memory

The first thing you should consider doing to give your PC a big speed boost is to upgrade the memory. If it’s only got 1GB installed, it will probably be pretty sluggish, but for just £15 you can upgrade this to 2GB – which is the minimum you really need to run Windows Vista smoothly.

Go one step further and install 4GB (2 x 2GB sticks) and you’ll be rewarded with a PC that feels brand new. Memory is dead easy to install; it will take you the best part of five minutes to remove your old memory and put some new stuff in.

To make sure you get the right memory for your PC, run the Crucial System Scanner. Chances are it will be of the DDR2 kind if your PC isn’t more than a couple of years old.


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