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Published on 07.18.07 by Brent Trahan

Speedup Windows Vista without Losing Functionality

Learn how to speed up Windows Vista and get maximum performance without sacrificing any of Windows Vista’s functionality.


This guide shows how to speedup Windows Vista without losing any of its functionality. What good is a super fast Windows Vista computer that doesn’t have any of its functionality?

Note: I’m very aware of the many tweaks to speedup Windows Vista but lose some of its functionality in the process. This guide doesn’t show those types of tweaks. If you need a super fast running copy of Windows you might want to consider the Windows Server OS instead of their client OS (Windows Vista).

Speedup Windows Vista

Keep in mind that this guide is a list of tweaks and best practice examples to speed up Windows Vista and keep it running fast and smoothly. This is not one of those let’s turn off all features in the name of speed kind of guides.


Your computer is only as fast as the hardware that Windows Vista runs on. People ask me all the time “Where can I find a FAST but cheap computer?” My response is “You can’t.

Think about it this way. If you go out and buy a Chevrolet Cobalt (small cheap car) and expect it to perform like a Z06 Vet (500+ horsepower sports car) you’ll be very disappointed. You could trick that Cobalt out all you want, but it still isn’t going to perform like the Z06 Vet. The same goes for a computer. You get what you pay for. Sure, you can get a deal every once in a while, but you’re still going to have to pay to play. You can’t get around this.

With that said here is what I recommend for a Windows Vista computer for use at home. These are only general specifications for parts that make a difference in the speed of your computer.

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or a dual core AMD processor running at 2GHz or higher. Windows Vista was made to run on 2 or more processors. A HT Pentium 4 doesn’t count.
  • Front Side Bus: Don’t settle for a motherboard with a front side buss less than 800MHz. This is one of the little details that can make a big difference in the speed of your computer.
  • Memory: At least 2GB of RAM. Windows Vista can run on less but if you have more it takes advantage of unused memory and your overall experience is much faster because of this. You also need to pay attention to the speed of the RAM. Spend the extra money for faster memory. It’s worth every penny.
  • Video Card: 256MB+ of Memory Windows Vista compatible graphics card. A good quality video card goes a long way on Windows Vista. Don’t waste your money on a cheap video card with 256MB of memory. The better quality but higher priced video cards are needed to get the most out of Windows Vista’s beautiful appearance.
  • Hard Drive: More is better. Try sticking with the new SATA hard drives with a 3GB throughput rate. The hard drive is the slowest part of your computer. A large fast hard drive will go a long way. If you have a choice, get a hybrid hard drive for outstanding speed.


A very common cause of a slow computer is too little memory. Windows Vista has a cool new technology called ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost can take a compatible thumb drive or SD card and use it for disk caching. Since a thumb drive or SD card is faster than a hard drive ReadyBoost anticipates what you’re going to do and caches it on the ReadyBoost drive.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you check your email every morning at 8am using Windows Mail. ReadyBoost anticipates this and loads it on the ReadyBoost drive. When you open Windows Mail at around 8am it loads from the ReadyBoost drive instead of off your hard drive which makes everything faster.

ReadyBoost works well on computers with less than 1GB of memory. To learn more about ReadyBoost check out my ReadyBoost guide.

Less Is More

Aside from slow hardware I’ve noticed the next most common thing that slows a computer down is “trash” software. The “trash” software I’m talking about is usually but not always free and is usually something “fun” like smiley faces for your IM client or e-mail, games, internet explorer toolbars, or software that claims to get rid of malware (viruses and spyware), registry errors, and other trash software.

Most of this “trash” software is malware (viruses and spyware). They track what you do and show advertisements as pop-ups on your computer. This software is usually poorly written software that hogs your computer’s resources which causes a sluggish computer.

The worst kind of this type of software takes control of your computer and uses it to do harm to other computers. Your computer essentially becomes a zombie.

Here are a few things you can do to help prevent this “trash” software from making it on your computer and slowing things down.

  • Don’t install it: I know, that’s easier said than done, but before you install something to play that fun game on the internet or download those cool looking screen savers and icons or mouse cursors you might want to check out the software first. A good place to check out if software is known to be bad is StopBadware.org who is a Google sponsored organization that flags “trash” software as bad and lets you know about it.
  • Use Up-to-date Anti-Malware Software: Sometimes the “trash” software slips through. You should have a second layer of protection. That second layer is up-to-date antivirus and antispyware software that regularly scans your computer.
  • Less is more: Recent versions of Windows operating systems are very stable. Bad software or drivers running on Windows is what make Windows unstable causing errors and crashes. If you stay away from “trash” software your computer will run much better.

Protect Your Computer

I can’t stress enough why protecting your computer with a firewall, antivirus, and antispyware software, and performing regular Windows updates are very important, especially on a computer using a broadband internet connection. Infected computers always run bad. The malware infecting the computers hog all of its resources.

The internet is a lawless worldwide network. Most people use this network for doing good things like websites, email, and other useful services. Other people use it to do bad things like stealing people’s data, scams, and many other bad things.

Most people simply don’t know the risks of using the internet while not being protected. Here are a few quick tips to keep you safe while online.

  • Use a firewall: A firewall checks all network traffic and only allows trusted traffic to pass through. This is needed to keep people and unwanted traffic out of your computer. Windows Vista has an excellent built in firewall.
  • Use anti-malware software: Having up-to-date antivirus and antispyware software that regularly scans your computer is very important. It’s very important to re-purchase the software when its license runs out to make sure you’re properly protected. When the license runs out the antivirus software is useless.
  • Windows Updates: It’s very important to stay up-to-date with Windows updates. Flaws are occasionally found in Windows that need to be patched to make sure your computer is as stable and secure as it can be.

Keep Things Clean


Windows Vista handles files in a messy way. When it’s in a hurry it’ll save time while saving a file by saving parts of the file in different locations of the hard drive. When a file is saved like this it is fragmented. When Windows Vista accesses a fragmented file the hard drive takes longer to retrieve it because it has to look in multiple locations to retrieve the entire file which slows down your computer.

Because of the messy way Windows Vista handles files your hard drive needs to be defragmented. Defragmentation is when you take the files that were fragmented and put them back together.

You don’t have to worry about defragmenting your hard drive in Windows Vista. It handles that for you automatically. If you want to learn about more advanced features of Windows Vista’s disk defragmenter check out my Windows Vista disk defragmenter guide.

Disk Cleanup

Windows Vista and software that runs on it keeps some files that don’t need to be there. A few examples are the Recycle Bin, Internet Explorer’s cache, offline web pages, and much more.

You should run Disk Cleanup every few weeks to keep your hard drive clean from all of those unnecessary files.

Check out my guide on automating Disk Cleanup and never have to worry about cleaning your hard drive again.


Some software is set to start in the background when Windows Vista boots up. They run in the background even though you’re not using them taking up system resources in the mean time.

You can run the MSCONFIG command and use it to stop unnecessary programs from starting when Windows Vista starts. For help using the msconfig command in Windows Vista click here.

Create a Striped Volume

If you’re willing to spend a little money you can double your hard drive throughput by creating a striped volume.

A striped volume takes two hard drives and combines them to make one drive or volume. When the computer writes to the striped volume it writes half of the file on one hard drive and the other half on the other hard drive at the same time. When the computer reads a file it reads from both drives at the same time. This double’s your hard drive throughput.

This is great for editing video, music, or pictures. You could buy two small but very fast hard drives and create a striped volume where you can edit the files. Once the files have been edited you save them on a different drive.

Increase the Number of Processors Used to Boot Windows Vista

Speed up Windows Vista’s boot time by increasing the number of processors used when loading Windows Vista.

Increase IE7’s Connections Limit

By default Internet Explorer will only open 2 or 4 simultaneous connections to a website. If you increase the amount of simultaneous connections you’ll download the website quicker (assuming the web server allows more than 4 connections).

Visit my guide on increasing Internet Explorer’s connections limit.

Disable Remote Differential Compression

Remote Differential Compression (RDC) allows data to be synchronized with a remote source using compression techniques to minimize the amount of data sent across the network.

Many pre-Windows Vista computers and devices are not compatible with RDC which makes transferring files across a network slower for a Windows Visa computer because it’s trying to use RDC. Learn how to disable Remote Differential Compression.

Move the Paging File

Move the paging file to another hard drive for a substantial increase in speed for some applications. Check out this guide to learn how to move the paging file to another hard drive.

Enable Advanced Performance on Disk Drives

By default Windows Vista reads from a cache (for frequently accessed files) but writes directly to your hard drive.

If you enable advanced performance on your hard drives Windows Vista reads and writes using the cache when it can, making your hard drive faster.

Warning: This is only recommended for laptops or PCs with redundant power supplies or a battery backup. A sudden loss of power could cause data loss or corruption with this feature enabled.

Check out my guide on enabling advanced performance on hard drives.

Adjust Your Laptop’s Processor’s Maximum Performance State

If you want to speed up a laptop and don’t mind using a little more battery you can check and see what your laptop’s maximum performance state is.

Many times your laptop’s maximum performance state is throttled back to prolong battery life. Check out my guide on adjusting your processor’s maximum performance state.

Move the Search Index

If you have lots of documents and you frequently search for them using Windows Vista’s built in search engine you can get more speed out of the search engine by moving its index to a separate faster hard drive. Click here to find out how to relocate Windows Vista’s search index.

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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17 Responses to “Speedup Windows Vista without Losing Functionality”

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  1. b34r says:

    “If you enable advanced performance on your hard drives Windows Vista bypasses the cache and writes directly to the hard drive making your hard drive faster.”

    The whole point of the cache is to commit data in larger chunk at once to the hdd so that it does not perpetually change location write a few bytes here and there. Cache is only here because it makes things faster.

    The advanced performance certainly means: use a bigger cache. Which in turn means that actual physical write to the disk will happen less often (= better performance as memory is way faster than any mass storage media). But if you get a power loss there are more chances that you’ll loose cache content before it gets written to the disk.

    I don’t think anyone could stand using a multi-threaded OS if it were to deactivate the disk caches.

  2. Brent Trahan says:

    @ b34r

    Sorry about that. It must have been a late night when I wrote that guide. I had it all backwards. I fixed it.

    Thanks for pointing that out to me.

  3. Atof says:

    “But if you get a power loss there are more chances that you’ll loose cache content before it gets written to the disk.”

    There is no loss to the harddrive if there is a power failure i hope?

    And many of my frnds have been using raid0, and havent complained anything about data loss, even if there is a power outtage etc… care to comment on whether the data loss is merely a chance, or is it must in case of power loss?

  4. Brent Trahan says:

    It’s a chance you take. The power loss would have to happen at the perfect time for a loss of data.

  5. wayne says:

    you wrote: “A striped volume takes two hard drives that are the exact size and speed (let’s say 100GB) and combines them to make one drive (that’s 100GB).”

    Wouldn’t that be:
    “A striped volume takes two hard drives that are the exact size and speed (let’s say 100GB) and combines them to make one drive (that’s 200GB).”

    When you mirror you use two disks of size A and get a single redundant disk of size A, but when you stripe you use two disks of size A and get a single disk of size 2A.

  6. Brent Trahan says:

    Thanks for correcting me Wayne. I corrected it in the guide.

  7. Paul Doyle says:

    Quote: “Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or a dual core AMD processor running at 2GHz or higher. Windows Vista was made to run on 2 or more processors. A HT Pentium 4 doesn’t count.”

    “A (sic.) HT Pentium 4 doesn’t count.”

    Utter nonsense. I’m running Vista Premium SP1 (32 bit x86) on a P4 3.4 GHz Northwood HT (“Hyperthread”) system, 4 GB of PC3200 DDR dual channel, 800MHz FSB, all the Vista eye candy turned on (including Aero/Flip3D), at 1680x1050x32 (22″ HP W2207 LCD flat screen, with DVI-I) and it runs like the proverbial bat out of Hell. By the way, Vista “sees” 3.3 GB of available RAM on this PC, so I’m happy (Task Manager also shows 2 CPU’s, and HT really does smooth things out.)

    All my apps “pop” up onto the screen, including Eve Online Quantum Rise and Microsoft WorldWide Telescope, which is mind boggling and eye-popping on this system, at 1680×1050 with DirectX 10.1. Incredible, and this app runs very quickly.

    This PC also has 2 x 500 GB Seagate 7200.11 Barracuda SATA2 drives, an ATI Radeon 3850HD 512MB AGP 8X card, DirectX 10.1, and a Creative Labs Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeGamer sound card.

    Granted, the CPU scores *only* a 4.4 on the Vista WEI, and the memory *only* 4.9, but the rest of the WEI scores – Graphics, Gaming Graphics and Hard Disk – are all 5.9s.

    My other computer is a Lenovo T61 Thinkpad with an Intel E7300 2.0 GHz Core2Duo, 2GB DDR2 667 MHz. The Thinkpad is running Vista Ultimate, and my lowly P4 3.4 Northwood-baseed system positively trounces it overall, in usability, functionality, responsiveness, multitasking big apps, and overall “snap”.

    P.S. – You should see this “doesn’t count” P4 in action, with the Windows 7 beta Build 7000. Scary fast.

    Okay, yes, I realize…64 bit is the norm today, and is “the future”. Too bad the vast majority of users out there with 64 bit PCs and notebooks are running 32 bit versions of XP and Vista.

  8. SteveW says:

    Brent, Great Guide! Have you checked out the new larger capacity SSD (solid state drives) that are a way faster than traditional drives. You can even stripe them together similar to a RAID configuration (or maybe it falls under RAID now too). Anyway, might be another tid-bit of complementary info on your site where you recommend spending a little bit of money and going for a raid set up, go all the way and improve response times another 300% to 500% going SSD or more with SSD Raid Config! Thanks for the great info though. I have followed your steps and it has worked great!

    – 2.4Ghtz Core 2 Duo, 4 Gig RAM, 1033 FSB (i think), lots of fast storage (10,000 RPM and RAID), and 2 system page files now because of your recommendation! Thanks Again –


  9. Jim says:

    I have a Dell XP 710 with four SATA hard drives. When I was installing Vista on the new C:\ drive the secondary drive was D:\ from the old OS. On the D:\ I have to files called Window and oldProgram Files. I want to delete them but it won’t let me know matter what I’ve tried. I’m thinking with the Intel Core2 it was using D:\ as a cashe drive but it doesn’t now and I would just like to delete those two files :-(

  10. Olive White says:

    Really useful informations! I was searching for HDD cache properties and i found your precious page. Thanks

  11. jt says:

    Hi Brent – do your reccommendations here also apply to Win7 (64x) ?


  12. Mark says:

    Hi Brent,

    I’m running a 32-bit copy of Vista Business edition (SP1) on a Toshiba Satellite Pro A300. Now, I’ve been trying for a while to up the speed of my laptop so I can play a certain game a little faster.

    -The game is Company of Heroes, and it lags like hell at some points and runs reasonably quick at other points.
    -I have installed ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite (with built-in antivirus and antimalware protection) a while ago, but I had it before I had the game. Because of that it’s not very likely to be interfering with the game.
    -All graphic settings of the game have been set to lowest, and the CPU has been set to maximum like in the tut you referenced.
    -The game runs a little faster when I zoom in real close for some odd reason.

    I recently defragmented my disk, and I’ve ran two checks on my PC: SuperAntiSpyware and ZoneAlarm that came up with nothing more than 3 tracing cookies.

    Any tips?

  13. philip rattray says:

    Will be back my system is like japan nuclear plant in need of a little help so once paypal online i’ll b back. philip.

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