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What can I do to improve the speed of my Vista machine?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 13, 2007 5:05 PM PST

Hi! Very simple question to the Vista gurus out there. What
can I do to improve the speed of a Vista machine? Seems like
my old expired computer with 98SE was faster, but how can
this be when I have four times more memory (2 GBs), a huge
hard drive of 250 GB, a better video card I think, and a much
faster processor. Vista is nice and pretty and all--moving
icons, nice colors--but why is it so darn slow? From booting
up to shutting down, to open and closing programs, it seems
like Windows took one step backward. OK enough of my
complaints, because that's not what I'm writing in for. I
just wish someone can advise me on some things I can do to
speed up Vista without having to add more hardware to my
fairly new computer (5 months old). Or is this really a lost
hope as to I have just accept what I have and deal with it?
Please say it isn't so. Thanks for listening, I hope you can
help me. Signed the frustrated one.

--Submitted by Darren S.

Answer voted most helpful by the CNET Community newsletter readers:

Looks are expensive, and "Free" costs more than you think...

Unfortunately, you inadvertently pointed out the problem yourself: Vista is about looks. Every one of those effects, from the translucent windows to the pearlescent shine to the oversized icons, eats up processing power that would otherwise be spent on running applications.
Also, much of the new software that comes on a pre-built computer (i.e. the "free" antivirus, AIM, other mfg. programs) are also serious resource hogs. Norton's AV products have been getting worse and worse each year, to the point where they can cut the system's performance in half.

The best handful of "tweaks" you can make to your Vista system to speed it up are as follows:
(Note: You can access the first three of these options by going to Control Panel's Classic View, then clicking Performance Information and Tools.)

1) Change the Theme: By going into Adjust Visual Effects and unchecking things you can do without (you may want to play around to see how you like it), you can remove all of the resource-sucking features of Vista.

2) Disable Indexing: One of the not-so-new features of Vista is the Indexing Service, which quietly catalogs your computer in the background to make searching faster. Problem is, it uses a lot of resources for (IMHO) a not-so-useful function. Yeah, it helps speed up your searches, but it's not worth the performance sacrifice.
You can disable this by going into Adjust Indexing Options, clicking modify, (clicking Show All Locations if applicable) and unchecking everything.

3) Ditch the Bloatware: All that junk that your computer comes with slows it down. By going into Manage Startup Programs, you can stop them from starting with your computer. Leave all the Microsoft Stuff alone, and disable the others that you don't need. If something doesn't work right after reboot (i.e. no Sound or lousy Graphics), you probably disabled a driver. Just go back in and turn it back on. (Granted, this is a little more dangerous than the other options, so exercise common sense here. We don't want to make things worse.)

4) Scrap your Slow Security Software: If you're still using the "free" Antivirus / Security Suite that your computer came with, you might want to consider something else. While I realize I might get flamed for saying this, I recommend something like Windows OneCare or Webroot's Antivirus for their small performance footprint and "set-it-and-forget-it" ease of use. Plus, OneCare can be used on two other PCs, too.

5) Don't be a Packrat: This one is probably the hardest to stick to, but also the simplest solution. Don't install programs you don't need, keep your documents folder organized, and keep the desktop as clutter-free as possible.

Now click "Update my Score" and watch your performance ratings soar!

Happy Computing!
Launchpad_72 aka IAmTheDonut

--Submitted by CNET member Launchpad_72

If you have any additional tips or recommendations for Darren here, please click on the reply link and post away. Please read on for other great advice from our members within this discussion thread. Be sure to check the CNET Windows Vista forum for additional Vista help and advice from your fellow members. Thank you!
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Answer for Vista speed increase
by omiller315 / December 14, 2007 11:30 AM PST

I am an IT professional and have alot of experience with XP and Vista. Vista def requires more horsepower to run than XP.2GB of memory is a good start, which I see you have. I am curious to know what processor you have.If its a slower Celeron based processor, it might not be up to speed for Vista's demanding requirements. Also when you buy a store bought PC(HP/E-Machine/Dell/etc) they come pre bundled with a boat load of startup items..A basic XP boot might have about 35 processes where Vista will have minimum of 50ish and I have seen upwards of 90 on a brand new PC. I would recommend clicking on Run and typing MSCONFIG and looking at the startup tab. If you are unsure of something, dont uncheck it(however if you realize later you need the process to startup) you can easily get it back by doing the same steps.Clean up some of the stuff that runs at startup or the ones the manufacturer gets paid to have run(ex. Internet Services, Google toolbar updater, etc)Also i was never a fan of Vista's Sidebar and have seen that bring a new PC to a crawl for the owner of my company.
Right click My Computer, select properties and check out your Vista Experience score level. See which component is holding you back. Depending on your make and model of your PC and motherboard specs, you can upgrade the processor to a dual core for around $100
All in all I would say the processor and amount of startup processes are the 2 big culprits with Vista. I hope I could be of some assistance. I am running Vista at work with a 1.86 Core 2 Duo processor and 2gb of memory. I like it as a work computer, but have no desire to switch at home even with a quad core processor.
I hope I offered alittle insight on a fix. I dont know how CNET works, but I will glady help you out if there is a way to email me through my Cnet login.


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Some Vista resources for the Frustrated One
by Doctor Entropy / December 15, 2007 3:27 AM PST

Here are some resources available on TechRepuplic, most are available as download (Acrobat) PDF files. If you are a member of CNET, you're a member of TR also, so downloading woll not be a problem. You can also search TR for yourself, the whole site or by department (Downloads, Articles, Blogs, Forums, etc.). Don't forget, microsoft. com has tips for you also, along with Vista users forums. I hope this helps. I have tried to list the most relevant resources first.
10+ tweaks, tricks, and hacks to make Windows Vista fly
10 things you can do to increase performance in Vista
Windows Vista services that can be disabled
How do I... Disable services in Windows Vista?
Follow these tips to boost Vista performancee
Customize Microsoft Windows Vista
Mini-glossary: Windows Vista terms you should know
More hidden Windows Vista tricks uncovered
Implementing, Configuring, and Troubleshooting Windows Vista
Windows Vista Hardware

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Slow Boot Up & Surfing Plzzzzzzzz HELP
by Dio1052 / February 15, 2008 4:29 PM PST

I did what you recommended Darrin to do but my comp is still so slow startingup and surfing. I have: Dell Computer, Model: Inspirion 531,
Rating 3.0 Windows Experience Index, Processor:AMD Athalon(tm) 64x2 Dual, Core Processor 4400 + 2.3 GHz, Memory(RAM) 1982 MB,System 32-Bit Operating System.
However when I check the Windows Experience Index and it is as follows: Processor calculation 4.9/sec, Memory Ram operates 5.9/sec.Graphics desktop performance for aero 3.3 (I'm using Vista Basic), Gaming graphics & performance 3.0, Primary Hard Disk data transfer rate 5.8. With all that said it literally takes me 3-4 minutes to even start my computer. All help appreciated. Diane

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by puma / February 15, 2008 10:36 PM PST

vista is not about performance. it's about eye candy graphics and new unnecessary bells & whistles. there is so much overhead in vista that its taxing your system. for greater performance try Ubuntu Linux

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Dell Inspiron? Symantec Antivirus or McAfee?
by peter_b123 / February 16, 2008 4:43 AM PST

Turn off either Symantec or McAfee. Does the problem still exist? Have any software that controls a multifunction printer or scanner? Try disconnecting the scanner/printer and see if that helps.

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No Symatec or McAfee or Nortons
by Dio1052 / February 16, 2008 4:53 AM PST

I run avast & avg
but thank anyway

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Me, personally, I've tried them both....
by peter_b123 / February 16, 2008 4:49 PM PST

AVG and Avast - neither one are "good" av programs for Vista, but that's what I've found. Take a look at It's an excellent resource to get a feel for what's good and what's not on the antivirus programs out there.

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Two antiviruses at the same time?
by mikebliv / February 16, 2008 9:37 PM PST

If the automatic protection is active on both antiviruses, it might be the culprit. Make sure only one is active.

Also make sure you uninstall Google desktop search. This can be bundled with Dell by default.

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Slow Boot Up & Surfing Plzzzzzzzz HELP
by samlopez / February 16, 2008 9:02 AM PST

Speeding Up Vista

Here are some resources available on TechRepuplic, most are available as download (Acrobat) PDF files. If you are a member of CNET, you're a member of TR also, so downloading will not be a problem. Don't forget, microsoft. com has tips for you also, along with Vista users forums.
10+ tweaks, tricks, and hacks to make Windows Vista fly
10 things you can do to increase performance in Vista
Windows Vista services that can be disabled
How do I... Disable services in Windows Vista?
Follow these tips to boost Vista performancee
Customize Microsoft Windows Vista
Mini-glossary: Windows Vista terms you should know
More hidden Windows Vista tricks uncovered
Implementing, Configuring, and Troubleshooting Windows Vista
Windows Vista Hardware

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Slow VISTA machine
by Henry Armstrong / December 14, 2007 11:33 AM PST

Dump VISTA and get a copy of Windows XP Pro while it is still available.

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Vista - Is It Slow?
by rnussle / December 14, 2007 11:34 AM PST

I live in New England and I've seen sap drip into buckets faster than Vista. A quick background might be in order. I was on a business trip and spilled a glass of water on my notebooks keyboard. I had no option but to purchase another machine right away. All I could find were Vista machines, which I ended up buying. From the get-go I noted the slowness in loading at startup and opening programs. When I got back I decided I'd rather have XP. After receiving no help from the manufacturer or Microsoft both of whom tried to disuade me from removing Vista. I went to our corporate IT manager who, by the way, will not authorize the purchase of a machine with Vista. He reformatted my notebook and loaded XP and it is blazing ? perceptibly faster than my two other XP machines. This is not an isolated case; Dell, who at one point shipped only Vista, is now, because of corporate customer demand, is now selling machines with XP when requested.
I went to their site this evening and they have XP machines back on their site. When I looked two months ago XP wasn't an option. I am no computer expert, but in my opinion Vista is going to be Microsoft's next Windows ME. Throw in the FACT that a lot of your existing software may not work or not work well with Vista is something else to consider. A quick Google of 'Vista vs XP' will bring up hundreds of articles on the subject, the bulk of them giving XP the speed award.
I have some friends who purchased new Vista machines only to find that there are no drivers for their existing peripherals. Again, my opinion is that not only is Vista slow, but expensive, as you might have to buy new printers, scanners, etc.
I guess this wasn't very encouraging, but I hope it was helpful in that I hope I confirmed your perception of the slowness of Vista.

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Misconfigured Vista and bad AV software is to blame.
by peter_b123 / February 16, 2008 4:47 AM PST
In reply to: Vista - Is It Slow?

I'd say that every single one of my Vista nightmares was caused by antivirus software that was purported to work with Vista but does not. System slowness, web browsers that seemed to lock up, system instabilities I've witnessed were caused by AVG, Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky and ClamAV antivirus programs. It's not the same on all PCs; some work well with the aforementioned software, but some just flat out don't.

By and large the best AV software on Vista that I've found would either be Nod32 or BitDefender.

And yes, I like Vista.


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You could be running the Bluegene
by Dango517 / December 14, 2007 11:41 AM PST
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My Vista Business starts in 3.5 minutes
by Dango517 / December 20, 2007 5:27 PM PST

That's from pushing the tower button to start the machine till I can send an Email or log on the net.

My performance scores are:

CPU..............4.7 Pentium D 820
RAM..............4.7 2GB Kingston
Graphics......5.9 Nvidia 8600
Gaming........5.5 Nvidia 8600
Hard disk.....4.2 40GB drive IDE (note: I'm listing this one because it is the one I'm normally using now because of a foul up. The SATA drive that came with the computer is listed at 4.5)

Out of a possible 6

See previous post for tweaks

Hardware Improvements

Second GB RAM
new CPU cooler
Ready Boost USB
Video card
ethernet adapter 10/100/1000
second 40 GB Hard Drive (original is 250 GB SATA. see note above)
2 fans

Software I use to keep it running well

Iolo System Mechanic 7 Professional (real time)
IObit SmartDefrag (real time)
TweakRam (real time)

note: Real time means this software runs as the computer does.

note: System Mechanic 7 contains a security suite.

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A couple of suggestions
by BigGuns149 / January 5, 2008 3:49 AM PST

1. Your hard drive is both way too small and I am guessing a 5400RPM drive. Every hard drive I have ever ran Vista on has gotten 5.0+ and the Vista experience score. I would look at a much larger hard drive, 320mb minimum 500GB preferably. This will leave you with a fairly empty drive. You want a fairly empty hard drive because it improves access times which by extension improves transfer speeds, which means it means that programs load a bit faster, all other things being equal. I try to keep any hard drive far below 50% full because performance starts to go down dramatically as you approach that. With your current hard drive I am not surprised that your start time is in minutes.

2. The video card is ok, if you aren't looking to play any high end games would go towards either the 7900 or an 8800. This probably wouldn't do much for your boot time though.

3. If the board supports it upgrade the processor to a Core2Duo. The performance is quite a bit better compared to the Pentium D.

4. I am not familiar with the product, but I would consider looking at disabling some of the background scanning on your security suite and see how much of the boot time is from that program. Most RAM tweaking programs aren't worth anything. I would disable that program as well.

The major thing is add a much larger SATA drive.

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The evolution of an OS
by xjohnhamx / December 14, 2007 11:46 AM PST

I'm afraid you have run into what I like to call the evolution of the Operating System.

Have you tried starting Windows 3.1 lately on your new machine or even on your Windows 98SE machine? It starts in seconds. I can remember DOS and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 taking up to 5 minutes to boot up. However when it was old and Windows 95 was released, Windows 3.11 could be started in a minute or two and Windows 95 took 5 minutes or more.

The point is that as the world of Operating Systems evolve, so does the hardware world. Microsoft and other OS vendors realize that they can do neat new things and make the user experience richer with the better hardware available. This makes our nice new hardware really work for its dinner and it always seems to produce a myriad of people complaining that the new OS is WAY TOO SLOW. It also seems to start a surge of upgrades in the industry as well as a surge of hardware inovation.

When Windows XP came out everyone said it was too slow and that the "eye-candy" was unnecessary and to blame. It's been almost 6 years and now XP runs so smoothly and everyone sings its praises.

Windows Vista will be the same. Where video cards with 3D processor were only an extra really used by gamers and serious 3D modelers, it is now a much needed accessory for your OS. Where 2GB of RAM was splurging, 4GB or 8GB will become normal. Granted the XP to Vista upgrade is almost as much of a resource jump as the Win3.1 to Win95 jump. It's, still the evolution of the OS and it is almost always this way.

To make the best of it. Throw a multi-core CPU, at least 2GB of RAM, a 10,000RPM SATA2 drive, and a good ATI or NVidia Graphics card at it and you'll be ok.

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(NT) exactly
by Dango517 / December 14, 2007 11:55 AM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS
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Yes and No
by 7aji88 / January 4, 2008 12:04 PM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS

I tried Vista and I have to say that it looks very nice (now Windows and OS X both look good) however it really consumes memory (Vista 32bit won't support more than4gb of RAM and Microsoft should made it run faster even if it will run faster in the next few years. For now I use XP and Linux Ubuntu (I know it sounds strange Wink but it has these visual effects that are really useful and look awesome and they work on my old laptop while Vista will take about 2 minutes to load vs about 52 seconds for the Linux system. Also I have no idea why Microsoft didn't include spaces for Vista's desktop like the new Mac OS X and Linux systems (many Linux systems had spaces for their desktops for more than 3 years ago). My point is, although Vista will get faster by the time when that hardware is gonna get better, Vista was supposed to be designed for the current hardware.

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by admiraldata / January 4, 2008 1:42 PM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS

You are too good!

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OS Wars here we come.
by vk5lajjhnlb / January 4, 2008 7:39 PM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS

Microsoft are trying to make use of the latest hardware. The only thing I disagree with is the quality of use (with I assume should be fixed in SP2 but knowing microsoft this won't happen). I have never used vista my machine is too darn slow. But what I find is that I can get all the glitz of vista with Ubuntu without having to upgrade my hardware everytime they make a new release. Sure XP is good but it is to conservative for me (without mod (VTP8), with mod it basically becomes Vista with more bugs and less features). My hardware specs are not high and I can get most eyecandy in Ubuntu and maintain performance (512mb of ram, 128 intel 810i graphics card, 2.7ghz processor) and I can run XP well.
A previous suggestion, basically gave you list of freeware that you can download, I have tried most freeware when I had XP. This list is stuff I used (and the best config I had)
Winpatrol (500kb memory usage)
Comodo Firewall (Comodo antivirus is in beta)
Advast Antivirus
Iobit defrag (this is beta, I don't know how long it will remain free)
Spyware Terminator
This will give you reasonable security, but this you have to add on all the normal programs that you run (email clients, other GUI mods such as rocketdock)
Be warned this will be popup hell for most people, this is what drove me to Ubuntu. I can't have a secure computer without all this freeware. It is also quite difficult to close, with background processes that don't close when you hit close on the program, if you are frequent game player (Ubuntu ain't good at games).

Go to XP if you want to return the norm and stable (and Microsoft, just had to do that). If want a bit more adventure go with Ubuntu (I can recommend Linux, it really depends on what you want)
Or you can wait for Windows 7 (vista's replacement) which will probably have very few new features and just make windows more efficient. 2-3 years maybe.

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I Agree & Disagree
by iscnitzan / January 4, 2008 9:46 PM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS

It is true that the new OS needs to evolve, but not on our expense... Not everyone can or should afford an extra $500++ of hardware just to make the OS run at 'somewhat normal' speeds.
bottom line, what Darren should do is reduce his Vista till it almost runs like an XP - that means reducing eye candy to levels comfortable to both him and his machine, you'll have to research the web to learn how to get the best of both worlds. Next you will need to learn how to disable processes for most of the new (and currently needless) Vista features such as windows defender.
Doing all that would get Darren to run his Vista better for now. Later - when the OS 'evolves' - he can turn those features on and enjoy the rest of the OS as designed.

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Nice answer!
by Vijawuli / January 5, 2008 3:54 AM PST
In reply to: The evolution of an OS

I praise you dude, you really nailled the question.
Happy 2008 everyone!

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Vista is slow.
by ellis feigenbaum / December 14, 2007 12:07 PM PST

There are a few ways to speed it up, they dont differ very much from the ways used to speed up xp.
Right click computer icon on desktop or start menu, open properties, in window that opens in left pane click on advance settings, you get the basix xp advanced settinngs options- open the performance tab and play around to your hearts content.
I sugest upping the paging file to roughly 1.5 the amount of ram you have installed.
If your happy playing around with your pc, I would recommend having a look at this site
There are lots of little things you can do to speed up your boot up times.
I could go into a whole series of reasons for all of this stuff but it is probably not the time or place. However I will say this, vista has to a certain extent pushed the envelope of what we will be able to do with a home pc, and it is intrinsically more secore than xp, however hardware and software development in other areas has a lot of catching up to do before we fully realise the potential. Until that time comes most people will be no better off with vista than they were with xp.

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by ellis feigenbaum / December 14, 2007 12:14 PM PST
In reply to: Vista is slow.

If you can get a usb drive that is ready boost compatible, this will basically cache your start up settings so that vista reads them quicker at start up than accessing your hard drive.
I use SAN DISK 2GB Drive and i find it probably gives me a 10 percent boost at start up.

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This helped speed up my Vista Laptop!
by Austinite79 / January 7, 2008 2:01 AM PST
In reply to: Vista is slow.

The cheapest and most efficient way I found to speed up vista is to use what they call the ready boost feature. Get yourself ready boost compatable 4GB flash drive, the box must say Ready Boost capable, and plug it into your vista box. When the screen comes up that asks you what you want to do with this new drive tell it help speed up your computer. To my understanding, Vista is writing the swap file on this flash drive. Computer can read and write to the flash drive lots faster than to a HDD and thus speeding up your machine. I have noticed a huge difference on my vista box when running CAD and GIS software packages that are memory and processor hogs. Hope this helps you as much as it has helped me with my system.

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Speed Up Vista
by vintonalan / December 14, 2007 12:08 PM PST

Buy a Mac.

That is what Micro$oft tried to copy and failed!

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Perhaps the
by Dango517 / December 23, 2007 2:19 PM PST
In reply to: Speed Up Vista

10% of the Vista users and the remaining 70% of all Microsoft users should go and clog up the Mac 5% and Linux 5% web sites with needless harassment.

Percentages (%) are the number of OS users on the net.

The missing 10 % are miscellaneous Operating systems.

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Vista, Cnet loves to hate on it
by rizzo420 / December 14, 2007 12:26 PM PST

I don't understand all the hatred for Vista. I'm surprised Cnet even has posts on Windows when we all know they just love Apple. I wonder how much Apple pays them to love their products so much?

Let's see... Vista is just as good as XP. It requires a bit more horsepower, but nothing outrageous. XP requires a whole lot more than ME, 98, or 2000 did, so no surprise there. I've had just as many problems with my Apple computer as I had with Vista. If you see UAC come up a lot, blame it on the developers of the software, not MS. I see OS X ask for elevated permissions more than I saw Vista do it.

So basically, give me a break Cnet, Vista is no worse than XP or OS X, which you seem to be in bed with.

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Why the Vista Bashing?
by Launchpad_72 / December 14, 2007 3:05 PM PST

I too am confused with all the Vista bashing going on here. XP needed time to let the hardware catch up, and the same thing is happening here. It's not "bad", it just needs time. Remember how much everybody fought XP? Now everyone loves it. This is no different.

And for you Mac lovers, I *use* a Mac Mini as well, but I find myself much more frustrated with my Mac than my PC. It is much slower, and Mac's security prompts are a lot more invasive than Vista's UAC. Oh, and it's a lot less versatile, too.

Those that live in a glass house shouldn't throw stones.

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