Five quick Windows speedup tips

It takes only a few settings tweaks to get more oomph out of XP and Vista.

There's one thing all Windows users have in common: They all want the OS to run faster. Here are five ways to turn your tortoise PC into a hare.

Go the one-click route with the "best performance" option in the Visual Effects settings. In Windows XP, right-click My Computer, choose Properties > Advanced, click the Settings button under Performance, and then select the Visual Effects tab. In Vista, press the Windows key, type performance information, press Enter, and click Adjust Visual Effects in the left pane. In both OSes, you can choose Custom and deselect the options in the window below as you prefer, or simply select Adjust for best performance. When you're done, click OK twice.

The Windows Performance Options dialog box.
Optimize Windows' performance by disabling unnecessary visual effects via this option in the Performance Options dialog.

Tell Internet Explorer not to save encrypted pages. Open Internet Explorer, click Tools > Internet Options > Advanced, scroll down the Settings window to the Security section, check "Do not save encrypted pages to disk," and click OK.

Internet Explorer's Settings window under the Advanced tab in Internet Options
Set Internet Explorer not to save encrypted Web pages by choosing this option in its Settings dialog box under the Advanced tab.

Disconnect network drives you no longer use. Double-click My Computer (Computer in Vista, or simply press the Windows key, type "computer", and press Enter). Click Tools > Disconnect Network Drive, choose the drive you no longer use, and click OK. (If you use Vista and don't see the Tools menu in Computer, press Alt.)

Unload DLLs when the apps that use them close. When you close an application, Windows keeps the DLLs it uses open so that the program will reload faster should you choose to reopen it. You can keep these unneeded DLLs from cluttering things up by changing a Registry setting. Because making changes to the Registry can screw up your system, create a restore point first. With your Registry backup in place, press the Windows key (in Vista) or click Start > Run (in XP), type regedit, and press Enter. Navigate in the left pane to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer, right-click in the right pane, and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the value AlwaysUnloadDLL, double-click it, give it a value of 1, click OK, and close the Registry Editor.

Disable Indexing Service. You may be happy with Windows' built-in search feature, but I prefer a third-party desktop-search utility, which I find to be faster and more accurate. If you rarely use Windows' own search tool, you can free up memory and processor cycles by disabling the resource-hogging Indexing Service that it relies on: Open Control Panel's Add or Remove Programs applet (Programs and Features in Vista). In XP, click Add/Remove Windows Components, and in Vista choose "Turn Windows features on or off" in the left pane. In both versions, uncheck Indexing Service, and click OK.

The Windows Features settings in Vista's Programs and Features applet
Speed up Windows XP and Vista by disabling the Indexing Service used by the OSes' built-in search feature.

Tomorrow: Sort messages in Gmail using instant folders.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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