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Improve Vista's performance a little or a lot

Disable indexing, shut down the Aero interface, and clear out unneeded autostart apps to put Vista into high gear.

Vista won't win any popularity contests, but even with its faults, I'll take the most recent version of Windows over any of the predecessors. My biggest beef with Vista is that it's slow. At least the OS makes it easy to optimize your system for peak performance. Here's a quick recap of my three favorite Vista speedup tips.

Put indexing on permanent hold
I've been using Vista for a good 18 months now, and you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've used Windows' built-in search feature. I described how to tweak Vista's indexing settings in a previous post, but there's a simpler way to disable all indexing.

Press the Windows key, type Performance Information, and press Enter to open the Performance Information and Tools applet. Click "Adjust indexing settings" in the left pane, choose the Modify button, select Show All Locations, uncheck everything, and click OK > Done.

You'll still be able to use Windows' search feature, though it will take longer to find the files you're looking for. For me, it's fastest to remember where I put the files I need myself rather than counting on Windows to find them for me.

Send Aero packing
One of the biggest knocks against Vista is that if you do away with the transparencies, sliding menus, and other features of the Aero interface, the operating system looks just like earlier versions of Windows. I like the Aero effects as much as the next guy--if the next guy's blind.

No, I don't really mean that. Aero's definitely has more eye-appeal than anything XP's interface has to offer, but ultimately I had to ask myself: Do I want to spend my time admiring the shiny surfaces and faux-3D buttons as Vista spins it wheels, or would I rather get my work done?

It took all of about two minutes for me to get used to working in Vista without Aero. To make the change, return to the Performance Information and Tools applet as described above and click "Adjust visual effects" in the left pane. Under the Visual Effects tab, select "Adjust for best performance" and click OK.

Winnow your roster of autostart apps
In a post last spring, I described how to use Vista's Software Explorer to disable the autostart programs that you don't need to open automatically when Windows loads. Dang if I didn't revisit Software Explorer the other day only to find new entries for more programs I don't need running all the time. I don't know how exactly they got there, but I know they're off the list now, and my boot time is the better for it.

It just goes to show you that the job of squeezing every available CPU cycle out of your PC is never done.