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By Thomas McGuire
Editor: Julio Franco

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Performance trade-offs, misc. tweaks

While not the kind of "tweaks" we like to recommend, Windows Vista is a new operating system designed to run on faster computers, no matter what the minimum requirements tell you, the faster system you have the more enjoyable (or less painful) your Vista experience is going to be.

Disabling Vista's Search Indexer

One of the nicest things of Vista's search is that it's well integrated into the user interface, so if you rely on desktop search a lot, just ignore this tip, but if you rarely use Vista's built-in search or have no idea what I'm talking about then you may enjoy a smoother experience disabling Windows Search.

  • Go to Start
  • In the search/run box type "services.msc" then hit Enter. This will open the Windows Management Console.
  • On the right pane, scroll down and look for a service called "Windows Search", then double-click it.
  • On the properties window of Windows Search, click on the Stop button.
  • Then in the "Startup type" drop down, click on Disabled.
  • Close the windows and restart your system for the changes to take effect.

You can always go back and enable Windows Search, the only trade-off is that Vista will have to scan your hard drive again which can take minutes up to a few hours (all done in the "background").

Disabling unnecessary services

Similarly to what we did above, we could potentially disable a number of unnecessary services that are run by default on the background. There is no set list of what services should be running or not for everyone, but those will depend on personal preference and usage so your mileage will vary.

You can access the Windows Management console as indicated above and choose what services to disable from running. To assess yourself you can consult our old Windows XP Services guide (we may write a Vista-based one soon), or here's an external guide that may also be of help.

Disabling Vista Aero

Unless you are running on a very old graphics board - or even worse, integrated graphics - chances are you are not having much trouble with Aero. As with all eye candy however, Aero UI does takes its toll in overall system performance. You may want to try disabling it and see if this pleases your desire for a more responsive system:

  • Right-click on the desktop and then click on Personalize.
  • Click on the first option called "Window Color and Appearance."
  • Look for the link "Open classic appearance properties for more color options." This will open a window similar to the one found in XP for choosing a color scheme.
  • Instead of Windows Aero, you can choose from the less shiny "Vista Basic" or the older "Windows Standard" and "Windows Classic".

Removing unnecessary programs from startup

The classic tweak, and in many instances the most necessary one. No matter how trusted the software you install in your computer is, there is an ever increasing trend on developers setting its software to run at Windows startup in obvious (Start > Programs > Startup) and not so obvious ways.

Fortunately Vista's Defender is more capable than before, and you don't have to deal with the registry or even run 'msconfig' for detecting such unwanted applications...

  • Go to Start
  • In the search/run box type "defender" then hit Enter. This will open the Windows Defender panel.
  • At the top menu click on Tools, then go to Software Explorer.
  • This will display a friendly menu of currently running startup programs with useful information on the developer, file path, name and if you are lucky even more.
  • For disabling a startup item, just select it from the left menu, then click the "Disable" on the bottom right (this is preferable over Remove unless you are 100% sure you don't want this running on startup).

A few more hints...
If a program is legit, it's likely it will show useful information, if it's just some generic non-sense you may be looking at spyware. If you are unsure of whether you should remove a program from startup, we have a searchable filename index that can help.

Oh, did we mention you can disable the Vista sidebar from this screen? You may want to think again if the Windows Sidebar is worth running or not and save some cycles and memory on the way (You can also remove it by closing it from the taskbar and choosing not to run it at startup when prompted).