ReadyBoost, BIOS and Closing
Do you have you any external flash memory laying around? If so, you may be interested in ReadyBoost, which allows Windows to use suitably fast flash memory for OS caching purposes as detailed by Microsoft:
ReadyBoost supports the use of nonvolatile flash storage devices to boost system performance. Devices enhanced for ReadyBoost provide dedicated space outside main memory where SuperFetch can store a cache of performance-crucial data for fast random access. Although not as fast as main memory, nonvolatile flash memory significantly outperforms conventional disk media in random reads by avoiding the rotational and seek latencies. All data written to the cache is compressed at a 2:1 ratio and encrypted by using AES-128 to ensure security of the data.
Upon connecting such devices Windows AutoPlay will prompt as to whether you wish to Speed up my system by using ReadyBoost and allocate the amount of memory you wish to allocate to it assuming the device passes the performance test.
ReadyBoost can provide noticeable performance improvements particularly on systems that meet only minimum memory requirements (1GB or less). We have tried it and it works quite well in such scenarios.
By default most BIOS settings are configured for compatibility over performance. As such, it's worth checking your BIOS settings to determine whether any options can be altered to allow for improved performance without adversely affecting system stability (RAM settings in particular like Latency timings, as well as Hard Drive related, e.g. ATA Transfer mode). BIOS options vary greatly depending on the age of the motherboard, the manufacturer and chipset. Options may also be added or removed depending on the BIOS revision used.
I recommend checking the Definitive BIOS Optimization Guide for optimal setup tips. The Memory Subsystem section alone covers 70 options.
If you have tweaked Windows XP in the past you will have noticed Vista has less options and in general less room for manual optimizations. Now, this is not a bad thing as we found out that Microsoft has automated in Vista many of those settings we used to recommend on XP, and in some other cases they have set optimal values as default. The bad news is that even then Vista continues to be a resource hog for many, especially those with older systems, leaving no choice but to keep XP for a while longer.