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  • (01. January 2010., 09:27:49)

Author Topic: 12 Tweaks - Squeeze Every Last Drop of Performance Out of Windows Vista  (Read 1431 times)

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Windows Vista is a resource hog. Microsoft’s latest operating system will swallow every last bit of hardware resources you throw at it in the race for a top user experience, a concept synonymous with high performance.

And yet, there are scenarios in which Vista will eat away CPU cycles, huge amounts of random access memory, completely hug a ReadyBoost USB device and still underperform. The operating system will choke even on the most common of tasks, abandoning the user to slowdowns in system performance and to unresponsive processes catalyzed by nothing more than routine and mundane actions. No doubt, Vista has a few rough corners in terms of reliability and performance, but there are a few solutions available, until Microsoft delivers the first Service Pack in 2008.

1. Hardware

Is there something you can do beforehand to boost Windows Vista performance? Well, of course there is. Build or choose a hardware architecture to tailor fit the resource-hungry operating system. If you can buy a new system along with the platform, or if you can upgrade, do it. We have all seen the minimum Vista system requirements, and they are completely unrealistic. I mean, 800 MHz 32-bit or 64-bit processors, together with 512 MB of RAM, with at least 448 MB of system memory that has to be available to the operating system before the rest up to 512 MB is allocated to an on board graphics solution, DirectX 9 graphics card with 32 MB of graphics memory and a 20 GB hard disk will deliver only minimum performance.

1 GHz 32-bit and 64-bit processors, 1 GB of system memory, Windows Aero-capable graphics card – a DirectX 9 item with WDDM driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, 32 bits per pixel, and 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum) and 40-GB hard disk. I wouldn't settle for less than a 2 GHz processor, with 2 GB of RAM, and at least 256 MB of graphics memory. Just trust me on this one.

2. Give Vista a Couple of Tries

This is another pseudo-tweak, but do get ready for the real thing! Believe it or not, you actually have to train Windows Vista. The operating system's Memory Manager handles physical memory different from past versions of Windows, courtesy of SuperFetch. Essentially, the memory management technology in Vista will keep track of usage patterns across the operating system and will store content in memory, optimizing both frequently accessed applications but also handling low-priority I/O background processes. In order for SuperFetch to create a pattern of behavior, you will have to actually use the machine. One area where you will notice a definite improvement over XP is on continuing your work after the operating system has performed background tasks on an idle computer. Unlike the Standby List management in Windows XP, SuperFetch will repopulate memory with evicted data and code whenever it is available. But even this process will take place with a very low priority I/Os.

3. Windows Vista Aero-Less

The Windows Aero graphical user interface in Windows Vista is a breath of fresh air. But the extensive visual effects will take their toll on the general performance of the operating system. The best solution in this regard is to turn Aero off altogether and to opt for using the rudimentary Windows Vista Basic or Windows Standard GUIs. Such a move will boost performance, and as you have already undoubtedly noticed, Aero can slow down your workflow quite a lot. But if you've got a sweet tooth and simply cannot do without eye candy, then Windows Aero can be tweaked in order to hug less resources.

Open Control Panel and type the following in the Instant search box in the right hand side corner: "advanced system settings". Open the result Control Panel and click on the Settings button in the performance area, just under visual effects, processor scheduling, memory usage and virtual memory.

4. Kill Desktop Window Manager

"The new Windows Vista desktop composition feature fundamentally changes the way applications display pixels on the screen. When desktop composition is enabled, individual windows no longer draw directly to the screen or primary display device as they did in previous versions of Microsoft Windows. Instead, their drawing is redirected to off-screen surfaces in video memory, which are then rendered into a desktop image and presented on the display. Desktop composition is performed by the Desktop Window Manager (DWM), a new component of Windows Vista", Microsoft explained.

5. Virtual Memory and Processor Optimization

While personalizing Windows Aero is among the few modifications you can make to the surface of the operating system, the System Properties dialog box also offers you the best place to configure the amount of virtual memory for Vista. To the right of the Visual Effects, you will notice the advanced tab. The area towards the bottom is reserved for virtual memory. Vista even delivers a small definition, revealing that virtual memory is a paging file in an area on the hard disk that Windows users use as if it were RAM. Right, all you have to understand is that virtual memory is an extension of the physical memory of your system. It is a very good idea to have a paging file for all the physic hard drive on your machine, but not for all the drives on a single disk.

6. Trim the Startup Monster

An ideal performance scenario would involve Windows Vista running under the default installation. This is of course not possible. The invariable problem with adding applications to the operating system is that they will impact the overall results of the operating system, and nowhere is this more visible than in the startup process. There is no comparison between Vista booting up in the default deployment, and a startup after you have installed countless applications. First off, always make sure that applications you no longer use are uninstalled. There's no point in having them hanging around just to slow down Vista.

7. Mute User Account Control Elevation Prompts

User Account Control is a security mitigation introduced in Windows Vista as a measure to train users and software developers to use standard privileges only as opposed to administrative rights. The UAC's presence is necessary as it will permit the users to have control over how services, processes and applications access critical areas of the operating system. While the feature is not even close to the nagging monster it was "advertised" to be, it will deliver an impact on performance. Follow this link in order to learn how you can switch it off.

8. The Windows Error Reporting Service

Microsoft, in all its wisdom, has built Windows Vista in such a manner that the operating system will generate error reports after error reports in response to various exceptions across the platform. The Redmond company claims that error reports are an integer and essential part of the automatic feedback process designed to ultimately improve user experience on Windows Vista. The reality is that you can send tons and tons of error reports to Microsoft, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the company will address any of them.

9. Disk Defragmentation and Hard Drive Management

With Windows Vista, Microsoft has virtually taken the user out of the disk defragmentation equation. Defrag is now pretty much and automated process designed to run in the background. But even though it is performed with the most basic level of system resources, it will make itself felt in terms of overall performance. All you have to do is uncheck the "Run on schedule" option of the feature. Still, it is an excellent idea to defragment your hard drive and also to make sure that there is sufficient free space. Keeping the files stored in discontinuous sectors and ensuring a healthy amount of free space will help boost Windows Vista performance.

10. The System Restore and Volume Shadow Copy Services

System Restore is an essential element of the back-up infrastructure of Windows Vista. Right click on My Computer, choose Properties, and click on the System Protection option in the left hand side menu. Windows Vista can create automatic restore points for all the partitions on your hard drive. In this manner, you will be able to restore the operating system to an earlier point in time or use the Volume Shadow Copy service in order to revert a file or folder to a previous version. Building restore points does affect Windows Vista. In my opinion, this is a trade-off that you should learn to live with because of the virtual inestimable value of System restore. However, if you prefer a more hands-on approach to back-up, then you can uncheck all the boxes for the specific volumes on your hard drives in order to prevent the creation of restore points.

11. The Indexing and Search Service

"Windows Vista includes an indexing service that enables Windows Desktop Search to provide fast searches for documents, photos, e-mail messages, and other data. The service runs by default and uses the NTFS file system’s unique service name (USN) journaling feature to track changes in file system content. By default, only portions of the main system volume are actually indexed. Some of the indexing service I/O is performed at low priority, which means that it is delayed when normal-priority work is accomplished. If Windows Vista detects user activity such as mouse movement or keyboard input, it can throttle this activity," Microsoft stated.

In order to turn off Vista's Indexing and Search service in Windows Explorer right click each drive and select Properties from the contextual menu. The last option on the bottom of the General tab is "Index this drive for faster searching". Uncheck it to stop the indexing service.

12. Turn Off Windows Ballast

Windows Vista comes with a set of features that are nothing more than excess ballast in certain situations, managing to reverberate on the operating system's performance. Some you don't need at all, and some you simply don't want dragging along. Microsoft provides in Vista the option to switch them off without actually removing them from the platform. In Control Panel choose "Uninstall a program" under Programs and then "Turn Windows features on or off". The Indexing Service, Remote Differential Compression, Tablet PC Optional Components, Windows DFS Replication Service, Windows Fax & Scan and Windows Meeting Space, ActiveX Installer Service etc. can all pretty much be disabled, with the exception of Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0. The beauty of this feature is the fact that none of the items is lost. In case you change your mind, or discover that you need a component, revisit the location and check the box next to it. It's that simple.

Take Matters into Your Own Hands

In addition to the examples featured above, you can further take matters into your own hands. All you will need is a 2+ GB Flash drive to use with Vista's ReadyBoost option. "Windows ReadyBoost-capable Flash Devices extend the disk caching capabilities of Windows Vista main memory. ReadyBoost-capable devices can be implemented as USB 2.0 flash drives, Secure Digital (SD) cards, or CompactFlash cards. Using ReadyBoost-capable flash memory devices for caching allows Windows Vista to service random disk reads with performance that is typically 8-10 times faster than random reads from traditional hard drives," Microsoft explained.

Last but definitely not least, while you are waiting for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to be delivered in the first quarter of 2008, you can get a taste of the refresh on you copy of the operating system today. Since early August, Microsoft has made available a couple of Compatibility, Performance and Reliability packs designed precisely to smoothen some of the rough edges of the platform. You will be able to download both from here, but the company has also pushed them via Windows Update.

(Copyright by Softpedia)
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