Personally, I don’t see the point in upgrading your hardware if your computer does everything you need it to. However, sometimes it’s nice to improve what you already have. In this guide we will learn how to make the most out of the hardware you have and make Windows Vista run faster. (Here’s a similar list for Windows XP and for Windows 7.)
I highly recommend you create a system restore point before you follow this guide.
Note: There is a lot of crossover with this guide and the guide to extend laptop battery life; some of the procedures, listed below, will help save power.
1. Scan Your PC for Malware
The first step you should take, to increase performance, is to scan for and remove malware. Use Microsoft Security Essentials to perform this task.
For a more in-depth look at PC security, check out the PC Security Handbook.
2. Defragment Your Hard Disk
Imagine you are in a shopping mall, and the person you are with wants to visit fifteen different shops. However, this person ends up walking you up and down the mall six times. Does that make sense? Of course not – as human beings, we like to do things to save time.
When your hard drive becomes fragmented, it is literally wasting time by looking in all kinds of places on the disk for all the pieces of one file. Defragmenting your drive is a great solution to speed up your computer as it puts all the files together in order.
- Click the Start button, type Defrag, and click Disk Defragmenter.
- Click the drives you want to defragment and click Analyze.
- Click Defragment.
If you want to schedule disk defragmentation (so you don’t have to do this manually), see this guide: Schedule Disk Defragmentation.
3. Detect and Repair Disk Errors
Over time, your hard disk develops bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing difficult or even impossible. To detect and repair disk errors, Windows has a built-in tool called the Error Checking utility. It’ll search the hard disk for bad sectors and system errors and repair them for faster performance.
To detect and repair disk errors:
- Click the Start button and click Computer.
- Right click the hard disk you want to scan and click Properties.
- Click the Tools tab.
- Click Check Now.
- Select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box and click Start.
- Repeat steps 1-5 for all drives you want to check.
4. Disable The Search Index Service
Indexing Services is a little application that uses a lot of CPU. By indexing and updating lists of all the files on the computer, it helps you to do a search for something faster as it scans the index list. But if you know where your files are, you can disable this system service. It won’t do any harm to you machine, whether you search often or not very often.
To disable the search index:
Click the Start button, click Control Panel, and type index in the top-right search box. Click Change how Windows searches.
Remove all locations by unchecking them and click OK.
5. Cut Down on Background Applications
Many background applications don’t need to run and only increase CPU cycles and, in turn, the demand on your battery. Here’s a couple of things you can do to cut down on background applications:
5a. Disable Windows Sidebar Gadgets
If you don’t use the sidebar, you probably have it disabled already (right click the Windows Sidebar icon in the system tray and click Exit.)
If you use the Windows Sidebar, do you really need all your gadgets running? To disable Windows Sidebar gadgets:
1. Click the Start button and click Control Panel. Type gadget in the top-right search box.
2. Click Windows Sidebar Properties.
3. Click View list of running gadgets.
4. Next to the running gadgets, click Remove.
5b. Disable Startup applications
To disable unneccessary startup applications, follow this guide.
6. Optimize Visual Effects
Visual effects also use CPU and memory, which reduces system performance. To optimize visual effects:
Click the Start button, click Control Panel, and type visual in the top-right search box. Click Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.
Select Adjust for best performance and click OK.
7. Turn off Windows Aero
Windows Aero enables the glass effect you see on your Windows. This (surprise surprise) also uses CPU and memory and should be disabled to increase performance. To disable Windows Aero:
1. Right click the desktop and click Personalize. Click Window Color and Appearance.
2. Under Color Scheme choose a theme other than Windows Aero and click OK.
8. Disable Your Wireless Internet & Bluetooth
If you’re not using the internet or Bluetooth, consider disabling the hardware to save resources. To disable your wireless, bluetooth, or both cards, either:
A. Locate the switch on the side of your laptop (many laptops now have this) and turn your cards off.
1. Right click the network icon in the system tray and click Network and Sharing Center.
2. In the left-hand menu, click Manage network connections.
3. Right click your wireless connection and click Disable.
Repeat for your Bluetooth device.
9. Keep Your Computer Cool
The hotter your computer gets, the harder your fans have to work to keep it cool and the slower your hardware performs. If using your laptop, ensure there is proper ventilation by putting your laptop on a hard surface (not buried in a pillow!) Also check your desktop has proper ventilation by doing the following:
- Removing bunches of wires from the back of the PC.
- If your desktop has holes in its case for ventilation, ensure these holes are unrestricted.
- If your desktop is in a cabinet, leave the door open or install an intake and outtake fan to keep the cabinet cool.
- Consider adding more fans to your desktop.
- Keep your hardware clean.
Note: Never use your laptop on a blanket or soft surface where airflow is restricted. This will also keep your laptop working longer as hardware is less likely to overheat and fail.
10. Uninstall Unneccessary Programs
If you’re not using software and have no plans to use it in the future, you can uninstall it to free up hard disk space and resources. Use the following guides to help you remove unwanted software:
11. Check for Bad Memory Sectors
Failing memory can be a cause for a slow PC. To check your memory for errors, follow this guide: Test Your Computer’s RAM.
Your computer will be running faster already! What did I miss? What do you do to improve your PC’s performance?