Cowboy Programming Game Development and General Hacking by the Old West

August 29, 2007

Speeding up slow Vista

Filed under: Game Development — Mick West @ 12:09 pm

Vista must have been designed by committee, everyone wanting to get their own pet features in there, and not caring about the effect on the overall user experience. I had some trepidation about Vista when I saw a preview video a few months before it was released, and in about 15 minutes all they were able to show was:

1) Transparent Title Bars on windows
2) Buttons that glow a bit when the mouse is over them
3) Preview windows on the task bar
4) A 3D window manager on windows-tab

That’s it? That’s what I’m expected to pay $200 for? Sheesh! Anyway, long story short, I buy it, install it, discover that is in fact just about all you get, and Vista is a lot slower user experience than XP, despite my computer having a Vista Experience Index Base Score of 5.1, with a 5.9 for graphics (the highest possible score).

So how to speed it up? Well, first I upgraded from 2GB to 4B Ram, but I can’t really say it makes much of a difference. In fact Windows can’t actually give that extra 2GB to your applications, but I thought it would at least keep it for itself, and use it for caching or something. It seems it needs a lot of the address space for trivialities, so I suspect a lot of my megabytes are sitting idle.

So what else, Google is a good place to start, here’s a useful article that suggest things you can do.,1558,2110595,00.asp
Some handy tips there, Under Control Panel->Uninstall a Program->Turn Windows features on or off, I remove:
Table PC Optional Components (Handwriting? No thank you)
Telnet client (I’d use PuTTY if I wanted telnet)
Telnet Server (why?)
Windows DFS Replication Service (Don’t use it)
Windows Fax and Scan (Fax is DEAD!)
Windows Meeting Space (Don’t use it)

This, of course makes Vista churn for ten minutes and then another ten minutes to reboot. While this is going on, I also discover from reading more of the ExtremeTech article, that I can use a USB drive as extra disk cache, using an actual feature of Vista called “ReadyBoost”. Sounds like a good idea. For some reason my “High Speed” 1GB Sony memory stick pro duo is not suitable (read speed 1943 KB/s), but my rather old 1GB Lexar thumb drive is (read 4483 KB/s, write 6913KB/s). It’s flashing away right now, but I’m unsure of what it is doing. I think I might try buying a really fast USB drive and see if it helps.

I also went into the Control Panel\System and Maintenance\Performance Information and Tools, then there a bunch of options on the left you can adjust for improvements: First the “Manage Startup Programs”, I turn off anything I don’t want running at startup. In my case this was Picasa, Steam, and a few others to do with some specific hardware devices I had, but did not really use.

Then, and this seemed to be a big one, under “Adjust Visual Effects”, I turned off EVERYTHING except for “Show thumbnails”, “Show translucent”, “show window contents” and “smooth edges of screen fonts”. This made quite a significant difference in the speed of navigating folders. This is basically turn off all the flashy features that I saw in that video. Windows now looks boring again, but runs faster, which is what I want.

Under Adjust Indexing Options, I limited it to the Start Menu, and my documents folder.

Under Adjust Power Settings, I changed it from “Balanced” to “High Performance”, which according to their little infographic, gives you TWICE THE PERFORMANCE as “Balance”. I doubt that, but I want speed! Speed! Speed! I’m bamboozled as to what it’s doing here. Why not default to the fastest setting?

Next we have “Open Disk Cleanup”, which scans my C: drive (may take a few minutes), then tells me of a whole range of files I can delete, including 8 GB of temporary files, WTF? Anyway, I select 13GB of files and delete them. Does this speed up my computer? No, not really, but I was getting a little low on disk space, so it’s all good. After it deleted that I ran it again, and clicked on the “More Options”, where it handlity told me I could free up more space by removing programs I do not use. Now this is something I don’t do much, in part because it takes so long. But now my computer is zipping along, I might delete that demo of Harry Potter, et al. I also deleted “all but the most recent restore point”, although it failed to tell me how much space this saved.

Onwards, I click on the enticing “Advanced Options”, and then “View performance details in Event Log”, this turns out to be quite the gold mine of information. Some little elf in the system does actually care about performance, and makes a note whenever the computer slows down, and even figures out why. Now I’d love for that elf to actually TELL ME, but no, it just makes a note. But the notes are sometimes telling.

-\Garmin\Training Center.exe – This process is doing excessive disk activities and is impacting the performance of Windows: (Hmm, I’ll shut that one after using it now. Normally I just let things sit there. I’d already made it not start automatically).

One from a few days ago:

The Desktop Window Manager is experiencing heavy resource contention.
Reason : Graphics subsystem resources are over-utilized.
Diagnosis : A consistent degradation in frame rate for the Desktop Window Manager was observed over a period of time.

Hopefully that’s fixed now, with me turing off all those fancy “Aero” features. I just wish they would tell me. And, hey, look, there’s an option – “Attach Task to This Event”, whcih adds a task to the Task Scheduler, triggered by this event, to pop up a window. Hmm, we’ll see hoe that goes – if the system is slowing down, it seems unlikely that popping up a window is going to help much.

Next, “Open reliability and Performance Monitor”, this is kind of like the performace tab on the task manager, (and you can get here from there), but gives a lot more detail about what is doing what. Right now I see my documents are still being indexed, and firefox is using 100MB.

Finally, “Generate System Health Report”. Supposedly will tell me how well my system is doing and recommend ways of improving it. That might have been useful YESTERDAY before I started removing everything. But anyway, does not tell me anything useful.

One final tip, for which I really should get a new UPS battery, “Enable write caching on the disk“. Makes me slightly nervous, but, okay, I’ll order a new battery (my USP has a red light telling me I should do this).

Blimey! Photoshop just started up in under ten seconds, and that’s after a reboot, so it’s not in the cache! It re-started in four seconds. View a PDF – 1 second, yay!

I’d also removed the anti-virus software, the firewall and user account settings some time ago.

Finally, my windows Vista is nearly as good as my Windows XP!

Actually, I think it’s possibly better. There are actually useful things in Vista. I like the fast indexed searching (once I set indexing to just the folder I want). I like being able to just type in the name of a program in the start menu (even just a bit of it, like “middle earth”). Now, although I’ve not used it much, it’s does actually seem, possibly, to be faster than XP.


  1. that is very useful……………
    It helped me a lot…………….
    But turning off aero? not a good idea……….
    then what is the diff. between XP and cute vista…………..
    only removing the anti virus program,turning off UAC,managing startup programs and turning off some un useful features will do the job……….i.e. will make vista faster…….but i must tell you all that vista home basic is very bad in performance even after that but vista business is truely fast even with 1 GB ram and core 2 duo processor.

    Comment by Rahul — February 20, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  2. I have Vista Ultimate. I’ve actually done a clean re-install since I wrote the above, and I find my performance has improved – so I’ve not actually re-done any of the above tweaks yet.

    Comment by Mick West — February 20, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  3. I have vista ultimate with core 2 duo (7300), 3 gigs of ram, and a Nvidia 8700GT graphic card a Toshiba x205-9349. Vista is very slow on there. what can i do to increase the speed. When I bring up Visual Studio, I have to wait for a long time. Also, sometimes, it just sits there for a while before it lets me do something.

    Comment by tim — February 28, 2008 @ 5:03 pm

  4. Hi Mike,

    Just want to say thank you, next time you are in Bangkok have a beer on me



    Comment by Rudy — March 20, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

  5. Do registry cleaners like this one work?

    Comment by Jason — March 27, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  6. I’ve never used a registry cleaner. I’d seek some independent reviews first.

    Comment by Mick West — March 27, 2008 @ 11:47 am

  7. If you really want to speed Vista up by disabling features, there’s even more you can disable to save RAM and processor time. Not for the feint of heart, but you can disable some system services to help things along.

    I’ve found that just turning off all the services and features that involve Vista checking up on itself, things move along a lot faster. Seems that a large part of Vista’s problem is that it’s insecure about itself (rightly so in some cases) and likes to double check itself, which basically makes it do everything twice, making it half as fast! Turn off all these diagnostic services (all the ones with the word “diagnostic” in their name) and you won’t be able to look at the performance logs and find out why Vista is slow, but it’ll run faster. You can also disable other services like the media center extender, uPnP and PnP-X services if you don’t use such devices as network attached speakers and such. Your mileage may vary depending on your computer.

    The best thing you can do is to just get as fast a computer as possible with the most RAM and some sort of discrete (ATI or NVIDIA) graphics. The sad thing about Vista is that in order to get it to run well on an average system, you have to disable most of the components that make it any different than XP. Aside from the Tablet and Media Center uses, it’s really not worth the difference.

    Registry cleaners are generally worthless and cause more problems than benefit. Your system has to already be too slow to run Vista if you can run a registry cleaner and actually notice a performance difference. The registry uses less than 64MB RAM, which is negligable these days. RegCure is awful, BTW, and is considered by some to be malware:

    CCleaner (Crap Cleaner) is a good free registry/tempfile cleaner. It is conservative and only appears to delete registry entries that reference non-existent files and registry keys. Really only necessary if you’re getting “file not found” type errors for no apparent reason.

    Comment by Noah — July 25, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

  8. Thanks for the tips. I didn’t know about the USB disk caching using the ReadyBoost feature. I will definitely try this on my VISTA. Do I need a compatible USB flash drive or any brand will work (I have a spare Kingston 2GB).

    Comment by cisco asa — April 4, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  9. This was an excellent article! It made a huge difference in my windows vista performance… Thank you so much!

    Comment by Devin — May 1, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  10. This was a helpfull article. Gotta try these when I get home on my home Vista PC. I have used few of these methods but not all and I’m feeling that my vista can run faster. Next I will add another 2GB of RAM to my existing 2GB. Although 32bit Vista can’t handle it all.

    Comment by kotiteatteri — May 3, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

  11. Have a look in Vistas Taskplaner and be shocked what it all is having there with “triggers” set to do ..

    Also you can use gpedit.msc ( in Business,Enterprise and Ultimate ) to tweak a lot. For instance you can disable te 16bit subsystem, disable the program-compatibility-subsystem, diable the constant timestamp-writing to your harddisk and more.

    With lots of work, vista can be made smooth, but you really need a lot of knowledge of what an Windows OS underpinnings are. For the average Joe it is all useless and even risky to try to mess with Vistas “unlocking secrets”..

    The OS itself ( or better : the idea behind the OS ) is nice. The implementation is worst.

    Comment by Smartie77 — September 12, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

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