I have not addressed Vista, the current and latest Microsoft operating system in this column mainly because I don't like it. (Hey - my ball, my rules.)
I do have a copy of the basic version installed on one of my computers and I will service it for my clients, but it's not my preference for an operating system. Although fancy, it is bloated and sluggish and I would rather not use it, nor write about it. That said, let's explore a few ways to try to make it as fast as its predecessor.
The most effective and least expensive way to speed up any system is with more memory, or RAM. Vista has a new feature, Ready Boost, which will allow you to boost your system RAM temporarily, with the aid of a 2GB or more USB flash drive. It's not just for storage anymore. Upon insertion of the drive, Vista will check it for compatibility and then ask if you want to use it for Ready Boost. All you have to do is agree.
Another tip is to disable the Indexing Service, something advisable for XP as well. By constantly checking your files, Vista keeps them ready to be available for you. This can be helpful but it also slows down the system by always using resources you may need for other tasks.
Select Start, then Computer and right-click on your C drive. On the General tab, uncheck "Index this drive for faster searching." In the next dialog box, choose to include subfolders and files and you've turned the service off.
By disabling automatic disc defragmentation, you free up some more resources. Although defragmenting your hard disc is a good idea and doing so will speed up your system, having it always on is overkill. You're better off to set it on manual rather than automatic (the default setting) and run it once a month or as needed by yourself.
To disable it, click Start then Computer, right click the C drive and select the Tools tab. Uncheck Run on a Schedule and you're set.
Keeping your system registry in shape is paramount for an efficient operating system. The Windows database gets cluttered with junk and old values quickly. This in turn slows down the system. There are many programs to keep it clean. Advanced Windows Care Personal from Iobit is a good free one and can be found at www.iobit.com.
Run it weekly or when you notice your system is sluggish. Browse www.download.com for others, using the keyword "registry."
Although Internet Explorer, which is incorporated in the OS has been updated, it has slowed down under the weight of its new elements. By making a registry change, you can fix this.
See www.theeldergeek.com/increase_internet_download_connections.htm for instructions on how to increase the number of download connections IE makes. By increasing that number, it accesses Web sites more quickly.
Remote Differential Compression constantly checks for files changes in a Vista system and slows down performance significantly. To turn this service off, go to Control Panel (from the Start menu) and switch to Classic View. Select Program Features and choose "Turn Windows features on and off." Scroll down to Remote Differential Compression and uncheck it.
Finally, I would disable hibernation. It's another background service that eats up resources and most people don't use it anyway. Again, go to Control Panel, then Power Options and select Change Plan Settings. Then choose Change Advanced Power Settings and click on Sleep, then Hibernate After and move the slider down to zero. Click Apply.
Some technicians advocate also closing down System Restore, another service, but I would advise against it. Although it does use system resources, it's a valuable tool worth keeping and could save you in a computing disaster.
I don't foresee Vista in any incarnation as an OS with longevity. I think it was released prematurely, with errors and too many demands on the consumer and will disappear as quickly as it arrived. Now that Microsoft realizes it did not make its mark with Vista as a Super XP, but more of a Millennium 2, they are scurrying to release its successor.
Hopefully they have learned a lesson from this fiasco and may one day produce another XP-caliber operating system. Until then, I will stick to XP as my choice OS. I may throw the hastily released Vista a bone now and then, but my sentiments toward it remain steadfast - haste la vista, Vista.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears monthly in The Times and on gainesvilletimes.com.