Understanding the performance tools in Windows Vista
There’s no getting away from the fact that Windows Vista is a resource consuming beast, especially in comparision to some other operating systems. It makes demands for hardware that didn’t even exist when Windows XP came into our lives, and pushes them further than any version of Windows would dare dream of. Consequently, it’s unsurprising that some computers struggle a little with Windows Vista and need a helping hand to run in the manner that we want it to be run.
Enter Windows Vista performance-related tools then, which help you configure your computer for optimal performance. To access them, go to Start > Control Panel > System and Maintance > Performance Information and Tools. On the left pane, you’ll see a variety of tasks that will soon make your computer that little bit faster.
Manage startup programs
This fires up the Software Explorer element of Windows Defender, Microsoft’s anti-spyware program. Here you can disable programs that start automatically with Windows (especially those that do so without your knowledge).
Adjust visual effects
As in earlier versions of Windows, you can disable some of the eye-candy for the sake of speedier performance. The one-click ‘Adjust for best performance’ kicks Windows Vista into Aero Basic mode, shorn of transparency, 3D effects and animation. It’s worth experimenting with the various options to get the best balance between prettiness and power.
Adjust indexing options
Given that indexing is used by search, and given that search is everywhere in Windows Vista, it would be a shame to turn this one off. Indexing monitors file names, file contents (where possible) and metadata (where available). There is a performance hit using the default settings but it’s slight and, in our opinion, well worth putting up with.
Adjust power settings
This gives you three configurable power schemes. They’re much more relevant to laptop users than to desktop owners, but they’re still useful for setting options such as getting your PC to sleep after a specified period of inactivity.
Open Disc Cleanup
The familiar Disc Cleanup tool gets a haircut and some new trousers. As before, it looks for useless temporary files, old installation files and other detritus with a view to freeing up disk space.
This opens an expansive window dedicated to performance. There’s some overlap with the main menu but also direct links to to Disk Defragmenter and Task Manager. At the top of the window, you’ll be warned of any known issues. This isn’t quite as helpful as it sounds, though. For instance, being told that ‘Performance can be improved but changing visual settings’ sounds like action is required, but in our case the recommended action was merely to turn off Aero. Similarly, a driver that was supposedly interfering with Windows Vista resuming from Sleep mode turned out to be the ‘Sony Notebook Control driver’. Windows Vista invited us to uninstall this ‘if you no longer use the device’, which sounds rather dubious advice to when operating a Sony notebook!
Another link here invites you to ‘Generate a system health report’. This opens the Reliability and Performance Monitor, which produces a diagnostic reports that flags performance bottlenecks and trouble-spots and, hopefully, shows you how to resolve them. As ever with this kind of tool, your mileage may vary: ‘The device driver for #UNKNOWN# has not been installed’ is not exactly helpful. There is a lot to get your teeth into but this is pretty advanced territory.
Curiously, there’s also a dedicated link straight to the Reliability and Performance Monitor in the Advanced Tools menu, but this launches it in a live resource-monitoring mode. This is a useful way of keeping an eye on processor, memory, disk and network activity, replete with graphs, and it’s far better than anything we’ve seen in Windows before. Again, though, obvious questions like ‘how fast is my internet connection?’ find no answer here.
Peak Performance – The sidebar in the Performance Information and Tools menu hooks you up to all manner of helpful and not so helpful utilities, including advanced monitoring tools.
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 18th, 2007 at 14:07 and is filed under Guides. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.