50 Windows XP & Vista Tips & Tricks

Computer Active has compiled a list of 50 tips to improve performance of both XP and Vista.

For most people using a computer means using Windows and over the years Microsoft's operating system has become easier to use.

However, there is always room for improvement, so in this feature we have compiled 50 of the finest tips for Windows XP and Vista. These can help to make Windows even better, easier to use and faster. Most don't even require you to install any extra software, so if you want to make your copy of XP or Vista better, it's possible to get started immediately.

  1. Access My Documents from the Taskbar (XP and Vista)
    Right-click an empty section of the Taskbar and select toolbars, then New Toolbar. Navigate to the My Documents (XP) or Documents (Vista) folder and click the OK or Select Folder button. In its default position to the far right of the Taskbar, the toolbar provides menu access to the entire contents of the folder.
  2. Extra speed with Readyboost (Vista)
    Plugging in a USB memory key is one of the easiest ways to speed up Vista. When the Autoplay menu appears, select 'Speed up my system', or right-click the drive in Computer and select Properties. Move to the Readyboost tab, tick 'Use this device' and use the slider to choose how much space should be given up. Not all USB memory keys are fast enough to provide this boost.
  3. Save folders after a crash (XP)
    If you have lots of folders open in Windows XP, when one of them crashes, they will all close. This can be avoided by using a hidden option. Open the Control Panel, then choose Folder Options. Move to the View tab and scroll down through the list of options until you get to one called 'Launch folder windows in a separate process'. Place a tick next to it, then click OK.
  4. Disable Aero Glass (Vista)
    Vista's Aero Glass transparency effects may look great, but they also drain a computer's processing power. To speed up a struggling computer, right-click the desktop and select Personalize. Click the link 'Window Color and Appearance' at the top of the screen and untick the 'Enable transparency' box before clicking OK.
  5. Save memory (XP)
    When you run programs, Windows XP stores files known as DLLs in memory. When you close the programs, it usually leaves them there for later use but this can slow down the computer. If you are fine editing the Windows Registry, this can be fixed – but make suitable backups first and take great care. Click Start, then Run, type regedit and press Enter.

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in order to use 8 gigs of memory you need x64 edition but the specs you say of you dont need that high for vista to run well,at least an 8xxx series geforce card and 2GB min memory and a good dual or even single core(single core may run slowly after a time)a quad aint needed but a dual core is a good idea and sli is not needed a single card should be plenty.

(soldier1st said @ #20.1)
in order to use 8 gigs of memory you need x64 edition but the specs you say of you dont need that high for vista to run well,at least an 8xxx series geforce card and 2GB min memory and a good dual or even single core(single core may run slowly after a time)a quad aint needed but a dual core is a good idea and sli is not needed a single card should be plenty.

You do NOT need an 8- series graphics card to run vista, that's ridiculous. Aero runs fine on newer integrated graphics, and most cards unless they are ancient handle it perfectly fine. I used to run it on an FX5200.

(JamieLee2k said @ #19)
Where is tip 25?

That makes 49 if I am correct, Has anyone noticed?

You didn't turn on IE's "show all tricks and tips" option?

(chilliadus said @ #19.1)

You didn't turn on IE's "show all tricks and tips" option?


I don't used crappy IE I use Firefox so don't try and be smart little boy ;P

I saw 3 security lapses in that crappy list. Read it all, but thats all I was able to come away from it with.

I see a few of us are going to have to fix family and friends PCs with some of those suggestions. :disappointed:

Most of these tweaks are extremely obvious, useless, or misinformed. And I don't know why people advise turning off UAC when you can put it in silent mode which is a much better "tweak"

''50 completely uselss tips for XP and Vista" - most of the things there are well known common knowledge about MS products that even complete monkeys using Windows for 5mins knew already.

When you run programs, Windows XP stores files known as DLLs in memory. When you close the programs, it usually leaves them there for later use but this can slow down the computer. If you are fine editing the Windows Registry, this can be fixed – but make suitable backups first and take great care.


#1 - These are unloaded after a while
#2 - If the file is re-used it will be re-read from disk, and then this tweak will decrease performance
#3 - I don't see why you need to backup your computer before this
#4 - This is a feature, don't make it sound bad...


Give Virtual Memory a fixed size cause the fragmentation and optimization (it's easy to use a fixed size file rather to reallocate and allocate space when needing).

What I would like to have is ..... in the right click menu alongside "Copy to Folder" is "Copy to Folders".. or "Move to Folders".

In essence, allowing the OS to copy to multiple folder locations across a single computer or the network. Saving time of having to do it individually.

In addition to Tip #37, you can also give your optical drives a friendly name... (no, doesn't work with right click/properties as the HDDs)

Open Regedit. Navigate to HKEY_Local_MachineSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentversionExplorerDriveIcons

Click on (select) your drive letter.. in the case of the example, my first optical drive is F. You see a key DefaultIcon, now.. right click your drive key (in this case F) select, New, then Key. Name the new key DefaultLabel. Right click the new key (right hand side) go to Modify and name it!

If the DriveIcons key is not there in the registry, it's because you have not used that drive yet. Simply put in a disk.. use it, and restart the computer. (or refresh Explorer).

All this steps can work but the best way to speed up windows is to change the color quality from 32 bit to 16 bit.

(Masterp said @ #11)
All this steps can work but the best way to speed up windows is to change the color quality from 32 bit to 16 bit.

If you're using a really old graphics card and don't care about videos, maybe.

Thanks

#48 Copy file location. Nice trick


I would like to add for Vista users that if you hold down shift and right click a folder you will see a command to open the command window in that folder's location

(Doli said @ #10)
Thanks

#48 Copy file location. Nice trick


I would like to add for Vista users that if you hold down shift and right click a folder you will see a command to open the command window in that folder's location

I did not know that. Thank you! That explains why there aren't really any power toys for Vista. They stuck them in as features.

the tip about UAC is pointless it's there for a reason,turning it off will lower your security,if uac bugs you that much use tweakuac.

"This can be avoided by using a hidden option. Open the Control Panel, then choose Folder Options. Move to the View tab and scroll down through the list of options until you get to one called ‘Launch folder windows in a separate process’."

"Access My Documents from the Taskbar"

"Add Run to Start menu"

Wow I sure am glad someone pointed out the "hidden" options that are plainly laid out in a control panel applet.


"Vista makes it possible to divide a hard disk into two or more partitions that Windows sees as separate disks."

Yep, so did XP and 2000 and 9x/ME allowed this with the FDisk utility. If that's not a hidden new feature of Vista I don't know what is!

Did anyone actually make it to the end of the article?

Anybody who did the "performance" tweaks go read this (you wasted your time):
http://home.comcast.net/~SupportCD/XPMyths.html

For example, it mentions the unload DLL tweak, which is a myth:

"Adding this Registry Key in Windows 2000 or XP has no effect since this registry key is no longer supported in Microsoft Windows 2000 or later. The Shell automatically unloads a DLL when its usage count is zero, but only after the DLL has not been used for a period of time. This inactive period might be unacceptably long at times, especially when a Shell extension DLL is being debugged. For operating systems prior to Windows 2000, you can shorten the inactive period by adding this registry key."

(Romestar said @ #5)
Anybody who did the "performance" tweaks go read this (you wasted your time):
http://home.comcast.net/~SupportCD/XPMyths.html

It also mentions this:

Limited User Accounts

Myth - "Limited User Accounts are a Realistic Security Solution."

Reality - "On a nonmanaged XP machine today, it isn't realistic to run without Administrator privileges. Unlike UNIX and UNIX-like systems such as Linux and Apple Computer's Mac OS X, Windows isn't very useable with a non-Administrator account, largely because so many applications are ignorant of rights and were written to work only with Administrator-level accounts. This is particularly problematic in a home environment, in which XP Home Edition's crippled Limited Account type, designed for children and less-technical users, is virtually useless. In Windows XP, the lame Run As option, virtually hidden under a right-click menu that typical users will never know about, is a poor substitute." - Source

"After you log on to a computer by using a Limited User Account, you may observe one or more of the following behaviors when you try to use a program that is not expressly designed for Windows XP.

- The program does not run.
- The program stops responding (hangs).
- You receive notification of run-time error 7 or run-time error 3446.
- The program does not recognize that a CD-ROM is in the CD-ROM drive.
- The program does not allow you to save files.
- The program does not allow you to open files.
- The program does not allow you to edit files.
- The program displays a blank error message.
- You cannot remove the program.
- You cannot open the Help file.

This behavior can occur because the Limited User Account prevents older programs from performing certain functions. Microsoft lists over 189 applications in this article alone that do not work right on a Limited User Account." - Source

Noting that I run Windows XP Pro with 2 limited accounts and 1 administrator account fine. My parents use the limited account. I did have to setup a few special security permissions on both the Firefox and Thunderbird install folders due to the way that their updates run. If you don't do the update on an administrator account or on a limited one with appropriate permissions it will just silently fail and try to re-run the next time you run the application.

When you run programs, Windows XP stores files known as DLLs in memory. When you close the programs, it usually leaves them there for later use but this can slow down the computer.

It should be noted though that it may be even more likely to slow down your computer if you deactivate this. A number of DLLs are *very frequently* re-used. There is a reason to why XP and other Windows operating systems do this. And obviously, it doesn't leave them there forever regardless of your RAM state.

Aero does use system RAM. On a computer that may only have 1GB of memory total, it can be a significant drain. Aside from that, disabling it can save notebook battery power by not invoking the 3d processing.

(Zanaffer said @ #3.1)
Aero does use system RAM. On a computer that may only have 1GB of memory total, it can be a significant drain. Aside from that, disabling it can save notebook battery power by not invoking the 3d processing.

I think he wasn't talking of RAM usage though, but whether it runs mostly on the CPU or the GPU processor, and a bit like me confused about the article seemingly telling you can spare "processing power" by turning it off, i.e. make apps running on the system faster because they get more CPU cycles. I think the answer to that is no, as Aero indeed mostly run on the GPU, and turning it off won't make a major difference as for that. But yes, laptop power / battery life / electricity may be saved by turning it off. I'm not sure that's what he was asking for though.

(InsaneNutter said @ #3)
Doesn’t aero run on the graphics card processing power? If so I don’t see how disabling it would save on processing power...

That is what I was thinking too. I'm not expert. Ideally, the GPU would handle all the heavy lifting of the UI while the CPU works on other things and just checks on the GPU occasionally to keep everything in sync. Seems like disabling this would actually add more of a load on the CPU. A slimmed down interface that still runs on the GPU would be better than a single fancy interface that works with the GPU while all others rely on the the CPU.

(Shadrack said @ #3.3)

That is what I was thinking too. I'm not expert. Ideally, the GPU would handle all the heavy lifting of the UI while the CPU works on other things and just checks on the GPU occasionally to keep everything in sync. Seems like disabling this would actually add more of a load on the CPU. A slimmed down interface that still runs on the GPU would be better than a single fancy interface that works with the GPU while all others rely on the the CPU.

That is correct it actually taxes the CPU more with Aero off, this is a bad tip..

(phiberoptik said @ #3.4)
That is correct it actually taxes the CPU more with Aero off, this is a bad tip..

While Aero indeed does do the heavy lifting on the GPU, what you're saying is totally wrong. If you turn off Aero, all the expensive 3d effects disappear. Got anything to back up the "uses more CPU with Aero enabled" claim?

The tip is improperly labeled. What they described doesn't disable Aero, it disables transparency. Aero is still in use, it's just not transparent.

(Neobond said @ #2.1)
Not really, I have 8 up for todays 10 so far..

Wait, neowin limits itself to 10 stories a day?
Isn't that a bit....senseless? Would it not be better to maybe have a "front page" that's limited like that, but a separate "news" page where everything else goes?

(Kushan said @ #2.2)

Wait, neowin limits itself to 10 stories a day?
Isn't that a bit....senseless? Would it not be better to maybe have a "front page" that's limited like that, but a separate "news" page where everything else goes?

Lol, no, he means he posted 8 posts out of the 10 11 10 posts posted today.

(Neobond said @ #2.3)
Where did I say that we limit news stories to 10 a day? :rolleyes:

Ohhh, I misunderstood what you said because you said you'd posted 8 for today's 10, not 8 of today's 10.

All I know is that ReadyBoost don't work correctly on my system, slows it down and causes it not to boot.

It is set correctly (boot sequence) must be some system error in readyboost.

Do you think that it could be related to the speed/quality of your USB memory stick or maybe you have too many USB devices on a single bus?

I have not tried ReadyBoost yet, but I am tempted to. I have a 2GB flash that I use for work, but I can temporarily backup the files so it can be used for this "ReadyBoost feature."

Has anyone had a good experience with ReadyBoost? As in, you installed it and said "wow, this really improved my performance!"

Readyboost was a great help to my system. I plugged in a one gig stick and programs would boot up noticeably faster. Then again I am on a laptop system and that might have something to do with it.

(Shadrack said @ #1.1)
Do you think that it could be related to the speed/quality of your USB memory stick or maybe you have too many USB devices on a single bus?

When you first try to set up ReadyBoost, Vista will test the device to ensure compatibility. If the device or bus were a problem, it wouldn't let you enable it. In fact, most bus problems will prevent the ReadyBoost option from even appearing, so you can't even get to the speed test for the device itself unless the device's connection is good. His problem is some other issue. Note that there are known bugs in the ReadyBoost which were fixed in SP1, so my first suggestion would be to make sure SP1 has been applied.

(Shadrack said @ #1.1)
I have not tried ReadyBoost yet, but I am tempted to. I have a 2GB flash that I use for work, but I can temporarily backup the files so it can be used for this "ReadyBoost feature."

When you go to enable it, it will allow you to specify how much you want to allocate. If you've got 512MB free, that's good for trying.

(Shadrack said @ #1.1)
Has anyone had a good experience with ReadyBoost? As in, you installed it and said "wow, this really improved my performance!"

The only people who experience "wow" are the people who only have 512MB of main system RAM (or anything less than 1GB, especially if their motherboard uses "integrated video" which "shares" RAM with the system). If you've got 1GB-2GB of main system RAM, then you will see a very modest improvement (typically less than 5% for most tasks, rarely ever more than 10%, but almost always more than 1% and never a negative impact). Generally the very best improvements are seen on notebooks with 1GB or less of main system RAM and a built-in SD card reader with a high-speed SD card. That's because the typical notebook has a single hard drive spinning at only 4200-5400RPM so the regular pagefile is going to be much, much slower than the ReadyBoost cache, and the combination of the built-in reader with high-speed SD card tends to be a bit faster than the majority of USB sticks which are otherwise compatible with ReadyBoost. I'm not sure exactly why, because those built-in slots are supposedly interfaced thru the same USB circuitry.

On a system with 2GB of main system RAM and properly sized pagefile on a 7200RPM hard drive, the difference in speed is too small to notice unless you're running more than 2-3 large-footprint apps at once, or if you're the type who loves to accumulate 20 little applets in your systray or otherwise hiding in the background. Example: editing three 6MB images in Photoshop at the same time as running Outlook 2007, Firefox, Windows Media Player, and Yahoo Messenger, while Google Desktop is quietly indexing and anything named Norton has been installed with default options. I never run my system like this, but many people do, so ReadyBoost can be a little helpful even at 2GB.

At 3-4GB of main system RAM with decently fast pagefile, ReadyBoost becomes essentially worthless.