Yes, we know Vista has problems but lets get this lazy hog up and running like the wind. Whaaat, don’t think that’s possible? Well, think again. I’m listing what I do for my Vista Installations. Some of these suggestions will change the security and functionality of Vista, so if your main interest is security, you may want to skip a suggestion. Before attempting any of these changes be sure to log in as “Administrator”.

To confirm the safety of these suggestions, I performed all these changes on my Gateway laptop with a brand new “from the factory install”. If you want this latest operating system to work like you know it should, then lets get started. I think you’ll be amazed at the results.

1. Turn off User Account Controls: Start/Control Panel/User Accounts /Turn User Accounts On or Off /Uncheck the box/OK/.Without a doubt the most irritating feature of Windows Vista is User Account Controls. It’s like having your mom ask if you’ve washed your hands every five minutes. The worst part about it is that it’s completely misunderstood. Is it going to stop you from downloading malware? No! Its main purpose is to protect you from your self. The simple fact is, if you give permission to a program or location to install contaminated data to your machine, then that’s what you’re going to get. UAC is not going to stop it. Your chance to decline malware is made here. file-download-security-warning.JPG

This screen is the moment of truth, and you’ll see it whether you have UAC enabled or not. The net is jammed with aficionados arguing whether the UAC function should or should not be disabled. It’s not pretty and it slows things down so I disable it on my machines, what you do is up to you.

2. Remove Windows Sidebar: Right click any open area of the sidebar/Properties/Uncheck “Start Sidebar when Windows starts.”/OK. Like a lot of features in Vista, the sidebar looks nice but uses a large amount of your system memory. Even the default setting can use as much as 20MB. If the sidebar isn’t visible, locate the icon in the System Tray near the Time Display. You may need to click “Show Hidden Icons”. If you only want to close the sidebar, just right click any unused area of the sidebar and select Exit.

If you have one of the new systems or laptops with increased memory (3GB or more) then there are some nifty gadgets available for this feature. One of the coolest is Multi Meter. If your new system has a dual core CPU, it will actually show the usage of each core. It also shows memory usage. It’s possible you may try the widget and then decide to get rid of the whole sidebar after seeing how much memory you’re using. Because my Vista portable uses 27% just sitting idle and I have only 2GB of memory installed, I remove the whole thing. The increased system response was immediate.

3. Turn Off System Restore: Start/Control Panel/System Maintenance (and, or) Backup and Restore Center/Create a restore point or change settings/Continue (if UAC is active)/System Protection/Uncheck the hard drives under “Automatic Restore Points”/Turn System Restore Off/OK. In addition to wasting a huge (up to 15% of your hard drive) amount of hard drive space, this feature can be responsible for increased CPU usage and unidentified slowdowns. PC Pitstop has, for a long time, suggested monitoring the amount of disk space used for this feature. I’ve seen vista laptops with as many as 25 restore points but for me it seemed like every time I wanted to use it, the restore points had magically changed or been removed so I finally went to a separate backup program for saving my information and cloning my disks. The result was a simple, fast, and safe system. If you decide to turn this option off be sure to back up your data. I suggest Acronis, True Image Home.

4. Turn Off Aero: Start/Control Panel/Appearance and/or Personalization/Theme/select Windows Classic/OK. This feature is pretty but doesn’t add protection or help the functioning of the system. Especially if you have an older system or laptop, turn it off. If you would like to also stop the complete service, go to: Start/All Programs/Accessories/Run/type services.msc/Themes/Disable/Stop/Apply/OK

5. Adjust For System Performance: Start/Control Panel/System/Advanced system settings/Advanced tab/Under Performance select button/Select Visual Effects Tab/Adjust for best performance/OK. This is one I never forget. Not only can you feel the difference you can measure it with just about all benchmarks or performance tests out there. Should even make a difference on your PC Pitstop OverDrive score.

6. Remove Remote Desktop: Start/Control Panel/System Maintenance and or System/Remote settings/Continue (not available if UAC is disabled)/Uncheck “Allow Remote Assistance..”/Check “Don’t allow connections…”/OK. This option wont be available with Vista Home or Vista Home Premium. I’m probably just paranoid but I’ve never been comfortable with having this service active, even with XP Pro. It’s easily activated so I just turn it on when I need it and off when I don’t.

7. System Tray and Services: Right click unwanted tray icons/Close/. Now go to: Start/All Programs/Accessories/Run/type “services.msc” without the quotes/You can now double click each un-needed service/click Manual/Stop. This will allow you to start and stop the services as needed.

A couple of years back, when I was overclocking, I would disable many services within the services.msc area of XP. Today, I don’t need every available ounce of power in my systems so I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to this area. Mostly I want only to open and close programs when I need them, not have them running needlessly all the time.

The more items there are in the system tray the longer it takes the system to boot. Un-needed running processes do nothing but waste resources and slow your system. One that always irritates me is Nvidia’s Driver Helper. It loads in the tray every time I update my display driver. It’s strictly a resource hog. I stop it and disable it in services.msc.

The only items I have in my System tray are: Clock, Volume, Power, and Wireless connection. For me, there is nothing else that needs to be preloaded. Most programs give you the choice of loading the program with windows or not. I choose not. There’s no reason to have, for example, QuickBooks loaded and running everyday when I only use it once a month. Once a service is set to manual and turned off, all I do to access the program is click it in the programs list and it’s up and running. When I’m done I can close it.

If you decide to change the settings on some of the default services, be careful that you read what the service actually does. What they are called doesn’t always describe what they do.

Specialty Tweaks

8. WARNING Increase SATA Drive Performance: Start/Control Panel/Device Manager/Disk Drives/Right Click the drive/Policies/Enable Write Caching/Enable Advanced Performance. This option will not be available with all drives. If it is available on your system be aware that if your system loses power or is turned off unexpectedly you will lose all data that is cached into system memory. Let me repeat. Warning, data loss is possible with this tweak. Because I use all of my systems for work I don’t use this tweak. Some of the more adventurous tweakers, especially overclockers, may want to give it a try but although I know it works, I can’t risk data loss.

9. WARNING Speed Up Flip 3D: Start/All Programs/Accessories/Run/type “regedit”without the quotes/HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/and DWM/Create a new DWORD named Max3DWindows/set the value between 4 and 9. A value of 9 will require the most video power and 4 the least. I use 4 on my system. Let me emphasize that this is a registry change and is not suggested for the novice user. If you are a portable user with limited video processing power, this will reduce the number of 3D windows your system must render at one time. I view it as a valuable tweak.

10. Manage Hard Drive Size: Start/Right Click Computer/Manage/Disk Management/Right Click the drive you want to size/Click Shrink or Extend/Enter the amount of space to shrink/extend. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to drive partitions. Many people like to keep a slim and trim partition for their operating system and use a separate partition for storage. This can be especially helpful for tunes, movies, and pictures. One of the best deals going in Vista is the Drive Management section. Much better than all the time and money I spent for software to partition XP. Not only does it work but it works from within Windows with no jumping through hoops. Excellent feature.

There you have it. One other thing I might mention is that if you have a brand new system, you may want to do what I did and uninstall the absolutely crushing number of trial ware, craplets, and junk that comes preinstalled. Be sure to do this through the Add/Remove programs section. I know it’s time consuming, but there’s no reason to haul around this bag of disruptive junk. There is also a very helpful program that will work with Vista or XP called “CodeStuff Starter”. It’s a free download that you can try it if you like, here. It found an additional 5 items that I choose to delete from my vista machine that were starting with Vista. If you try this program, you will want to be sure you know what you are removing, as it alters your registry settings. This is not something I recommend, but it is something I use. My Vista laptop now boots 10 seconds faster than my XP machine.

Happy computing ports fans.



UAC Paul T

PC World



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34 thoughts on “TweakVista”

  1. Hello All,
    I am not able to run my Windows DVD maker in my Vista Home Premium. My disk always fail at either 99% or 98.7%. Any suggestions?
    I have had tried it the slowest speed, all applications closed etc, etc…

  2. Hello Robert Odell.

    Sorry for the problems you are having. I don’t believe using the Classic Desktop would cause the issues you are describing. Sounds more like a video or explorer.exe problem. I’ve sent you an email and hope we can get you back up and running.

  3. Shogan, presumed author, Tweak Vista: Item #4 Turn Off Aero. However laudable that may be you’ve landed me in a such a mess it’s difficult to find words. I can only hope you’ll have the consideration of emailing exactly how to resolve it because I cannot function the way my Vista Ultimate, IE7 is now configured.

    No idea what happened — chief impediment to retracing/correcting — at Personalization/Theme. Put first screen was Solid Colors. I’m quite happy with Windows img 19 as shown subsequently. But I must have done something inadvertently because my ENTIRE SCREEN, border-to-border, up-and-done is solid light (gray?) color.
    NO WAY CAN I ESCAPE IT. Required Task Manager to be able to display anything, and that is only on top of the all-gray screen. I have nothing. No taskbar, including no START, and when I manage to get it, I still have no desktop startup: none of the three rows of icons, nothing. Restart does not bring any relief.
    Have tried all sorts of manipulations of PERSONSALIZATION items in unsuccessful effort to restore normal.
    Noted half-dozen of your improvements but no system enhansement is worth this mess.

    I will appreciate hearing from you ASAP. Thank. you. RO

  4. Nicely put together, very helpful and useful, bookmarked and forwarded to some of my friends. I run dual boot and preferred XP, maybe this will make my Vista experience much better.

  5. The Max3DWindows DWORD will not work for me. I’ve been on forum after forum and no one can seem to give me a straight answer why this tweak will not take affect. Please Help!!!!
    My regedit reads as:


    Max3DWindows REG_DWORD 0X00000004(4)

    I have used the net stop and net start cmd’s as well as restarting my machine. The tweak will still not take affect. Any help that anyone can give is absolutely appreciated.

  6. I don’t know if it was implementing these tweaks or not but I have lost all of the programs pinned to my start menu. I have tried undoing the tweaks and even reset the start menu options to default – but no luck, just a big white space. Can anyone advise ?

  7. Need help !!! every time I attempt to logon to the internet with my Vista home premium OS, it states my connection is down. Have to go to a internet connection website and type in my modem # to get access. DSL line is fine and had it checked. how to fix this problem ???

  8. Ok vista fanboi’s, it basically comes down to this. If you are an advanced computer user these suggestions are good. The UAC is stupid, it doesnt help an advanced PC user in the least, It is great for people who dont have a clue what the are doing though.

    I service vista machines everyday with very bad malware infections and UAC isnt helping those poeple is it? In the end if you use your PC irresponisbly your gonna get hit UAC or not. Too me its just an annoyance I can do without.

    For my clients I usually leave it on and explain its function to them.

    As for the System restore. I actually like it. but whose bright idea was it at M$ to remove the ability to Choose how much space it takes in vista? its disgusting.

    For me the whole thing come’s down to this. Vista uses a hell of a lot more memory than XP. and whats the trade off? I havent found it yet at least. there is nothing important vista does that XP doesnt already.

  9. what in irresponsible article. not only do you tell them to disable uac, but you also tell them to disable system restore. basically, you’re hoping everyone gets a serious virus or malware that they can only recover from if they have a backup or through a reinstall.

  10. “Did just two things on the list – Turn off account controls and Manage hard drive size. My PC behaves as if the ‘after-burner’ has just kicked in. Ace!”
    What is this rubbish?
    Do you guys just make up this drivel?
    Turn off UAC?….turn off system restore?
    What kind of advice is that to be giving to the obviously VERY inexperienced users asking for help?
    Lets see you post that kind of advice in any decent tech forum…you’d get laughed out of the place.

  11. I’ve often thought about ridding myself of the Restore function/files, especially when I see my backup, defragger etc “forever’ grind through some kind of Restore files. I turned off the Restore function on my Vista Ultimate as instructed. However you didn’t say what to do with the already accumulated files? I assume one just deletes them. If so and since I have ‘enough knowledge to be dangerous’ what is the address of the Restore files… C;System Rollback Data Restoreetc etc ??? Thanks!

  12. My mother has a dell laptop came with Vista (used but new to her) and by mistake clicked restore to factory settings and lost her pictures and word files. I’ve searched and cannot find them-looks like a completely clean slate. Can you help locate them?

  13. Edward – I know your pain; took me nearly 5 months to get my USB printer working with Vista,& other USB devices are often not detected by the OS even though are listed as ‘plug & play’; but you can get USB stuff working with Vista as long as you update the drivers – the saddest thing I have found with Vista is that all the hardware that worked easy with XP needs a lot of work to use with Vista, even if brand new kit with up-to-date software & drivers – I’ve still not fixed the problems with my cordless mouse/keyboard and webcam after several months, whereas XP welcomed them immediately

  14. Thank you!! I was having problems with a program that Vista would not allow. After following 3 of your suggestions, Voila!!! It RUNS!!!! I am forever grateful!!

  15. Edward, I have the same problems. Vista list 6 USB ports with drivers and I don’t understand what any of them are. When I hooked up two of my device’s, Vista doesn’t see them, so it won’t setup the right drivers.
    I would like to dump Vista and go back to XP, but was advised by HP it would void my warranty.

  16. Hey everyone thanks for all of the comments.

    A quick repsonse for Tony Dicus and Edward, you might try posting in the User to User forum here.

    To register just choose a user name and password of your choice. Nothing to it. In addition to the normal “Operating System Use” type questions they can also assist with Spyware and Adware problems. It’s all free and provided by users just like you.

  17. Tony,

    When you did the tweak that changed the visuals to performance-based (as opposed to visually appealing) you shut down the option that previewed thumbnails. Go to control panel, system, advanced system settings, Performance settings, and check “Show Thumbnails instead of Icons.” Alternatively, use the slider under the view tab to move it up to a thumbnail view.

  18. Laurence Penman

    The only trouble that I have with Vista and memory sticks comes about if I leave a 4Gb in the usb socket when I start up. The memory stick interferes with the start up process and gets flagged as an inappropriate disk. I simply remove it and boot up again.

  19. Dr. Judith Hirsch-Fikejs, for tweak #5, try using the classic view, and you’ll find everything that Steve refers to.

    Steve, I’m on Home Premium, and for removing the remote desktop, I disabled it in Services.

    Also, for turning off the UAC, is there any way to get rid of the warning icon in my systray without hiding _all_ icons?

    Thanks for the tips, Steve! I had already implemented some of them and am now checking out some of the others.

  20. Great advice, I feel the difference already. However, now when I go into my picture folder I can’t see any of them previewed so I can select. Is there a quick fix for this?

  21. Did just two things on the list – Turn off account controls and Manage hard drive size. My PC behaves as if the ‘after-burner’ has just kicked in. Ace!
    Regards Ted Hirst

  22. Does anybody have a fix for the USB issues with Vista. Running Vista (so called) “Ultimate” on a new Dell Precision M4300. Can’t connect usb memory sticks or a lot of other usb devices. Vista doesn’t see them or never finds suitable drivers. I wish that I could roll back to XP – they all work there. Thanks. Edward.

  23. I am appalled at the suggestions here. Like removing Windows Sidebar and User Account control, two of Vista’s best and unique features. Memory is ALWAYS going to be used so quit complaining about it. Memory is cheap and you can get 4 GB of HIGH QUALITY DDR-2 677 or 800 memory for under 100 bucks. This is ridiculous because those and other features are what makes Vista so great, secure and set apart from the OUTDATED and slower XP. YOU will always use more memory for speed, graphics and extra features no matter what. YOu cannot get around that but this is not a big issue since memory is so abundant and cheap! I run PC Pitstop Optimize 2.0 and the PC Pitstop defrag utility with NO problems EVER. NO CRASHES. NO SLOWDOWNS and it is ALWAYS been faster, more graphical, more secure and more unique than XP.

  24. dave sauberman

    your info is difficult for a non-proficient user–more graphics would help

    when I had XP– i used your service and found it very useful for cleanup, ideas that made th ‘puter (HP pavillion)work better and faster

  25. if you have a daul or quad core with 3gb ram, only the first applies. please stop “putting vista down”. if you have a unit that is weak or 12 months old, or lower, ok. do not get vista. i am sure i will get changed on this…so what. its my money to spend NOT yours.
    Bill reading, pa.

  26. Hi

    If you cant find some of the icons you may find them by changing control panel to classic view. I did that and there they were!


  27. Can I also use these tweaks on my XP version? Seems they can help there as well where there is overlap.

  28. Hello Dr. Judith Hirsch-Fikejs.

    As an alternative you might try Start/Computer/System Properties/and under tasks “system Protection.

    This should take you where you are able to change the size or turn it off completely.

  29. Hello Dr. Judith Hirsch-Fikejs.

    There can be some differences due to the Version of Vista. For example Vista Ultimate vs. Vista Home.

    Can you give me an example of one you were unable to find?

  30. Thanks for the info although I couldn’t find some of the sections mentioned above. I always thought I had become fairly proficient with Vista, but my Control Panel icons weren’t labeled as mentioned and I didn’t manage to find anything that was the same under another label. I did everything I could and so far it has been good for the performance. Then I used Optimizer 2.0 and it did even better. Just wondering why my Control Panel icons were labeled differently. Otherwise, no problem.

  31. How interesting! I have just bought a cheap laptop and find Vista horrifying and unfriendly – I can’t see the insides of my system laid out in front of me like I used to think I could with XP. Some of your tweaks have already improved matters immensely, and now I’m going to investigate creating a data drive on C: without causing chaos. Thank you so much.

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