Windows Vista Tutorial

Make Vista Faster

This Windows Vista tutorial and the next tutorials in this series will explain how to make Vista run faster and better. There are several aspects impacting Windows Vista's speed; unlike previous versions of Windows, Vista takes care of its maintenance behind the scenes, which makes you automatically benefit from a faster operating system. But Vista's automated maintenance cannot make miracles, and your computer's performance depends on several factors we'll outline in this tutorial. By understanding the reasons behind Windows Vista's performance, you will know how to fine tune your hardware and software to make Windows Vista run much faster - without even upgrading your hardware!


Boost memory performance (RAM)

Windows Vista needs at least 1Gb ("Gigabyte") or RAM to run fast; 2Gb or RAM is ideal, and will make Vista feel a lot faster and more responsive. Most versions of Windows Vista ("32-bit") will only detect up to 3Gb of RAM, so unless you are running a 64-bit version of Vista, you will not benefit from adding more than 3Gb of RAM to your system. To know how much memory (RAM) is currently installed on your PC, hold down the Windows logo key and press the Pause/Break key: this will open the System window which gives information about the hardware of your computer:

RAM installed on Windows Vista

Windows Vista displays next to Memory (RAM) the amount of memory currently installed (4Gb in the screenshot); notice that you can also tell under System type if you are running a 32-bit or a 64-bit version of Windows Vista. For Vista 32-bit, 4Gb of RAM will actually translate into about 3.3-3.5 gigabytes of RAM available to the system - the difference in available RAM between 3Gb and 4Gb is therefore marginal. This limitation aside, the more memory you have installed, the faster Vista runs.

Hard drive space

The second major factor in keeping Vista running fast is the amount of free space on your hard drive: to view the current capacity and free space of your disk, hold down the Windows Logo key on your keyboard, and hit E (as in Explorer). This will open "Computer" in Windows Explorer, where you see a listing of internal and external hard drives detected by Vista:

Hard drives in Windows Vista

Available free space on your hard drive Right-click on the main hard drive (generally called "C:"), and choose Properties: you will see in pink the amount of free space on your disk, and in blue the amount currently used.

Windows Vista will run faster if it has at least 10% of free space on your hard drive: the more free space, the better. The amount of disk space needed to make Windows Vista runs fast depends on the total capacity of your hard drive as well as the type of programs you use regularly. If you regularly do video editing, you will need more memory, more hard drive space (especially free space used for scratch disk by multimedia applications), and a faster processor - than someone who just uses their computer to check their email and surf the web.

Video card

Since Windows Vista will at times outsource tasks to the memory dedicated to video graphics card (which comes with some memory itself), a powerful graphic card will help the performance of Windows Vista, especially when you use the default "Aero" theme, which is graphically rich, and therefore uses more resources to run than the less fancy "Classic" theme. Unless you do heavy movie editing, heavy gaming, or graphic design at a professional level, any video card with at least 128Mb ("megabytes") of dedicated graphic memory will do just fine.

Processor speed

Your processor speed is also an important aspect of making Vista run faster, the most important of all, as long as you have enough RAM installed, and enough free disk space available to Windows. We saw above how to open the System window - this window also displays next to Processor the "clock speed" of your CPU: any speed above 2Ghz ("Gigahertz") will be plenty for Vista.

Processor clock speed in Windows Vista

Since the processor's clock speed determines how many things the operating system can handle per second, the higher your processor's clock speed, the faster Vista will run.

"Dual core" or "quad core" processors are often less important than the actual processor's speed, since most applications do not take advantage of the multiple cores in your processor. So, in many cases, a single core processor of a speed of 3Ghz will make Windows Vista feel a lot faster than Vista running a quad core (4 dies on the processing unit) with a speed of 2Ghz. 

And there are the main components that impact the speed of Windows Vista! Upgrading some of these hardware components will make Vista faster: the next tutorials will show you how to make Windows Vista run faster with what you have, by optimizing how Vista uses resources, how to limit the damages RAM-eating programs, how to keep your hard drive clean and snappy, etc.

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