I split my work time about evenly between Windows XP and Vista. Let me tell you, I'll take Vista 99 days out of 100. Vista's safer than XP, it looks better than its predecessor, and it runs at least as fast as XP.
Performance has been a knock on Vista since the operating system was released, but there are some relatively simple ways to give Vista a little goose so it performs some common operations a tad faster. These five tips should shorten your workday:
Put an encrypt/decrypt option on your context menu
If you frequently encrypt files or folders to protect your privacy, you can access this function via the right-click menu by changing a Registry key. Editing the Registry is always risky, so back it up first by creating a restore point. To do so, press the Windows key, type systempropertiesprotection.exe, and press Enter. Click Create, give the restore point a name, and choose Create again.
With your Registry backup in place, press the Windows key, type regedit, and press enter. Navigate to and select this key:
Right-click in the right pane, choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, and name it EncryptionContextMenu. Double-click the new entry, give it a value of 1, and click OK. After you restart your system, you'll see an Encrypt/Decrypt option when you right-click a file or folder.
Disable DOS-era 8.3 file-name compatibility
Most hard drives on Vista systems are partitioned using NTFS rather than the older FAT32 format. But Vista still supports the old 8.3 file-name convention of DOS and early versions of Windows. This is handy if you still run DOS-era 16-bit programs, but most of us have no need to retain this backward-compatibility. You can speed up your file accesses a bit by disabling this feature.
To do so, open the Registry Editor as described in the previous tip and navigate to and select this key:
Double-click the key named NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation, change its value from 0 to 1, and click OK.
Do without last-access file updating
Whenever you open a file on an NTFS partition, it gets a date stamp that's separate from its "last modified on" date and time. If you can do without this information, you can disable it and open your files a skosh faster.
Start by opening the Registry Editor as described above. Navigate to and select this key:
Double-click NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate, change the DWORD value from 0 to 1, and click OK.
Access Vista's report on your start-up and shutdown speeds
Among the interesting performance-measuring tools in Vista is the Event Viewer's log of your system's start-up and shutdown performance. To view these reports, press the Windows key, type event, and press Enter. Navigate in the left pane to this entry:
Applications and Service Log\Microsoft\Windows\Diagnostics-Performance
Double-click Operational in the middle pane to view the most recent events. Look for entries numbered from 100 to 199 to indicate start-up items, and ones numbered from 200 to 299 for shutdown items. Click the Details tab below the event log and make sure Friendly View is selected.
You'll see the boot and shutdown times in milliseconds and other information about your start-ups and shutdowns. Compare the numbers for each system start and shutdown to determine whether your machine's slowing down. If it is, try paring your list of start-up applications using the tips in this post from last October. And use the tips in this post from March 2008 to put Windows to bed in a jiffy.
Let Vista tell you how it's doing
A little-known addition to Vista is the System Health Report Generator, which gives you an inside look at how well your PC is running. To access the tool, press the Windows key, type perform info, and press Enter. Click Advanced tools in the left pane and choose Generate a system health report.
About a minute later, you'll see the test results in various categories. For help deciphering the information and on using other components of the Performance and Reliability Monitor, check out this guide on Microsoft's TechNet site.