August 8, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Putting Vista in the fast lane

Related Stories

A window into Vista

July 27, 2005

Testers lock horns with Vista beta

July 27, 2005

Longhorn's new name: Windows Vista

July 22, 2005

MS to license Intel software

September 30, 1997
Microsoft hopes to tackle an age-old problem with the next version of Windows: How to keep PCs running like new.

With Vista, the new client version of Windows due next year, Microsoft is addressing what's become a sad truth for most people: PCs run more slowly over time.

Vista will automatically de-fragment hard disks, make better use of memory to more quickly load programs, and include a new performance control panel that will identify performance bottlenecks, according to the company.

News.context

What's new:
The forthcoming Windows Vista will be primed to keep PCs from slowing down over time, Microsoft says.

Bottom line:
With existing versions of Windows, many PCs run into performance hazards such as fragmented hard disks and slow-loading programs. Microsoft plans to offer ways around those roadblocks.

More stories on Windows Vista

The goal is to keep PCs running like new long after they're purchased. "Certainly a year after a user gets a Vista system, if they do the sort of standard things we encourage users to do (install Windows updates, etc.), it should run the same as when they initially got it, said Gabriel Aul, a group program manager in Microsoft's Windows division.

If your PC is like most, it was at its optimal performance the day you turned it on and has slowed down ever since. It's not your imagination, either, nor is it the phenomenon that occurs on crowded freeways in which it seems everyone else is going faster.

"The difference is dramatic, especially among people who have no idea what the gunk hazards are," said technology author Jeff Duntemann, who is the co-author of a book on the subject, "Degunking Windows."

Microsoft says there are several culprits for slow-running PCs. Programs and files that were once neatly arranged on a hard drive eventually get spliced up all over the place, increasing the time it takes to find and load information. In addition, each program that loads itself into the system tray adds its own speed penalty. Microsoft even has an article on its Web site outlining the problem.

A Vista-based PC might even be faster a few weeks after it's installed, thanks to one new feature called SuperFetch. SuperFetch basically studies the programs that an individual user frequently runs and loads them into memory automatically.

Windows cleaning
While you're waiting for Vista to arrive, consider these good-housekeeping tips from Jeff Duntemann, co-author of "Degunking Windows."

• Defragment your hard drive regularly. A badly fragmented hard drive will reduce your PC's response time radically. Windows Vista will make this automatic and out of sight.

• Clean the Windows registry regularly and guard against Registry gunk. Run utilities such as Registry First Aid. Don't use Outlook Express, which stores its spam-filtering terms in the registry.

• Create a limited user account and use it as much as possible. Don't run as "administrator" all the time, especially when you're bringing in files from outside your PC--for example, when surfing the Web, retrieving e-mail, or using a file-sharing network. If you're running with "user" privileges only, most malicious software can't install itself.

• Be very careful what you install. Many "free" utilities come with spyware, which can be extremely difficult to remove. Do a Web search on the product name and "spyware." If you get any spyware reports at all, resist.

• Keep antivirus and antispyware utilities up to date. Malicious software often places keys in the Registry, launches unnecessary Windows services and does lots of other things that reduce the effectiveness of your PC--or keeps it from working entirely.

For example, if a user works with Outlook and PowerPoint every day, Windows Vista will try to load those applications at start-up, provided there is enough memory. However, if another user frequents Excel and Adobe Photoshop on their machine, then Windows will load those programs.

"That out-of-the-box experience really extends," Aul said. "You'll see the applications that you use just...feeling fast."

Suse Linux kernel developer Andrea Arcangeli said he was skeptical about how much of a performance boost SuperFetch would provide.

"It might help on a 128MB system that flushes the cache away very fast, but on a 1GB system I doubt it can make a significant difference, and at first glance, it doesn't seem to be worth the complexity it would introduce," the Imola, Italy-based developer said in an e-mail interview.

Arcangeli said it was important to note that, in many cases, preloading new memory means flushing away an existing cache. "So it's not like it's a "risk-free" operation," he said. "It may be a good trade-off but it can actually slowdown the system instead of making it faster."

The general idea of loading things into memory before they are needed is not new. Windows XP already does this with some generic system resources that it believes most users are likely to need. Linux loads additional pages when one page is requested.

What is new is the personalization aspect. And Aul said Microsoft doesn't plan for Vista to be rigid either. If a person usually runs SAP and Oracle on a work laptop, but goes on vacation for two weeks, Windows Vista will quickly notice the changes and start loading the games and DVD player into memory instead.

The start-up tray is another culprit for slow machines. Microsoft did a study of 5,000 users and found that they had, on average, 29 different programs that loaded themselves at startup. "They just sort of accumulate," Aul said. "Many users had significantly more."

CONTINUED:
Page 1 | 2

7 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Vista Cruiser: Start Me Up
"It might help on a 128MB system that flushes the cache away very
fast, but on a 1GB system I doubt it can make a significant
difference..." Will Vista Cruiser even run on 128MB of RAM? I doubt
it. Not according to the early benchmarks and sys. requirements I
saw.

Besides, the average user system will be clogged with adware and
spyware within days of installation. It's a feature!
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who are "Average Users"?
For people who are dumb enough to "invite" adware and spyware to their computers, they should buy a Mac because dumb people should use dumb OS :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.