After nearly a year, I finally decided to figure out what I could do to make my Vista laptop a bit faster. The memory is maxed out at 2 Gigabytes and it has a dual-core AMD CPU. It had always been very very slow in completing trivial tasks, like opening a browser or the control panel. Copying and moving files took way too long, and I just never approached my problem with logic.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about my experience with Vista so far, and mentioned to him that I didn’t think it was a problem with Vista, but a hardware issue with my Gateway laptop. “It runs very hot,” I told him. “The hard drive activity never stops. I just don’t think the machine was designed well enough to support such a heavy OS.” I’d never seen Vista so slow on any other computer, so why the hell is it pokey on mine? And what in the dickens is going on with my hard drive?
Then it hit me. Constant hard drive activity is an indicator of (1) a virus or crapware, or (2) an indexing service. Google Desktop search was deployed with the computer when I bought it; part of Gateway’s image, along with all the other garbage like BigFix, AOL , and the Office 2007 90-day trial.
Having been a student of Vista before and during its release, I remembered something about Google and Microsoft having fits about desktop search. It seems that Vista includes its own indexing service to speed up searching, and Google was having a hissy over users not being able to choose a desktop search engine. The Windows Indexing Service is on by default, and I don’t think any manufacturers have changed that in their production images. And it just so happens that Gateway included Google Desktop in every computer they released with Vista, and therein lies my problem: two indexing services, constantly running on my poor little 5400 RPM notebook hard drive.
After some thought, I decided I’m a fairly organized fellow and don’t have the need very often to search for a document. Most of what I access anyway is on the network, and those locations aren’t indexed by default anyway. So away went Google Desktop. Though I love Google, I have no need for that program on my mobile station.
And for that matter, I canceled the Windows Indexing service. No need to pick sides, you know?
Then for a final pick-me-up, I had Vista optimize the graphics for performance, which took away all the eye-candy and effectively made my desktop look like Windows 2000. I’m fine with that.
Oh, and one more thing: I shut off the UAC. Those pain-in-the-ass messages one gets when he tries to install a program, “Windows needs your permission to continue,” are gone. I can now run a command window without specifying to run it as Administrator. I can change IP settings with fewer mouse clicks. A little bubble message when I log on warning me that User Account Control is turned off is the only annoyance I have now, and I’m sure that with a simple registry edit I can get rid of that too. Maybe I’ll post it later.
I must say this little bottom-end laptop is pretty damn speedy these days. NetBeans opens in under 60 seconds. Outlook opens in under 5, and boot times are at their lowest since I got it. This doesn’t change anything about the inevitable change to a Mac when I can afford one, but it certainly makes me more comfortable in delaying it.