How Do I Best Optimize a Windows Vista PC

Discussion in 'other software & services' started by TheKid7, Jul 7, 2012.

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  1. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    Someone dropped off a PC for me to check to see why it is slow. I have very little experience with any PC's other than my own PC's. I have done the following:

    1. Turned Off Windows System Restore.
    2. Uninstalled the expired Antivirus.
    3. Installed and ran CrapCleaner and cleaned with the default settings.
    4. Deleted the Sun Java Cache.
    5. Ran Windows DiskCleanup.
    6. Defragmented the C: drive.

    So far I have found the obvious Malware related items:

    1. Antivirus Software subscription expired 5 months ago.
    2. He allows his teenage son to use the PC.
    3. Windows Properties does not even show any Service Packs installed. So I assume that he has never done Windows updates.
    4. A Scan with Emsisoft Emergency Kit showed 222 entries as infections. I Quarantined these infected items.
    5. Dr.Web Cureit Beta Express Scan showed 3 Adware items which were Quarantined.
    6. Avira Rescue CD showed one java Trojan.
    7. Dr.Web LiveCD is still scanning (Full Scan) and so far has detected 1 System file (Autochk.exe) as infected with a Trojan (Trojan.Click.50750). I plan to cure this item when the scan is finished.

    The PC is a Gateway Laptop with a Turion64 X2 CPU, Windows Vista 32 bit and 1.6 GB of RAM.

    Questions:

    1. What are the best methods of determining which startup items need to be removed? I am somewhat familiar with Microsoft AutoRuns.
    2. Should I use PC Decrapifier or would you recommend an alternative to PC Decrapifier?
    3. I think that the 2.0 GB of Memory may be a bit "lean" for Windows Vista. How much of a performance boost would I see if the memory was increased to 4 GB?
    4. There is an abnormally large amount of used disk space (~60 GB) on the C: partition. What is an easy was to determine which folders use the most disk space?
    5. Any other suggestions or recommendations?

    Thanks in Advance.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  2. RJK3

    RJK3 Registered Member

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    Best option might be to back things up and reinstall, if there aren't a lot of programs to reinstall and this is convenient for you. You could use the built-in Backup and Restore feature to facilitate this (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/Back-up-your-files).

    Generally optimising Vista is much the same as any version of Windows:
    1. Remove unnecessary autoruns.
    2. Set unwanted services to manual (or disable)
    3. Install a light antivirus
    4. Turn off Windows Defender
    5. Turn off Windows Search Indexing
    6. Troubleshoot driver issues

    Those are the broad steps.

    Removing Autoruns:

    To see if autoruns are needed or not, just do a search, or there are some handy databases you could look at:
    http://www.systemlookup.com/lists.php
    http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/startups/
    http://www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_search.php
    http://startups.cesam-antimalware.com/En/

    When using Sysinternals Autoruns, filtering out Microsoft entries is useful when looking at autostarts and services - you may find leftover drivers for previous security software. Also use the 'verify signatures' if you haven't already, you may find trojans yourself.

    Trimming Services
    One should use SERVICES.MSC to edit services rather than MSCONFIG; and it's safer to set a service to manual rather than disabled unless you truly want it never to run. The best guide to trimming Windows services has to be the BlackVipre site (http://www.blackviper.com/service-configurations/).


    Comments on your post (in no particular order):

    1. It won't hurt to run Appremover and run both options to see if there are any antivirus remnants left (www.appremover.com). Also make sure you run any vendor specific removal tool as well.

    2. Unless they need it, I'd uninstall Java completely.

    3. Decrapifier is fine - it's no different to looking through the Programs and Features part yourself and uninstalling. Alternatively you could use Revo Uninstaller to help uninstall things properly, and just use PCDecrapifier to make suggestions.

    4. 1.6gb memory sounds odd - what does it say in Task Manager > Performance tab (http://i.techrepublic.com.com/gallery/62818-443-464.jpg)

    If you write out how much Physical Memory (top left), and the Page File (MB) bit (e.g. 1549/8179). 2GB of physical memory is a good amount for Vista and leaves room for loads of background tasks, but with trimming services and rationalising autostarts Vista can run well on less. 4GB won't particularly make much difference - most people don't use over 2gb on an average day. It won't hurt, but it's not the main bottleneck.

    5. You can use any disk space analyser like WinDirStat or TreeSize to see which folders are hogging all the space (http://www.snapfiles.com/get/treesize.html). It could easily just be media files.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  3. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    I made a mistake. The PC's memory is 2.0 GB.
     
  4. RJK3

    RJK3 Registered Member

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    A terse response; so glad I spent all that time writing up that post from scratch for you! ;)

    2GB is fine for Vista. As I suggested, look at the 'page file' to see how the computer is using the memory (as everyone should do before considering putting in more memory).

    It would be surprising - but not impossible - if it was regularly using more than the physical memory. If it is, then it'll likely be because of autorunning bloatware.
     
  5. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    I would first uninstall any crapware/bloatware that is not needed. Since the computer belongs to someone else it's best to have them there with you when you do this, this way they can tell you what they need/use and what is just excess crap. Make a note of what you'll be uninstalling and after they are gone go to C:\Program Files, C:\Program Files (x86) (if the OS is 64bit) and C:\ProgramData and manually delete any leftover folders that may be there for the apps you removed (some uninstallers leave stuff behind).

    2GB is marginaly OK with Vista, for as long as you minimize the crap that autostart with every reboot. Of course 4gig would be much better. If I were you I would stop prefetch and superfetch for apps, keeping it on only for booting. This may save some RAM and also may reduce disk thrashing on startup. You can do this easily with TweakPrefetch:
    http://exilesofthardware.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/tweakprefetch.html

    CCleaner and PC decrapifier are both OK to use, just be careful not to remove stuff that the computer's owner may need (that's why it's best to do it with them present). Use CCleaner's Startup tool to see what is starting automatically, and if you are not sure about some entires look them up in Google. Obviously do this after you uninstall all the unwanted junk.

    I'd also run Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (here's the links for x86 and x64 versions, run whichever is appropriate):
    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=16
    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=9905

    Also download the free version of MalwareBytes AntiMalware, do a full scan and let it remove anything it finds. Leave it in the system so the computer owner can use it again in the future.
    http://www.malwarebytes.org/lp/malware_lp?gclid=CLGQq_W7iLECFUxlfAod2TbIPw

    Finally, I would also do a scan with some of kaspersky's free scanning utilities, out of those make sure you definitely run a scan with TDSSKiller:
    http://support.kaspersky.com/viruses/utility

    After cleanup is done I'd install a decent free firewall and antivirus. My personal choices are:

    Comodo free Firewall:
    http://www.comodo.com/

    (it features very good HIPS/anti-execution protection).

    Don't get the Internet Security, just the firewall will do. Make sure you untick GeekBuddy upon installation (if it is an option, haven't ran the installer lately), GeekBuddy is a paid helpdesk service so reject it unless of course the owner of the computer wants it. It may ask you again after rebooting if you want GeekBuddy, just tick the little box at the bottom left of that screen to disable it from being shown again. Don't be put off by this GeekBuddy thing, Comodo Firewall is superb and if you tick that box after rebooting it won't ask you again.
    Make sure you use the Comodo's Stealth Port Wizard to hide the computer's ports from malware scanners. If you need more help on configuring the thing reply, and I will supply screenshots of my configuration.

    I would also install the free Avast! antivirus (best free AV in my view, with the least amount of false positives).
    http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download

    KeyScrambler personal is also free, great for key encryption so keyloggers can't see what is being typed in the browser (works with both IE and Firefox).
    http://www.qfxsoftware.com/ks-windows/which-keyscrambler.htm

    Next step for me would be to install all Windows updates, plus update the drivers for the system's chipset, graphics and any other devices to their latest versions.

    Windows updates next, followed by light virtualization protection. Toolwiz Time Freeze is free, and should help the users of that computer to keep it clean for longer. Show them what it does, and how to use it though, it is dead easy but if the computer owners are noobies they won't have a clue what the heck is light virtualization and how it can benefit them:
    http://www.toolwiz.com/products/toolwiz-time-freeze/

    Finally I'd create a full backup of C:, preferably on an external USB disk that can then be stored safely away from the computer. Make sure the system is 100% malware-free before installing Time Freeze and making a backup.

    Also remember, the best maintenance you can ever perform on a Vista machine would be to get rid of the crappy Vista thing itself! Just make sure the owner has backed up their personal files on an external drive, then format the disk, and install Win7 instead. Just remember that it's best to have at least 4gig of RAM for 7. Getting rid of Vista is probably the biggest favour you could be doing to the owner of the computer.

    Hope this helps!
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  6. Hungry Man

    Hungry Man Registered Member

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    This will only increase disk thrashing and probably make things considerably slower.
     
  7. berryracer

    berryracer Suspended Member

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    With so many problems, the best option is to note down the model make and number, go to the manufacturer's website, download all the drivers and put them on an external HDD just to be safe

    Next, find a Windows VISTA DVD and install it using the Product key on the sticker below the notebook (I hope it's still there)

    Then install all the drivers starting with the Intel Chipset Drivers, then graphics drivers, then sound, then the others, make sure you restart after each one

    Then install the other apps

    Make sure to check the location of his documents, pics, vids, etc, if they are in C: I would back them up to an external HDD

    That way, you would give him back his notebook in an almost brand new condition
     
  8. TheKid7

    TheKid7 Registered Member

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    I am sorry about such a short response. I will not have much time to work on the PC today to try out your recommendations.

    I finished the scan with the Dr.Web LiveCD. Dr.Web only showed the Autochk.exe as Malware. I selected to "cure" Autochk.exe and after working at it for a while, Dr.Web said that it "deleted" the file. I read somewhere that the legitimate version of Autochk.exe is not a "critical" System file. I have not seen any errors generated after Dr.Web deleted the file.

    I went ahead and successfully installed Service Packs 1 & 2, which took a total of about two hours. I have not yet connected to the web for the "Post Service Pack 2" Windows Updates.

    Thanks again to everyone for your help.
     
  9. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    I understand what you're saying, however, it can help to reduce thrashing UPON STARTUP. When I used to run Vista on two laptops both with 2 gigs of RAM, disabling prefetch/superfetch for apps considerably reduced disk thrashing upon my system's startup and made the system to be usable faster upon every reboot.

    With prefetch/superfetch the disks would thrash for a good 3 to 4 minutes after the desktop appeared, and during that time the computer would not be usable of course. Once I disabled prefetch/superfetch for apps (left them on only for booting) this startup thrashing disappeared. This is a fact, it has happened to me. It also freed up some RAM. I don't care if the disk has to be accessed more frequently AFTER startup, I can live with that. With only 2GB of RAM this is to be expected anyway as the system will frequently write to swap. But the constant thrashing on EVERY startup was really irritating.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  10. RJK3

    RJK3 Registered Member

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    TBH I wouldn't spend a lot of time working out which Microsoft services to trim - sure you can get the memory usage down a little bit, but it's more something you would spend time doing on your own computer.

    Just look at the 3rd party services and autoruns and it'll save a lot of time.
     
  11. Hungry Man

    Hungry Man Registered Member

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    I wouldn't increase boot speed, which shouldn't happen often, and subsequently decrease overall system performance, which is what you experience when the machine is on.

    Instead of shutting down/ restarting I would suggest you just sleep the system unless you need to update it.
     
  12. Vista boot times, even for RTM, are not that much longer than for Windows 7 on an equally powerful machine; I think most of the difference is psychological, due to the duration of the progress bar and the placement of various delays.

    There are a couple concessions to optimization one could make on Vista:

    - You could disable Windows Defender, assuming you have a decent security setup. However, what constitutes a "decent security setup" is a point of contention these days.

    - You could disable the Windows Search service. This will make searching for stuff slower, and IIRC prevents searching for file contents entirely; but it might reduce the amount of disk grinding.

    BTW: if you're getting lots and lots of hard disk grinding for no apparent reason, your computer is performing badly, and have an antivirus installed, it may be the AV going berserk. I've seen that happen with Norton AV on both Vista and XP installations.
     
  13. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    Thank you for the input Jones, but I have been working in I.T. support for 18 years now, and since the days of 3.1 there have been very few Windows-related optimizations that I haven't known or used. I'm also a massive control freak with my own computers. In any case you couldn't have known any of that, so thank you for your input anyway, your observations and advice are both logical and correct and they may help someone else who is still lumbered with Vista.

    I haven't used Vista on my own systems eversince 7 RC came out, and those two Vista laptops have now been long gone (I go through a lot of hardware every year). BTW I had applied most major tweaks back then as I always do, including disabling many crappy MS services and not just indexing.

    My disk thrashing on startup was 100% down to the crappy implementation of the Vista prefetch/superfetch, the proof of this being the simple fact that as soon as I disabled those two the problem stopped on BOTH computers... It had nothing to do with AV. I am not saying that it would be the same with every hardware/software combination, but in my case it did happen on two different Vista machines; so it doesn't hurt if the OP tries it out...
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  14. Osaban

    Osaban Registered Member

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    You are doing a great job for this guy, and it is always time consuming. My laptop has 2 GB memory and running Vista Ultimate 32. It is as fast as my XP machines, unlike what some of the experts state Vista and Win7 are very similar and the only difference I've noticed is start up time which is about 10 seconds longer using Vista, apart from that my computer has the same speed running Vista or Win7.

    What I noticed years ago was a big difference in speed installing Service Pack 2 therefore this could be one of the reasons.
    If I were you I would also be careful with Emisoft, as it tends to have a lot of FPs.
     
  15. allizomeniz

    allizomeniz Registered Member

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    My experience with startup items is that very few are actually necessary. Almost every piece of software these days thinks it has to run at startup but 99% of them don't. You can open a program that's running in the system tray and see what it is. If you know it can be safely turned off, disable it from running at startup directly from the program itself. For the rest, CCleaner's a lot better than the Windows startup manager. It shows the path and you can usually see the name of the program. Just disable the ones you wanna kill. With the rest, you might have to research online to know if you should enable or disable it.

    I'm out of time right now but will check back in later if I have anything to add. :)
     
  16. Tsast42

    Tsast42 Registered Member

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    I've spent dozens of hours testing and tweaking Vista for optimum performance. I run a Toshiba Satellite A300-15D which was near top-end at one point due to its top of the range Core 2 Duo and twin 320GB hard drives; five years later it's considered pretty slow, even the processor is no better than average now that even Core i3 runs faster, whilst the DDR2 RAM, archaic ATi HD 3650 video card, and five-year-old 5400rpm hard disk make it all but obsolete. Nonetheless my Vista loads in 24 seconds and processes launch instantly. 7 loaded a tad faster but there was very little in it. Needless to say that wasn't the case before I started optimising. Take of the following what you will.

    The first thing I found was that unlike XP and its predecessors disabling Services generally has no noticable impact on performance, at least with 3GB RAM. There are a few exceptions to this: disabling the AMD/NVIDIA video card external event service shaves a couple of seconds off bootup, the search index service reduces load but there's a better way to turn it off, and disabling Workstation makes the internet connection load a good bit faster on launch. The caveat is that you'll need Workstation if you use a network. Personally I disable any services I don't use but in truth there's really no need.

    The best place to start tweaking Vista is rather in Task Scheduler under Administrative Tools. There you'll find a veritable treasure trove of disk thrashing, performance sapping, and generally useless tasks that Vista performs regularly as standard. Click on Show Hidden Tasks under the View menu and check up tasks on the internet to see whether you need them before either reducing their frequency or deactivating and deleting.

    With Superfetch and Disk Indexing it's swings and roundabouts, personally I'd leave the first as is and either turn off the second or reduce the folders indexed through Indexing Options under System and Maintenance in Control Panel. Note that even with indexing completely turned off you'll still be able to find programs instantly when using the search box in the Start Menu.

    Startup Programs should be checked by running Windows Defender and any unnecessary entries removed. Having done so you'll have to make the choice of whether to keep Windows Defender or not. I've turned it off on mine as I just don't find it necessary for securing my system but would generally recommend that it gets left on in XP and Vista concurrent with signing up for full Spynet membership to provide real-time monitoring of your system for changes. If you dislike the terms of full Spynet membership or you're running 7 just turn it off as you're then limited to the on-demand/scheduled scanning protection which is very poor as anti-malware goes.

    Lastly I'm going to broach a controversial and largely academic issue: Windows Updates. I have tested many times different collections of updates - performance and stability updates only for pre SP1, full SP1, SP2, and post SP2. I have consistently found - and had confirmed by others - that an updated Windows Vista is significantly slower and more laggy when running processes and launching applications than Vista RTM. By significantly what we're talking about is applications taking 3+ times longer to load on an updated system than RTM as well as periodic freezes for God knows what reason when running programs. The converse is that there are a couple of specific tests - mostly graphics related - where performance of post SP2 is marginally better; and heavily fragmented systems run a lot better under SP1/SP2 than on earlier iterations - ie Vista RTM is more dependant on regular defragmenting than Vista SP1/SP2. Finally the worst performance of all are on systems partially updated but short of SP1.

    Against this general performance degradation has to be balanced the fact that Vista RTM is officially obsolete, which means that it is less secure (although this can easily be more than compensated for with third party security) and in common with XP a growing number of programs are simply going to refuse to run as soon as they check the OS version and find that it is Vista pre SP2/XP pre SP3. As for stability I have found the assumption that Vista's improved stability is thanks to the OS Service Pack updates is simply wrong. The only system-wide crashes I have experienced in five odd years of Vista have been on updated systems, I have never experience a single one on RTM; whilst improved application stability is due to the work of the application developers in making software designed to run on Vista and 7. Most APPCRASH events were caused by the Desktop Windows Manager, Aero, or the dual-token system behind UAC - these are no less of a problem when running the same programs on later iterations of Windows but by this point compatibility with them was being kept in mind during development. For a couple of programs (such as the latest iterations of Securom) there are specific Hotfixes required for their stable running, these Windows Error Reporting will specify in the now rare event of the once dreaded Vista APPCRASH.
     
  17. OldMX

    OldMX Registered Member

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    Blah blah blah...i stopped reading there, 18 years on IT support and bashing Vista like a 10 year old girl, really? If you are as good as you state, you'll know Vista prefetch/superfetch stops a couple of minutes after it boots, yes, its a bit more aggressive than Win7 but nothing to troll about.

    Tsast42..i really liked your post :thumb:

    TheKid7..perform a clean install with a Sp2 ready disk, nothing much to do after that besides winupdates.
     
  18. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    I was simply replying to Jones who has given me basic advice, not knowing that I don't need it because I have stopped using Vista since 7 RC came out.

    The disk thrashing was a problem affecting my machines back then, and it frequently went for more than 2 minutes. I never liked my disk being hammered at every startup, so I disabled prefetch/superfetch and the problem disappeared. I wasn't aware I was trolling anyone. Try reading my previous posts on this thread before using cheap sarcasm and insults.
     
  19. FWIW, I've used Vista (RTM) a bit on some of my own computers. My experience is that disabling the indexing service and Windows Defender eliminates most idle disk activity; whereas disabling Superfetch just slows things down. I will admit that my experience is relatively limited though.

    (Also of note: every computer I have ever seen that had really serious disk grinding issues had some form of Norton AV installed. Take that as you will.)

    Re Windows updates (per Tsast42). Performance degradation following Windows updates is something I've seen a few times; I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed it, so thanks for bringing it up.

    My current hypothesis on updates and performance loss is that update installers dump lots of stuff in Windows temp folders, and never bother to clean it up. As indicated in this thread, having to enumerate a couple gigabytes of random stuff will slow down any program that uses the temp folders.

    So, if I were having performance and disk thrashing issues after updates, I would run CCleaner Portable or such and take a look at how big the various temporary folders had gotten. I would bet a few dozen updates would net you 500+ MB of stale data.
     
  20. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    Hi Jones

    I am sorry if I sounded big-headed with my previous post, this wasn't my intention and if you read any of my previous posts on other threads you'll see that I am always trying to have civilized discussions with people, even when our opinions vary drastically. This is why I take offence with OldMX's previous post, which I find unnecessarily sarcastic and insulting. I'm sure you'll agree that we don't want this place to become a trolling ground after all.

    Your input is valuable and it can certainly help others. Like you I have always disabled Windows Defender and indexing, plus some other redundant services and registry 'Run' entries.

    You're also correct about Norton, at least in the past it used to be bloatware, and heavy on resources. Many users say this is not the case anymore but I haven't tested any 360 or NIS versions for the last two years, since I have moved on to different solutions. Most companies I have worked for recently were using McAfee anyway (which I also find quite bloated and I wouldn't use on my own systems).
     
  21. You don't come off as arrogant; your experience just seems to be at odds with mine. Which I think there's plenty of room for given the complexity of modern OSes. :doubt:

    Not sure I'd call the indexing service "redundant" though. It does provide something potentially useful, IMO the question is whether the usefulness outweighs the performance impact.

    BTW, OldMX is wrong about Superfetch. It definitely continues to work long after you've booted; as an adaptive readahead service, it tries to cache commonly used stuff in RAM, to make more efficient use of available memory. Which actually always struck me as a kludge; but hey, so is almost everything on almost every OS.
     
  22. CyberMan969

    CyberMan969 Registered Member

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    By 'redundant' I meant stuff I don't personally need, things like Program Compatibility Assistant, Remote Desktop, Security Center, Windows Error Reporting Service, Windows Firewall and Defender, Windows Search, Remote Registry (naturally) etc. As you pointed out, indexing can still be useful to people - especially when they search for stuff all the time.
     
  23. DVD+R

    DVD+R Registered Member

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    [GLOW="Re: How Do I Best Optimize a Windows Vista PC"][/GLOW]

    Upgrade it to Windows 7 :p
     
  24. lurker20

    lurker20 Registered Member

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    My experience with Vista is that I never get the original performance unless I format and reinstall it.:)
     
  25. RJK3

    RJK3 Registered Member

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    The idea that Vista gets slower with updates would match my experience of it. Glad I'm not the only one who thought so.

    I had no preconceptions about Vista - but I grew to loathe it, and Windows 7 was noticeably faster on my own machine. Windows 7 was the first time I've actually liked an OS upgrade - in the past I've been slow to migrate.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
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