Slimming Down Microsoft Vista

Contributed By

Tune up and turn down this bloated OS

Holy crap, Vista, Micrsoft's newest operating system, is a resource pig. It's a bloated install, it uses a ton of RAM, loads of disk I/O, loads of resources constantly monitoring your every move and loads of video resources to power the fancy-schmacy transparency of it's windows, the fade in/out when starting and shutting down programs and more.

This is all well and good for the casual users, but for us power users, the rare breed that prefers to have those resources available for working on your music and/or video projects, none of that matters. So, when I purchased my first Vista powered computer, a new laptop, I immediately took to poking around to find ways to lighten it's footprint.


To get to the core visual properties of the operating system, right click anywhere on the desktop and select "personalize". This brings you to what amounts to a control panel for your OS's appearance.

  • Window Color and Appearance - This simply changes the window "chrome", and some more advanced functions of font styles and sizes of text within the window components such as titlebars, status bars and so on, as well as window properties, shadowing, dragging appearance and so on.

  • Desktop Background - This isn't rocket science...just your wallpaper. No real tangible effect on performance.

  • Screen Saver - Again, not rocket science, you all know what this is. No real tangible effect on performance.

  • Sounds - Assign sounds to different actions from mouse clicks to clearing your recycle bin.

  • Mouse Pointers - Changing default cursors. No real tangible effect on performance.

  • Theme - Opening the theme control panel and reverting back to the "classic" theme will make quick work of getting rid of all the intensive video processing.

  • Display Settings - Setting monitor resolution, color depth, refresh rate and so on. The advanced settings vary by video driver. These settings can impact performance and the more color depth and higher resolution, the more processing power it takes to do it.

File System

I am sure it is not a surprise to find out that there are a lot of unnecessary crap in the OS on your drive that can save literally gigs of space.

  • %SystemDrive%\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository - A massive repository of Windows built in drivers. These can be removed, as any device you buy should have it's own. On my system this folder was well over 1GB.

  • %SystemDrive%\Windows\Downloaded Installations and %SystemDrive%\ProgramData - Programs that extract setup files, then execute the setup often leave files behind in one of these folders after installation. After installing only a half-dozen freeware application on a brand new PC, this folder used over 100 MB for nothing.

System Crap

hiberfil.sys is an interesting piece of work. it's a file that is created when your system goes into hiberation. The file can get quite large and lives in the root of the system drive.

Power management and hibernation are bad ideas, I prefer to disable all that crap. Start > System and Maintenance > Power Options will take you to a brave new world of power management. You can, in various locations within that section, disable shutting off monitors, hard drives, hiberation and all sorts of other power sucking/power saving types of features.

Reinstalling Vista

All the buzz lately has been around vLite. This is a tool that can be used prior to installation of Vista to slim down the OS, selecting what features to install and not install. It would be worth a check if you are comfortable enough to install Vista yourself.


This is simply a brief look at a high level of ways to tune up and turn down Vista's footprint on your computer. Free up some disk space, some RAM and some video processing power. In the future I will get in to a little bit more detail.

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User-submitted comments

Mar 01, 2008 01:03 pm
Another option...
Is to not use it at all.

Developers will write for XP for quite a while to come(not much Vista only) due to the fact that Vista was received so poorly.

Another option is another OS entirely. Mac has tons of A/V applications, and while linux doesn't, it has quite a few(reaper works through Wine, Audacity, etc..)


Jul 28, 2008 01:49 am
Service pack 1 is now available and fix's a few of these problems.

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