Shift Any Version of Windows Into High Gear

In previous versions of Windows, tweaking settings to get the fastest system possible used to require bouncing from one arcane dialog box to the next. Though Vista makes most system information easier to find, many of the tools that will put your PC into overdrive remain buried. Here's a guide to Windows' built-in performance tools.

Vista's Performance Information and Tools applet provides (mostly) one-stop shopping for all your vital system settings.
Vista's Performance Information and Tools applet provides (mostly) one-stop shopping for all your vital system settings.
A new Control Panel applet in Vista collects your favorite (and not so favorite) tools for analyzing and revving up your system: Click Start, Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Performance Information and Tools, and click the links on the left to access the tools you need (see the image at right). Be sure not to neglect the various options that lurk behind the 'Advanced tools' link.

Note: Few of these tools are new to Vista--XP users can access most of them by following the steps listed in the chart below.

Vista's Performance and Information Tools Options Windows XP/2000 equivalent1
Manage startup programs Download and use Startup Control Panel
Adjust visual effects (XP only) Click Control Panel, System, Advanced, Performance Settings, Visual Effects
Adjust indexing options Download and use Copernic Desktop Search
Adjust power settings Click Control Panel, Power Options
Open Disk Cleanup Right-click the disk's icon in Explorer and choose Properties, General, Disk cleanup; or choose Start, Run and type cleanmgr.exe
Advanced settings
Event Log Click Start, Run and type eventvwr.msc
Reliability and Performance Monitor Click Start, Run and type perfmon.msc
Task manager Right-click the taskbar and choose Task Manager; or press Ctrl-Shift-Esc
System Information Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Information
Performance Options Open Control Panel and choose System, Advanced, Performance Settings
Disk Defragmenter Right-click the disk's icon in Explorer and select Properties, Tools, Defragment Now
1Windows XP and 2000 have no equivalents for Vista's System Health Report or Ready Boost.

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