Tweaking Vista to Run on a Laptop: Page 2

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Add a ReadyBoost Speed Shot

Microsoft’s hails ReadyBoost as an easy way to boost a Vista PC’s performance with a USB flash drive. Insert a flash drive into a USB port, and take up Vista’s automatic offer to “Speed Up My System Using Windows ReadyBoost.” When the flash drive’s Properties window opens to the ReadyBoost tab, choose “Use this device” and click OK. Vista automatically grabs up to 4 GB of your flash drive’s storage capacity.

Your flash drive’s memory can’t replace system memory, unfortunately. Instead, Vista uses it for virtual memory, caching frequently accessed bits of information to avoid making return trips to your much slower hard drive.

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Turning on ReadyBoost didn’t bump my Windows Experience Index past its lowly 1.0 rating. And I didn’t notice much of a boost until I began filling my desktop with open program windows. But sure enough, with ReadyBoost, Vista no longer strained when switching between windows.

Vista’s ReadyBoost snubs flash drives that lack a fast memory access speed, and you won’t see much boost on PCs already holding 2 GB of RAM or more. But since many older laptops lack more than 1 GB of RAM, ReadyBoost provides an easy way to run more programs simultaneously.

Be sure to dump your flash drive’s contents onto your laptop first; an empty flash drive gives Vista the most space to juggle windows.

Fatten up Vista's cursor

Being only one pixel wide, Vista's blinking cursor quickly sinks into a sea of text on a laptop's screen. To fatten up the cursor, open the Control Panel, choose Ease of Access, and click Optimize Visual Display. Near the window's bottom, change Set the Thickness of the Blinking Cursor to 2, doubling its size. (The preview lets you see your change immediately.) Click OK to save the cursor’s new size, or, depending on your eyesight, bump it up a few more notches.

These few tweaks dramatically increase Vista’s performance, improve your laptop’s battery life, and let you postpone buying that new laptop for another year or so. By then, the new breed of laptops will be able to take advantages of Vista’s new laptop-oriented features. They’ll fully support Vista’s Mobility Center, for example, as well as offer a small Sideshow display on the closed lid for quick e-mail checks. Their new hybrid hard drives with built-in RAM will increase performance and battery life.

Finally, Vista’s Service Pack will have arrived, smoothing out the rough edges that have alienated so many of today’s PC and laptop owners. It’s worth the wait.

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