Informal speed tests show that Windows 7 boots faster than Vista, and many users have reported that it "feels" faster during everyday operation. (Maybe that's because the User Account Control is more restrained in Windows 7 than in Vista and doesn't pester them so often.) But you can take some practical steps to goose Vista so that it will acquire some of Windows 7's pep. Here's how.
What it is: My two-year-old Acer Aspire laptop takes nearly 2 minutes to boot Vista. Windows 7 is up and running in a sprightly 43 seconds on the same PC. Hey, Microsoft, you owe me 70-odd seconds of my life, multiplied by five days per week, carry the one--oh, heck, a check for ten grand ought to cover it.
How to get it: You have countless ways to make your Vista or XP system start faster. First of all, if you're still chugging along with just 1GB of RAM, it's high time that you upgraded to at least 2GB. That will accelerate both booting and general performance. Next up: Recent PC World favorite Startup Delayer, a free utility that postpones (in accordance with your specifications) initiation of various programs that normally run during your PC's startup. If you set unimportant apps to begin running 10 or 15 minutes after startup, Vista (or XP) will finish booting much faster.
If your system is a couple of years old, the best way by far to make it boot faster is to wipe the hard drive and reinstall your copy of Windows. Doing so is a radical and time-consuming procedure, but it will clear out every last bit of gunk and restore your system to speedy, factory-new condition. To learn how to do that, see "Reinstall and Restore Your Windows PC in Eight Easy Steps."
Less-Bothersome User Account Control
What it is: Despite all its arguably good intentions, UAC became the poster child for what's wrong with Vista. Either it bugs you continually or you turn it off and nullify its value as a safety net. In Windows 7, UAC tries to stay out of your way while still offering its Vista predecessor's security benefits. You can choose from four security levels, thereby dictating how often you'll receive notifications from Microsoft.
How to get it: Vista users are stuck with all or none of UAC 1.0, but you can always turn it off and opt for a third-party replacement. For example, Norton User Account Control replaces the stock UAC with one that learns from your responses and consequently bugs you less often with information you don't care about. This download also gives you a ‘Don't ask me again' option, and useful details about the nature of the security alert. Another alternative is UAC Snooze, a system tray utility that puts the UAC to sleep for a designated period of time--a helpful arrangement if you plan to do some system tweaking and don't want to be bothered every step of the way.