Microsoft's new OS, Windows 7, may offer a better user interface and features that Vista and XP.

However, many users have also reported that it 'feels' faster during everyday operation, a fact backed up by informal speed tests. Maybe that's because the User Account Control is more restrained in Windows 7 than in Vista and doesn't pester them so often.

If you don't want to run the risk of installing the release candidate of Windows 7 but don't want to wait until the final version is made available on October 22, don't panic. We've identified some practical steps for Vista and XP that will give you many of the top features, performance enhancements, and interface improvements of Windows 7 without leaving your current operating system behind.

Faster booting

What it is: My two-year-old Acer Aspire laptop takes nearly two 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: 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.

NEXT PAGE: Make UAC less troublesome

  1. Make Vista and XP feel as fast as Windows 7
  2. Make UAC less troublesome
  3. Fewer system notifications