Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) may not give your system much more oomph, but there are other ways to speed Vista up. Spending a few minutes (or a few pounds) optimising your Vista PC or laptop can help it get its groove on.

Get flashy

If you have an extra USB flash drive that you don't use for much else, Vista can cache disk reads on it, thereby boosting performance beyond what you'd get from your hard disk alone. Simply insert your flash drive into a USB 2.0 slot. If the drive is fast enough, a prompt will appear, asking whether you want to open the folder for the drive or use it to 'Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost’.

Choose the latter option, and follow the remaining prompts. When you're calculating how much space to set aside for ReadyBoost to use, Microsoft recommends that you let ReadyBoost use one to three times the amount of RAM on your system.

Play your cards right

USB thumb drives aren't the only way to boost system performance - fortunately, since USB memory sticks protruding from a computer (particularly a laptop) are easy to dislodge, and they can be a pain to remove and stow for travelling. If your PC has a reader for Secure Digital (SD) or CompactFlash cards, you can use those media in place of a USB stick to handle your ReadyBoost needs.

Seize control

Speeding up Vista isn't enough; you need to prevent the OS from slowing you down. The annoying Vista pop-ups that ask you to Allow or Deny many actions are examples of Vista's User Account Control (UAC) at work. The process makes you safer, but your productivity may suffer if you must constantly respond to UAC's demands.

One solution is to turn UAC completely off. To do that, choose Start, Control Panel, click User Accounts and Family Safety, and select User Accounts. Or just click Start, type ‘User Accounts’, and choose that option from the search results. Next, click Turn User Account Control on or off, and then click Continue when prompted by (what else?) UAC itself. Uncheck the box, and click OK. Choose a restart option when prompted to do so. After you restart, you'll no longer be bothered by UAC prompts.

Bear in mind, this simple method puts your computer at much greater risk, especially if you routinely log on as an administrator.

See if your hardware is slowing you down

In Explorer, right-click Computer and choose Properties. Next to Rating, click Windows Experience Index. The item with the lowest score is the biggest drain on your getting a better Vista experience. For example, if the lowest score is attributed to Graphics, it may be time to invest in a new graphics card.

NEXT PAGE: The importance of extra power and disabling services you just don’t use when it comes to speeding up your Vista PC.