From Aero to Remote Assistance, we've rounded up the 12 most unnecessary features that simply bloat Windows Vista and can be turned off immediately.

One of the biggest criticisms of Windows Vista is the fact that it zaps a PC's performance. However, we've identified 12 features that can be turned off immediately to reduce bloat. Some are shiny baubles that slow down graphics performance, while others are optional utilities that hog memory when they shouldn't. A few can actually be quite useful, although they play a major role in bogging down your PC.

Should you really turn off all of the following features right this minute? That depends on your computer, your work habits and your tastes. (I've turned off only seven-and-a-half on my PC, because while none of these features is required for Vista to function, some are still kind of nice and my computer is fast enough to handle them.)

Just to be on the safe side, make sure to create a restore point before you turn off any of these items. That way you can quickly return your machine to its present state should you decide that you don't like the change. To make a restore point, click Start, type sysdm.cpl and press Enter. Choose System Protection, Create and then follow the prompts.

1. Sidebar

You pay a heavy performance price for the analogue clock, thumbnail slide-show viewer and Microsoft-centric RSS newsfeed that dock in the Windows Sidebar. Turning off the whole thing gives you a big speed boost, especially at boot time.

To remove the Sidebar, right-click anywhere on the Sidebar and select Close Sidebar. Uncheck "Start Sidebar when Windows starts," and then click ok.

2. Aero

Microsoft put a lot of Vista's visual enhancements under one technological and marketing umbrella: Aero. Among those features are the thumbnails of your windows that appear when you hover the mouse pointer over the taskbar, as well as the Flip 3D view you get by pressing Windows and Tab. Aero adds a little practicality and a lot of panache to the Vista user interface and, personally, I like it.

If your PC is underpowered or overloaded, however, Aero may be more trouble than it's worth. To turn it off, right-click the Windows desktop and select Personalise, Windows Color and Appearance. In the resulting Windows Color and Appearance dialog box, click ‘Open classic appearance properties for more color options'. (If you don't see the option, that means Aero is already turned it off.) Select Windows Vista Basic and click ok.

NEXT PAGE: Assorted interface beautification options

  1. Improve PC performance by turning off these wasteful features
  2. Assorted interface beautification options
  3. Windows Ultimate Extras
  4. Search indexing and offline files

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Microsoft News Spotlight for the latest news on the software giant