In previous versions of Windows, tweaking settings to get the fastest system possible used to require bouncing from one arcane dialog box to the next. Though Vista makes most system information easier to find, many of the tools that will put your PC into overdrive remain buried. Here's a guide to Windows' built-in performance tools.
A new Control Panel applet in Vista collects your favorite (and not so favorite) tools for analyzing and revving up your system: Click Start-Control Panel-System and Maintenance-Performance Information and Tools, and click the links on the left to access the tools you need (see the image at right). Be sure not to neglect the various options that lurk behind the 'Advanced tools' link.
Note: Few of these tools are new to Vista--XP users can access most of them by following the steps listed in the chart on the bottom of the page.
Hidden Performance Gizmos
Although not intended as performance tools per se, a number of the apps in the Administrative Tools Control Panel applet available in all versions of Windows include options for revving up your system. These settings are much easier to reach when you put them on the Start menu, however.
To do so in Windows 2000, right-click the taskbar and choose Properties. In the 'Taskbar and Start Menu Properties' dialog box, click the Advanced tab. In the Start Menu Settings scrolling list, check Display Administrative Tools and click OK.
In XP and Vista, right-click the Start button, and then choose Properties. Click whichever Customize button is selectable. If you use the Classic Start menu, check Display Administrative Tools in the 'Advanced Start menu options' list at the bottom of the dialog box. If you use the default Start menu, click the Advanced button in the top right of the window. Under 'Start menu items', find System Administrative Tools and select whether to display it on the All Programs menu or on both the All Programs and Start menus (see the screen shot at upper right). Click the OK button twice.