Ok, here's my tips on how to speed up Vista as I recently bought a low end HP laptop...
Out of the box it was so slow I was really considering downgrading to XP. But by following what I did below, you might find that VistA isn't so bad after all.
1. 2 GB RAM - 2 gigs is a must for VistA. Look for this when buying a laptop. And try to get the fastest processor for your money when buying. If you have less ram, see if you can upgrade. When comparing laptops at the store also look at the "Performance" rating (Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> Performance Rating and Tools )Higher performance indexes mean a better machine.
2. IE7 >> Tools >> Manage Add Ons >> Enable/Disable Addons - Try to turn most everything disabled except the Sun Java Console and Shockwave. Especially be sure to disable any add ons from Yahoo and Google. If in doubt leave it enabled (or google it first and if you disable it and something breaks, come back and enable it). Before I did this it took 10-15 seconds to get IE7 to startup. The yahoo toolbar was my culprit (bloatware)
3. Msconfig - start >> Run >> type: msconfig (enter) >> go to the startup tab. Try to disable any services you don't need here. This will speed up VistA's start up. On my HP I turned off most of the Junk that came preloaded with the laptop. If you're not sure what something is, google it first and leave it enabled if not sure. Here's a website that lists what each startup program does and if you really need it : http://www.sysinfo.org/startuplist.php. HP loaded my system with a bunch of diagnostic programs - I disabled most of them (I'd rather run them myself rather than having them all startup on boot)
NOTE: After you reboot after running msconfig, you'll get an annoying warning about "blocked startup programs" - click on the icon, choose Run blocked program and choose System configuration utility. More info here: http://www.vista4beginners.com/System-Configuration-Utility
4. Norton Antivirus and Internet Security - unneccesary bloatware in my opinion. Uninstall it and get AVG's Free Antivirus - it works really well as a replacemnet. And be sure to enable the Vista Firewall too (Control Panel). McAfee's products work better too as an alternate.
AVG Link: http://www.download.com/3000-2239_4-10788045.html
5. Windows Components - Open Control Panel - In the left hand pane choose “Classic View” - Double click “Programs and Features” - Look in the left hand pane and click on “Turn Windows Features on or off”
- Once the box is “updated” you will be able to Add/Remove Windows Components. Turn off any services you don't need - again google is your friend if you are not sure what a particular service is.
6. System Protection (aka System Restore) - This one's a bit controversial. While it's a nice feature - it hogs up too many resources especially on a low-end laptop. Right click the my computer icon and choose properties. Disable it on the C: Drive. From now on just backup data more frequently as you'll no longer have the ability to roll back to an earlier configuration. Here's more detailed info:
7. Windows updates - Vista's had a number of updates, be sure everything is up to date
8. If you've done all teh above and still are struggling with slow speeds, you might have to turn off the Aero Desktop (the cool looking interface). Right Click on "My Computer" - go to "Properties" -Click on the "Advanced" tab - Under performance go to "Settings" - Now click on "Adjust for best performance" - Or you can choose what you would like to turn