Vista Running Slow – Check Preferred DNS Server

Windows Vista Running Slow – Check Preferred DNS Server

My advice on speeding up Vista is aimed primarily at those who have a reasonable spec machine.  I imagine this to be the situation, you have installed Vista without problem, but you are disappointed because it is running slowly, and, or programs hang.  In a nutshell, you would expect XP to run faster on that particular hardware.

Topics For Vista – Running Slow


Checklist for a reasonable Vista performance

  1. Machine meets at least the minimum specification
  2. Clean Installation (Avoid upgrade)
  3. Obtain Latest Drivers – Try DriverQuery, then research manufacturer’s site.

1a) Machine Specification – Reasonable will Support Aero Graphics

Let me amplify what I mean by a reasonable spec machine.

  • CPU – 1.7 GHz
  • RAM – 1 GB
  • Graphics card – 128 MB (256 best)
  • Disk – 80 GB

1b) Machine Spec – Unreasonable will not even run the Basic Vista Edition

  • CPU – 133 MHz (800 MHz very minimum)
  • RAM – 256 MB (512 MB minimum)
  • Graphics card – 32 MB (128 MB minimum)
  • Disk – 20 GB (40 GB Minimum)

2) Clean, New Installation of Vista -v- Upgrade from XP

Choose a clean installation, avoid upgrading from XP.  If you MUST upgrade, then download the Vista Upgrade Advisor and then obey every single instruction.  If the Upgrade Advisor says remove software, or upgrade hardware, then obey.  You cannot pick and choose, you must comply in full, or else your upgrade to Vista will result in poor performance.

3) Obtain The Latest Drivers – DriverQuery

To help you check the version of your drivers check with DriverQuery.

Launch cmd
At the command prompt try:
DriverQuery /?
DriverQuery /v
DriverQuery /v /fo list
DriverQuery /v /fo csv > driverq.txt

Now it’s over to you and research the driver manufacturer’s site for the latest version.

Symptoms of Vista Running Slow

When I booted Vista everything worked fine, Windows Explorer opened in about 2 seconds, just as fast as it launched in XP.  However, after about 30 minutes the same explorer based activities suffered an excruciating 20 second delay.  Other symptoms included delay a when opening files.  Applications such as Word and Excel would hang for 30 seconds, or more, when you asked them to open a file.  Moreover, the delay was consistent and reproducible.

I checked Vista’s Task Manager.  CPU activity was low, and there was only one instance of explorer.  My conclusion: there was no suspicious virus activity, and certainly there was no program hogging the processor.

Sleep and Hibernation
Another related symptom occurred when Vista emerged from either sleep or hibernation.  Sometimes the only way to get any action was to hold down the on / off button until Vista went into restart mode.  In addition to losing time, and possibly data, this hardware reset could not do the machine any good.  While this sleep / hibernate problem disappeared once I set the DNS server (as described later), there are numerous reports of problems using these power-saving settings.  See more on troubleshooting hibernation.

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DNS – Problem and Symptoms

When I discovered that DNS configuration was the root cause of Vista running slow and hanging, I was simultaneously relieved and embarrassed.  Quite why DNS server configuration caused my explorer to hang, I have yet to discover, all that I can say is that the following actions cured my problem.

My situation was this; the Vista machine had joined a domain.  I began with basic TCP/IP troubleshooting techniques.  All machines were on the standard 192.168.1 local network.  Machine was a Windows Server 2003 machine, which had been successfully providing local DNS information to XP machines for two years.

Ping from the Vista machine

Ping –> Good quick response from the server’s IP

Ping ServerName OK

Ping – Nothing.  Hmm alarm bells, this could be a DNS configuration problem.

Where I went wrong, or where Vista behaves differently, is that Ping worked from the XP machines.  I have not exhausted this line of research, instead I focused on re-configuring TCP/IP Properties, DNS settings.

One complication was that my that each XP machines correctly obtained its IP address from the DHCP server, whereas the Vista machines got their IP address from an intelligent router / hub.  However, even when I disabled DHCP on the router, the problem persisted, until I reconfigured the 006 DNS scope settings as outlined below.

Ipconfig / all at the Vista machine

IP Address of Vista Machine

IP Address of First (Preferred) DNS server   Hmm… this is the IP of the router, and not the server.
IP Address of Second DNS server  The IP address of the actual local DNS server.

As we will see, the root cause seems to be that the local DNS server is not the primary DNS server.  By that I mean the actual DNS server on the local subnet is not the First entry in the Vista’s list of DNS servers.  (See diagrams below.)

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Solution –  TCP/IP Properties, Preferred DNS Server

A Vista machine joined to a domain, ought to be able to ping its domain controller by fully qualified domain name, especially when both are on the same subnet.  Quite how name resolution problem is related to the Vista machine running slowly I am not sure.

Manual IP address v DHCP

There are two solution depending on whether or not your Vista machine is configured as a DHCP client.  When troubleshooting this slow Vista problem, I find it more convenient to experiment with the DNS server settings manually, than to alter the DHCP Scope options at the server.

What I can say is that drilling down to the Vista machine’s TCP/IP properties, and then changing the DNS server IP address, solved the slow explorer problem for me.  By showing you what I did, I hope that you can make these changes on your Vista machine, naturally, you will need to research the IP address of your DNS server.  Optionally, you will need the IP address of your router or internet gateway.IP Address Tracker

What I did was to explicitly set the IP address of the Preferred DNS server.  I also set the router as the Alternative DNS server; my idea was to preserve internet connectivity.


  • Click on: Start Orb TCP/IP Properties, Preferred DNS Server
  • Select: Control Panel
  • Network and Internet, Network Connections
  • Double Click the Local Network Connection
  • Double Click Internet Protocol 4 (TCP/IPv4)
    See opposite.
  • Click: Use the following DNS server addresses
    (Previously set to: Obtain DNS automatically)
  • Check the Preferred DNS server: (See screenshot)
  • Type in the name of YOUR DNS server
  • Option: Check the Alternative DNS server
  • Type in the name of YOUR router
    See below.


Note 1: The previous setting had been: Obtain a DNS address automatically.  However the primary DNS server was, while was the secondary DNS server.

Note 2:  What I found was that setting the Windows Server 2003 machine as the Alternative DNS (and the router to the Preferred DNS Server) did not work.  Setting the IP address this way around caused the slow explorer behavior to return.  In my experiment, the Local DNS server must be the Preferred DNS server.

DHCP Solution (Better)

While the above method for configuring the DNS server suits troubleshooting, for a long term solution on a DHCP network, configuring the Scope is a better option.  I am assuming you are familiar with DHCP configuration, in which case you may know that the DNS Server is Scope type 006.  What I found was that you need to make sure that very DNS server is the first option on the IP address list.

Where you have more than one DNS server, or a gateway to another DNS server, than you can experiment with the order by clicking on the Up and Down buttons.

When you apply this technique, use Ipconfig on the Vista client to check what’s happening.  Remember ‘Run as administrator’ before you launch the command prompt, otherwise ipconfig /renew will not work.  The other command that you need is ipconfig /all, this should display all the DNS servers.  Furthermore, the order revealed by ipconfig /all should match that set on the DHCP server’s Option 006.  (See screenshot to the right).

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Vista Firewall

For problems relating to the following areas, I would try turning off the Firewall at both the Vista end and at the server end.

  • NO network connectivity from Vista to the Server
  • Machine cannot join the domain
  • Remote Desktop fails
  • Remote Assistance not possible


It almost goes without saying that turning off the firewall is only designed as a temporary measure to help you isolate the problem.  If this works then refine the technique by allowing the appropriate port or service.

Instructions to Turn Windows Firewall Off

  • Click on:  Start Orb Turn Vista Firewall Off
  • Select: Control Panel
  • Network and Internet, Network Connections
  • Network and Sharing Center
  • Windows Firewall
  • Turn Windows Firewall on or off (Left Panel)

Miscellaneous Ideas (Clutching Straws really)

  1. Check the Event Logs, not just the System, but also the Application Log.  Incidentally, the new Vista summary screens are good.  Start with Critical errors in the last 24hrs.
    Click on:  Start Orb Start Search - Event Viewer | Start Search – Event Viewer.

  2. Ask the question: ‘Was the Vista explorer ever fast?’  (Did it ever work).  If ‘Yes’, what software did you add?  It surprised me to learn that it is possible to install certain incompatible programs, which then slow down explorer.

  3. Check the Task Manager (Press Ctrl +Shift +Esc), Processes Tab.  Maximise the window, make is sort on the CPU column.  Anything suspicious? 
    Could it be Vista indexing?  Happens on a newly installed machine.
    Could a virus checker be active, worse could a virus be active.

  4. Disable IPv6 – Not essential, but some people report this cured their problems.

  5. Upgrade your router.  Vista may work, but only slowly with old routers.  This variation of the problem likely to be confined to Internet Browsing, rather than Windows Explorer related.

  6. Avoid Sleep and Hibernation settings (mentioned earlier).  Try switching to the blank screen saver.

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Configuring Windows Vista Topics:


     Vista Tools and Extras


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