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Monday, 27 June 2011

Fine-tuning Windows 7 for speed

Windows 7 is at least as speedy as Windows Vista. But that’s not exactly anything to boast about. You can throw the fastest hardware at Microsoft’s latest operating system, and it will be speedy enough. But there’s always room for improvement. The good news: with a few tweaks and some know-how, you can wring the most performance out of Windows 7, regardless of the computer you’re running it on. Here’s how.

Disable visual effects

Windows 7’s interface is laden with little visual effects and animations that, while impressive when you first see them, do little more than slow down the rate at which you can get things done.

Luckily, you can turn off most or all of the visual effects while retaining the snazzy look of Windows 7. In fact, you can turn off just the visual effects you want to and leave the rest.

To do so, open the Start menu, and type “adjust.” One of the entries that results is “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.” Click that, and Windows 7 opens the Performance Options dialog box. Make sure the Visual Effects tab is selected, and remove the check mark next to the options that say “animate,” “fade,” or “slide.” Click OK. Now windows, dialog boxes, and menus will snap into view immediately rather than gradually.

Kill UAC

User Account Control (UAC) is the feature that almost single-handedly made Windows Vista the most reviled Windows release in recent memory. UAC was originally designed as a security feature.

It keeps an eye out for potentially harmful changes to your system and prompts you to confirm something that might be a threat.

Unfortunately, under the rubric of “potential threat” fall such harmless activities as installation a new application or downloading a file from the internet that you know is safe. Microsoft wisely made UAC a bit less obtrusive in Windows 7. But best of all, it makes UAC easy to disable.

That’s why one of the first things that savvy Windows users do with Windows 7 is visit the UAC slider dialog box. Do it by opening the Start menu, typing UAC, and selecting “Change User Account Control settings.” In the resulting User Account Control Settings dialog box, move the “notify” slider all the way to the bottom, for “Never notify.” And that will be the end of the annoying UAC slowdowns.

Speed up your keyboard

Part of what can make Windows 7 — or any previous version of Windows — seem slow is the rate at which the cursor moves when you hold down a key. That’s why one of the first things you should do after a new installation of Windows 7 is to adjust the keyboard speed. Do that by opening the Start menu and typing “keyboard.” Click the Keyboard entry under the Control Panel section, and Windows 7 open the Keyboard Properties dialog box. From there, make sure the Speed tab is selected, and move the Repeat Delay slider to “Short.” Click OK, and from that point forward, Windows will react much faster when you hold down a letter within any text application.

Remove unused features

Windows 7 comes loaded with a bunch of features you probably never use. Whether you use them or not, however, they’ll slow your system down. So turn off the ones you don’t need.

Open the Start menu, and type Windows Features. Then click the “Turn Windows features on or off” entry that appears. The Windows Features dialog box opens, and from there, you can de-select any feature that you never use. Prime candidates are the “Windows Gadget Platform,” “Games,” and “Indexing Service.”

Set your PC for maximum performance

Windows 7 actually throttles down performance of certain components at certain times in order to save energy. Those components include the hard drive and processor (CPU). So if you’re more concerned with ensuring that your PC always operates at its fastest while you’re using it, you can turn off power saving features. Just open the Start menu, and type “power options.” Click the Power Options entry that appears. In the resulting dialog box, select the “Change advanced power settings” link, and use the control in the dialog box that follows to adjust your PC for maximum performance at all times.

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