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Windows 7

Personalizing and Configuring Windows 7 : Performance Tweaks (part 1) - Making It Boot Faster

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12/22/2014 8:43:40 PM

One of the biggest complaints about upgrading Windows, especially from those coming from Windows XP, is that the new system doesn't perform as speedily on the same hardware. Truth be told, Windows 7 works just fine if you operate the system with reasonable hardware specs, and of course it performs much better than Vista. Regardless of the performance attributes of your PC, faster is always better. In this section, we'll show you some ways you can make Windows 7 run more efficiently.

1. Taking Out the Trash

While we do recommend buying a new PC with Windows 7 preinstalled to get the best experience, the truth is that many PC makers seem to go out of their way to screw up what should be a happy experience. They do so by loading down their new PCs with extensive collections of largely useless utilities, a practice that's gotten so out of hand that the industry has adopted the term crapware to describe it. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to avoid crapware. First, you can purchase PCs only from those PC makers that offer no crapware, such as Dell. Or you can simply not worry about it and download a wonderful free utility called the PC Decrapifier (www.pcdecrapifier.com), which automates the removal of trialware and other annoying crapware that PC makers tend to preinstall (you know, for your convenience).

The PC Decrapifier, shown in Figure 1, is free for personal use and highly recommended if you're looking for that new-PC smell. However, be sure to uncheck any items you do want to keep, as some of the so-called crapware that PC Decrapifier finds might actually be useful.

Figure 1. The PC Decrapifier will help you clean the junk off your PC.

The PC Decrapifier works perfectly well on any PC, not just new PCs. In fact, it's a great tool for automating the cleanup of a PC you've been using (and abusing) for a long time.


2. Making It Boot Faster

Throughout the years, all Windows versions have shared a common problem: they degrade in performance over time and boot more slowly the longer the computer is used. Microsoft addressed this gradual sludgification somewhat in Windows Vista, and even more in Windows 7. Compared to Windows XP there are certainly some improvements. For example, unlike XP, it's actually possible to take an aging Windows 7 install, clean some things up, and get it back in tip-top shape. With XP, you'd eventually be forced to reinstall the entire OS in order to regain lost performance.

Boot-up speed, of course, is a primary concern. In order to speed up the time it takes for your PC to return to life each time you sit down in front of it, you can take a number of steps:

  • Remove unwanted startup items: Over time, as you install more and more software on your computer, the number of small utilities, application launchers, and, most annoyingly, application prelaunchers (which essentially make it seem like those applications start more quickly later because large chunks of them are already preloaded) that are configured to run at startup multiply dramatically. There are several ways you can cull this list, but the best one is to use Autoruns, a Microsoft Sysinternals freebie (technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx).

    To cull the list of startup applications, download and open Autoruns (Start Menu Search, and enter http://live.sysinternals.com/autoruns.exe) and click Run. You'll be presented with the scary-looking window shown in Figure 2.

    Figure 2. Autoruns at first glance looks daunting but it's actually very simple to use.

    Before attempting to make any systemwide changes, click File => Run as Administrator. This will restart the application under administrative credentials to give you full access to startup entries on the system. After dealing with the User Account Control prompt that appears, click the Logon tab to view a list of programs that execute right after you log in. By clicking Hide Microsoft and Windows Entries in the Options menu, you can narrow the list down to just third-party gunk. Finally, if you'd rather disable than delete, simply uncheck the entries you wish to disable and you're set. Later, when you feel comfortable without the gunk, you can return to Autoruns and delete it once and for all.

    NOTE

    While Autoruns sports a dizzying array of other tabs, such as LSA and Winsock Providers, KnownDLLs, and Drivers, we suggest you limit clean-up activities to the safer Logon, Sidebar Gadgets, and Scheduled Tasks tabs. As Autoruns provides an unbiased view into the internal wiring of various Windows components, you could inadvertently and irreparably break Windows.

    NOTE

    Windows XP and Vista users can use the Software Explorer feature of Windows Defender to remove unwanted startup items as well. This feature, alas, was removed from Windows 7, because Microsoft believed that it detracted from the main function of Defender (the removal of malware). We disagree: the line between true malware and unwanted preloaders is pretty gray.

  • Do a little cleanup: There are a number of things you can clean up on your PC that will have mild effects on performance. One of the more effective is Windows 7's hidden Disk Cleanup tool (Start Menu Search, and type disk clean), shown in Figure 3. This little wonder frees up hard drive space by removing unused temporary files. (Free hard drive space is important for keeping virtual memory and other applications (like Adobe Photoshop) running optimally. Virtual-memory optimization is covered in just a bit.)

  • Don't shut down the PC: This one may seem obvious or even humorous, but think about it: why are you shutting down the PC anyway? Windows 7 supports advanced power management states, including Hybrid Sleep and Hibernation, and these states enable your PC to "shut down" and "power on" far more quickly than actual shutdowns and power-ups.

NOTE

You can automate Disk Cleanup using another hidden Windows 7 utility—the Task Scheduler. This process is documented in Windows 7's Help and Support: Search for Schedule Disk Cleanup to learn more.

Figure 3. The Disk Cleanup utility can clear out unneeded files.

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