Computers are getting faster and faster every year. Back in the mid-1990s, a Pentium-83 was one of the fastest processors money could buy. That’s 83 as in 83 MHz. Today, your phone’s CPU is immensely faster than that old Pentium-83 and cost a fraction of the price. But with standard smartphones reaching processor speeds of 1GHz (about 12 times faster than a P-83) and desktop computers running even faster in terms of GHz, the great irony is that our applications seem to be running just as slowly. While there are a number of contributing factors to PC slowdown, one of the reasons that Windows 7 may not seem much faster than Windows 3.1 is the vast amount of eye candy and flashy visualization effects that have been introduced. While the CPUs are faster than ever, the tasks that they have to run are increasingly demanding.
The good news, however, is that most of the fancy visualization effects built-in to Windows 7 are optional. You can disable them without affecting the functionality of your system—but you just might enjoy a substantial speed boost. Here are three tweaks you should try in order to speed up Windows 7.
Adjust Visual Effects
Click on the Start button and type in “Adjust the appearance” into the search box. Look for an option that reads “Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows” and click on it.
Here, you’ll see the Visual Effects tab. There are a few easy options here. By default, you’ll have “Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer.” This option automatically attempts to strike a balance between a flashy interface and speedy performance. But to get the absolute most speed from your Windows desktop, choose “Adjust for best performance.” This will essentially zero out all of the visual effects. Click Apply and you should notice a difference.
So, what are you missing? The biggest CPU sucking process is probably the Aero feature set. Aero Peek lets you see previews of Windows by hovering over items in the taskbar. Aero also lets you see the desktop without minimizing the windows. You’ll also lose shadows under your mouse pointer and your windows. Another subtle feature that will disappear is the transparency in the windows. You’ll notice this mostly in the title bars, which usually let you see what’s beneath it, almost like it were made of stained glass. But with “best performance” selected, your titles will be completely opaque.
You’ll also lose out on the animations in the taskbar and in the Start menu. This is usually a glowing sheen that happens when you mouse over or click on a taskbar item or icon. It’s very cool, but not really necessary.
Beyond that, there are a few other aesthetic tweaks that affect your text and other visual flourishes within Windows. Try it out for awhile and see if you notice a difference. If you don’t miss the visual flourishes, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, you can return to this window and enable/disable individual features, such as Aero Peek or shadows to suit your tastes.
Adjust Processor Scheduling
At any given moment, your computer has two priorities: the application you’re currently viewing and working on and the processing working in the background. For example, if you are writing a Word document, that’s your main program. But at the same time, there are processes working to detect printer activity, sync with your iPod and monitor CPU usage. In the Performance Options window which we navigated to in the above tip, you can click the Advanced tab to change how Windows handles these priorities. For the best performance for the application you are directly working with, choose “Programs” under the option that reads “Adjust for best performance of”. To give priority to background processes, choose “Background services.”
Modify Indexing Options
Speaking of background processes, one of the major services that always runs in Windows 7 is the indexer. The indexer goes through the contents of your computer and makes them searchable, so you and the system can find it more easily. The Windows indexer actively monitors a few key folders and drives in order to provide you with quick search results. However, this indexing activity can slow down your performance for other applications. You can disable indexing or limit indexing to a certain set of drives or folders to improve your computer’s speed. The tradeoff is that it may take longer to search for folders, files and shortcuts using the Windows search feature.
To change your indexing options, open the Star menu and type “indexing options.” Click on Indexing Options when it appears. In the next window, click Modify. Here, you can enable or disable indexing on certain folders. For the best performance vs. convenience balance, it’s a good idea to remove indexing from entire drives, such as C:\\ and D:\\ but leave it enabled for the Start Menu.
If your computer feels sluggish, these three tips will give you an incremental speed boost. While the improvement may not be as dramatic as upgrading your hardware, this fix is easy, free and reversible.