System Optimization Tips: How to Optimize, Maintain and Speed Up Your PC

September 15, 2011

windows-run-faster-optimize-pcAlthough Windows 7 is quickly becoming the favorite OS of thousands of users all around the world, Windows XP is still the most widespread version of the Windows family. This "classic" version of Microsoft's operating system is vastly used all over the world because of its user-friendly appearance and management. However, if you want to make your computer to run faster, you would have to work a little bit on the operation system.

By default, Windows XP and Windows Vista offers you different effects and activates several services, some of which you might never use. Additionally, some common commercial applications and software load their whole package on your PC and thus take up a lot of system memory.

In order to have a fast-running computer, you may need to sacrifice some parts of the visual beauties of the system and spend some time cleaning your PC from unnecessary services or data. Windows itself performs the optimization of its file system based on your behavior. Windows operating systems monitors your actions related to launching and exploiting applications and updates. In every three days (when the computer is inactive), Windows tends to work through the locations of applications on the system hard drive and arranges them in a way that optimizes their launch and execution.

An optimized Windows operating system helps in booting as well. Windows XP, for example, uses prefetching – creating a list of data, based on which programs are used upon booting. Thus, when an instruction or application is actually needed, the instruction can be accessed (prefetched) much more quickly from the list than if it had to make a request from memory. Windows XP kernel and the task scheduler service both include the prefetch optimizing code. The kernel makes a record of pages that are referenced by a given process right after the process is created. The service modifies the pages into prefetch instructions for the process. Whenever the process is created again, the kernel uses the prefetch instructions to speed up the procedure. Prefetching goes hand-in-hand with disk optimization.

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System Optimization Tips to Make Your PC Run Faster

Windows operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 may be configured and optimized to run faster. By configuring and tweaking Windows, you may take advantage of your PC's performance capabilities without reinstalling Windows or purchasing a newer version of Windows. By utilizing specific tweaks for Windows, you can drastically improve overall system performance and take advantage of added stability.

Windows XP was once considered to be Microsoft's most stable and optimized operating system. Since then each new version of Windows (Vista and 7) have taken strides to improve performance. Several default settings and features in all versions of Windows may prove to be useful in rare cases but are not completely essential for every-day tasks. By disabling or changing many of these settings or features, you can have a big impact on the performance of your PC. Quick Tip: To save time and avoid tweaking the Windows, use a system optimization utility to optimize and speed up your computer. Many of our system optimization tips not only include how to perform retune PC maintenance that you should already be performing on a regular basis, but tips with inclusive suggestions to safely modify critical Windows services and functions.

Here's a list of system optimization tips one must do to make Windows run faster:

System Optimization Tip #1: Keep Your Desktop Simple

Desktop icons and desktop wallpaper take up pieces of system memory and are constantly refreshed by graphic subsystems. This is why animated desktops, for example, are especially heavy for the system. If you do not have a lot of RAM and a relatively modern processor, it would be best to keep your desktop simple and have only the most needed files and folders on it.

System Optimization Tip #2: Tweak the Appearance of the Graphical User Interface (GUI)

The beauty of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of Windows should be sacrificed if you would like your Windows operating system to respond faster. Even if you are fond of some of the pretty gadgets it offers, you can still disable the others. Follow the two options below to access the setting of GUI.

Tweak the Appearance of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Windows XP

For Windows XP

  • Right click on the desktop > Properties (Display Properties) > Appearance > Effects. There you can adjust menu and toolpit transitions, shadows and font properties.
  • Right click on My Computer > Properties (System Properties) > Advanced > Settings button (under Performance) lets you optimize for visuals and performance, or you can make a mix by using features from a list of check-boxed visual effects options.

Click on the Advanced tab in Performance Settings and ensure that processor scheduling and memory usage are configured for programs. From the button Change under Visual Memory, you can specify the size and location of your system's paging file, but you will most probably not need to change this manually, since Windows performs this task efficiently.

For Windows Vista

For Windows Vista, you have several Visual Effect modifications that can be made to speed up the overall performance of the Windows Vista GUI.

  1. Open the Start menu and right-click on Computer.
  2. Choose Properties. Click on Advanced System Settings on the left-hand panel.
  3. Go to the Advanced tab > under the Performance heading > click Settings. The Visual Effects tab lists several effects that can be disabled by un-checking the appropriate box and then click OK.

For Windows 7

For Windows 7, you have several Visual Effect modifications that can be made to speed up the over-all performance of the Windows 7 GUI.

  1. Click on the Start menu > type in Adjust the Appearance > hit Enter.
  2. The Visual Effects tab lists several effects that can be disabled by un-checking the appropriate box and then click OK.

System Optimization Tip #3: Disable the Fast User Switching Feature

This feature is available on XP Home Edition and Professional. It allows users of the same computer to switch between accounts without logging off. However, having a number of users is bad for memory usage. Even when you have switched to another user, the programs are still running (if not closed by the user) on the account that was previously open. Thus, your computer's perfomance is low. To have your computer operating at its best, you should make sure only one user is logged on at a time. If it becomes tiresome, you should probably think of disabling the 'Fast User Switching' feature. To disable the 'Fast User Switching' feature, go to Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way users log on or off and the uncheck Use Fast User Switching.

System Optimization Tip #4: Disable Automatic Update Feature

Updates are very important for your computer, especially as a prevention from malware. Windows XP, Vista and 7 are ready to perform updates for you, but to do that it needs a small program to work on the background. If you would like to deal with the updates yourself, you should disable the Automatic Update feature:

For Windows XP:

Right click on My Computer > Properties (System Properties) > Automatic Updates.

On Automatic Updates, you have 4 options to choose from: Automatic; Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them; Notify me but don't automatically download or install them; Turn off Automatic Updates. You can select the option that is most suitable for you.

For Windows Vista or Windows 7:

Open Windows Update by clicking on Start menu, click All Programs and select Windows Update. Under Recommended updates, select the Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates check box, and then click OK. You can select the option that is most suitable for you.

System Optimization Tip #5: Disable System Restore

The System Restore feature occasionally takes snapshots of your 'system critical' files and stores them. System Restore is very useful in cases of system crashes or if something important gets corrupted. The System Restore feature creates restore points automatically whenever an event occurs that might have crucial effect on the operating system; for example, when a new Windows update is installed or upon installation of a new application or an unsigned driver.

You are also given the option to manually create restore points. To manually generate restore points, go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. There you can manually restore your PC to a given previous time or to create a restore point.

The restore points take up space from your hard drive and the application itself has a minimal impact on the performance of your PC, that is why it is recommended that you let it work. However, you can define the disk space it is going to occupy (the less space you allow it to have, the less the restore points are) or shut it down entirely (System Properties > System Restore). Quick Tip: To avoid disk space issues, click here to create full registry backup and system restore point with a registry cleaner.

On whole, System Restore is a very useful feature, but it can seriously affect application benchmark software (it sometimes continues running during active test periods), so you should propbably turn it off when running benchmarks.

System Optimization Tip #6: Run Windows Disk Defragmenter Regularly

When huge programs and files are installed or removed on the hard drive of a DOS and non-NT versions of Windows, they leave free spaces all over the drive. Thus, when a new program is installed, its parts are dispersed to so many different spots that the operating system has to access several different areas of a hard disk to load just one file or program. Consequently, this greatly affects the performance of your PC.

To boost your computer's performance, you should defrag your hard disk in accordance with your own behavior when using your PC. If you rarely install programs and create files, you would most probably need to defrag your computer only once a month. In case you are moving folders around and installing different aplications habitually, you might have to defrag the drive once a week. The difference in the performance of your computer is not immediate, unless the hard drive has been corrupted prior to defragging it.

System Optimization Tip #7: Close Programs Running on the Background

In order to have a look at the system processes that are running on your PC, you should open the Task Manager (press CTRL+ALT+DEL) and click on Processes. On the Processes, you can close processes when you have to. Some of the process you will see would be familiar to you and others would be completely unknown to you.

Disable Items Using the System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG)

This utility is very useful when experimenting with startup applications. You can find it by typing MSCONFIG at the Run command line.

The first two tabs - SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI, are the ones you will most probably never use since they are only there in regards to legacy compabitility.

The BOOT.INI tab contains information about the file, defining Windows' booting. You will only need this in cases of troubleshooting. The whole file is in a text box. In order to change something, you will need to choose an individual line and enter the changes via checkboxes. The Services tab is one of the ways to check and uncheck Windows services.

The Startup tab contains a list of all programs that start up as soon as Windows is booted up. This is where you should go in order to disable any unnecessary items that only slow down your computer, such as launchers employed by multimedia programs. By disabling items from this tab, you do not delete them. You can uncheck the components you want then reboot and test applications and hardware. In case something is not properly functioning, you can start the MSCONFIG again, recheck the box next to the particular startup item and reboot.

By disabling everything unnecessary with the help of MSCONFIG, you can greatly improve the performance of your system. If you find a startup item that is useless, you can see its location in the SCU listing and then purge it. Common Startup items are called through the Start Menu's Startup group and if you delete their icons they will not be launched any more.

Using the REGEDIT program, you can purge items that are called through the Registry. Always make backups of the Registry before making any changes, just in case you mishandle sensitive items. The HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run key is where you should look for such items. You should delete only their values in order to stop them from being launched on subsequent Windows boots.

System Optimization Tip #8: Modify Services

Note: Do not modify services you are unsure about! If you are not a PC expert, you should not try to alter any 'system critical' services. Services provide functionality for various hardware, applications, tasks, etc. Recommendation: We suggest you use a PC tuning utility to safely modify critical services and optimize your Windows.

However, there are other services that are less critical. These can be changed without any negative side effects for the sytem. If disabled, they even improve your system in regards to responsiveness and performance. There are two ways to enter Services:
1. a) Control Panel - > Administrative Tools -> Services (if using "Classic View").
b) Control Panel - > Administrative Tools -> Performance and Maintenance section (if using"Category View").

2.Run Services.msc from the Run command line.

On Services.msc, you will see entries for all services available to user modification. Each entry contains a description of the service (you can view it in better detail by clicking on the service), its status (started or not), its startup type (automatic, manual or disabled), and the user account with which the service logs on to the computer (it would be best not to change it unless you are an expert).

Automatic setup means that the sevice will start as soon as Windows starts, Disabled services would not start at all, and Manual services will start if evoked by the user or if a dependent service is started. You should not disable any services unless you are absolutely sure no other services or hardware needs them. For example, you can disable the Print Spooler service if you do not do any printing or the Themes Service if you do not use themes; you can also set the Help and Support service on manual. There is information about each service in its Property sheet. It includes the services it is dependent to.

System Optimization Tip #10: Allocate More or Less CPU to Allow a Specific Program or Service to Run Faster

The Task Manager has a lot of functionalities and if you know how to exploit it, you will find it very useful. If you right click on a process, you will see you can choose Set Priority from the context menu. If you enable it, it will command the majority of power of your computer's processor. It is extremely useful when you are performing heavy temporary tasks, because it will not allow other applications to prolong the task. To Set Priority from the Task Manager, press CTRL+ALT+DEL, click on Processes, right-click on the process and Set Priority.

One Comment

  • Dan says:

    Thank you for the thorough tips. I also have disabled the automatic update feature, since it sometimes just took hours for my computer to shut down before the updating process finished. Know I only install the windows service packs, and everything seems to work just fine. Maybe I’m missing some important updates, but the automatic updates feature seemed to take more time, than improve the speed of my computer.

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