Optimizing system performance is something many users ignore, usually because they aren’t aware or they don’t know how to go about it. We all surf the web, create, share and download content, install uninstall programs, play games, and run various applications on our PCs and laptops. These activities lead to creation of temporary files that hog drive space, fragmented hard drive partitions, lengthy boot times and start up, redundant entries in the registry, and faults that hamper system performance. If you haven’t optimized your laptop or PC since the time you bought it or re-installed the operating system, you’ll find it has become sluggish, especially if your usage is extensive. The sluggishness is more prevalent in the case of outdated or entry-level PCs. You can breathe fresh life into your operating system if you tweak and optimize certain settings.
Windows can be optimized from the Control Panel and using the built-in system tools, but you should know where they are located and how to access them. On the other hand, tweaking and system tuning utilities present all the necessary settings and tools in one user-friendly package. Some utilities have tweaks that are otherwise accessible only via the Windows registry. Thus these specialized programs provide a very convenient means for system optimization. Here’s how you can optimize your system’s performance using some of the best freeware tools out there.
This is one of the best Windows 7 tweaking tools, with plenty of tweaks to tinker with. The program features a tabbed interface and the tweaks are in the form of checkbox options. So all you have to do is select the tweaks from each tab and click the ‘Apply’ button.
Start with the ‘General’ tab, from where you can add more options to the context menu and customize desktop items. Some useful options here are ‘Copy to’ and ‘Hide this folder’. When activated, they appear in the context menu that shows up when you right-click on any folder. On selecting ‘Copy to’, you get the option to copy selected files/ folders to a specified location. You can also add ‘Turn On/Off Aero’ and ‘Device Manager’ to the context menu of the 'Computer' icon on the desktop.
The ‘Specific’ tab has a collection of 15 tools, the most interesting of them being the User Accounts CP, which allows you to manage user accounts. You can hide/unhide users in the login screen, enable disable accounts, change passwords, etc.
The ‘Icons’ tab lets you customize the icons for drive partitions, folders (Documents, Pictures, Favorites, Music and Videos), Recycle bin and Computer.
In the next tab, you can set a wallpaper for the Welcome screen. There is also a bunch of tools that are part of Windows, but it’s nice to have them all in one place. The ‘Security’ tab allows you to enable or disable access to critical items such as Control Panel, Display Settings, Writing to USB fl ash drives, etc. These options are useful for offices or cyber cafes, where you don’t want people tinkering with system settings.
You can also hide hard drive partitions and restrict access to certain features of Internet Explorer, like disabling download, disabling right-click, disabling Internet Options, etc. There’s also a separate tab for Internet Explorer, with more tweaks and tools for clearing temporary files, cookies, history and passwords.
The ‘Optimize’ tab has tweaks for speeding up shutdown, boosting NTFS performance, and enabling/disabling searching the file index during searches. The ‘More Policies tab’ has the most interesting tweaks related to taskbar, Start menu, desktop, removable storage access, Control Panel and display settings.
Reboot your PC to let all the changes take effect. Now run CCleaner to get the registry into good shape and clear junk files. The ‘Cleaner’ tab has two sections Windows and Applications. Check the items you wish to clean and click the ‘Analyze’ button to see the details of the files that are going to be deleted. Then click ‘Run Cleaner’ to get rid of them and gain disk space.
The Registry cleaner works the same way. CCleaner fixes unused file extensions, missing fonts, entries of obsolete software, missing shared DLLs, and so on. The ‘Tools’ tab has the Startup manager from which you can enable, disable or delete program entries that run as soon as Windows loads. It is recommended that you disable the ones that aren’t important (such as chat clients and download managers) to reduce startup time. Take care not to disable the antivirus, firewall or any other security program.
Windows tweaks need to be applied just once, or you can enable/disable the ones you like at any point of time. However, CCleaner needs to be run at least once a week as a maintenance task. Also defragment your drive partitions at least once a month. It will keep your hard drive healthy and reduce seek times. You can access Disk Defragmenter from ‘Start | All programs | Accessories | System tools’.