How to Make Windows 7 Lean and Mean

While Windows 7 has a real "leg up" on it's predecessor Vista, there is still plenty to do to make it even better.

Now that Windows 7 RTM (Release to Manufacturing) is out and will soon be available to the general public, I think it’s a good time to share some of the things I’ve learned about how to make your system “lean and mean”. Before I begin I want to emphasize that the techniques and tricks I present here are based on my own personal experiences as a beta tester and MVP, often getting access to pre-release CTP (Community Technology Preview) and beta offerings that the typical user does not have access to. I make no guarantees that your experience will be exactly as mine, nor that any or all of the techniques I describe will work for you. In other words, use at your own risk, Your Mileage May Vary, and I make no guarantees of specific performance or appropriateness for your particular situation and usage of the operating system. Simple common sense is the guideline here. In some cases the advice that I give may appear contrary to what Microsoft recommends. You’ll simply have to use good judgment and decide what’s right for you. Everything I recommend is reversible, so you do not have to worry, as long as you understand what you are doing.

First, we need to understand that Windows 7, like it’s predecessors Windows Vista and Windows XP, installs by default with certain services and settings enabled. It may very well be that you, the user, may not want some of these settings and services and so it is up to you to determine “What does what”, and “Do I really need or want it”. On the other hand, some services are essential for the operating system to function, so experiment at your peril!

This article is a work in progress. I’m starting out with some basic recommendations based on my own personal experiences. If you have an idea or an addition you would like to contribute, please do not hesitate to post it as a comment at the bottom and I’ll add your suggestion and give you credit for it.

Windows 7 installs and starts (by default) some services and settings that I know I do not want or need. These services take up system resources; they do not come “for free”. Every service that is running when your PC has completed the boot-up process takes up valuable system resources, threads, and memory. It is up to you to decide what you should allow to run and what to disable. There are also a number of “behind the scenes” services and features that run by default; some of these can be safely disabled or turned off. This article will focus on the ones that I believe are the most obvious and will give you the most “bang for the buck”, and I’ll present alternatives in some cases.

Before you start doing these tweaks, right-click on the taskbar, and choose "Start Task Manager". Switch to the Performance tab, and make a note of the Memory graph reading. You can check this again when you're done and have rebooted to see the "bottom line"!

1) AntiVirus and Malware Protection. Windows 7 does not come with a full antivirus software suite installed. It has only “Windows Defender”, which runs as a service. I recommend that you disable Windows Defender, and instead, download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. I used to recommend AVG Free, but Security Essentials is free and it works great.

2) System Recovery. Windows 7 installs (on a clean install) with System Recovery (System Restore) turned on. I recommend that you turn it off. In my opinion, 99% of system failures and failure to boot correctly are due to Registry entries that are either corrupt, or incorrect. Therefore, the fastest and easiest way to “go back” to a good system is to be able to choose to restore a recent registry backup and reboot. The best way I know to do this is with a utility called ERUNT, from Lars Hederer. This works on every version of Windows, both 32 bit and 64 bit. Download this, install it, accept the defaults, and it will enter a Startup folder batch file that will back up your Registry for that day when you boot up. To restore a previous registry, just go to C:\Windows\ERUNT\Autobackup\ , choose the date you want, and in that folder, execute the ERDNT.EXE file. Your Registry from that day will be restored, you reboot, and you’re done. If your machine won't boot at all, hold down the F8 key and choose Safe mode, and you can do the same Registry restore. If you don't do any of the other tweaks in this article, please do this one. I can virtually guarantee that you will thank me at some point in the future!

3) Turn off Windows Search Service

Windows Search is constantly reviewing files on your system to make their contents available for quick searching.

Frankly, I keep my "stuff" pretty organized, so I don't need this extra overhead -- and Search in Windows Explorer still works fine if I need it, it is just slower. Windows Search can really impact system performance.

To disable this:

  • Click Start, then Computer
  • Right Click the C: Drive
  • On General Tab, Uncheck Index this drive for faster searching
  • On the next dialog box, Select Include subfolders and files
  • You should also Stop and set to Disabled the Windows Search Service.
4) Turn off Remote Differential Compression

Remote Differential Compression measures the changes in files over a network to transfer deltas with minimal bandwidth rather than transferring an entire file that has previously been moved. Because it constantly checks for file changes, this service can hinder system performance.

To disable this service:

  • Open Control Panel
  • Switch to Classic View
  • Select Program Features
  • Choose Turn Windows features on and off
  • Scroll down and uncheck Remote Differential Compression
5) Turn off Automatic Disk Defrag

Windows 7 has an always-on defragment feature that isn't really that necessary and can cause system slow down. Just remember to run a defrag manually every week.

To disable this:

  • Press Start (Windows key) and E, then select Computer
  • Right Click the C: Drive
  • Choose "Properties"
  • Select the Tools Tab
  • Click "Defragment Now"
  • Uncheck "Run on a schedule"
  • See "Defraggler" at the bottom. It's free.

    In fact, I do not even use the built-in defragger, preferring the free Piriform Defraggler product, which is much better.

6) Add a 2GB or higher USB Flash drive to use Ready Boost

Ready Boost uses a USB thumb/flash drive to provide some quick access memory the operating system can use as extra RAM. The Ready Boost system can improve system performance.

To set this up:

  • Insert a USB Flash Drive (preferably 2GB or more)
  • Click Start then Computer
  • Right Click the USB Drive in My Computer
  • Select the Ready Boost Tab
  • Choose Use this device
  • Select as much space as you can free up for RAM usage vs. Storage
7) Turn off Hibernation

Windows hibernation background services can use a large amount of system resources. If you don't use the Hibernate feature regularly you can to disable it to give Windows 7 a performance boost.

To disable Hibernation:

  • Select the Control Panel then Power Options
  • Click Change Plan Settings
  • Click on Change Advanced Power Settings
  • Expand the Sleep selection
  • Expand the Hibernate After selection
  • Bring the selector down to zero
  • Click Apply

8) Windows Firewall. My computers are behind a wireless router, which (in case you didn't know) includes a very good built-in Firewall. There's no need to have two firewalls running, so I have Windows Firewall disabled. NOTE: some programs require Windows Firewall to be running in order to install correctly, so you may have to temporarily turn it on.

9) Security Center. Once you have all your antivirus, firewall and whatever else protection you need going, there's no longer any need for the silly Security Center service. Disable it. Let's read what the service description says:

"The WSCSVC (Windows Security Center) service monitors and reports security health settings on the computer. The health settings include firewall (on/off), antivirus (on/off/out of date), antispyware (on/off/out of date), Windows Update (automatically/manually download and install updates), User Account Control (on/off), and Internet settings (recommended/not recommended). The service provides COM APIs for independent software vendors to register and record the state of their products to the Security Center service. The Action Center (AC) UI uses the service to provide systray alerts and a graphical view of the security health states in the AC control panel. Network Access Protection (NAP) uses the service to report the security health states of clients to the NAP Network Policy Server to make network quarantine decisions. The service also has a public API that allows external consumers to programmatically retrieve the aggregated security health state of the system."

Does the above make any sense to you? It doesn't to me. I already have everything set the way I want, so I don't think I need some service running, taking up resources, just to monitor it. That's why I have it disabled. You decide.


Disable excess Windows Services that Auto-Start at Startup

Just like Windows XP and Vista, Windows 7 ships with all kinds of services enabled that load at startup and may never be used by most users.

To see what loads at startup and disable the ones you probably won't need:

  • Click Start then Control Panel
  • Select Administrative Tools
  • Choose System Configuration
  • Click the Services Tab
    Alternatively, you can type "msconfig" in the Start / run window.

You can safely deselect:

  • Offline Files (unless you're using Offline File Sync)
  • Tablet PC Input Service (unless you have a tablet PC)
  • Terminal Services (unless you want to use Remote Desktop sharing)
  • Windows Search (If you already disabled indexing)
  • Fax (unless you're using a fax modem)

Disable Excess Windows Features

Windows 7 ships with other features that are listed separately in the operating system from the startup services.

You can view and disable these features:

  • Click Start, then Control Panel
  • Select Program Features
  • On the left panel, select Turn Windows Features on or off

You can safely deselect:

  • Indexing Service
  • Remote Differential Compression
  • Tablet PC Optional Components
    Windows DFS Replication Service
  • Windows Fax & Scan (unless you use a modem for faxing)
  • Message Queue - unless you're using this as a programmer.
Set a fixed size Page File

In Control Panel the System applet has different tabs where you can manage these settings. The recommended size for a fixed Page file is shown at the bottom of the Virtual Memory tab. Choose this size as both the minimum and maximum under "Custom size".

In Networking, Turn off Qos Packet Scheduler

On many machines, this will speed up networking. You can also Uncheck "IPV6" since you probably don't need this just yet.

Turn off the "chrome"

Turning off the fancy Aero interface, turning off the sidebar ( now called something like "gadgets"), and otherwise disabling the features that make Windows 7 look and feel unique will help speed up performance. Free programs like CCleaner ("Crap Cleaner") have features that let you manage the startup programs and clean up unneeded files off your hard drive. I also recommend their defragmentation tool, "Defraggler".

You can find some additional candidates for windows services that can be turned off here.

If I had to pick only two of the above tweaks, it would be numbers 2 and 3!

By Peter Bromberg   Popularity  (28731 Views)