Windows 7 comes as a significant performance improvement over its predecessor, Windows Vista. But if you want to get the very best performance possible, you should make a few system tweaks to eliminate resource-hogging programs and features. In this guide, I'll show you a few good ways to boost your PC's performance without upgrading your hardware.
First, one warning: A quick Internet search will lead you to treasure troves of advice for making the most of your OS, but beware -- many of those suggestions are fool's gold, myths inherited from Vista and XP optimization guides that could actually do more harm than good for your Windows 7 system's performance.
The tweaks and suggestions I offer here won't transform your rusty old junker into a screaming new Porsche, but they will help you squeeze some extra speed and space out of your native Windows 7 installation.
If you intend to perform additional modifications to Windows 7 beyond the options I describe here, be sure to run a quick search for "Windows 7 performance myths." Don't be fooled by the more outlandish tweaking claims and tutorials you'll find on the Internet. Investigate the changes you intend to make to your system before you do anything, or you might find yourself in an undesirable (or even irreparable) situation.
Speed up a fresh Windows 7 upgrade
When you reach the first, fresh desktop after completing a successful Windows 7 installation, you might be stunned to find your components in perfect working order. For the most part Windows 7 is quite good about setting up drivers for networking, video, input devices, and other elements -- good, that is, but not great.
To maximize your PC's performance, first hunt down and install Windows 7 drivers for all of the critical components attached to your system. Motherboard drivers are the most important consideration, especially if your system's video and sound are integrated onto the system board.
If those components aren't integrated in your PC, add drivers for your video card and sound card to the list, followed by your input devices and any additional parts you've attached to your system in some capacity (including, but not limited to, a Wi-Fi card, any PCI-based devices, and printers). If you're not sure what components you have, grab the free program DriverMax and use it to scan your system for components and for potential driver updates.
Can't find Windows 7 drivers for a product? Try using Windows Vista drivers instead. If you run into trouble, try right-clicking on the executable file and left-clicking Troubleshoot Compatibility. Run through the wizard and select the option that refers to the program's running fine in an earlier version of Windows but not in Windows 7. Select Windows Vista as the subsequent operating system, click Next through the offered prompts, and then run the installation executable again.
Finally, though it might sound odd, don't use the Windows Updater to install drivers for your machine -- Microsoft is notorious for releasing old and/or incompatible drivers through this service.
Optimize your storage
If you installed Windows 7 as an upgrade from Windows Vista, you'll find a folder labeled C:\Windows.old. This folder, as you might expect, holds the full contents of your old Windows Vista system. It's huge, and it's a waste of space. Scroll through the folders for any files that you want to save in your new Windows 7 OS, and then delete the entire folder from your drive. Space saved.