How to optimize your Windows 7 PC

Squeeze the very best performance out of your PC with these Windows 7 optimization tricks.

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If your PC has multiple hard drives, you can boost performance by moving the location of the system's paging file from the drive containing the C:\ partition to a separate hard drive. To do that, open Control Panel and choose System. From there, click Advanced System Settings. Select the Advanced tab, and then click the Settings button under the Performance category. On the new window that pops up, choose the Advanced tab. Finally, click Change.

Uncheck the box labeled Automatically manage paging file size for all drives. Select C: from the Drive box and switch it to the No paging file option. Next, select a different hard drive and choose System managed size. Click OK and restart your computer.

Push your performance

To create a faster Windows 7 experience, start by modifying the amount of time that mouse-over boxes and clicked menus take to appear. Click on the Windows Start button and type regedit into the 'Search programs and files' box. Welcome to the Windows 7 Registry -- don't touch or modify anything without good reason.

Left-click on the expandable arrow next to HKEY_CURRENT_USER. Expand the Control Panel folder, and then click directly on Desktop in the hierarchy. In the right pane, look for and double-click MenuShowDelay. Change the value from 400 to any lesser number that's 1 or greater; this figure represents the milliseconds of delay between your click and a menu's display. Restart the computer to apply the changes immediately, or continue to the next tweak.

See the folder labeled Mouse (below Desktop)? Click that, and then search for and select the MouseHoverTime Registry key. Just as before, change this value to any lesser number that's 1 or greater. Close the Registry Editor, restart the computer, and you'll have faster mouseovers.

If you're willing to sacrifice looks for speed, you can modify the visual settings of the Windows 7 interface to emphasize performance over presentation. Go back to the System section of Control Panel and click on Advanced System Settings again. On the System Properties window that appears, choose the Advanced tab and then click on the Settings box underneath the Performance category. The Performance Options window will pop up. There, you'll see a list of checked boxes that correspond to all of the window dressing in the operating system.

If you don't mind transforming your OS into a clone of Windows 2000, click the button that tells Windows to adjust its visual settings for best performance. It's a harsh step to take, though -- if you'd prefer a piecemeal approach, uncheck only the boxes that relate to Windows Aero (such as Aero peek and transparent glass). You'll retain a semblance of a pretty desktop while still improving performance a teeny bit.

Conserve resources

Once you've installed a fair amount of programs on your PC -- your "core base" of apps, as it were -- you'll want to check that your system doesn't have any unwanted applications running in the background that could otherwise impede the machine's general performance. These programs launch themselves during the operating system's startup process, and are often designed to help you load their corresponding applications faster. The problem is that they run every time, regardless of whether you intend to use the application during a given session.

Click Start and type msconfig into the 'Search programs and files' field. Press Enter. In the System Configuration window that appears, select the Startup tab. Move your mouse between the headers of the Manufacturer and Command columns, and shrink the Manufacturer column down; the Command column is the one you care about.

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