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FAQ: Windows Maintenance and Tweaks: Do's and Don't's

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

A lot of the time I see users on OCN giving terrible advice on what to do in terms of "speeding" up or tweaking Windows. This quick FAQ is a guide on what you should or shouldn't do.

1. Defragmentation:

Do, as long as you're using a mechanical (non SSD) hard drive.

Defragmentation is the process of moving files or applications to adjacent locations on the hard drive so that applications that use the files will access the files more efficiently, and therefore faster. Oftentimes, defragmentation applications will move commonly used files to the front (fastest part) of the disk.

Defragmentation applications I recommend:

The built in utility (Start Menu --> (All) Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Defragmenter
Defraggler
Auslogics Disk Defrag
MyDefrag
UltraDefrag

Defragmentation applications I do not recommend:

Iobit Smart Defrag
Iobit has an extremely shady history. They're famous for stealing the intellectual property of Malwarebytes. They have a "hentai porn" spam page on their website, a website clearly ripped from Apple Inc.'s website, and several very shady text ads on their site.

As to defragmentation software you have to pay for... their freeware alternatives are always just as capable. I haven't seen one exception to this.

2. Registry Cleaning:

Don't, no matter what.

Registry cleaning has and always will be a huge (misleading) scam. Most of these utilities are very, very shady.

To quote Ed Bott,
 

Quote:

Don't run registry cleaner programs, period. I won't go so far as to call them snake oil, but what possible performance benefits can you get from "cleaning up" unneeded registry entries and eliminating a few stray DLL files? Even in the best-case scenario the impact should be trivial at best. Maybe a second or two here and there, maybe a few kilobytes of freed-up RAM, and I'm being generous. How can you balance those against the risk that the utility will "clean" (in other words, delete) something you really need, causing a program or feature to fail?

and then later on...
 

Quote:
I urge you to check comparative reviews, ratings, and rankings of Registry Clean-up Tools before you invest hard-earned dollars on these products. Sadly, there are no links here either. I suspect that's because detailed comparative reviews of this class of software don't exist. Ironically, the article inadvertently documents the case against this sort of utility. Early on, it states: "The typical Windows system has literally hundreds of thousands of Registry entries." The screen shot from the free utility he spotlights shows a grand total of 19 "errors," most of which are simply pointers to CLSIDs that don't exist. Is it really worth spending hours on this task? I don't think so.

3. Memory Cleaning:

Don't, no matter what.

Memory cleaning is snake oil through and through. These applications break applications you're using and Windows at their worst. If you're not using the memory you paid for, you're wasting it. Besides, an extra 2GB stick of memory will barely cost you $15 nowadays, and that's only going to get cheaper as time passes.

4. Disabling Unused Services

Do, but be very, very careful.

Never follow a guide claiming to choosing Windows services to disable or enable for you; this should be done on a case-by-case basis. Disabling one or two services that bloat Windows is fine, but if you disable too many, you'll end up with:

a. lost functionality
b. broken applications
c. lost speed... if you set enough services to "Delayed Start" or "Manual" you end up with an operating system that starts up new services right when they're needed and not before... this can slow things down.

There are very few services that, when disabled, you'll notice a performance increase. These generally have to do with Windows Media Player, Windows Defender, and search features, but I won't get into that. Just remember, when you do decide to disable unused services, be careful. Don't follow guides, and make sure to do your research.

5. Registry Tweaks

Do some, avoid others.

 

Windows comes preconfigured with settings that are optimal for most users. That means very few tweaks are actually of use to the end user-- among the useful ones include menu delay and cancelling tweaks as shown here.

 

However, I must stress that these tweaks do not have to do with the actual speed of your operating system, but rather the "feel". If you feel Windows Explorer is already plenty responsive, I'd avoid trying these.


6. Cleaning Prefetch Folder

Don't, no matter what.

 

Again, wise words from Ed Bott:

 

Quote:

XP systems have a Prefetch directory underneath the windows root directory, full of .pf files — these are lists of pages to load. The file names are generated from hashing the EXE to load — whenever you load the EXE, we hash, see if there’s a matching (exename)-(hash).pf file in the prefetch directory, and if so we load those pages. (If it doesn’t exist, we track what pages it loads, create that file, and pick a handful of them to save to it.) So, first off, it is a bad idea to periodically clean out that folder as some tech sites suggest. For one thing, XP will just re-create that data anyways; secondly, it trims the files anyways if there’s ever more than 128 of them so that it doesn’t needlessly consume space. So not only is deleting the directory totally unnecessary, but you’re also putting a temporary dent in your PC’s performance. [emphasis in original]

 

TL;DR version: The OS already does this on a regular basis... messing with the prefetch folder won't help.


7. Disable System Restore

Don't for the sole reason of "tweaking" or speeding Windows up.

Disabling System Restore only speeds things up when you're installing things or doing other things that require system restores (e.g. Windows Updates). Since these situations don't happen very often, the minimal amount of speed increase you may perceive from less disk space used up is not worth it.

8. Make Windows Use More Cores

Does nothing, don't bother.

This "feature", found in the MSConfig prompt, is used solely for debugging purposes, like testing out 1 core on a multi-core computer. Don't bother with it;you'll only cause problems by messing with this.

 

9. ReadyBoost

 

Most likely does nothing, don't bother.

 

ReadyBoost is a feature introduced in Windows Vista that allows you to use a piece of portable flash memory (e.g. SD card, memory stick) for disk caching in addition to RAM. Unless you're running into problems with running out of RAM and going into the page file, I can't wholeheartedly recommend doing this.


Edited by Randallrocks - 4/8/12 at 7:57pm
post #2 of 32
Whoa. I approve. I hope this thread gets stickied.

I am looking forward to seeing what else you're adding!
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post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TwoCables View Post
Whoa. I approve. I hope this thread gets stickied.

I am looking forward to seeing what else you're adding!
A looooooooooooot more.
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
Updated... totally forgot about this thread.
post #5 of 32
Good job! Here's my little contribute (only for Vista/7):

Do not disable the User Account Control (aka UAC)!
Most people believe that the UAC is just an "annoying" confirmation. That is completely false! By clicking "Yes" you become full administrator and thus give full adimistrator privileges to the program.
This means that if any kind of malware needs adimistrator privileges, you can block it by denying the UAC prompt. If you get an UAC prompt and you haven't launched any program, then that means that probably some sort of malware is trying to enter the 'heart' of the OS. So when using it you are a normal user and become full administrator only when needed.
This sort of solution was used in Windows XP by creating an account as normal user (which has limited privileges) to browse the internet.
If you have Windows Vista leave it at default (maximum level), instead if you have Windows 7 you'll have to manually increase it. This is because Microsoft heard of all the people complaining about the "annoying" UAC without understanding its true potential.
article on ZDNet

Use the hibernation.
When you use it, it moves the information on the RAM to the HD. You will get quicker boots at the cost of some space of your HD and a little more time for the computer to off. The OS will also work better because it can understand your use of the computer (because of the longer 'sessions') and use some nice features (prefetch, superfetch, statistics, etc.). Vista and 7 were projected to use this feature instead of the shut down, you have to do a complete reboot only when installing some updates or programs.
I believe it is suggested to not use it on SSDs, maybe because of the space needed.
Dont' confuse the hibernation with the suspension. When you use the hibernation, you don't use any power (for instance, you can plug off the power cable), instead the suspension is a low-power usage mode especially useful for netbooks/notebooks.

@TL;DR
Don't disable the UAC (if you have Windows 7 set it to the maximum level) and use the hibernation instead of the shut down.

P.S.
I would like to add a little note about the defragmenter of Vista/7.
It runs with very low priority when the computer is in idle, as soon as you use it will stop and continue when again in idle. It is also scheduled to run one time a week by default.
Most people can use the defragmenter included in the OS without having to worry about defragmentation. Especially the one of Windows 7 was higly optimized from XP (and in some things even on Vista).
If you want to learn more read this.
Edited by link_90 - 11/8/10 at 8:37am
post #6 of 32
how good is the defragmenter in win7? im currently using auslogic defrag.
also i had disabled my hibernation on my laptop. however when i enabled it a week ago just to try it out again, it hibernates and then turns right back on again. any help?
   
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post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesethunda View Post
how good is the defragmenter in win7? im currently using auslogic defrag.
also i had disabled my hibernation on my laptop. however when i enabled it a week ago just to try it out again, it hibernates and then turns right back on again. any help?
As I said in my previous post, the defragmenter in Windows 7 is fine for most people.
The hibernation sometimes doesn't work well with some hardware, usually old parts. As for your problem, maybe you have some device that doesn't let the computer go in hibernation. I would check the power saving options first.

Another thing:
I believe it's best to let the OS configure the paging file. I've read of people disabling it because they had a lot of RAM but some programs need it 'active' (not using it) to function properly.
Not 100% sure on this one though.
Edited by link_90 - 11/8/10 at 12:35pm
post #8 of 32
my computer is a year old. well laptop actually. but iv had it off for quite some time, and enabled it recently. i just tried it again and i think it works not. it just doesnt work when i have my laptop plugged in to a power source
   
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post #9 of 32
I turn UAC off entirely. I have anti virus and a firewall for protection and hate the prompts.

I was under the impression that manually setting your paging file to a separate disk and at a fixed ratio (1.5:1) to RAM available was more efficient than letting the OS handle it.
    
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post #10 of 32
For the most part the registry cleaning section is true as long as you don't have massive amounts of things making BS registry entries ... and if you do that's a whole other problem..
But! I must suggest adding Pagedefrag to the registry cleaning section

and RamMap to the memory cleaning section.
RamMap should not be used regularly and is not intended to be.

In addition, (IMO) Everyone should download and have a copy of the systeminternals suite on their windows based machine regardless of if they actually use any of the tools or not.
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