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.
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
Auslogics Disk Defrag
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,
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...
|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:
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.
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