Hardware upgrades, software tweaks and networking tricks to get more PC speed
If upgrading your PC is out of the question, you still have plenty of options for boosting its performance. Here are some more suggestions that are worth a try.
Kill splash screens. Splash screens don't bog down your computer per se, but they do insert a speed bump into your schedule whenever you launch an application, and that extra time can add up. You can turn off many splash screens in program settings.
Scrub startup apps. In all likelihood, an astonishing number of applications in your PC load at startup without your knowledge. Take a look at what's in your startup queue by typing msconfig in the Start menu Search box. Click the Startup tab and you'll find a list of everything that loads during bootup; it probably includes a number of programs such as QuickTime and anything made by Adobe. Clear the box next to each program you don't want your PC to load at startup.
Soluto is a free tool that performs the same operation on a crowd-source basis. If you're unsure what some of the applications in the msconfig display are, Soluto can probably tell you.
It also reports exactly how much time each one costs you during startup. The catch is that Soluto itself will slow you down by a few seconds, so install it only if you know your system has a lot of stuff loading at startup that you can safely get rid of.
Turn off search indexing. The ability to search your PC at Google-like speeds is one of Windows 7's greatest strengths. But no matter how orderly you keep your business, indexing will slow you down.
To change the indexing settings, type services in the Start menu Search bar. Scroll down to and right-click Windows Search in the window that appears, then choose Properties. Change the 'Startup type' to Disabled, then click Ok.
Turn off Aero. Windows' translucent windows and variable backgrounds look pretty, but such effects can considerably slow your system. To turn them off, open the Personalization Control Panel and scroll down to 'Basic and High Contrast Themes'. The Windows 7 Basic theme is still attractive but uses less graphics-rendering power.
If you want to make more granular tweaks, open the 'Performance Information and Tools' Control Panel and click 'Adjust visual effects' in the left-hand pane. Here you'll find specific settings that you can adjust for greater speed; turn them off by clicking the 'Adjust for best performance' button and then clicking Ok.
Delete the Peek. Aero Peek and Aero Snap consume a relatively small amount of system resources, but disabling Aero Snap will save you time by eliminating accidental snaps that you have to undo manually.
To access these features, type ease in the Start menu Search bar and choose 'Ease of Access Center'. At the bottom of the screen, click 'Make it easier to focus on tasks'. Select the option to 'Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen.' Also consider ticking the box next to 'Turn off all unnecessary animations (when possible)'.
To turn off Aero Peek, right-click the Taskbar and select Properties. Deselect 'Use Aero Peek to preview the desktop'.
Kill compression. If your hard drive is suitably large, you have no reason to compress folders on it that you regularly use. Decompressing files on the fly only slows your access to them.
To uncompress a compressed folder without third-party compression software installed, right-click the folder and choose 'Extract all'. Follow the prompts to choose a destination for the uncompressed files; then delete the original, compressed folder.
Go thumbnail-free. Trying to view thumbnail images in a folder that holds several hundred images usually causes Windows to choke. To disable the thumbnail option, open Windows Explorer and click Tools, Folder Options. Click the View tab and select 'Always show icons, never thumbnails'.
Consider a Registry cleaner. Registry cleaners are regarded as saviours by their supporters and snake oil by their detractors. We'll add to the argument only that Registry cleaners may be of value to some users, and that we've witnessed a thorough Registry scrubbing revitalise a very old computer, at least to some extent. (Of course, following the other tips in this feature also helps.)