There's no doubt that Windows 7 is a good operating system. It's stocked with genuinely handy interface upgrades (hello, Aero Snap), long-overdue networking improvements (we love you, homegroups) and touchscreen support (long live tablet PCs).
However, like every operating system, though, Windows 7 can benefit from a few tweaks here, some add-ons there, and a smattering of OS-enhancing apps and utilities.
We've rounded up 25 of them, each one designed to make Windows 7 faster, easier, safer, or more fun. And because we know that many people still run Windows XP or Vista, we've identified the tips that work with those versions as well.
Make it faster
Is Windows 7 really speedier than Vista or XP? Different Windows 7 performance tests have yielded varying results, but ultimately it depends on your hardware and the apps you run.
Of course, with a few simple tricks, you can wring better performance from any system.
Works in: Vista, 7
The old saw still holds true: Windows loves RAM. The more memory that you supply, the less the OS has to rely on the comparatively poky hard drive.
But if you want Windows to address more than 3GB of memory, you have to run the 64bit version. If you're buying Windows 7 as an upgrade, you should find a 64bit installation disc in the box; ignore the 32bit disc entirely.
In addition to recognising more RAM, 64bit Windows makes better use of your PC's processor, giving you the best Windows experience possible.
Boot more quickly
Works in: XP, Vista, 7
Does Windows 7 really boot more rapidly than other versions of Windows? Yes, a little. But the more programs you install, the slower your system will start (something that's true of all Windows editions).
Many apps force Windows to run them at startup - a situation not unlike a dozen cars trying to merge into one lane.
Startup Delayer is a great tool that tells the startup programs you select to sit tight, be patient, and run a little later - after some of the traffic has cleared. The end result is that your PC boots much more quickly.
The utility presents you with a list of all the programs that start when your system does. To set a delay for any of them, just drag the item to the white bar at the bottom of the window.
You'll see a line representing the app; drag it left or right to decrease or increase the delay.
Startup Delayer is a freebie, and it's one of the best ways we know of to speed up a slow-booting PC. Even one that runs Windows 7.
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