Plus performance-enhancing tweaks for Vista and XP
Windows 7 is a brilliant OS and offers us loads of long-overdue improvement and upgrades. However, like any OS it can benefit from a few tweaks. We've rounded up 25 essential tips to make your PC run faster.
Make it more fun
Looking for entertainment? Windows 7 has a couple of tricks up its sleeve: media sharing and Windows Media Center. The latter is available in the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions of the OS; only Starter doesn't have it.
Here's how to get more enjoyment out of your Windows entertainment apps.
Autorotate your wallpaper
Works in: 7
Wouldn't it be nice if Windows greeted you with a new wallpaper every time you start your PC? Or at regular intervals throughout the day?
Windows 7 makes this so simple that you really have to wonder what took Microsoft so long.
To set your wallpaper options, press the Windows key, type background, and then click Change desktop background.
By default Windows will show you its stock background art (and some lovely selections they are), but you can peruse different images (such as those in your Pictures Library) by clicking the Picture location drop-down or choosing Browse to pull from a specific folder on your hard drive.
Next, click Select All if you want to add all the displayed photos to your wallpaper rotation, or click the checkbox next to each individual photo you want to include.
Then, click the Change picture every drop-down and set the desired interval (how often Windows will swap the current wallpaper for the next one on the roster) to 30 minutes, one day, or whatever.
Finally, click Save changes.
Download more themes
Works in: 7
Microsoft stocked Windows 7 with some seriously stunning Aero themes - packages of wallpapers, sounds, and a pervasive colour palette - that range from architecture to nature.
To see that array of choices, press the Windows key, type theme, and click Change the theme. You can browse what's there or click Get more themes online to tap into Microsoft's Personalization Gallery.
It's home to about a dozen branded themes (Bing, Ferrari, the game Gears of War, the movie Avatar and so on), plus 20 international themes with gorgeous artwork from places such as Brazil, Japan and Taiwan.
You'll also find instructions here on creating your own theme or customising existing themes. This site is a great resource for anyone looking to jazz up Windows 7.
Ditch the antenna, keep your digital channels
Works in: 7
In previous versions of Windows, the built-in Media Center software could tune in (and record, DVR-style) locally broadcast digital channels - but only if you used an ATSC tuner and connected a reasonably good set of rabbit ears.
This over-the-air approach worked well enough, but Windows 7 offers a much better option: ClearQAM, which delivers unencrypted digital channels via your basic-cable feed, although it only works for those in the US.
All you need is a tuner card that supports ClearQAM technology (which virtually all current models do). With that, you should be able to tune in your local channels in all their digital, high-def goodness, no antenna required.
If you already own a tuner, such as AverMedia's AverTVHD Volar Max, just install the latest drivers, disconnect your antenna, and replace it with your cable-TV coaxial cable.
You'll need to restart Windows and then run through Media Center's signal-setup process, which you can find under Tasks, Setup, TV, TV Signal, Set Up TV Signal.
Don't be surprised if you actually gain some additional channels compared with what you received from the antenna alone.
NEXT PAGE: Watch tuner-free TV in Media Center