Tweaking Windows 7
Oct 17, 2009, 15:06 GMT
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gives the keynote address with Windows 7 operating system logo on background at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Nevada on 07 January 2009. EPA/LAURA RAUCH
Washington - If you'll be among the millions to get Windows 7 when it's released later this month, you'll no doubt want to get started right away with making the new operating system feel like your own.
That means learning how to customise how Windows 7 looks, feels, and operates. Luckily, Microsoft has made Windows 7 more customisable than any previous version of Windows. Here's how to get started.
--- Adjust everything
Open the Windows 7 Start menu, and type the word 'adjust.' Up will pop pointers to several areas of the operating system in which you can adjust how Windows performs and appears.
Start by clicking 'Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.' Doing so opens the Performance Options dialog box, where you can make some almost magical adjustments that will make Windows 7 feel a lot faster.
On the Visual Effects tab of the Performance Options dialog box, you have two options. You can select one of the performance presets by clicking the appropriate radio button - either 'Adjust for best appearance' or 'Adjust for best performance.' Or you can use the check boxes below these option buttons to make your own customisations, feature by feature.
The latter option is the one that gives you the most control, so start there. Remove the check mark next to any entry that refers to 'animation,' 'fading,' or 'sliding' of windows, tool tips, or menus. While these visual effects may initially seem cool, ultimately they're just time-wasters, and turning them off will make Windows 7 feel as zippy - or zippier - than Windows XP on identical hardware.
You enable or disable other features in this dialog box to taste. If you're running a reasonably new machine, it probably doesn't hurt to leave Aero Peek or the 'transparent glass' features enabled. They are, after all, what helps to gives Windows 7 its updated look, with semi-transparent borders that allow you to see some of what's behind application windows that are in the foreground. If you have any question about whether you need these features, it won't hurt to turn them off. You can always return here and turn them back on again.
Want to make sure your Windows 7 display is as legible as possible? Return to the Start menu and type 'adjust' again. This time, though, select the entry called 'Adjust ClearType text.' The resulting 'ClearType Text Tuner' will walk you through a series of visual prompts that will allow you to fine-tune your monitor's display of textual elements to a finer degree than in any previous version of Windows. This adjustment feature will be a boon to those stuck with displays that are difficult to read for any reason.
--- Get your menus back
The case of the disappearing menus started in Windows Vista but continues in Windows 7. Microsoft seems to feel that displaying menus in common Windows components such as Windows Explorer is passé. But if you're moving to Windows 7 from Windows XP, you're likely to miss those menus - the familiar File, Edit, View, Tools - as well, perhaps, as the underlined letters that indicated which key on the keyboard to tap in order to access them.
Never fear. The menus are still there; they're just hidden. To get them back, open the Windows 7 Start menu, and type 'folder options.' In the resulting Folder Options dialog box, click the View tab, and from the list of 'Advanced settings,' click the check box next to 'Always show menus.' Take a moment to look at the other options available in Advanced Settings, too. You might find other customisations you find essential.
Click OK, and your menus will thankfully reappear in all of your favourite Windows applications. To get the underlines within menu items, revisit the Start button, and type 'keyboard.' Then click the search result labeled 'change how your keyboard works.' The resulting 'Make the keyboard easier to use' screen contains an entry labeled 'Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys.' Select that, click OK, and your underlines will be restored.
--- Rid yourself of UAC
The dreaded User Account Control (UAC) prompts may have done more damage to Windows Vista's popularity than any other single feature. UAC prompts annoyed Vista users at almost every turn - when installing an application, deleting certain files, changing system settings, and more.
UAC is still around in Windows 7, but it's refreshingly easy to disable. Open the Start menu again, type UAC, and click the search result labeled 'Change User Account Control Settings.' In the resulting User Account Control Settings dialog box, drag the slider all the way down, until Never Notify appears beneath the slider. Click OK, and you'll be rid of those annoying UAC prompts once and for all.
--- Dump notifications
Speaking of annoyances, Windows 7 does a decent job of reducing the previously incessant notifications that appeared from the system tray. But it doesn't go far enough. If you don't want to be reminded repeatedly about software that might be 'out of date,' backups that need to be made, missing antivirus or spyware applications, or updates available from the Windows Update area, you're probably not alone. Thankfully, you can turn it all off from one place in Windows 7.
Open the Start menu, and type 'action.' Click the 'Action Center' entry that appears, and Windows 7 will open the Change Action Center Settings dialog box. From there, you can tell Windows 7 exactly which types of message are okay to prompt you about - and which are not. Clear the check boxes from all entries if you simply wish to be left alone.
--- Tweaking tools
While you can perform a lot of tweaking from within Windows 7 itself, it's always nice when third party software makers come along with a product that offers more sophisticated customisations that otherwise would require a great deal of knowledge about the arcane Windows system registry.
The free Ultimate Windows Tweaker (http://www.winvistaclub.com/Ultimate_Windows_Tweaker.html) is just such a tool. Originally released for Windows Vista, Ultimate Windows Tweaker has been updated to recognise and work with Windows 7. The utility is a delight to use - it requires no installation at all, for example, coming as a single executable file, once unzipped.
Start the Ultimate Windows Tweaker, and you'll find an easy-to-use interface that provides clickable categories on the left - such as 'system performance' and 'security settings' - and a wide array of tweaks for each category. Among the more interesting are tweaks for restoring the last viewed Windows Explorer folders at startup, enabling support for 4 GB of memory in 32-bit Windows 7, and multiple Start menu customisations.
Know where to look, and tweaking Windows 7 is both fast and easy. Explore the options outlined here, and in no time you'll feel have a Windows 7 computer that operates just the way you like it.