June 26, 2009

950 words 5 mins read

Optimizing Windows 7 for Netbooks

A while back I got an Eee PC 1000, which I’ve talked about a number of times. At first I installed Ubuntu 9.04 on it, but after a while I got bored and decided to give Windows 7 a try. While I prefer Linux servers, my desktop machines tend to run Windows, mainly because it can run the software I need for desktop machines — like Photoshop & games. Granted a Netbook isn’t going to be a machine for Photoshopping, but you get the point. After a while of playing with my netbook, John got jealous and decided he had to have one for himself. He got his Eee PC 900A and installed Windows 7, which he just covered in the previous blog entry (something I probably should have done, but never got around to doing). If you’re playing along at home, you’ve got Windows 7 installed on your netbook, but it isn’t necessarily running as well as it could be. There are a few easy things you can do to “optimize” Windows 7 for the netbook experience.

Classic Theme

The first and easiest thing to do is to switch to the Windows Classic theme. The main advantage of this is that it turns off most of the Areo transparency, something that is not terribly friendly to your low powered machine. Right click on your desktop > Personalize > Click “Windows Classic” > Wait for it to apply.

Adjust Visual Effects for Best Performance

This is a series of settings that have been around going back to Windows XP (if not farther) that are handy if you really don’t care about the graphical effects (the “Shiny factor”) or want to squeeze every ounce out of your machine. Click Start > Right click on “Computer” > Properties > Advanced System Settings > Performance > Settings > Hit the radio button for “Adjust for best performance” > Ok. This will turn off all of the fancy visual effects.

Shrink Taskbar/Start Menu

This is all aesthetic, rather than performance, but when operating a tiny screen — it is damn handy. Right click on the TaskBar > Properties > Check Use Small Icons > Change Taskbar buttons to “Combine when taskbar is full” > Start Menu Tab > Change Power button action to “Hibernate” or “Sleep” > Customize > Check “Run Command” > Uncheck “Use large Icons” > Ok > Apply > Ok

Turn Windows Features On or Off

This may not make a huge difference depending on what you’re doing, but you will be able to trim small bits off that you won’t need. Start > Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows features on or Off . At this point in time I made sure IE8 was “off” along with anything else I didn’t need. In the end I only have the following “on”: Games, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5.1, Print and Document Services, Remote Differential Compression. Everything else I either wouldn’t need or wouldn’t help that much. Things like the Indexing Service & Windows Search might seem useful, but you probably won’t be looking for many documents while on your Netbook. You’ll probably be operating on just what you need and nothing more.

Turn sytem icons On or Off

Again, basically cosmetic, but ease of access is key here in the land of the small screen. Start > Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Customize Icons on the taskbar > Turn system icons on or off > Turn everything on, but Action Center (Defaults may have everything on including Action Center). Obviously if you don’t care about something (like the clock), you can turn it off here and save yourself a few pixels.


This is a step to run after you’ve installed any/all additional software. Windows Key + R (Or Start > Run ) > Type msconfig > Ok. In this “System Configuration” you’ll want to check the Services tab (Sort by Manufacturer) and the Startup tab. In services you’ll want to look for anything not from Microsoft and consider disabling it. For example when installing Picasa the “Google Updated Service” is installed which simply isn’t needed on a regular basis. In startup you’ll find applications drop items here from time to time, for example Skype or the Adobe Acrobat Tray. Again they are items that you won’t need (or want) every boot of your netbook — so turn them off. Be careful in here though, if you install an antivirus, turning off it’s service will disable it from functioning all together.

In Summary

So, now you’ve got a netbook running Windows 7 (which might just remind you of the Windows 2000 UI), and is hopefully running a little bit zippier than it was before. None of these changes are going to make an amazing singular change (though turning off Areo will probably help the most), but every little bit helps. I find that my machine still uses about 400 MB of RAM on boot. Normally, I’d find this number appalling, but Win7 seems to use it well and the rest of the RAM isn’t so necessary. In my view, a netbook really isn’t powerful enough run several programs at once, so at most you might be running 2 or 3 programs. Unless you’re an idiot and trying to run Photoshop, you’re probably not going to burn 600mb of RAM. That being said, John and I will probably run some speed comparisons down the line since our machines are the same speed but he’s upgraded to 2GB of RAM while I’m at the factory 1GB. I may have to eat my words, but don’t worry, I’ll just edit the entry so there will be no proof of my temporary insanity.