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.

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16 Responses

  1. Bob Pitstone says:

    Nice article!
    You should also include disabling the indexing feature. That will further improve the performance of a Windows 7 netbook. I also write articles about optimizing Windows 7. Keep writing this stuff.

  2. Jairo locoboy says:

    Great article, if you don´t want to do this manually there is a program called tuneup utilities, It can make all the perfomance tweaks and it evens has a feature called “Turbo Mode” that disable some unnecessary features for some extra speed.

  3. Jose says:

    @ C.Camel,

    Thats a fapbook you have then not a netbook XD

  4. C. Camel says:

    Great tips. Hopefully this optimizes the speed in which I can access and view my extensive collection of pornography on my netbook. Cheers.

    • Jon says:

      But netbooks typically have a very small amount of hard drive space, especially if you have an SSD. So you’re limited to only the quality porn, or travel porn.

  5. brad says:

    i have an aspire one, upgraded to 1.5 gig ram.
    its an 8 meg video card. how in the hell can you say the chip is the weak point? my desktop is very similar spec, 1.7 ghz, 2 gig ram but5 with a 256 graphics card. 7 runs wonderfully on both (with a little trimming, and some help from some online friends, including jon here, thanks man!)
    but i have to turn aero off on the netbook. (which by the way makes navigating a 7in screen much more bearable.)

    IF there is a weak point its the graphics card.

    however, i did buy a NETBOOK not a bloody gaming system.

    check yourself.

  6. Jon says:

    The classic interface renders via GPU too. Windows 7 renders all the interfaces via the GPU, it is just a matter of what fun features you want with it. You can turn specific graphical niceties on and off if you right click Computer > Properties > Advanced System Settings > Advanced Tab > Performance Settings. You can now check on and off individual effects. With this you can get half way to “Classic” without actually turning it on. Then you can go into the advanced portions of ‘Personalize’ and adjust the Window titles and outlines to be in the Classic style without specifically selecting classic.

    With a little extra work you get classic without the classic, and either way your CPU isn’t rendering it. Unless of course you’ve got a GPU that is a total and complete piece of junk. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  7. Pavel says:

    Wrong, completely WRONG ! Disabling Windows Aero will decrease performance, because Aero is rendered by the graphics card and the classic interface is rendered by the processor. As the netbook CPU is one of its weakest parts you certainly do not want to stress it more, so it’s better to use the AERO interface and thus to save CPU power for other tasks than rendering windows and menus :)

    • justanoob says:

      Let me correct you there.

      Almost all current netbooks do NOT have a dedicated graphics processer but share resources from the primary CPU/Chipset

      What does this mean? Putting extra load on the “GPU” will only slow the entire system.

      So yes, disable AERO.. unless you have a DEDIDCATED GPU

      FYI, I code graphics drivers.. just incase you wanted to be sure I was right.

      • Prateek Sharma says:

        You mentioned that you code graphic drivers.. Can you help me with some queries of mine over GPU drivers. Can I mail you?

  8. cure says:

    Just got a new lenovo and this really helps. Thanks.

  9. Thanx, nice tips to optimize windows 7

  10. Jon says:

    Fair point. It just so happens that I like the old look. It’s clean and functional without extra… crap.

  11. Jake says:

    While you can get more performance by turning Aero off completely – you can keep Aero, and just turn off transparency (Personalize > Window Color > Enable transparency [checkbox]) to get a performance boost without reverting to a 1995 look.

  12. TuneUp says:

    You may be able to optimize your netbook even more. Check out this blog post http://bit.ly/NESGI; it recommends using a lightweight MediaPlayer, disabling unnecessary backgrounds and upgrading your RAM.

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