Windows 7 System Optimisations

Today I was asked by a fellow developer colleague if I could give some them pointers in how to optimise their new machine; in particular if anything should be done to make their “SSD hum along”. So considering I’ve already done through this process a dozen time for others, I should probably just document it!

So I’m going to get all old and cranky here and tell you what’s what, and then I might yell at you to GET OF MY LAWN ! As I get a little venty on the basics of what to and not to do !

New Build

1. FAT SATA BANDWIDTH.

A often overlooked pointer is to try and ensure that your primary disk (especially it if’s an SSD) is on its own separate channel. The trick here is that one SATA channel will usually be shared with two SATA ports, so put your SSD on one SATA port, but make sure you don’t put anything on the shared SATA port !

1. FIRMWARE IS FOUNDATION.

Flashing your SSD to the latest firmware (hopefully before installing windows) is the single most important thing you can do. These almost always bring speed and reliability improvements.

2. ENSURE YOUR COMPUTER IS OPERATING IN AHCI MODE.

Before you install windows ensure that you have AHCI mode set (for your disk controller) in your BIOS. Once windows is installed this can not be changed (without reinstalling or doing some nasty registry hacks), so it’s important to get this right straight up. AHCI mode not only allows for plug and play installation of SATA devices but Native Command Queuing which can provide as much as a 10-15% performance boost in single drive systems.

3. GET THE LATEST CHIPSET DRIVERS.

Ensure your Chipset drivers are up to date by checking with your motherboard manufacturers website and seeking the support and drivers page. For a long while the default Win7 and the Intel chipset drivers were the only driver-sets to support trim; this meant that Intel based systems had a big leg-up on any AMD based systems. This is slowly changing and today most AMD chipset drivers should also fully support TRIM. So be sure update your chipset drivers and/or check their release notes 😉

4. TURN OFF HIBERNATION.

Hibernation was a very useful program for hard drives as it enabled one to resume their work in a very quick time.  It is less useful with ssds as they can load completely in as quick as 10-20 seconds which, in some cases, equals Hibernation.  Disabling Hibernation will return 2.5Gb of valuable ssd storage space to the user.

1.  Using the start menu search box type “cmd”;

2.  Right click the cmd program and select Run as Administrator; and

3.  In the command line type “powercfg -h off”.

This will take about 30 seconds, it has finished once the command prompt reappears. Reboot !

5. FEATURE DUMP.

These are the Windows Features I almost always turn off.

    • Games
    • Media Features
    • Tablet PC Components
    • Windows Gadget Platform
    • XPS Services

In addition, I usually turn Telnet Client on.

5. DISABLE SYSTEM RESTORE.

CLAUSE: This is not recommended for everybody, and I definitely do not do this on all systems that i set up/tweak.  I do however do this on my machine because my windows install is considered disposable and I have all of my personal files on other drives (as well as my Documents, etc , remapped).

System Restore will degrade SSD performance significantly within a few weeks and makes it very difficult for TRIM to function;  Intel has lately also included this advise with respect to its ssds.  Disabling System Restore will also return to you a fair amount of ssd storage space.

1.  Right click on My Computer and select Properties;

2.  Select System Protection;

3.  Select Configure; and

4.  Select Turn Off System Restore.

6. TURN OFF PAGING.

This is a bit of a controversial optimization and it doesn’t actually improve performance.  It does, however, return to the user 4Gb-16Gb (depending on how much memory your system has) of valuable SSD storage space.  It is NOT recommended for typical users with less than 4Gb RAM that are not aware of their system and its RAM use.  It is also not recommended without first watching RAM use closely for some time prior to this being done.

1.  Right click on My Computer;

2.  Select Properties;

3.  Select Advanced System Settings;

4.  Select the Performance tab and Advanced tab;

5. Select the Change box for virtual memory;

6.  Un-check Automatically Manage Page File Size For All Drives;

7. Select No Paging File and click the set box; and

8.  Select Yes to allow and restart.

7.  INSTALL ALL OF YOUR APPS IN ONE SHOT.

Introducing Ninite, when setting up a new pc this your best mate! http://ninite.com/

Ninite Screenshot

All you do is scroll through Ninite’s list of 70-odd apps, check-marking the ones you want. The service offers the most current versions of nearly every popular mainstream program, including Firefox, Skype, OpenOffice, iTunes, Picasa, Steam, and Revo Uninstaller.

My usual selection includes:

    • Chrome
    • CCCP
    • MediaMonkey
    • Paint.NET
    • SumatraPDF
    • Essentials (Microsoft Security)
    • CDBurnerXP
    • 7-Zip
    • FileZilla
    • Notepad++

I don’t select uTorrent via this mechanism because I find that the old 2.8 version works best, especially with SSDs as they tend to get the old utorrent disk overloaded 100% error error. Once you’ve made your picks, click Get Installer to download a small executable file. When you’re ready, run that file and sit back while Ninite goes to work.

8. SERVICE DETRIMENT.

These are the services I typically think about disabling; the key component being THINK ABOUT.

A good source for services and what they do is blackviper.com

Go to add/remove programs in the control panel and remove anything you don’t want. Also click on add/remove windows components and remove anything you don’t want.

Maintenance

1. CCLEANER.

This is a free utility that will help clean up various temp/log/cache files. In CCleaner, tick the box next to hotfix uninstallers under advanced. Then click the “Run Cleaner” button.

http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download/slim

2. DUMP THE WINDOWS UPDATE CACHE.

 I suggest running Microsoft update first to make sure everything is updated and any updates already downloaded are installed. After deleting these folders, if you run Microsoft Update manually it will re-download any deleted files needed to perform the updates (so this is safe).

1.  In the control panel under automatic updates turn off automatic updates.

2.  Stop the automatic update service by right clicking on my computer in the start menu, click manage, click services and application, click services, on the right pane right click on automatic updates and click stop.

3.  Delete the following two folders including all contents:

      • %systemroot%SoftwareDistributionDataStore
      • %systemroot%SoftwareDistributionDownload

GOLDEN RULES

1. LESS IS MORE

I can summarise this whole section as; The less you have on your computer the better it will run!

2. TUNES

I am convinced that iTunes’ primary function is to turn your computer into a steaming pile of blubber; as a side effect it also plays music !

3. PDFs THE LIGHT WAY

Never install Adobe Acrobat. There is no reason what-so-ever that a PDF reason should be over 15MB; let alone the mega-hefty 900MB that acrobat seems to be these days! Do you know that installing Acrobat installs an EMAIL SERVER on your machine?! What the !!

Suitable alternatives:

    • Sumatra PDF
    • PDF Xchange Viewer
    • FoxIt Reader

4. BURNING

Why is ye olde Nero Burning ROM a few gig? That’s crap! And there’s heaps of alternatives that wont bog your computer down with mass amount of services and start-up clients and bogus crap.

5. WIFI SOFTWARE? REALLY???

There’s absolutely no reason to install third party software to do things that windows does a fantastic job of straight out of the box! This list includes

    • WIFI Management software (This type of stupid laptop bloat-ware get on my goat!)
    • Battery management software
    • Software Firewalls
    • Registry cleaners (Windows registry hasn’t worked in a way that needs these for like, half a decade!)

6. PROTECTION FROM… YOURSELF

Norton, do not do it ! Here’s the best AVs in order!

1.  Microsoft Security Essentials.

2.  Kasperky.

3.  Avast!

That is all! Never ever install any Norton products, unless you’re doing on the machine of your nemesis.

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