In his new book, "Microsoft Windows 7 Your Way: Speed Up and Customize Windows," Michael Miller shares no-hassle steps for making the OS run faster, more reliably, and hassle free.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 10, 2010

5 Min Read

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Speeding Up Windows’ Menus

If you set the MenuShowDelay value too low, menus will open if you merely move your mouse over them. You need a value somewhere above 0; otherwise, it will make Windows difficult to use.

Want to make Windows’ menus display more quickly? You can do this by enabling this Registry tweak that removes the slight delay that is normally present between clicking a menu and Windows displaying that menu.

To perform this tweak, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Registry Editor.

  2. Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop key.

  3. Right-click the MenuShowDelay item and select Modify.

  4. In the Edit String dialog box, change the current value (typically 400) to something a bit lower—something around 100 typically works well.

  5. Click OK.

  6. You can now close the Registry Editor and see how fast your menus open.

Disabling Low Disk Checking

Windows constantly checks to see whether there’s enough free space on your hard drive. If there isn’t, it displays a low disk space warning. The problem is, all this disk space checking uses a number of system resources, and you probably know if your disk space is low, anyway.

A DWORD is a special type of data value used for some Registry entries.

You can speed up your PC by turning off this low disk space checking. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Registry Editor.

  2. Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies key.

  3. If the Explorer key exists, select it. If not, right-click in the rightmost pane and select New, Key. Name this new key Explorer, and then select it.

  4. Right-click in the rightmost pane and select New, DWORD (32-bit) Value.

  5. Name the new DWORD NoLowDiskSpaceChecks.

  6. Right-click the new NoLowDiskSpaceChecks item and select Modify.

  7. In the Edit DWORD dialog box, change the value to 1.

  8. Click OK.

Moving the Windows Kernel into Memory

If you experience system problems after performing this tweak, re-edit the value of DisablePagingExecutive back to 0.

Anything that runs in system memory runs faster than if it runs from your hard disk. To that end, you can speed up Windows itself by moving the Windows kernel into RAM, by executing this Registry tweak:

  1. Open the Registry Editor.

  2. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management key.

  3. Right-click the DisablePagingExecutive item and select Modify.

  4. In the Edit DWORD dialog box, change the value to 1.

  5. Click OK.

You must reboot your system for this tweak to take effect.

Cleaning Up the Registry for Faster Performance

Editing Registry entries isn’t the only way to use the Windows Registry to speed up Windows. That’s because the Windows Registry itself can slow down your system’s performance. Let me tell you how.

How the Registry Affects Your PC’s Performance

Remember, the Registry holds the settings for every single program and utility stored on your system. Over time, all the different programs you install and settings you configure create lots and lots and lots of entries in the Registry—even after you uninstall the programs or no longer need the settings. That’s because Registry settings often aren’t deleted when you remove a program from your PC; this contributes to Registry “bloat” with lots of unnecessary or orphaned entries.

So the more programs you install over time, the larger the Registry gets. And the larger the Registry is, in terms of both file size and number of entries, the longer it takes for Windows to load it on startup—which slows down your system.

The fix for this problem is deceptively simple: Delete all the orphaned and unnecessary Registry entries. That’s easier to say than to do, however. How do you know which entries are necessary and which aren’t? Plus, do you really want to do all that work by hand, using the Registry Editor?

How Registry Cleaners Work

There is the slight chance that a poor-quality Registry cleaner program may incorrectly identify a working entry as an unnecessary one, and thus delete a setting that Windows needs to run. For that reason, you should set a restore point (using System Restore) before cleaning your Registry. You can always go back to that precleaner restore point if your system has problems after the cleaning.

Fortunately, various third parties have recognized this issue and come up with their own solutions, in the form of Registry cleaner utilities. These programs automatically scour your Registry for redundant, invalid, or orphaned entries, and delete them. The process is easy as pie.

What kind of impact does a Registry cleaner actually have? It depends, to some degree, on how “clean” your Registry was to begin with. If a cleaner finds only a dozen or so entries to delete (out of the thousands of valid entries), the performance impact is minimal. But if you have a greater number of useless entries (or a smaller number of total entries), a Registry cleaner will have a larger percentage impact on your system’s performance. So you might notice a very small change in speed or a very large one, depending.

Michael Miller is a popular writer and commentator on technology and digital lifestyle topics. He has authored more than 75 non-fiction books. His best-selling titles include "Absolute Beginner's Guide to Computer Basics," "Tricks of the eBay Masters," and "Googlepedia: The Ultimate Google Resource."

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