Thursday, September 30, 2010

Windows 7 Optimization – User Environment Tuning

In an effort to optimize the Windows 7 environment, we have covered the removal of unnecessary network and system services. These on their own will make a significant difference in the overall performance of the system, but there are still other opportunities for improvement within the user environment itself. As was the case with the previous optimization techniques, there is not a "one size fits all" configuration, so there will be some discussion surrounding the impacts of the various items.

Disable System Restore

System Restore has not changed significantly in Windows 7 from its predecessors. The system restore area still provides a handy means for malware authors to address automated reinstallation of their code. Additionally, given the ease in which machines can be repaired through other means, the value provided by the system restore functionality doesn't typically justify its overhead.

Setting Visual Effects to Maximize Performance

Setting the Visual Effects to Maximize Performance under the system properties will minimize the amount of "flashy" transitions and visual effects presented to the user and hence will lower the amount of CPU and memory overhead needed to process these effects. This is another one of the unwinnable "form over function" arguments, so I would recommend against forcing these settings via any type of policy.

Modify MenuShowDelay

MenuShowDelay is a registry setting that controls the amount of time it takes for a menu in Windows 7 to pop, fade, or slide open when you hover the mouse pointer over it. By default, this setting is 400 ms. It is during this delay that the system is processing visual effects such as the fade effects. Lower values result in far less system resources being used to process these visual effects. I typically set this to 1ms. The path to this registry value is HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\MenuShowDelay.
Note: This setting is located in the HKCU hive and as a result is profile specific, so it needs to be set for every user on the machine. This can be done by either using policies or by simply populating the value in the Default User profile.

Use the Basic Theme and Disable Aero

We have pretty much beat this horse to death over the last couple days. While the Aero system looks awesome, one needs to ask whether the windows transparency and other effects are really worth the CPU and memory costs.

Uninstall the Gadget Platform

I know this is another one of those items that can cause people to begin to reach for their torches and sharpen their pitchforks, because there are a number of gadgets that do have a valid business case to them. That being said, there are also a plethora of gadgets available that are simply time, resource, and/or bandwidth "wasters". Unfortunately in most organizations, leaving this component available becomes an implicit endorsement of all gadgets and an acknowledgement that you are willing to support them.
If your internal policies give you the freedom to support only those gadgets that have been "approved" then by all means feel free to leave this feature enabled.

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