Even though anyone with a Windows 7 PC qualifies for a free upgrade to Windows 10, there’s little incentive to do so.
Windows 10 may have a few desirable new features and will most likely support new hardware long before Windows 7 will (if it ever supports it all), but that makes little difference to most ordinary users who are happy with what they’ve got. So as far as Windows 10 is concerned, anyone Windows 7 might quite rightly think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
But that’s not to say Windows 7 still can’t be improved, which usually means making it run that little bit quicker — particularly if you’re running it on an older PC. So here are eight really easy ways to speed things up.
Tip 1: Keep it clean
Windows 7 has the same suite of clean-up tools found in earlier versions of Windows to get rid of old unwanted files that waste space and slow down your PC. Using these regularly should keep things running smoothly, so start by opening Computer on the Desktop, right-clicking the icon for your C: drive and selecting Properties.
When the dialog box opens, click the Disk Cleanup button on the General tab and wait while Windows examines your C: drive.
A list of file types will then appear and it’s safe to tick the box for each entry, before clicking the OK button to delete them. Repeat this process for any other hard drive letters in your PC.
Tip 2: Check for hard drive errors
While you’re in the Properties dialog box for your hard drive, also click the Tools tab. Here you’ll see a Check now button that will check your C: drive (or any other) for errors that can affect its normal operation. You may see a message about Windows being unable to check the drive when it’s in use, so click the Schedule disk check button and restart your PC to perform the check
Tip 3: Defrag your hard drives
Hard drives (but not solid-state drives) become ‘fragmented’ with use — parts of files get scattered across the drive and these take time to find and assemble when those files are needed. Defragmenting the drive remedies this and, again, it’s something you should do on a regular basis.
You’ll find a Defragment now button on the same Tools tab of the hard drive Properties dialog box, so click it to start the ‘defrag’ process. This can take some time, but you can carry on using your PC while it’s running. Again, do this for all hard drive letters in your PC.
Tip 4: Switch off Search Indexing
Windows 7 likes to index everything on your hard drive to make it quicker to find when you’re searching for something. If your PC is feeling its age, or you don’t use Search often enough for this to be a concern, switching off this indexing can give Windows 7 a small performance boost.
You’ll find the option on the General tab of the same hard drive Properties dialog opened above. Untick the box for Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed… and then choose Apply changes to drive C:\, subfolders and files on the next dialog box that opens. Click OK and wait while Windows 7 makes the necessary changes. Again, do this for all hard drive letters in your PC.
Tip 5: Check your power plan settings
Windows 7 optimises itself automatically to give the best performance on a laptop, depending on whether it’s on mains or battery power. If you only ever use your laptop plugged in, you might as well opt for high-performance mode all the time to make Windows run that little bit quicker. It won’t hurt to check this setting if you’re using a desktop PC, either.
Open the Start menu, type power plan into the Search box and click Choose a power plan from the list of results. When the Power Options window opens, select High performance from the list of Preferred plans, or if you can’t see it, click Show additional plans and then select it.
Tip 6: ReadyBoost
ReadyBoost must be one of the least well-known Windows features, but it’s been around since the days of Vista. In short, it lets you use fast (compared to a hard drive, at least) USB flash drive storage to store temporary Windows files and all you need to use it is a drive with at least 256MB of free space.
Just plug the USB flash drive into your PC and select Speed up my system when the AutoPlay dialog box opens.
Then select Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost on the next dialog box (this will erase its contents) and click OK.
You can plug in up to eight drives at once, too, as long as you have enough free USB ports.
Tip 7: Disable the Aero theme
If Windows 7 runs really slow on your PC and you don’t mind losing some of its cosmetic polish, try switching from the default Windows 7 Aero them to a simpler look and feel. To try it, right-click an empty part of the Desktop and choose Personalize.
When the Personalization window opens, find and select Windows 7 Basic in the list of available themes. Or, if you fancy something retro, give Windows Classic a try.
Tip 8: Disable visual effects
You can crank the Windows 7 appearance down still further to wring some extra performance from your PC, but you may not like how it looks. There’s nothing to lose by trying, though.
Right-click the Computer icon on the Desktop and select Properties. When the System window opens, click Advanced System Settings on the left and a System Properties dialog box will open.
Click the Advanced tab, then click the Settings button under Performance.
Finally, select the Adjust for best performance option and click OK. If you don’t like the way Windows looks afterwards, revert to the previous setting by choosing Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer in the same dialog box.
If your Windows 7 PC is running smoothly and you just want to make it even better, of course, then there are plenty of other things you can do — such as using multiple Desktops or turbo-charging Windows Explorer. We’ll throw this over to you, though, so let us know in the Comments about your favourite Windows 7 add-ons and why you are still using Windows 7?