Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
In the previous article, we looked at some basic tips and tricks to unleash the power of the new Windows 7 user interface. In Part 2, we’re going to cover additional tips to improve usability, enhance the performance, and help secure Windows 7.
Some tweaks available on the web (like opening Explorer at My Computer or using PC Safeguard) are now obsolete because of the updates from Beta to RC. All the tips here work with Windows 7 RC (Build 7100), and most, if not all, will work with the final release.
1. Add Search Providers to Windows 7
Windows 7 allows you to search remote website databases from your desktop, using open standards like Open Search and RSS. Here are some of the popular and useful search providers you can add to Windows 7:
These search connectors work even within Windows Common Dialogs, such as the Insert Picture dialog from PowerPoint or any other application. You can even drag and drop Flickr images from Explorer search results to copy them to your desktop, without opening any web browser.
2. Single Click Screen Lock
You can lock your computer using the Win+L keyboard shortcut. Here’s another way to do it with a single mouse click. Right-click on your desktop, select New, Shortcut. In Type the location of the item, enter rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation. Click Next, name the shortcut “˜Quick Lock’, and Finish.
If you wish, you can make it look pretty by giving it a lock or keys icon: Right-click, select Properties, click Change Icon, enter shell32.dll, and select any icon you wish. Drag this shortcut and pin it to the taskbar, after which you can delete the desktop shortcut.
3. Customize Sticky Notes
You can format your Sticky Notes, by selecting text and using different keyboard shortcuts as shown in this screen capture:
4. Use New Accessories
Don’t forget to use the revamped accessories in Windows 7. With WordPad, you can open and save Office 2007 .docx and Open Document .odt documents.
The improved Calculator can convert units, and calculate dates, fuel economy, mortgage and lease payments.
Paint has new brush strokes, shapes, and grid support. Paint and WordPad have Print Preview and the Ribbon UI, which brings customizability and live formatting previews.
5. Use Check Boxes in Windows Explorer
You can select non-adjacent files in Explorer using Ctrl-click, but there is an easier way using check boxes. In Explorer, click Organize, then select Folder and search options.
On the View tab, under Advanced Settings, scroll down to select Use check boxes to select items. Now you can easily select multiple items using only the mouse.
6. Shortcut to Run Program as Administrator
You can Ctrl+Shift+Click on a taskbar icon to run the application as an Administrator with full rights (provided your account has permissions). Simply Shift+Right-Click on any program shortcut to run it as a different user, if for example you need higher privileges when logged in with your child’s account.
7. Boost performance with ReadyBoost
ReadyBoost improves your system performance by using faster USB Flash Drives instead of slower hard disks for system operations. It works best using flash drives with at least 1 GB of storage. Simply insert your flash drive, and if it meets certain performance benchmarks, Windows 7 will ask you if you want to use it for ReadyBoost and recommend the size to reserve.
8. Tweak Windows Search/Defender Services
By default, Windows indexes all files appearing under all your libraries, email, and offline files. You can reduce the time and resources spent in indexing by tweaking this to your actual needs.
Go to Control Panel, then Indexing Options. Windows 7 shows a list of locations currently being indexed. Click on Modify to choose only those locations where you perform frequent searches.
You can also disable Windows Search and Windows Defender services, which can take up system resources. If you do not search for files, images, documents, etc. using Windows Explorer, or use another search/indexing program, then you should disable Windows Search service. If, and only if, you use a third-party anti-virus program that is also anti-malware (the best ones are), you can also disable the Windows Defender service.
Go to Start, enter and run msconfig. From the Services tab, uncheck the box for the service you wish to disable, and reboot for the changes to take effect.
9. Secure USB Drives with BitLocker
Secure your USB flash drives using BitLocker encryption. Right-click on your USB drive in My Computer, select Turn on BitLocker and follow the instructions to protect sensitive data on your thumb drives.
The next time you use your USB drive on another computer, it will prompt you for the password before allowing you read-only access to your flash drive. You can even use the drive on older computers running Windows XP/Vista.
10. Create a System Recovery Disc
A system recovery disc helps you in situations where Windows cannot start successfully. Your Windows 7 installation disc also serves as a recovery disc. When Windows 7 comes pre-installed on computers, you will need to create a system recovery disc.
Click Start, enter and run recdisc.exe. Insert a blank CD/DVD in your burner, and click Create Disc.
Follow the next two tips only if you’re knowledgeable enough to edit the Windows registry. Before making any changes, make sure you back up your registry as described earlier on MakeUseOf.
11. Faster Thumbnail Previews
The taskbar shows thumbnail previews of opened windows when you hover the mouse over the program icon. By default, it takes a little time for the preview to appear. Make the previews appear faster with this registry tweak:
Go to Start, enter and run regedit. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse. On the right, open the MouseHoverTime key and reduce its value from the default 400 to around 150.
Be careful, as decreasing it further may cause problems.
12. Faster Shutdown
Start regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control. Find the WaitToKillServiceTimeout key on the right, double-click to edit and change it from the default 12000 (12 seconds) to 2000 (2 seconds) or above.
This setting tells Windows how long to wait before prompting you that a service is not responding to the shut down request. This may help speed up your shutdown if you have any such services running.
These are some of the best Windows 7 tips we found. Did we miss any of your favorites? Share with us in the comments!