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Whatever you think of Windows 8 (at MakeUseOf, our opinions are mixed), it’s certainly speedy. Windows 8 boots faster than previous versions of Windows, has lower memory usage, and has a desktop that feels nice and snappy. Like all versions of Windows, Windows 8 has a variety of settings you can tweak to speed things up and make it even faster. You can learn a whole lot about tweaking the OS in our Windows 8 guide.
Some of the tips here also apply to previous versions of Windows, but Windows 8 has some new tricks up its sleeve. As always, there are trade-offs when using some of the below tricks – there’s no magic “Go Faster” button.
Disable Time-Wasting Animations
Windows 8 (and Windows 7) display animations when you minimize, maximize, open, or close application windows. The animations are slick eye-candy, but they do introduce a delay. You can disable the animations and window transitions will happen instantly, eliminating the delay.
To disable the animations, press the Windows key, type SystemPerformanceProperties, and press Enter. Uncheck the Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing option. You may also want to disable some of the other animations, such as the Fade or slide menus into view and Fade or slide ToolTips into view. This will make menus and tooltips snap to attention instead of fading in with an animation.
Pinpoint Apps Using Lots of Resources
Windows 8’s new task manager allows you to easily pinpoint the programs slowing down your computer. To open the Task Manager, right-click the desktop taskbar and select Task Manager. Click the More details option if you don’t see the full interface.
Applications using a lot of resources will be highlighted, making it easy to see which programs are using up your computer’s resources. This list also shows a simplified list of applications, which is easier to understand and skim than the old-style processes list (if you prefer the old-style process list, it’s still available on the Details tab).
Manage Your Startup Programs
The Windows Task Manager now allows you to easily disable programs that start with your computer. Click the Startup tab in the Task Manager to access these options.
Windows also analyzes how long each program takes to start and displays this information in the Startup impact column. Select a program and click Disable to prevent it from starting with Windows, speeding up your startup process.
Use Included Security Programs
Instead of installing third-party security suites that often slow down your computer, try using the included security applications. Windows now includes an antivirus – while it’s named Windows Defender, it’s basically the same as the popular Microsoft Security Essentials application.
Windows 8 also includes a SmartScreen feature, which analyzes how trustworthy programs you download are. As in previous versions of Windows, Windows also includes a firewall that blocks incoming connections. If you want more settings and options, you may want to install a third-party security suite – but most users will find that Windows 8’s included security programs are finally complete enough to rely on.
Modify Power Settings
Windows 8 uses power plans to determine whether battery life or performance should be prioritized, just as previous versions of Windows do. To view your power plan settings, press the Windows key, type Power Plan, click Settings, and press Enter.
In the default Balanced mode, Windows automatically reduces your CPU’s speed when maximize speed isn’t needed. This saves power. To squeeze all the performance you can out of your hardware, you may want to try High performance instead. In High performance mode, your CPU’s speed is never reduced. It runs at full speed all the time.
However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Even high-performance gaming PCs are used for web browsing some of the time and it doesn’t make sense to run the CPU at full throttle while browsing the web. This just wastes power and generates additional heat.
Whichever plan you choose, make sure you aren’t using Power saver. This is only useful if you want to squeeze as much battery life out of your laptop as possible.
Put Your Computer to Sleep
One of Windows 8’s most controversial aspects is the way it buries the Shut Down option in a hidden menu. Microsoft wants to encourage you to use Sleep mode instead of shutting down your computer. When you use Sleep, your computer goes into a very low-power state that uses just enough power to keep your programs and open files active in your computer’s RAM. When you come back to your computer, it will resume from sleep almost immediately. Using Sleep instead of Shut Down can dramatically speed things up when you sit down at your computer.
You’ll find a Sleep option under the power button in the Settings charm. (Press Windows Key+C, click Settings, click Power, and select Sleep). Your computer’s power button may also be configured to use Sleep automatically. You can change this option by clicking the Choose what the power buttons do option in the Power Options window mentioned above.
Optimize Your Hard Drives
Windows 8 includes the standard Disk Defragmenter, now named the Optimize Drives tool. To access it, press the Windows key, type Defragment, click Settings, and press Enter. Note that Windows 8 automatically optimizes (defragments) your drive once per week by default. However, if you move a lot of files around, you may want to optimize your drives sooner.
As on previous versions of Windows, click the Analyze button to see exactly how fragmented your file systems are.
Control Windows Indexing
The Windows indexing service automatically scans the files on your computer and monitors them for changes, allowing you to quickly search for files without waiting. Indexing uses some CPU time (and uses more CPU time if you frequently change a lot of files) so disabling it can help you reduce CPU usage.
Bear in mind that indexing speeds up searches. If you regularly use the Files search feature on the Start screen or the search feature inside Windows Explorer, you won’t want to disable indexing. You should only disable indexing if you don’t use the search feature.
To disable Windows Search, press Start, type services.msc, and press Enter. Scroll down in the list, locate the Windows Search service, right-click it and select Properties.
Set the Startup type box to Disabled, click the Stop button to stop the service, and click OK.
Instead of disabling the indexing service entirely, you may also want to control which folders Windows Search indexes. By default, it indexes your Users folders. if you have some folders full of files you don’t want to search, especially ones that frequently change, you may want to exclude these folders from being indexed. To control these settings, press the Windows key, type Indexing, click Settings, and press Enter.
For more information about Windows 8, be sure to download our free guide to Windows 8.
Do you have any other tips for improving Windows 8’s performance? Leave a comment and share them!