Operating systems optimize

Poll: Do you regularly tweak your operating system beyond the standard menu settings?

In a recent TR Dojo video, I demonstrate several tweaks for the Windows Vista logon screen. As a tinkerer at heart, I'm always tweaking with my operating system. What about you?

In my TR Dojo video, "Tweak Windows Vista's Logon screen to meet your needs," I demonstrate several tweaks for the Windows Vista Logon screen--from getting rid of the shutdown button to adding a customized text message. As a tinkerer at heart, I'm always tweaking with my operating system. What about you?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

23 comments
rover3500
rover3500

My internet goes way faster than when i first install with some tweaks.Disabling the multimedia scheduler makes a huge difference for a start.(U can't just disable it before u rush out to do it,there are other tweaks like dependency tweaks u have to do as well,or ur sound wont work).If udon't have a fast connection and u watch a lot of online video,this might not be for u...there are many other tweaks though aswell.U have to remember the os is made for everyone including dial-up.If u have cable,u can tweak ur settings quite alot.Huge difference. I don't really understand why it doesn't maximize ur settings for ur pc when u 1st install.There is plenty of software out there that does it well.(and alot that doesn't of course)

santeewelding
santeewelding

For truncated, hurry-up English is not working.

TAPhilo
TAPhilo

I have a folder of around a hundred of so registry tweaks that I have done and reapplied to my system over the years as I have reinstalled it as I put in new hard disks due to HD failures. Every tweak that I liked, I exported the registry change and saved it into a single common folder (with text notes in an identically named file with a .txt extenison!) so a quick doubleclick and they are back.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

I am convinced MS Engineers either study their own navel fuzz, use semi-computer illiterate testers, or simply average the results of their test groups. Regardless, I have yet to use a Windows OS or Office product that customizing the interface didn't make a huge improvement in my productivity. ...and this is the sole reason I don't like the 'Ribbon' interface; no built-in customization tools. MS is trying to force my usage to fit their UI design - and the fit is poor.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

It's not just that it is not customizable, but it contains awful design flaws. Do you use styles with MS Word, or do you use manual formating? Why would anyone want to use both? So MS in their infinite wisdom put both styles and manual formatting on the same ribbon - brilliant.

sreenivasa.chary
sreenivasa.chary

You are right, the new Office toolset's user interface seems like a nuisance. I prefer the older Office 2003 UI because there are so many things I can customize to fit my regular needs. The ribbon itself takes up a lot of screen real estate !

rainbow69
rainbow69

... The higher the Windows OS version, the lesser user-specific in capabilities and more difficult to locate without erroneous trial periods, much frustration, & even lower production levels from new OS & Newly updated software & driver requirements. (seemingly as a "rush" hot fix always to counter a windows change made suddenly, without real thought to Customer impact for developers, users, & OS help! - does windows help really have no clue why an error occurred or even what a particular error code is? clicking on more info links when errors occur usually come up dry & prove that tweaking is necessary for if no one knows why an error is logged, it becomes our responsibility to try and fix, subdue, or work around. online help options for whom? user or MS data collectors? online = 2-way street w/ collaboration, and communication.. With each new OS I decide to, or become forced into, becomes more intensive aesthetically, but more Constrictive in usability just to the point of having it do what the older OS was tweaked for; making the tekkies curiosity & research levels peak for things to find in that newer, and now costly OS upgrade just suffered through. The question should have been: Does Microsoft release new OS versions in retaliation-like response to end-users finding & sharing these setting adjustments? (i.e., the faster we tweak, the faster the next OS releases [working or not]. ) I wait patiently for that fateful day, which will arrive , when those end-users no longer need or want those visual-only upgrades, & can continue without the newly found recklessness of Microsoft Research & Development. {basically "insider" system tweakers who are also prone to crash an OS: for my stunning visual perspective of those upgraders & the WOW factor visuals Superceding Good Product/Brand Respect. Would it not be a wonderful surprise if just once we turn on a PC and actually have nothing requiring update ,upgrades, & resource draining scans, or am I basically the only one seeing Normal PC tasks & work delayed each day due to these, even though all scans, when eventually completed, show nothing requiring attention. I keep my PC so clean and "optimal " we could 'eat off it-' w/o that "3-second" rule. (grin) At least, I'd settle for a National System Tweaker's Appreciation Week ~ where updates are taboo & only "reflected upon" as a means to respect a tweaking specialist for the time/work involved to create, test, implement, & distribute such mind-boggling headaches, or problem solutions-whichever the case may be.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

of course, I run Linux, so it is easy and fun to do so.

jr.switlik
jr.switlik

Sometimes,but keep backup at hand

mckinnej
mckinnej

I don't toy with it near as much as I used to. With regular Windows re-installs wiping out all my work, it almost seems pointless. It sure would be nice to have a Windows that doesn't need to be re-installed every 6 to 12 months. And let me head off the Linux folks right now. I've been using Linux since RH5. Linux mostly has the same problem except for a different reason. Instead of the system getting corrupted, with Linux your distro gets upgraded and they drop support for your version, so you have to do a fresh install to get caught up. Not all distros do this of course, but most of them do. Luckily it's a much longer cycle than with Windows.

dogknees
dogknees

Why are you re-installing Windows every 6 months? My home machine has been going for 4 years now without a re-install and it runs beautifully. Start up is no more than 30 seconds. It last froze/crashed about 18 months ago.... What are you people doing to your PCs??

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"It sure would be nice to have a Windows that doesn't need to be re-installed every 6 to 12 months." The desktop I'm using right now to type this message is 5 years old and I've never had to re-install Windows. And this is my experimental unit, the one I use to test things with. I'm thinking ... with XP I can not recall a time when I've had to do a re-install except for a few cases where someone has gotten a virus or some persistent and stubborn malware that either I could not remove or where removal was more trouble than a reinstall. Or, of course, when there was a hard drive failure. At our office, where we have literally hundreds of users and machines, having to do a reinstall is perhaps something that occurs once or twice a year. Almost always due to hardware failure or someone doing something really, really stupid. I often read in these discussions on TechRepublic where someone is complaining about having to do frequent reinstalls. But I don't see that in real life, in the workplace. Neither at the company for whom I work, nor with our customers ... who are large companies and organizations with many systems. Now, I used to see the necessity more often back in the days of Win 95, Win 98, etc. Especially when one installed some piece of software written by some jerk who'd decided he needed to re-write some system DLL or whatever with his own version, using the same name and over writing the original. But most competent programmers these days don't do that any more, except the virus and malware writers. Just how often do professionals have to reinstall systems these days? Granting that the user(s) aren't downloading and installing a lot of crapware? Or doing a lot of "tweaking"? Myself, I avoid a lot of system tweaking. Don't really find it necessary. Habitually I do some minor customization, to fit things to the way I like to do things. Just menu driven type changes. i.e. I prefer Classic View. Change auto update so that it asks before installing. Etc. Other than that, I simply install some handy utilities which I prefer to use as versus using the built-in Windows equivalents. i.e. I prefer Context or NotePad ++ to Windows' own NotePad (I do a lot of plain text work), Xplorer2 to Windows Explorer, etc and so forth. Many of the so-called "power teaks" people tout I find to hardly be worth the effort or the chances that one will muck something else up in some unintended way. Tweaks to make things just look snazzy I avoid altogether. Couldn't care less since I use my systems to accomplish work, not as a display for eye candy or special effects. Just wondering ...

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I have 2 machines .. this one that is pretty stable and a laptop that has 2 OS's installed, XP and 2003. My main PC has has XP installed maybe 3 or 4 times since it was released, mainly due to hardware changes. My laptop, which I use for trial and testing of downloaded software has an OS reinstalled at least every 6 months. This is mainly due to me running SQL server, TFS and SharePoint services on the laptop. If any of these apps break I know of no other way to get them back, other than wipe the OS clean and reinstall from scratch. Les.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"My main PC has has XP installed maybe 3 or 4 times since it was released, mainly due to hardware changes." Hardware changes might very well require a reinstall. As concerns the laptop, if using it for testing purposes as you indicate, I can see where things might get corrupted or broken. Depending on what kind of stuff you're downloading and trying to run. For myself, with any machine that I use for work purposes (as in making a living) I do not put them at risk. I don't install anything on them that is not pretty thoroughly tested before hand. Add that I am not given to installing new stuff just because it is new, and supposedly something nifty or glitzy. It has to be something that offers SUBSTANTIAL benefits/advantages for me to even bother. In any event, I was just wondering about the other guy's comment about having to reinstall Windows every 6 months. Fine, if one is a home user who is just dinking around with a private machine, experimenting, testing, etc just for fun or a hobby. Or if one is a serious developer experimenting with modifying the inner workings of the OS. But for machines meant to be used in the normal business enviornment, most organizations quite reasonably expect that one does not do things that would put the machine at jeopardy. There are a lot of apps out there written by who knows who, that are buggy and faulty and full of unintended consequences. Some are even touted and recommended by so-called professionals. Just as there are a lot of tweaks to the system I've seen suggested and recommended by one or another person (even some who're supposedly "experts"), which produce questionable advantages but which in turn can break this or that other function within the system. Sometimes a function that some other app or subsystem relies upon. In my experience with machines used by businesses and organizations which prohibit or at least discourage unauthorized alterations or software installations, having to do an OS re-install is the exception as versus the rule. i.e. As an example, and it is only one of many I could mention from personal experience, I've been using laptops in my work since the mid-90's. I don't recall a single instance of having to do a re-install short of a hardware failure. Typically I get a new laptop and use it til end-of-life (meaning it physically broke or no longer has hardware adequate to run the OS/apps that I need to run in my work). This has typically meant 3-5 years. With XP, I just regularly do a system cleanup, defrag, etc from time to time. The regular routine maintenance sort of thing. Back in the Win98 days, there was a problem in that a lot of programmers in those days wrote altered versions of system DLLs, etc and overwrote the originals from MS upon installation of their software. Many of em altered the files problematically such that the DLL or whatever did not work properly any more with some other app that used it. So back then I kept a copy of the original files in a backup sub-directory so that I could easily restore the original file. (And remove the offending app at the same time)

seanferd
seanferd

(OK, not really, I figured it out) was after installing Power Toys (the SendTo X bit). To remove all the excess mail type entries and fix DESKLINK. Of course, there are sites that host reg files to fix this now. But yeah, I'm a tweaker.

dogknees
dogknees

The defaults are just that, defaults, not recommendations or standards. Of course I install things where I want them and set them up the way I want them. If you give me options, I'll use them. How's it different to re-arranging the furniture in my lounge or painting the wall? I simply expect other developers to devote an appropriate amount of time to ensuring all combinations of options in their app work correctly.

ben.bergman
ben.bergman

I think the idea is tweaking things that aren't available in the standard MENUs. Registry tweaks and what not are beyond what the OS designers intend for you to change. However, you do bring up a good point. App designers design their software to work with the menu-available settings changes, but once you go tweaking things beyond that, who knows what you might break. I have had little trouble with this myself, but generally I have to do a fresh install of an OS rather than an upgrade when that time comes.

kraterz
kraterz

Maybe I'm one of the few, but to me speed and security are more important than bouncing windows, mouse hot-tracking, menu fade-in and fade-out, and the rest of the visual bling. One great tool for XP is TweakUI which is free from MS, allows you to kill all the unnecessary visual junk, and you can disable CD autorun.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

installation that is new to me; first things I do are: switch the mouse buttons, i do not want to use a right-handed mouse. delete all of the cursors that come standard with windows and download a set of left-handed cursors. move the start menu to the right-hand side of the screen. customise the start menu to give it the classic look and feel (so i know where things are). reduce windows start menu structure to a maximum of 3 levels. take the most common commands and place them on the top level of the menu (so i dont have to hunt for them). there are a few other tweaks that i will get to as i use the OS, but they are not important to start.

rainbow69
rainbow69

All 3 are free- latter two have loads of more customizable setings. Should point out for older OS users (I know there are some somewhere) freshdevices freshui utility does work for your windowss OS as you will find some unalterable items specific for ME, 98., etc. added to mimicking an option that only works on XP and/or Vista -so its the same tool universally for Windows. TweakVista is specific for Vista (use TweakXP for XP) and has options for days to discover, more so if you opt to subscribe to advanced settings-which,btw, I have not yet because I am thriled w/ free one still!

ben.bergman
ben.bergman

Often you can add functionality that is missing from the base OS, such as, with Windows, scrolling background windows. On Mac, you can make Quick Look recognize more file formats. Linux, well there are too many to chose from.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

I neither need nor want eye-candy. When I want stunning visual effects, I play games.