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Enhancing Windows performance

By . Last modified: 2014-08-14.

How to improve and rate Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1 performance for free

Many users feels that Microsoft Windows performance degrades over time. Extremists tend to format disk drives and reinstall Windows completely, but that is hardly the correct choice.

Windows Vista users can speed up their PC-s by modifying Indexing options. Open Control Panel, Power Options and click Change plan settings for the active power plan. Click the Change advanced power settings link on the bottom left and then click Change settings that are currently unavailable. Now expand Search and Indexing, Power Savings Mode and set both items to Power Saver. The balanced and high performance options might work fine on very fast hard drives or SSD-s, but not on typical drives you find in Vista-age laptops and desktops.
Windows Vista, Advanced Power Options, Search and Indexing. Set 'Power Savings Mode' to 'Power Saver' in battery and plugged in settings.

Follow these guides to speed up Windows:

  • Free up disk space in Windows - when available disk space is insufficient, Windows always slows down. You can also use free CCleaner for removing unneeded files, cleaning Windows Registry and disabling unnecessary startup programs.
  • Set paging file to a fixed size in Windows - if paging file (virtual memory) is adjusted dynamically, the file gets fragmented and this will hinder Windows performance. This step is not needed if Windows is installed on SSD (Solid State Drive).
  • Use Defraggler for defragmenting disks in Windows - fragmentation is the most common cause of sluggish performance. Defraggler is much faster and gives much better results than the default Disk Defragmenter in Windows. It also provides boot-time defragmentation and is able to defragment only selected items. For Solid State Drives (SSD), Defraggler performs the TRIM function that is required to keep the drives working fast.
  • Troubleshoot performance in Windows Vista and later - Event Viewer in Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1 contains information on which applications and drivers cause slow performance, startups and shutdowns.
  • Use ReadyBoost in Windows Vista and later - if properly configured, ReadyBoost can improve boot time and application response times a lot. You need a high-performance USB flash drive for this. ReadyBoost is disabled if Windows is installed on SSD (Solid State Drive).
  • Update drivers with SlimDrivers - outdated drivers can often cause slowdowns and errors. Free SlimDrivers can update, backup and restore driver software.
  • Disable visual effects in Windows - if nothing helps, try turning some or all eye-candy off to improve Windows responsiveness.

Additionally, you can get some performance gain by disabling unneeded services. You might also want to check if file system is fine - messed up files or unreadable blocks do slow down Windows.

Windows XP users can also read the Use UPHC for faster logoffs in Windows XP article to get rid of sluggish log off times.

Oh, and don't forget to run full anti-virus and anti-malware scans - malware can slow down your system to a crawl!

Using Windows Experience Index (WEI) in Windows Vista, 7 and 8 for identifying weak points in hardware

Windows Experience Index rates performance of your computer's processor (CPU), memory (RAM), graphics adapter (video card, aka GPU) and primary hard disk (the drive where Windows is installed). The index can reveal slow hardware that should be upgraded to enhance Windows performance. You can also use it to determine if using ReadyBoost is necessary.

Windows Experience Index is displayed in System Properties window of Windows Vista, 7 and 8. Windows 8.1 does not have this score visible, but it can be revealed using Command Prompt and PowerShell as described in the end of this article.
The easiest way to access it is to use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Pause/Break. You can also right-click Computer in Start menu or on Desktop and click Properties; or type "wei" into Start menu/Start screen Search box and click the appropriate result.
Windows Vista, Computer right-click menu. Click Properties.

In the System Properties/View basic information about your computer window, see the Rating line in System section.
If the line states Windows Experience Index: Unrated (in Vista) or System rating is not available, you need to run the assessment tool first by clicking the link. System Assessment Tool actually runs automatically from time to time, so your PC might have a score even if you have not run the tool it manually.
Otherwise, a number is displayed with Windows Experience Index link. If the number's background is gray, hardware configuration has changed and you need to update WEI. Click the link to see individual subscores.
Windows Vista, System Properties. WEI rating is in the System section. Windows 7, System Properties. WEI rating is in the System section.

The Rate and improve your computer's performance window opens. In Windows Vista, Windows Experience Index gives ratings from 1.0 to 5.9; in Windows 7 from 1.0 to 7.9; and in Windows 8 from 1.0 to 9.9. The higher the score, the better the performance.
If WEI has not yet been established, click Rate this computer. The Windows System Assessment Tool will take a few minutes to complete.
Windows 7, Rate and improve your computer's performance, Your Windows Experience Index has not yet been established. Click Rate this computer.

If there is a rating, check the subscores for each component. The final result (Base score) is always determined by the lowest subscore - so even if only one component is rated at 1.5 and all others at 5, the Base score will still be 1.5.
Windows 8, Rate and improve your computer's performance. Base Score is determined by the lowest subscore.

In the example above, it is clear that graphics card needs to be replaced. This is quite easy on desktop computers, but impossible on most laptops (and tablets).
After you've replaced some hardware, click Re-run the assessment to update Windows Experience Index.

Windows 8.1 method of assessing hardware performance

In Windows 8.1, you need to launch elevated Command Prompt: open Start screen, type cmd, right-click (or tap and hold) Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.

Then type winsat prepop and press Enter key to run the assessment.
Windows 8.1, Administrator Command Prompt. Type 'winsat prepop' without quotes and press Enter to run Windows System Assessment Tool.

Windows System Assessment Tool will evaluate hardware performance within the next few minutes. Please do not use your PC during this time.

Next, open Start screen again, type powershell, right-click Windows PowerShell and choose Run as administrator.

Type Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_WinSAT and press Enter key.
Windows 8.1, Administrator PowerShell. Type 'Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_WinSAT' without quotes and press Enter to see the results of Windows System Assessment Tool.

This lists the results of WinSAT test:

  • CPUScore - rating for the processor(s).
  • D3DScore - rating for the 3D graphics.
  • GraphicsScore - rating for the 2D graphics.
  • MemoryScore - rating for the memory (RAM) throughput and capacity.
  • WinSPRLevel - the base score of your PC, always the same as the lowest score of the above.

 

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