Useful tweaks for Windows: get more performance and protect your privacy

I like my Operating Systems to be lean and performant, not bloated and sluggish. I would switch to a Linux distribution (looking longingly at you, Endeavour OS!) in the blink of an eye, if I was not stuck in the Windows ecosystem for professional and personal purposes. But as I am bound to use Windows on my laptop, why not get the most performance out of it? In this post, I will be showing some simple tricks that I use. Though I am showing these steps for Windows 10, the same are applicable for Windows 11 as well.

Disclaimer: I did not invent or discover these tricks, there are millions of tutorials out there who talk about one or more of the steps I follow. I just wanted to put all of the ones that I found useful in one place.

O&O ShutUp10++

This is a fantastic tool for those people paranoid about privacy. In recent years, Windows has generated a lot of controversy with its data collection and telemetry (get more details here, here and here). Windows does provide you the option to toggle some settings during initial setup, and the settings app has lots of other options — but going through all the options and toggling them one by one is time consuming. This is where O&O ShutUp10++ is useful. It gives you the option to toggle all the privacy settings at once. To use the tool, download it from the website, and open it. After it opens, click on the actions button, and select ‘Apply only recommended settings’. This will toggle all the privacy settings that are completely safe to turn off. You can also turn off other options (by toggling them one by one, or by selecting other options from the drop-down menu), but make sure you understand what the options are for.

After you click on ‘Apply only recommended settings’, a pop-up window will open, asking you to create a system restore point. It is recommended to select ‘Yes’, as the system restore point will be critical in case anything goes wrong in the process and you want to go back to how your system was before. Though during my years of usage, I have never found it to cause any problem, but still it is a good practice to create a system restore point anyway.

After the operation is complete, it will ask you to reboot your system, and the changes will be applied.

Keep in mind, that a major version upgrade of Windows will change the settings back, and you have to use the tool again after an upgrade — so keep the downloaded .exe file stored somewhere.

Uninstall bloatware:

When you install Windows for the first time in your system, or you buy a new computer with preinstalled Windows, it comes with a lot of bloatware or unnecessary apps. You can see all of the installed apps in the Start menu. Make sure to right click and uninstall all of the apps you are never going to use.

Image courtesy: The Verge

I usually uninstall all of the preinstalled games, links to install Microsoft Office and other apps, and preinstalled apps like Mail, News, Skype, Weather, Paint 3D, Tips, 3D viewer, Send Feedback, Groove Music, Xbox and others which I never use.

Disable transparency effects:

If you are like me and do not care about the fancy transparency effects in Windows, you can turn them off. The transparency effects are heavy on system resources, therefore disabling them can make your system more performant. Open the settings app, go to Personalization > Colors, and toggle the Transparency effects off.

Turn off background apps:

Windows have introduced a lot of Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps since Windows 8 was launched. Most of the preinstalled apps either have been converted to UWP or will be converted in the future, and these can be installed/uninstalled using the Microsoft Store. Unlike traditional apps (Win32 apps) that we have been using forever, UWP apps can run in the background even when closed, and consume system resources. But we do not generally need to run apps like Calculator, Photos or Snip & Sketch in the background.

You can find a list of all apps running in the background by opening the settings app, and going to Privacy > Background Apps. Toggle any app that you don’t need running in the background (avoid turning off apps like Windows Defender).

Disable unnecessary startup apps:

Right after the boot up process, i.e., after Windows is started, a lot of applications are started automatically. These are known as startup programs. We do not need to start some of these startup apps during boot, and can safely disable them. Turning off these apps can lower the booting up time, as well as decrease the resource usage as these are not running in the background.

To select which startup apps to disable, either right-click on the taskbar and select Task manager, or press Ctrl + Shift + Esc. After the Task Manager window opens, go to the Startup tab, where you will find a list of all startup programs that are enabled. Disable the ones that you do not need to start after boot by selecting one and clicking on the Disable button at the bottom-right corner. Make sure you know what the app does before disabling it, otherwise google the name and find out if it is essential for the system after booting up. For example, do not disable antivirus programs or sound drivers.

Create custom performance options:

Windows has lot of animations turned on by default. I do not care for these visual effects, such as the animation displayed during opening the start menu or the notification center, or minimizing open windows; therefore, I disable most of these animations and other unnecessary visual effects. These visual effects use system resources, and disabling them results in smoother performance.

Open the start menu or go to the search bar, and search for ‘adjust appearance’, then click on the option ‘Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows’. There are several performance options listed in the window that pops up. By default, ‘Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer’ is selected. Selecting ‘Adjust for best performance’ will turn of all visual effects and give you the best performance, but will also make fonts look ugly, will show file icons instead of a preview of the file, and open windows or cursor will not have shadows below them — making them difficult to differentiate. Therefore, it is best to select the ‘Custom’ option and checking the effects that are required. I find checking the options that are shown in the screenshot below is best for my use, but you can try checking/unchecking different options and see which works best for you.

Disable search indexing:

I am very organized, when it comes to storing files on my computer, and do not need top using the windows search function to look for files; therefore I turn off the search functionality altogether. Windows search uses what is known as ‘search indexing’, where the system goes through all of your files, browses through the information and catalogues them. Search indexing runs in the background, and can be quite taxing on the system if you have older or lower-powered computer, or transfer a lot of files regularly. Turning off search indexing can give you a significant performance boost, and will only disable searching for files, while keeping searching for apps/processes intact.

To turn off search indexing, open the start menu or go to the search bar, search for ‘services’ and open the Services app. In the app, search for ‘Windows search’, which should be near the bottom of the list.

Once found, double click on Windows Search to open the option. After the pop-up window opens, locate the ‘Stop’ button under the category ‘Service status’, and click on it. This should stop search indexing for the moment. To permanently disable search indexing, Select ‘Disabled’ from the drop-down menu beside ‘Startup type’, and click ‘Apply’ and then ‘OK’.

Disk cleanup:

With time, Windows accumulates a lot of files which are no longer required. These junk files are generated while a task is being performed, and afterwards are not deleted. Overtime, the accumulation of these files can eat up disk space and cause your computer to slow down; therefore it is necessary to remove them.

There are a lot of system cleaning apps available, such as CCleaner, which are quite popular. These apps are NOT RECOMMENDED to be used in Windows, as they can do more harm than good, especially their registry cleaning options. Windows registry is a system to store information about applications, system configurations etc. Though CCleaner and similar applications can clean junk files, their registry cleaning option can remove important information from the registry and cause problems in your system. Instead, use the built-in tools in windows to clean up junk files.

Open the Start menu or go to the search bar, search for ‘disk cleanup’ and open the Disk Cleanup tool. C drive will be selected in the drop-down menu. As junk files are accumulated in C drive only (assuming Windows is installed in C), this is the only one you need to clean. After clicking on ‘OK’, it will search through the drive, and will open a new popup window with the list of files you can clean.

By default it shows only the user files. If you want to clean system files as well, which I recommend, then click on ‘Clean up system files’. It will again give you the option to select a drive, with the default being C. After clicking ‘OK’, it will again scan through the drive, and this time will show a window with the list of system files you can safely clean.

You can safely check all of the options, and click ‘OK’ to remove them. I do not recommend checking the ‘Thumbnails’ option. Thumbnails are previews of files that are shown on the file icons, such as image files. Even if you delete the thumbnails, they will anyway be generated next time you open folders with such files.

After clicking OK, it will ask you to confirm, and will take some time to clean all the files depending on how much junk files have accumulated. Disk cleanup should be run periodically. Recent Windows versions have an option called ‘Storage Sense’ in the setting app, which can automatically clean up junk files when required, but using the Disk cleanup tool gives you a lot of control over which files to delete and when.

Disable background processes in Chromium based browsers:

Google Chrome is the most popular browser out there, which is made using the open-source project Chromium — also developed and maintained by Google. Let’s face it, except Apple’s Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox — most other popular browsers out there are based on Chromium. If you are using popular ones such as Microsoft Edge, Brave, Vivaldi or Opera , or even obscure ones such as Epic, SlimBrowser, Torch or Comodo Dragon — then you are basically using Chromium. Chromium-based browsers have a history of using higher system resources (except maybe Microsoft Edge, which is optimized well for Windows), as well as running processes in the background. These background processes are often utilized by the browser for reducing the opening time upon re-launch, or are utilized by some of the extensions to show notifications. The background processes continue hogging RAM as well as keep draining battery, therefore I disable them as I don’t require my browser to be running in the background.

To disable background processes on Google Chrome, click on the three vertical dots on the top-right, and click on ‘Advanced’ option on the left, which will open advanced settings. In the list that opens, click on ‘System’, and then turn off the first feature that says ‘Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed’.

Image courtesy: omg! chrome

To do the same on Microsoft Edge (which is what I use), click on the three horizontal dots on the top-right and click on the option ‘System and performance’ on the left pane. Several options will be shown on the main pane. In addition to turning off ‘Continue running background extensions and apps when Microsoft Edge is closed’, also turn off ‘Startup boost’ option.

If you are using some other Chromium-based browser, there should be similar option in the Settings as well.

These were some of the tweaks that I use to boost the performance of my system and reduce the data collected by Microsoft. There are other advanced tweaks as well, which people recommend. If you know about such useful tweaks and use them in your system, please let me know in the comments.

See you next time — ciao!

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Bishwarup Paul

Bishwarup Paul

A nature-enthusiast appreciating technology, and a technology-obsessed exploring nature.