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How to optimize Windows 8 on old hardware

Marco Chiappetta | Oct. 24, 2012
Microsoft has made a point of advertising the performance enhancements and optimizations being made to Windows 8. Although Windows 7 was well received and typically offered better performance and stability than its much-maligned predecessor, Windows Vista, Microsoft had some loftier goals in mind for the jump to Windows 8.

As you probably suspect, Windows 8s performance isnt stellar on a machine with such meager specifications, but the OS was surprisingly smooth. It wasnt until the system was taxed with a handful of running applications and multiple open browser windows that things significantly slowed. We managed to remedy the situation with some tweaking and streamlining, and now we know enough to show you how you can optimize Windows 8 on an older PC.

New OS, new issues

Before we dive into the actual Windows 8 tweaks we made to our low-end Eee PC, we should mention that it is exceedingly common (and dare we say expected) that any new operating system will have its fair share of bugs. As such, it is paramount that users looking to migrate and get the most out of Windows 8 download the latest patches for their software and install the latest drivers for their hardware.

Although nearly any component or device that works with Windows 7 should also work with Windows 8, there are low-level differences between the operating systems that could affect compatibility, stability, and performance. Keeping the OS patched and using the latest drivers available for Windows 8 will help ensure optimal performance and stability, so run Microsoft Update and seek out any new drivers available for your components right away.

Don't rely on Microsoft

Microsoft may have made great strides in recent years to improve the reliability and performance of Windows, and the company does include some useful tools to help users maintain their systems, but there is always room for improvement. Many free third-party applications are more comprehensive and offer additional features than Microsofts built-in tools and the adaptive nature of a few of Windows features consume resources and can affect the user experience on slower hardware. Because of this, its often beneficial to replace or augment some of the tools built into Windows 8 and manually specify some settings to prevent the OS from having to manage them on the fly.

If you have a hard drive, the first thing wed recommend is replacing Windows 8s built-in disk defragmenter (do not use a disk defragmenter on a solid state drive). Windows 8s built-in defrag utility isnt bad, but there are a few free solutions out there that are much better. Defraggler, available for download at piriform.com, is a free replacement for Windows integrated disk defragmenter, and (because it does a more thorough job analyzing and remedying file fragments) drives defragmented with Defraggler can theoretically offer better performance. The real-world performance differences will be miniscule, but on older hardware every little bit counts. Wed suggest downloading and installing Defraggler immediately after installing the OS. Do a Disk Cleanup to free up some space, update the OS, and then run Defraggler to ensure the majority of the OS files are contiguous and that they are placed on the fastest part of your hard drive.

 

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