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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.

To disable unnecessary startup items, wed once again recommend using CCleaner. Windows 8s built-in configuration utility (msconfig) will work as well, but CCleaners startup menu is more comprehensive, expandable, and easier to navigate. CCleaner also has the added benefit of being able to list add-ons launching with Internet Explorer, should you want to clean up the browser as well.

On a fresh Windows 8 installation, there wont be many startup items to consider. After an upgrade from a previous edition of Windows, or after installing a myriad of applications, however, there will probably be numerous items that can be eliminated. To disable unnecessary startup items, launch CCleaner, then click on the Tools button on the left side of the programs menu, and then click on the Startup button. On the Startup menu, click on the Windows tab, and every program that launches with Windows will be listed. Delete any unneeded items, which usually means everything except for anti-virus/anti-malware tools and any utilities you use regularly. Any helper or speed launcher apps can probably be disabled. If youre unsure, Google the name of the program to ascertain what it does and if it is essential.

There are multiple ways to disable services in Windows 8, but using the System Configuration utility (aka msconfig) seems to be the most foolproof and least confusing. To launch the System Configuration utility, press the WIN+R key combination, type msconfig in the run field and hit the Enter key. When the utility opens, click on the Services tab and then tick the option at the lower left labeled "Hide all Microsoft Services." What youll be left with is a list of services installed with any application or drivers that were installed on the system.

You shouldn't start disabling all services willy-nilly, but chances are many application-specific services can be safely disabled. On our machine, even though we started with a clean OS and installed only a few applications, we were still able to disable four services, three associated with Google software updates and another associated with Adobe Reader. There may also be a couple of Microsoft services that can be disabled, like the Theme service or the Touch Keyboard service (if you dont have a touch-screen), but tread lightly here; if youre not certain a service can be disabled, leave it alone.

Eliminate annoying UAC notifications

This recommendation may put off PC veterans who manage multiple systems for other, less savvy users; if you are tweaking your personal PC, however, it shouldnt be an issue. Every time a UAC (User Account Control) warning pops up, not only does it pause the system and require a click, but the warning and screen dimming effect can take an eternity on older hardware. Eliminating UAC notifications entirely can significantly boost the performance of Windows 8 on aging hardware; to minimize the number of pop-ups while still having some level of additional protection, you can also just reduce the UAC notification level.


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