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  1. #1
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    The performance price of Win7's visual effects




    BEST PRACTICES

    The performance price of Win7's visual effects


    By Michael Lasky

    Many factors can exact a toll on Windows 7's overall speed, but one of the front runners is Win7's own built-in capacity for special effects and animation.

    Fortunately, you can easily change options to mitigate the cost.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-practices/the-performance-price-of-win7's-visual-effects/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2011-08-03 at 16:45.

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    Article was on a good subject , but the suggestion for a "major boost in performance" referenced a "Enable transparent glass" function that is nowhere to be found on the Performance Options window. So the advice was of little use.

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    Must be a leftover from a Vista article. Enable Transparency for Windows 7 is at Control Panel, Personalization, Windows Color (and Appearance).

    Bruce

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Let's be serious. Unless you are running Windows 7 on minimal hardware (less than a pentium-d dual-core processor, less than 2GB of RAM, etc.) you will get absolutely no improvement of Windows 7 performance by eliminating features or visual effects.

    The "slowness" people claim to experience is almost always the fault of background processes, malformed drivers, badly written third-party software, or failure to clean up things like the browser cache.

    Users of Firefox will notice a steady decline in system performance the longer the browser is left open due to a well-known Firefox memory leak issue. Otherwise, an occasional reboot is all that is needed to keep Windows 7 running smoothly.

    Tweaking for improved system performance is so Windows 95!

    Now, if you do not like the appearance of Windows 7's visual effects, by all means use the Classic Theme, and give Win7 the look of Windows XP.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-05 at 04:22.
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    Windows Experience Index Failure

    Greetings -- the discussion of Windows Experience Index was interesting to me as I just replaced Windows XP with Windows 7. When I tried to rate my system, however, the program stopped after about a minute and a half and reported "could not measure video playback performance." I saw no way to troubleshoot and when I Googled that message I got more information than I could understand. Any advice? THANKS!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hhajaa View Post
    Greetings -- the discussion of Windows Experience Index was interesting to me as I just replaced Windows XP with Windows 7. When I tried to rate my system, however, the program stopped after about a minute and a half and reported "could not measure video playback performance." I saw no way to troubleshoot and when I Googled that message I got more information than I could understand. Any advice? THANKS!
    I recommend you post your question in the Windows 7 forum.

    Joe

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    Bob:
    Your statement:"Tweaking for improved system performance is so Windows 95!"
    is so dogmatic.
    You're a regular poster, so you're surely aware of all the discussions pro and con about tweaking.
    If you have definitive proof that tweaking doesn't help performance, please post it.
    Otherwise, please preface your remark with something like:"In my opinion . . ."
    There are new readers looking at postings every day here. I wouldn't want them to take your statement as "gospel."
    Best,
    Dick

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    A decade ago you could achieve noticable measurable improvements through tweaking your system. These days unless you are running a woefully underpowered netbook tweaking has more potential for wreaking havoc on a system than improving it. Today's hardware is very capable of running Windows 7 at very acceptable performance levels out of the box. The almost obsessive mentality of some veteran PC users about the supposed need to tweak, clean, & defrag constantly is not borne out by any measurable statistics that I've seen. Yes, there are some housekeeping things you can do to help. Yes, on occasion under special circumstances when you know your system is corrupted registry cleaning can be useful. IMO, the reward for trying to squeeze a millisecond here or there is not justified by the time spent to find the tweak to do so or the chance of making a mistake and spending untold hours trying to fix it. I'd like to see definitive proof that all the tweaking does improve performance. After all, if tweaking of any sort does not improve your use of the PC why do it?

    That said, if you care to spend the time and take the chance go ahead. If you want to use tweaking as the tool to learn more about your system fine go ahead.

    I do not want anyone to take as gospel that tweaking (of any and all sorts) is the route to PC happiness.

    Joe

  9. #9
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    Bob:
    Your statement:"Tweaking for improved system performance is so Windows 95!"
    is so dogmatic.
    You're a regular poster, so you're surely aware of all the discussions pro and con about tweaking.
    If you have definitive proof that tweaking doesn't help performance, please post it.
    Otherwise, please preface your remark with something like:"In my opinion . . ."
    There are new readers looking at postings every day here. I wouldn't want them to take your statement as "gospel."
    Best,
    Dick
    I respect the opinions of yourself and others in The Lounge. But...

    First, a disclaimer:

    I am assuming that most readers who are running Windows 7 have either checked the requirements (running the Upgrade Readiness tools and the Windows 7 Experience Index tool from Microsoft) or have gotten Windows 7 as a preinstalled operating system on a new computer. If either of these statements is not true, the reader should perform these checks before reading further into this post. (And yes, I did post in a separate thread that the Windows Experience Index tool is unreliable on many Intel Core-i5 based laptops.)

    Now, back to the issue of tweaking Windows 7 visual effects to boost system performance (the original issue here):

    The "proof" has been posted officially in Microsoft's own blogs (by Igor Leyko, Microsoft engineer), here at Windows Secrets Newsletter , in This Lounge Thread (various points of view), and elsewhere.

    Although he was not talking specifically about turning off visual effects for performance, Woody Leonhard has put the issue into sharp focus:

    Donít follow the well-worn hacking advice

    I just love it when someone writes to me, all excited because theyíve found a Windows 7 service that they can turn off, with no apparent ill effect. Other people tell me about this really neat Windows 7 prefetch hack theyíve found, in which a couple of flipped bits in the Registry can significantly speed up your computer. Before they changed, Windows boot times were sooooo slow. Now, with the hack, itís like having a new PC all over again!

    Meh.

    I call it the Registry Placebo Effect. If you find an article or a book or a YouTube video that shows you how to reach into the bowels of Windows 7 to change something, and the article (book, video) says that this change makes your machine run faster, well ó by golly ó when you try it, your machine runs faster! I mean, just try it for yourself: your machine will run so much better.

    Yeah. Sure. Once upon a time, when dinosaurs walked the earth, itís possible that turning off a few Windows services (little Windows subprograms that run automatically every time you boot) might have added a minuscule performance boost to your daily Windows ME routine. Bob might have jumped up faster, or Clippy could have offered his helpful admonitions a fraction of a millisecond more quickly. But in the days of Windows 7, turning off Windows 7 services is just plain stupid. Why? The service you turn off may be needed, oh, once every year. If the service isnít there, your PC may crash or lock up or behave in some strange way. Services are tiny, low-overhead critters. Let them be.
    (Taken from the article referenced above in my Windows Secrets Newsletter link.) Again, this does not directly address Windows 7 visual effects, but the point is clear -- most Windows "performance boosters" are in the eyes of the beholders.

    Discussion about the performance hit from Windows Vista/ Windows 7 visual effects and other comments about tweaking Windows 7 for performance can be found at Microsoft's own web site :

    "If a computer running Windows 7 seems too slow, it's usually because the PC doesn't have enough RAM. The best way to speed it up is to add more.

    Windows 7 can run on a PC with 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM, but it runs better with 2 GB. For optimal performance, boost that to 3 GB or more."

    So there you have it, directly from Microsoft's own recommendations. No mention that I saw about the need for adequate graphics hardware and drivers, but that is also a factor, especially in upgrade installations.

    Again, I respect the opinions of yourself and others in The Lounge. But without solid evidence to show actual performance improvements, the reduction or elimination of Windows 7 visual effects cannot be cited as a way to speed up Windows 7 on a "slow computer". There simply is too much evidence that other actions (like those suggested in the Microsoft advice reference) will pay off with much greater performance dividends than taking the "easy" way out and blaming the visual effects for system slowdowns.

    There are exceptions. If Windows 7 is installed on incompatible hardware, graphics cards and drivers (or chipsets) can become an issue with some Windows 7 visual effects. This article , while about Windows Vista, outlines some of the issues. I would think any modern computer would not have these hardware limitations, but I do understand that many folks have installed Windows 7 as an upgrade on older hardware. In such cases, by all means disable those Windows 7 visual effects which are not supported by your hardware. But in almost all other cases, folks should not expect any significant improvements in Windows 7 system performance just by eliminating visual effects. Not if you have adequate RAM or discreet graphics memory. The Windows Experience Index, as well as the Update Readiness tools from Microsoft, can save a world of headaches by identifying incompatible hardware when upgrading to Windows 7.

    All of this is not just opinion, as readers can see. And there are probably experts who have much more directly addressed the Windows 7 visual effects. This is just what I came up with in a very brief review of some of my bookmarks.

    What I have seen posted repeatedly in The Lounge are people's opinions about Windows tweaking, without any supporting data or references. Maybe a few personal experiences and anecdotes, without any statements as to the hardware involved or whether Windows 7 was preinstalled, an upgrade, or a clean install. Often not even the version (Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate) which was installed. This is what is known in the IT industry as spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). In lay terms, it is simply perpetuating Windows myths.

    Some of the Windows Secrets columnists have sided with the crowd who tweak Windows, while some (including Woody Leonhard) have sided with the crowd which do not favor such tweaks and consider them a distraction from the real Windows slowdown issues. Guess which camp I fall into?

    Bottom line: You get out of Windows 7 according to what you put into it. Throw enough hardware at the thing and it purrs; throw Win7 onto an old computer with inadequate hardware and drivers and it slows to a crawl. It's cost vs. performance in these upgrade situations. How much are we willing to pay to get the promised "Windows Experience" ? That is not something which can be "proven" one way or another. It is a personal and financial choice. And soon we will get to make these choices all over again, with Windows 8 on its way! Touch Screen upgrades, anyone?
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-05 at 13:49.
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  10. #10
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    Joe:
    Before we get into a pis@#! contest:
    You said:"
    I do not want anyone to take as gospel that tweaking (of any and all sorts) is the route to PC happiness."

    I didn't say it was.

    The point of my comment to Bob was that he made a dogmatic statement that "Tweaking for improved system performance is so Windows 95!"

    Dick

  11. #11
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dick-Y View Post
    Joe:
    Before we get into a pis@#! contest:
    You said:"
    I do not want anyone to take as gospel that tweaking (of any and all sorts) is the route to PC happiness."

    I didn't say it was.

    The point of my comment to Bob was that he made a dogmatic statement that "Tweaking for improved system performance is so Windows 95!"

    Dick
    Yeah, this is not looking like such a civilized discussion anymore. Let me apologize for any inferred arrogant or dogmatic tone in my comments. Tone is so hard to convey in print!

    My point should have been much like Joe's post. My long post was begun before Joe posted, so it is a bit out of sequence in this discussion. But I think just looking at the references with an open mind may help to balance out the constant hue and cry about some new (or very old) tweak which promises to improve Windows system performance. Balance is all I ask, not capitulation.
    -- Bob Primak --

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