Category Archives: System Tweaks

TweakNow PowerPack 2012 – A Free Menu-Driven Windows Tweaking Application

Geeks know exactly how, and where, to tweak a Windows operating system – without necessarily running a dedicated tweaking application. Average users on the other hand, generally lack the background and experience, to venture into the dark and hidden spaces of a Windows environment.

But, that doesn’t mean an average user can’t tweak just like a pro. Luckily, there are more than a few free tweaking apps available that can help average users apply the most common system tweaks.

In past reviews of tweaking applications, more than a few readers have mentioned TweakNow PowerPack as their go-to tweaking application. So, I thought I’d take a very quick peek at TweakNow PowerPack’s capabilities.

As with most  tweaking applications, TweakNow PowerPack is menu-driven – making it easy to accomplish system changes without the drudgery of having to go through menu after menu, or manually editing the Registry.

TweakNow PowerPack has a clean, easy to understand interface that provides access to over 100 system settings, some of which are hidden, and others that are just hard to find. The interface is organized for easy navigation, so, I can see no reason why a careful average user should have any problem tweaking their system with TweakNow PowerPack.

Fast facts:

Fully-integrated suite of utilities that let you fine-tune every aspect of your computer’s operating system and Web browser.

Access to more than 100 hidden Windows settings.

Quick Optimizer.

Windows Cleaner includes – Disk Cleaner, Disk Usage Analyzer, Registry Defragmenter, Registry Cleaner, Secure Delete, Startup Manager, Tracks Cleaner and an Uninstaller.

Virtual Desktop module lets you run as many as four custom-designed desktop configurations simultaneously.

Detailed information on your motherboard, processor, video card, memory, hard disk and network.

Even more tweaks to suit your fancy.

The interface is organized for easy navigation, so, I can see no reason why a careful average user should have any problem tweaking their system with Quick Optimizer.

The following screen captures illustrate just a few of the large feature set built into this free application.

Quick Optimizer:

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Windows Secret:

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Miscellaneous Tools:

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System requirements: Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP.

Download at:  Author’s site.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Software, System Tweaks

Point Your Mouse In the Right Direction – Automatically

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While watching a friend fill-in a Web Form recently, I was a little curious as to why she didn’t “Tab” down, from field to field – rather than using her mouse to move. So, quite naturally, I pointed out that using the “Tab” key was much more efficient for the task – only to be rewarded with a blank look, followed by a “huh?”

After a 30 second explanation, it came out that in the 10+ years she’s been a computer user, she was unaware of this shortcut. Yes, I know, you’re shaking your head and thinking – but, everyone knows that. Maybe everyone you know does – but, I can assure you there is a surprising lack of shortcut knowledge in the “tech savvy” generation. Particularly, when it comes to shortcuts that can help make a repetitive task flow a little smoother.

Here’s an example of a repetitive task which I perform every day, while setting up the Tech Thoughts Daily Net News column – made much easier than it might otherwise be, simply by setting the Mouse pointer to automatically select the “Insert”button in the “Insert Hyperlink” dialogue box.

First – I select the address I want to link with.

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Second – I copy the link.

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Third – I select the text I want to link with.

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Fourth – I open the Hyperlink dialogue box.

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Fifth – as you can see, the web address has been inserted automatically and the “Insert” button, has been automatically selected.

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Performing this same task, 30 or more times, while building a column, can be mind-numbing in its repetitiveness. So, I rely heavily on this auto feature. And, I’ll tell you frankly – I don’t bother looking to ensure  all is well – I don’t even look at the dialogue box – I simply click the Mouse button.

This feature works in most (but not all) dialogue boxes and, if you should decide that you could benefit by selecting this option – here’s how to do it.

Open “Mouse Properties” and select – “Automatically move pointer to the default button in a dialogue box”.

Pretty simple.   Smile

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Filed under Computer Help, System Tweaks, Windows Tips and Tools

Four Windows Boot Optimization Tips You Can Trust

Guest post by: Tibor Schiemann, President and Managing Director, TuneUp.

Does it take an eternity for your PC to boot up? Have you trolled the web for some tips on improving it? Unfortunately, there are some really bad tuning advices out there, but here are four Windows boot optimization tweaks you can definitely trust.

Turn off unnecessary start-up programs. Third-party applications can slow things down quite a bit depending on your system, so go through the list of start-up entries and get rid of the programs you’ll never use or need. This won’t just help improve boot time; it should also reduce the number of annoying pop-ups informing you to take various actions.

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I actually tested this tip by disabling 19 start-up entries on one system and 25 start-up entries on another. It was surprising to see that neither machine had significant improvements in terms of boot time, but I noticed that my systems were much more responsive right after logging on and during general use. This is because disk usage significantly decreased once these start-up entries were turned off.

Since much less is going on during the boot-up process with the start-up entries disabled, you can start working with your computer much more quickly after logging on. You’ll also regain both CPU and RAM resources, which will help speed up the applications you’re actively working with. While you probably won’t notice a huge improvement in boot time like in my test, this tip will help you be more productive and conserve system resources.

Disable devices in Device Manager. PCs and laptops come with several built-in devices or other components that you may not need, such as a Bluetooth transmitter, an Ethernet adapter, a web camera or a sound chip. Windows does not need to reserve interrupt requests (IRQs) and memory resources and load up drivers if the devices are disabled, so turning them off should improve boot time.

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I again put this tip to the test and used Device Manager to turn off several devices, including a webcam, virtual DVD drives and all USB ports and controllers. Boot time went down by a couple of seconds on both of my test machines once the devices were disabled. This tip also had a neat side effect—it helped me preserve battery power on the laptops.

Get more RAM for your PC. This is always a good thing to do, but does it really help improve boot time if you’re just upgrading from 1 GB to 2 GB or from 2 GB to 4 GB? Since core Windows system files, drivers and basic services all amount to less than 1 GB, boot time shouldn’t be affected. However, more RAM should drastically reduce swapping memory to the disk.

I used msconfig to limit the total memory used by my test systems and see how upgrading RAM affected boot time. As expected, the computers’ start-up times steadily improved as more GBs of RAM was added, and on an Asus tablet (Core i5, 4 GB of RAM, SSD drive), boot time decreased noticeably.

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Tweak your BIOS, which may slow down boot time due to unnecessary checks or settings. To combat this, set boot priority to your hard disk, for example, and disable booting from your DVD drive, USB port or network; by doing so, you should be able to shave a couple of seconds off your system’s boot time.

Try to find the “Boot” category in your BIOS, and set your PC to look only for a bootable operating system on your hard disk. But, don’t forget to set it back in case you decide to install a new operating system or run a USB rescue environment. Also, try to find the “Quick Boot” option and set it to “Enabled” to skip the boot analysis of hardware components.

These are the four most effective (and safe) ways of improving Windows’ boot time. Visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows (http://blog.tune-up.com), where we’ve sifted through misleading optimization tips and tuning information, to learn more and make sure that you are maximizing PC performance.

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Filed under Computer Maintenance, Education, Guest Writers, System Tweaks, TuneUp Utilities

The Windows Club Latest Freebie – Ultimate Windows Customizer

imageRegular readers here will know, that I’m a big fan of the The Windows Club a great bunch of guys who have written and released some terrific free applications including Right-Click Extender (an absolute favorite of mine), Ultimate Windows Tweaker and FixWin Utility – all of which I have reviewed here, and recommended, in the last year.

The Windows Club’s latest release, Ultimate Windows Customizer (brought to you by my good buddy TeX, who gave me a heads-up this week), provides a full range of customizations designed specifically for your Windows 7 installation.

Ultimate Windows Customizer provides customization options in these areas –

Explorer

Context Menus

Libraries

Logon Screen

Start Orb

Taskbar

Miscellaneous

Extra Settings

Windows Media Player

Following installation, the application opens to a simple “click here” interface. Clicking on any of the following screen shots will expand the graphic to its original.

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The following two screen captures illustrate just a few of the customizations which can easily be pulled off using Ultimate Windows Customizer.

Context Menus

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Settings and Extras

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Fast facts:

Very simple and easy to use. No manual Hacks. No need to manually edit the Windows Registry and Windows System files.

Tested over and over for compatibility between various customizations.

70+ major features with literally tons of sub-features.

Built in Update Feature to be easily notified of new updates.

Backs up all System Files and Registry Settings that UWC deals with and does not modify these.

Error Log for easy display.

Easy uninstallation via the Control Panel.

Creates System Restore Point before any customizations are done.

System Requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: The Windows Club

As with all Windows Club applications to date, Ultimate Windows Customizer is a terrific application. One which can add a little sparkle, and increased convenience, to any Win 7 installation.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, System Tweaks, System Utilities, Windows 7

TweakGuides.com – A Tweakers Paradise?

imageComputing is more or less all about generics – a sort of, one size fits all approach. But, if you’re like me, the last thing you want is a machine that’s configured to run with settings which don’t take into account your specific requirements. Luckily, there are more than a few free tweaking apps available, which help average users apply the most common system tweaks.

But, if you’re considering customizations beyond the basics – tweaking your games, browsers, video card, or overclocking your CPU for example, you’re going to have to to dig a little deeper on your own. Unless you’re aware of TweakGuides.com, that is.

If you’re looking for a site that covers tweaking the way it should be covered – detailed, suitable for both novice and advanced users, and written in plain language, then TweakGuides.com is the place for you.

Just some of the goodies available at TweakGuides:

Firefox Tweak Guide

Google Customization Guide

The Gamer’s Graphics & Display Settings Guide

Game Tweak Guides

But, I’ve held onto the best for last – TweakGuides Tweaking Companion – a terrific compilation of Windows customization, optimization and troubleshooting advice for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

From the site:

The TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) is the complete system customization and optimization guide for all Windows users. Designed for novice and advanced users alike, it is written in plain English to help you genuinely understand all key aspects of Windows and your PC.

The guide covers every major topic, from the correct installation of critical drivers and software, through to simple explanations and recommendations for every significant Windows setting and feature, all the major performance and convenience tweaks and customizations, as well as detailed troubleshooting advice.

Also provided are links and instructions for a large number of reliable free applications which can enhance your system and give you viable alternatives to purchasing commercial software.

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In all cases, the regular system specific edition of TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (PDF) is free.

Once downloaded, first extract the PDF file from the .ZIP archive using the built-in Windows compression utility, or the free 7-Zip utility. Then use the free Foxit Reader software to read the PDF file.

To round out the free offerings, the site provides a very active forum – the place to go for questions, answers, and advice, on operating systems, software, and hardware.

A big shout out to regular reader Michael F., for introducing me to this super site.  Thank you Michael.

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Filed under downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Google, System Tweaks, Technicians Advise, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Two Terrific Tweakers – WinBubble And Ultimate Windows Tweaker

imageWinBubble gives you the power to tweak Vista and Windows 7, in all of these areas – system optimization, interface and desktop customization tweaks, security tweaks, including Internet Explorer tweaks, and it’s not finished yet. Believe it – there are even more tweaks to suit your fancy.

It seems interfaces are getting much easier to navigate these days, and WinBubble’s interface is no exception. It’s tabs and check boxes layout, should be easy to follow – even for less experienced users.

The following screen captures illustrate this tab and check box layout:

WinBubble 1

WinBubble 2

WinBubble 3

WinBubble 4

If you’re a Vista/Win 7 user, and an easy to use tweaker is what you’re looking for, then you’re going to love WinBubble.

Note: The major benefit in using this type of tweaking application is the ease with which you can make changes to your system, without the drudgery of having to go through menu after menu, or manually editing the Registry.

But, with any application that makes changes to your system, use caution, and be sure to have a verified backup, or current system restore point.

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista.

Download at: Download.com

If you’re a Windows XP user then checkout Tweak UI which is designed for a Windows XP installation.

Ultimate Windows Tweaker

Ultimate Windows Tweaker is a freeware utility for tweaking and optimizing Windows Vista, and now Windows 7 –  both 32-bit, and 64-bit versions.

This small (235KB), program has a clean, easy to understand interface that gives you access to over 150 system settings, some of which are hidden, and others that are just hard to find. The interface is organized for easy navigation, and it is complete with detailed descriptions for easy reference.

The following screen captures should give you a good idea of what you can accomplish using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

Personalization Tweaks. Click on any graphic to expand.

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System Performance Tweaks.

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Network Tweaks.

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Additional Tweaks.

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System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista – 32 and 64 Bit.

Bonus: Ultimate Windows Tweaker can easily be copied to a USB flash drive for portability.

Download at: The Windows Club

While this application is designed for advanced users, I see no reason why careful average users should have any problem tweaking their system using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Portable Applications, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

Slow Computer? Optimizing Windows Services Can Help

image Windows is a terrific operating system – no doubt about it (although, some will argue otherwise). Windows meets most of  my computing needs, as it does yours, I expect. The chances of my computing needs and your computing needs being the same however, are remote.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t differentiate between your needs and my needs. On installation, the OS generally assumes we both have the same needs (including security needs), and configures Windows Services accordingly.

Running with fewer services though, especially a service that you don’t use, or need, puts less strain on both the CPU and system memory. In some cases, reducing the number of running services can turn a sluggish PC around. So, if you want to get the best out of your machine, tweaking services is good practice.

Examples of services I’ve tweaked on this machine:

I don’t have a printer attached to this particular machine I’m using this morning, so I don’t need the spooler service running.

I don’t run a Tablet PC so I don’t need the Tablet PC Input service running.

The Fax service is disabled since I don’t use Fax.

I don’t allow any remote access to this machine so any services dealing with remote access are disabled. For example – I can’t imaging allowing remote access to my registry so, “allowing remote users to change my registry settings” (on this machine), is disabled.

Tweaking services however, is not without its hazards. For example, if a particular service is disabled, any other service/services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.

Adjusting a service setting incorrectly, has the potential to leave a computer in an unbootable condition. I know – I’ve managed to do just that, a time or two, over the years.

Recently, an open source (free), application that promises to allow a user to tweak Windows services in a safe and easy way, caught my attention. Vista Services Optimizer, a Windows tweaking utility, which despite its name, has been optimized to run in Windows 7 as well, makes good on this promise.

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Even a casual user, with a few mouse clicks, can easily optimize Windows services to increase performance and security, automatically.

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A more experienced user gets a little more leeway, and can manually tweak using a more in-depth feature list.

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Very experienced users can tweak to their heart’s content, with the built-in Services Manager.

Here’s an example – I recently made some changes to the playlist on my IPod, which meant running ITunes; a bloated, cannibalistic piece of crapware that eats resources through various (usually unwanted), added services. Adjusting these parasitic services was a snap using Services Manager.

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In case your tweaking goes a step too far, recovery is just a mouse click away by simply using the built-in Smart Rescue Center.

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Bonus Module

Since many games are processor, system memory, and graphic intensive, setting up Gaming Mode will give your system an immediate performance boost when needed. Keep in mind that the best solution to improved gaming (all other components being up to the task), is the installation of a high-end graphic card.

Additionally, this module can be used to temporarily turn off unneeded Windows features, and free up computer resources, when running applications that benefit from a “lean” system profile – e.g., Photoshop.

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Fast facts:

System analysis highlights services that can be turned off

Automatic tune-up based on user’s system requirements

Restore function to restore to system defaults

Profile building

Automatic service state snapshots

Gaming mode

I don’t think it could be any easier to tweak Windows services than this. All the user needs to do is tick the appropriate check boxes, and the Services Optimizer takes care of the rest.

System requirements: Windows Vista – SP1 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit), Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – Service Pack 1

Last updated: July 15, 2010

Download at: Smart PC Utilities

For those who need a portable version, you’re in luck – a portable version is available. However, Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 with Service Pack 1, must be resident on the host machine.

Note: During the install, you will have the option of installing a toolbar – don’t!

XP users – Optimizer XP 3.5 is available for download at Softpedia. I have not tested this application.

If you’re a real “hands-on” techie, then visit Charles “Black Viper” Sparks Website, (the best tweaking site on the Internet), where you’ll find  complete explanations of each service, and advice on which services you can safely disable – plus, a lot more.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Tools, Computer Tune Up Utilities, downloads, Freeware, Open Source, Portable Applications, Slow Computer, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista