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How-To Geek

What You Said: How You Customize Your Computer

2012-04-13_115154

Earlier this week we asked you to share the ways you customize your computing experience. You sounded off in the comments and we rounded up your tips and tricks to share. Read on to see how your fellow personalize their computers.

It would seem the first stop on just about everyone’s customization route is stripping away the bloat/crapware. Lisa Wang writes:

Depending on how much time I have when I receive my new machine,I might do the following in a few batches, starting with the simplest one. Usually, my list goes like this:
1.Remove all bloatware and pretty much unneeded stuffs.
2.Change my wallpaper,login screen,themes, and sound.
3.Installing my ‘must-have’ softwares-starting with fences and rocketdock+stacks plugin
4.Setting taskbar to autohide, pinning some apps there
5.Installing additional languages
6.Tweaking all settings and keyboard shortcuts to my preferance
7.Changing the icons(either manual or with TuneUp Styler)

Interface tweaks like the aforementioned Fences and Rocket Dock made quite a few appearances, as did Rainmeter. Graphalfkor writes:

I’ve got rainmeter 2.3 with some Tony Starkish stats blaring out weather, showing latest emails, etc. Randomly changing desktop wallpapers I made in photoshop mostly photographic scenes. Have custom logon screen and other odds/ends crafted via tuneup utils.

I use winAutomation to automate usual routine jobs – it handles everything from chkdsks, stealth downloading antivirus updates, set to scan my downloads folder whenever new files are added, and with scheduled times throughout the week to perform defragging. I even set it to log into google voice and shoot my phone a txt msg if need be so its quite useful.

I have to say I’m really ♥ win 7 speech recognition, sometimes to navigate or to blog (as I thought this would be a one time deal just to test out it works surprisingly better than simply typing).

Most of the time my friends-especially the non tech savvy ones would ask,”What OS do you use?” though it’s the same stock Win7 Pro they have.

Blackknight22 is more of a case modder than an OS modder:

I personally love doing case mods. If one of my computers looks like just a box I can’t help but hack it to pieces and turn it into something a little easier on the eyes. Preferably something that doesn’t look like a computer at all.

I started with just custom paint jobs (sanding the texture down and painting old putty cases piano black and such). I soon graduated to adding plexiglass sides as well as lighting to my cases and have been trying new things ever since.

My two latest projects are both servers. A dedicated Minecraft server made to look like a Redstone block from the game, complete with pulsing/glowing Redstone bits in it, As well as a “fish tank server” with UV reactive fish in it.

I’m also partial to most of the basic OS customizations, like replacing the Logon screen background in 7, object dock on my media center machine, as well as theming my browsers and my laptop which runs XP.

A custom Minecraft server mod and you didn’t include pictures? For shame, good Sir.


For more great tips, tricks, and app recommendations, hit up the full comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/13/12

Comments (15)

  1. Lisa Wang

    You mixed up mine and Gaphalfkor’s comments.
    Well, I’m intrigued by the MInecraft server. Here hoping that the commenter chime in and include link to his computer room:)

  2. muhuwj201

    Did i just see the word “Minecraft” again?

  3. SiiLLyRaBBiiT

    what’s a minecraft?

  4. George

    I AM HUNGRY FOR MINECRAFT!!!!!!!

  5. Mike

    Why bother? Computers change soooo fast, here today gone tomorrow.

  6. Paul

    I’d give my left spleen if someone would list the actual bloatware softwares. Everyone says “get rid of bloatware,” but no one ever says, “Here is a definitive list of bloatware.”

    I don’t know about other people, but I can’t tell bloatware just by looking at the name of the program.

  7. Jackie

    I’m with you Paul.

  8. Michael

    Paul & Jackie:

    Bloatware is different for everyone. Generally, bloatware is any programs, toolbars, add-ons, etc, that you don’t use. They could have come pre-installed with your OS, or come as a bundle when you download programs (this is the mostly toolbars.) However, it could also be anything you have installed on your own hard drive that you don’t use anymore. Essentially, it’s anything that you don’t use that takes up space. Some examples would be all the toolbars you don’t use, the trail programs that come preinstalled, like trial anti-virus software, or messenger applications that some programs might encourage you to install. Again, it really is more of what you aren’t using versus a laundry list of application. just go to “uninstall programs” in Control Panel and see what you never use and can never see yourself using.

    Hope this helped!

  9. Jack in Tennessee

    One of the problems with ‘bloatware’ is that it is embedded in many applications as ‘features’. I love Google Chrome but I have had to start using the startup command line option of “-one-process-per-tab” (or something like that). It has allowed Chrome to behave better on my machine, and I have noticed no downside (I am sure on some high end machines there is a real performance boost, like apache has, by running more processes, just not on my ‘slow machines’).

    Windows Office is one of the worst I have seen. Documents that should only be a few hundred bytes, like a quick not to grandma, are more than a meg. Significant documents get unreal. .. Even images, people are putting in high-res images, were lower quality images will go. …

    Much of this goes to ‘data bloat’, vs ‘code bloat’, but they are both equally as bad and wasteful.

    In some way data bloat is worse, but code bloat compounds it, and also requires more software and hardware and bandwidth to drive it,

  10. MrWild

    Maybe this will help to remove crap from a new PC

    http://pcdecrapifier.com/download

    It’s built for a new pc with all the junk they load on it, not just a bare OS install (obviously).

  11. Peter H

    Be very afraid while uninstalling supposed bloatware. You never know what other programs will become intransigent if it isn’t there even if you don’t use it. Can anyone tell me why there are weird fonts, especially “indo” ones which MS Office/Windows won’t let you uninstall? And why are many of the EULAs and related stuff in other languages not installed, impossible to delete and in some cases these are repeated in directory after directory. One further thing is why are some directories 12 deep with identical listings? Ad aware and Malwarebytes hate this but it is impossible to delete. I had to spend hours even getting Windows to let me access my own directories by changing the security settings for each folder. And there are oodles of My documents, My photos, My videos, etc and within each other all over my system and not on any particular identifiable hard drive. And I can’t get windows to remember that I do not put stuff in them. That’s bloatware or as I call it WinBloat. 3 million lines of OS just in case I might still use a modem or a smart card or other MS goodies and games or have net meeting etc. These just cannot be deleted to simplify my directory structure and manage my machine. I guess the real problem is that I started at DOS 2.1. KISS has been deleted.

  12. rocky

    Good to know about the How You Customize Your Computer

  13. Paulo R

    http://pcdecrapifier.com is a good tool to aid removing the spam which comes with new pcs, or even to analyse your old one. Just be careful to check settings

  14. hopsingracer

    I want to see the Minecraft server! ….please.

  15. Blacknight22

    Wow, I didn’t realize there was this much interest.
    Glue for the skin is drying now, and the Attiny85 that is going to run the LEDs is in the mail.
    A friend suggested adding code to the attiny so that if there isn’t much hard drive acctivity (thus the server isn’t in use) the block’s glow will dim, So I’m probably going to code that tonight.
    The whole thing should be polished and running in a week, and if people are still interested I’d be glad to post Pics.

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