Windows 7 is going to be released this week, and it’s a huge upgrade from previous versions of Windows. The big question for us geeks, however, is “Will all of my favorite tweaks still work?”
This list is not comprehensive by any means—if you have a favorite tweak that you like to use, leave us a comment and we’ll see about adding it to the list.
Add Defrag to the Right-Click Menu
Want to be able to quickly defrag a drive whenever you want? You can use a little hack to add the Defragment option to the context menu for each drive. It’ll open up the command prompt, and start the defrag process.
Create Shortcuts to Lock the Screen, Shutdown, Restart
It doesn’t matter where Microsoft puts the shutdown buttons, people seem to still want to have another way to do it. The good news is that all the same shortcuts that worked in previous versions of Windows will still work in Windows 7.
Create a Shortcut to Toggle the Desktop Icons
Sure, you can easily head into the desktop context menu to toggle the icons on or off, but it’s a lot simpler to use a hotkey, or stick an icon into the Quick Launch (which you can get back on Windows 7 with a little trick). This how-to teaches you how to use a little utility that toggles the icons for you.
Disable Aero (to Speed Up Some Video Games)
If all you do is use your computer for gaming, you might not even care about using Aero. Personally, I don’t know why you’d want to run Windows 7 or Vista without Aero—but if that’s what you want, it’s easy enough to do.
Mount an ISO
So this one isn’t so much a tweak as an additional piece of software—but if you do a lot of geeky stuff on your PC, you’re going to need to be able to mount an ISO image. My favorite tool, by far, is VirtualCloneDrive—it’s just the simplest possible utility that you can get. All you need to do is double-click on an ISO to mount it.
Disable those Stupid Gadgets
Windows 7 moves the gadgets onto the desktop, instead of having them on a sidebar like Vista did—but the net effect is the same: it’s all pointless! You can easily disable them in Windows 7, just like you could in Windows Vista.
Enable Mapping to Hidden Shares
If you did much networking on previous versions of Windows, you probably know about the C$ share that gives you access to the whole drive. Sadly, those shares don’t work since Vista, at least by default. There’s a simple tweak that you can do that will re-enable them for business, however.
Make Windows Log On Automatically
If you are the only one that is using your machine at your house, logging on can really be a drag. Thankfully every version of Windows since forever has let you do a simple tweak to make it automatically log on for you. Just make sure your door is locked.
Use Compatibility Mode
Does your favorite XP application have problems working in Windows 7? You can often make them work anyway by using Compatibility mode to trick the application into thinking it’s running on a previous version of Windows. Tip: This really helps when you’re trying to get a video game working.
Add Any Folder To Your Taskbar
Every version of Windows has allowed you to pin folders to the taskbar, and you can still use this same trick in Windows 7. You can make them use only icons, show text or not, or even use this trick to add the Quick Launch folder back to Windows 7.
Add “Take Ownership” to the Context Menu
This has to be one of the most useful tweaks for the serious geek tweaker—you can easily give yourself permissions to any file by using this registry hack, which adds a “Take Ownership” item to the menu. Once you’ve taken ownership of a file, you can then easily delete it, rename it, etc.
Add Copy/Move to the Context Menu
This remains one of the most consistently popular tweaks for Windows, version after version. You can just do a simple registry hack to add the “Copy To folder” and “Move To folder” option to the context menu.
Disable Shortcut Icon Arrows
The Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover still works just fine in Windows 7, and gets rid of those unsightly shortcut arrows that you really don’t need most of the time. There’s lots of other hacks you can use, but this one works really well, and never leaves you with those “black boxes” on your icons.
Disable the Caps Lock Key
I’ve never used the Caps Lock key for anything, ever. If you are like me, you probably haven’t either, and it’s a lot easier to get rid of it. You can use a registry hack to get rid of it, or you can map any key to any key using an easy freeware utility.
Stop Windows Update from Automatically Restarting Your PC
I really hate the automatic reboot “feature” built into Windows Update. In fact, while I was writing this article, it kicked in and rebooted me (I forgot to apply this tweak on my new laptop). You can always temporarily disable the automatic reboot, but there’s a registry hack that will prevent it from happening in the first place.
Stop Losing the Sleep/Shutdown Button to Windows Update
Have you ever quickly clicked the shutdown button, only to find out that Windows started installing updates and will take forever to shut down? You can tell Windows to stop hijacking your shutdown button with another registry hack.
Enable Remote Desktop
If you are using the Pro, Ultimate, or Business versions of Windows, you can use Remote Desktop. It’s by far the best way to connect to another Windows PC, especially since Windows Vista or Windows 7 allow you to do Aero through the session.
Disable Sticky / Filter Keys Dialogs
Have you ever been doing something, like playing a game, and had that obnoxious Sticky Keys dialog pop up? You answer No and it goes away… and then shows up again the next day. Here’s how to make it go away for good.
Disable Windows Explorer Click Sounds
The Windows Explorer click sounds are enough to drive you crazy after a while. You’d think that the configuration option to turn them off would be a checkbox saying “Stop Annoying Me”, but that’s just not the case.
Disable User Account Control’s Annoying Prompts
This is the one area where Windows 7 makes it so much easier to get rid of those annoying prompts—just drag the slider adjust your UAC settings. If you don’t want to disable UAC, you can always create shortcuts that bypass the UAC prompts with a simple task scheduler trick.
So what are your favorite Windows tweaks? You can leave your comments here, or join in the discussion over at Lifehacker.
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 10/20/09