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The 20 Best Windows Tweaks that Still Work in Windows 7

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.

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Add Defragment to the Right-Click Menu for a Drive

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.

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Create a Shortcut for Locking Your Computer Screen in Windows 7 or Vista

Create Shutdown / Restart / Lock Icons in Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Turn the Desktop Icons On or Off

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.

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Disable Aero on Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Mount an ISO image in Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Disable Sidebar / Desktop Gadgets on Windows 7

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.

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Enable Mapping to \\Hostname\C$ Share on Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Make Windows 7 or Vista Log On Automatically

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.

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Using Windows 7 or Vista Compatibility Mode

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

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Add “My Computer” to Your Windows 7 / Vista Taskbar

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.

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Add “Take Ownership” to Explorer Right-Click Menu in Win 7 or Vista

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.

 

Add Copy To / Move To on Windows 7 or Vista Right-Click 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.

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Disable Shortcut Icon Arrow Overlay in Windows 7 or Vista 

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.

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Disable Caps Lock Key in Windows 7 or Vista 

Map Any Key to Any Key on Windows 7 / XP / Vista

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.

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Prevent Windows Update from Forcibly Rebooting Your Computer

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.

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Stop Windows Update from Hijacking the Sleep Button

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.

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Turn on Remote Desktop in Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Disable the Irritating Sticky / Filter Keys Popup Dialogs

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.

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Turn Off Windows Explorer Click Sounds in Windows 7 or Vista

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.

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Disable User Account Control (UAC) the Easy Way on Win 7 or Vista

So what are your favorite Windows tweaks? You can leave your comments here, or join in the discussion over at Lifehacker.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/20/09

Comments (33)

  1. DemoGeek

    Excellent stuff Geek!

    Noticed that some of the points repeat, especially “Add Defrag to the Right-Click Menu”, “Create Shortcuts to Lock the Screen, Shutdown, Restart”, “Create a Shortcut to Toggle the Desktop Icons”, “Disable Aero (to Speed Up Video Games)”, “Mount and ISO”, “Disable those Stupid Gadgets”, “Enable Mapping to Hidden Shares”, “Make Windows Log On Automatically” and “Use Compatibility Mode”.

    I just wanted to bring it to your attention.

  2. Bob

    The first nine tweaks are repeated.

  3. JKlein

    The disable shortcut icon arrows program does not work for me. I was just trying to make the icon transparent so I tried no arrow as well as the blank.ico file.

    Neither work. I am using windows 7 professional so I don’t know if that would be the reason but any help in making this work would be greatly appreciated.

  4. GTRoberts

    Disabling Aero does NOT make games run faster. Thats complete FUD.

  5. GoodBytes

    GTRoberts is 100% correct.

    Aero Basic and Windows Classic uses the CPU to draw, and as anyone knows, CPU are not designed to draw else we would not have GPU’s. When playing a game with Aero, Aero is not being drawn on the back, it’s not needed as the user dont’ see it, and the GPU is lightning fast to render Aero UI, that the user won’t see anything. Did you ever quit a game in XP? it’s always fun to see black rectangles everywhere and see Windows drawing itself. In Vista/Win7 this is not the case, thanks to GPU rendering (although I am now on a side topic, I just wanted to mention how fast a GPU can render versus a CPU, if you sill don’t believe me)

  6. Arvedui

    Why would disabling Aero help speed up video games, seeing as when you’re playing a video game, Aero is disabled anyway?

    Unless you’re playing in windowed instead of full screen mode, of course. But then the question must be asked – are you expecting the game not to slow down or something anyway?

  7. The Geek

    The whole point of disabling Aero is that some older games don’t work very well until you disable Aero, and run them in compatibility mode. Thus, disabling Aero can help speed up the games.

    I’ve personally encountered this scenario, which is why I mentioned it. Perhaps I should have clarified further, but it’s a roundup of tips, not really the place to have an in-depth analysis of why it might or might not help out. =)

    That said, you guys aren’t necessarily wrong, most modern games should work just fine without disabling anything.

  8. Sean

    Daemon Tools is a much better free program for loading images than VirtualCloneDrive.

  9. calebstein

    @Sean: The Geek said that Daemon Tools is full of spyware. I will go with VirtualCloneDrive.

  10. Balfour Ross

    I have theEvaluation copy 7100 of w 7 ultimate on my computer.
    If I buy windows 7 Home Premium will it clean install without trouble on my PC?

    I read that the Evaluation copy runs out in March 2010.. What happens then would my PC
    revert to Vista Home premium as it was before?

    Yours
    Balfour

  11. Mario Jauregui

    @Sean Daemon Tools is diffucult to understand; VirtualCloneDrive or Alcohol 120% or Alcohol 52%.

  12. Larry

    Disabling IPV6

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\TCPIP6 ]
    “DisabledComponents”=dword:000000ff

  13. MagicalJay

    Is there a way to put back old search context menu in SEVEN??
    Suppressing LegacyDisable
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT Directory shell find used to work in VISTA SP1

    It doesn’t in SEVEN! help needed!

  14. Don Foster

    To enable right click search

    launch regedit and go to:

    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\find
    and delete the LegacyDisable key

    To enable it on the HD level, go to:

    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shell\find
    and delete the LegacyDisable key

  15. Anonymous

    1. Why is it that Windows STILL needs defrag? It’s the only modern OS with filesystems that have problematic fragmentation.

    2. Here in Linux, I don’t need shortcuts to do this. I can lock the screen by pressing CTRL+ALT+L with just about every DE out there. And I never shut down and rarely restart.

    3. Meh. I don’t use icons at all. A toggle is pointless. And when I do use icons, on my desktop, it’s mounted volumes only. Only Windows users like their clutter.

    4. I find it amusing that Aero has only 6 effects, and nothing overtly flashy, yet still takes 2 effing GiB to work. Linux compositing has way way WAY more, and yet it can comfortably run even on a 256 MiB machine.

    5. Linux can do this. Without third party software. In fact, as part of the BASE SYSTEM (Kernel module.). mount -o loop -t iso9660 filename.iso /mnt/mountpoint. Oh, and did I mention that Linux has a unified filesystem, so that everything mounted behaves like it was part of the structure all along?

    6. I semi-like gadgets. When they don’t get in the way of the desktop. I use Plasmoids a lot in KDE 4, and they work and look good because they take advantage of Plasma themes and blend in well. I don’t turn these off.

    7. What use are these? There’s more useful places you can make into a share. An NFS share of a home directory, for example. Oh wait, this is Windows, WHAT NFS support?

    8. Hardly a tweak. And more or less a security risk. Of course. One of the biggest reasons Windows is so insecure is that the users find security inconvenient and disable all of it.

    9. One reason Windows is unstable and bloated is strenuous attempts at backwards compatibility. Work on a deprecation scheme, Microsoft!

    10. Feature stolen from Linux (KDE, to be exact.).

    11. What’s the point? Access control and permissions in Windows is a joke anyway. There’s a good chance you wouldn’t have to do that at all to delete the file because Windows is too stupid to do file security modes correctly. (Seriously, take a FEW hints from UNIX, Microsoft. think less about filenames and more about actual file attributes. And no, I’m not talking about the hidden attribute.)

    12. Meh, might be more efficient to open a tab in the file brow— Oh wait, Explorer doesn’t have that feature… STILL.

    13. If its an actual setting manager, it is not a tweak.

    14. This is a stupid tweak. I use caps all the time.

    15. Ha ha! You Windows users are still being hijacked like that? Linux rarely even needs a restart for anything. Kernel updates at most and even then I could use kexec instead. Maybe if MS would actually do GOOD OS design instead… then Windows could maybe get a decent uptime average.

    16. Again, Linux doesn’t assrape its users like that. Largely because its able to install updates without inconveniencing the user like Windows does.

    17. You have to shell out extra money for this feature in Windows? I can get it for free in Linux. On top of that, I don’t need it since I have SSH and can just log onto my computer like a terminal.

    18. Again, non-issue in Linux.

    19. Turning a sound off in a settings manager is NOT a tweak.

    20. Again, like #8: Bad security. Linux makes a point of making sure a user STAYS non-privileged if it can help it. sudo and su are where its at. Windows, unfortunately, makes it all too easy too once again put way too much power in the user’s hand. This wouldn’t fly in Linux or any UNIX I know of. But again, unlike in Windows, POSIX users actually give a damn about their security.

    All in all, lousy list.

  16. amar

    i love geek system

  17. Binary Ink

    Anonymous-

    Too afraid to leave a name? You have the balls to go onto a comment thread for Windows and bash it without reason and don’t leave a name? Congratulations. I run both Linux and Windows so don’t bother going there. Linux is lighter on resources, but it’s hardly that great. It’s only built for a niche of geeks, not for your average consumer. Sudo, IMO, is roughly the same as UAC. Sumo, all you need to do is type in a password. UAC you press a button…not very time consuming to compromise your system in any way.

    If people really want to compromise their systems, let them; they’ll pay the ultimate price in the end. Go into your dark Linux basement and hide for awhile.

    Oh, and every system requires defragging, moron.

  18. Craig McLure

    The Geek: “The whole point of disabling Aero is that some older games don’t work very well until you disable Aero, and run them in compatibility mode.”

    The compatibility mode dialog has a “Disable desktop composition” button, which will explicitly disable aero for the runtime of that application. Permanently switching off areo isn’t necessary for this purpose.

  19. Harry Barracuda

    You were doing fine until this:

    “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!”

    I liked the sidebar and I like gadgets. Quite why you have to be so dismissive of them, I don’t know.

  20. Ian

    Have a tweak that forces Windows 7 not to force-change the desktop color bit-depth to 32-bit when on highest resolution? I don’t mind 16 bits of fudge.

  21. Mathegenius

    What great stuff, I like it!

  22. PammyToo

    I have gotten behind in my knowledge of computer terminology and so a lot of stuff here is going over my head because I don’t know what a ‘such and such’ is. Do you or can you post a computer terminology page where I can find out what OS is or what a Tweak is (I know those) but you get the idea… THANKS!

  23. B-Prime

    I use both win 7 and linux. Win 7 for gaming and work, Ubuntu,debian,opensuse to play around with. I like them all equally but for totally different reasons. Currently Ubuntu feels more bloated than win 7, and there is something wrong with the kernel and nvidia chipsets; it always freezes. I am impressed with win 7 so far, never had an issue with programs, drivers, security, never once has it crashed. Idiots will always screw up a computer no matter what OS is on it.
    I’m not sure why anonymous had to come here and bash. If you don’t like it.. don’t use it. But there is no use saying one is better than the other, they’re both different. Oh and linux flavors never borrowed features from other OS’s? cmon..

    Back on topic, thanks for the take ownership reg. Using it now =)

  24. Backy

    I just wonder why Microsoft has not set a different screen resolution in compatibility mode of 640×480? For example a 1024×768 or larger.

  25. James Bowman

    JUST wanted to say thanks for all the good info on this this site, Larry you posted a comment on
    Disabling IPV6 bad idea in my opinion…if you are running windows 2008 you will have issues in a domain if you disable IPV6…also almost all of your ISPs are now using IPV6 do a ipconfig /all and you will find a bunch of numbers listed there now…in the next five years or so we will al be using IPV6 . just my opinion. But we are ruuning out of IP numbers and from what I understand IPV6 is the replacement for this.

    James

  26. Magicat

    Just joined and catching up on new info as I have now put Win7 on a system with Win 98se as a dual boot. Yes I know 98 is ancient, but it has served me well and still does everything I require. Thanks to Don Foster’s tip to put search easier to get to.
    Regards to all.

  27. james bond

    YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED THIS THE WORST 20 TWEAKS EVER.VERY SAD.

  28. PapaHomer

    Don Foster …you rock!
    Thanks for the “To enable right click search” ! ! !

  29. I'mTooScaredToUseMyRealName

    This may be a bit late, but hey – i just got here.

    Anonymous you’re an abominable, expressionless, futile, half-witted delusional irational nonsensical, jittering, useless counterproductive crackpipe

  30. iphoness

    Nice post.thanks looking forward for more post from u.

  31. me

    shortcut arros are good:) how would i know then if an item is where i see it or not? whatewer…. i’v took it down earlyer in xp times. didnt help me. kontextmenu is the rule!

  32. espinete

    any scripts (bat, reg) to do all tweaks ?? for automation all steps in one only step using scripting. thx

  33. stewi

    Anonymous, i think that was a little too harsh. i used 3… or 2 of these “tweaks”. however i do agree with you for the most part.

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