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
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