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Reader Comments (23)

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 3:07PM Ripper McGee said

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Thanks Beau - I was just looking at one of these today, possibly as a present for my daughter.

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 3:15PM rhorle said

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It is funny to see puzzle pirates still around. I haven't played it for years and thought it would have gone to obscurity in today's world of Facebook/app store games of the week.that are similar if not really that similar.

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 3:51PM Hipster said

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hah, Bloatware. Never heard of that term before.

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 5:44PM Space Cobra said

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Yeap, it's in most store-bought built computers. Useless programs. Trim that "fat" and get rid of the "bloat"!

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 5:22PM Feathers said

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Can I be boring and ask you to test WoW? :p I'm not looking to do anything very demanding on a netbook (I have hit 4fps in raids, and never ever again) but would like to be able to do dailies/farm stuff while watching TV or whatever.

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 5:48PM Gaugamela said

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I would recommend you to get a AMD fusion netbook like the HP dm1 if you want to play WoW lightly.

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 6:59PM Feathers said

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Thanks for the advice :-) Out of interest, what would make the AMD better for WoW than the Intel?

Posted: Nov 4th 2011 8:42PM Stanzig said

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I've really enjoyed Illyriad so far. You need to have a little patience but it really is a great community who assists new players. Nice toy Beau. I'd like to play me some Illy on a kindle fire. I can mess around with it a little on the kindle 3g, and play it pretty easy on an evo 4g but the screen is small but you can still chat with alliance members etc.

Give it a try. Shameless plug for recruitment link which gives a little prestige. http://illyriad.com/?55601

Posted: Nov 5th 2011 1:37AM bcrfan said

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whats that thing weigh? and how bulky exactly is it. I haven't believed in dell products since the Inspiron 8200.

Posted: Nov 5th 2011 10:24AM Beau Hindman said

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@bcrfan All of its stats are linked in the article. It's not as light as an iPad for sure, but it's perfect for sitting in the lap or for holding with one hand for a while.

Really, the touch screen is just an added fun part. As a netbook it is tougher and a bit zippier, better screen, etc.


Posted: Nov 5th 2011 2:07AM TheNetAvenger said

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Enjoying the article and game suggestions; however, something that caught my eye...


This list of 'tips' is troublesome, as some of things suggested will slow down the computer, some have no effect, and many of them create problems that users will notice down the road as use the computer more and more.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. How to Disable the Aero Theme on Windows 7
You DO NOT want to be turning this off or telling people to turn this off. Leaving Aero/DWM enabled actually speeds up Windows 7 in a lot of ways.
(The only exceptions are the Geforce 5xxx series GPUs from 2003/2004, and some of the 945 Intel integrated GPUs, and even then just turning off transparency will make Aero faster than Windows Basic or Windows Classic modes that disable Aero/DWM.)

Since your Dell Netbook has an Intel GPU that is far faster than these GPUs, by turning off Aero, you are losing a chunk of performance, as all the UI operations that are accelerated through the GPU are now having to be handled by the CPU, slowing it down.

Aero 'looks' like eye candy, but it is far more than the 'glass' effect, as it shoves font rendering, image decoding, and all the newer WPF/Silverlight and now IE9 calls through the GPU instead of the CPU. With Windows 7, it also shoves many of the GDI functions through the 3D portion of the GPU. This Myth started with Vista, but even on Vista, turning off Aero was a decrease in performance as well.

The BEST solution, even for the Geforce 5xxx and Intel 945/GMA500 video cards, is to leave Aero enabled, and turn off 'Transparency' as this turns off all the pixel shader rendering, which is the only thing that slows those older video cards down with Aero enabled.

So even if you hate the 'glass' effect, turn off transparency, but leave Aero enabled.

*Side note, some netbooks ship with the 'cheaper' Windows Starter edition. It is on there because it is cheaper, but ironically it is also the slowest version of Windows 7. Always upgrade any Windows 7 Starter versions to Windows Home Premium, Pro, or Ultimate, as they run faster.

Why this is relevant is the main reason the non-Starter versions run faster, is that they allow you to turn on Aero.

(Here is another analogy, you have a GPU that is doing nothing most of the time, Windows 7 uses this GPU when you have Aero on, that reduces the load on your CPU. It is like WP7 that uses 'Aero' like GPU accelerated rendering, and is why it can best an Android phone that has many times the CPU/GPU power of a 1st generation WP7 phone.)

Another note: Older games based on OpenGL and DirectX that don't grasp 512mb of VRAM or features of a modern GPU will often run faster in a 'Window' on the desktop or full screen in a Window mode because Aero is better at handling VRAM and System RAM for the game and also writing to frame buffer.

Flash 10.x and especially 11.x work faster with Aero enabled as well, so any Flash or Adobe Air based games will run faster with Aero on, as it uses the acceleration features of IE9 and the acceleration features of Aero to get more FPS as it hands off vector calls to the Aero composer.

4. How to Increase Virtual Memory ( Paging File) in windows 7
This will have NO effect on performance over the 'system manged' pagefile settings. Windows will take and use what it needs and already has a non-fragment area reserved to use.

In XP there was little reason to touch this setting, in Windows 7 there is far less reason, as the memory priority system changed in Vista and Win7, and things hardly get shoved to the pagefile at all unless they are dormant code or dual memory allocations that speed up hibernate.

This can also cause problems if you have several 'heavy' applications running at the same time, like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and a couple of games, Windows won't be able to allocate the pagefile as it needs to make room for the running Applications and cause them to fail.

Because by setting the 'maximum' you are limiting the pagefile, and when editing a movie that is several GB in size, Windows may need to allocate more than your set 'maximum'.

Leave this alone...

6. Disks Defragmentation
This tip is worthless.

If you have just installed something, it is going to have little fragmentation, and even if your game or other files have changed or been updated, Windows 7 notices and does background de-fragmentation.

Windows 7 also does a FULL scheduled weekly de-fragmentation, set to Wednesday by default, so manually de-fragmenting a volume is just wasting your time.


There are many others that should be avoided completely or only used in very specific cases from this list.

I truly advise that people DO NOT follow the suggestions of this list.

Posted: Nov 5th 2011 10:13AM Beau Hindman said

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@TheNetAvenger Hmm, good points. I'll test some of em out. As far as people trying these tweaks or not, this is up to the individual. As I said, if anyone is uncomfortable in doing any of these, do not.

But I'll definitely look into the Aero thing. I tested the response and a few other things while running before and after the tweaks (that was only the main list, I found others) and did see quite a difference.

Thanks though...I'll turn it back on and turn off that transparency like you said and test again. It's probably only seconds difference, but that can add up. Thanks!


Posted: Nov 5th 2011 10:14AM Beau Hindman said

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@TheNetAvenger Oh, forgot to note that I did not use all of the tweaks, especially not the virtual memory and a few other ones. Again, just for the record: if you don't know what it is, leave it alone or get someone who knows how it operates.


Posted: Nov 5th 2011 10:33AM Beau Hindman said

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@TheNetAvenger One last thing: if you have any issues with the rest of the items on the list, email me at beau at massively dot com. I'd like to know more.

If anyone has any other tips/tweaking, let me know. Definitely looking for more ways to spruce this lil machine up. So far, though, I love it. :)


Posted: Nov 5th 2011 10:46AM MrKnify said

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@TheNetAvenger I agree with Beau, most cpus now are more then capable of running and run faster with the aero drivers engaged, you may have an older machine, (please tells us WUG) my best recommendation for aero is just swith to "classic" look. you will no longer be enraged by ugly windows, you will feel the time tale classic of back in the day when we were porting w98 all o ver the place, the good old nvidia/radeon Xdrivers.

new computers dont need to worry so much, but i do recommend if your graphics or screen seems to load slower within windows try classic.

if its in the game, get a SSD!

Good luck and happy gaming,

and to you modders out there HECK YEAH!!!!!

Posted: Nov 5th 2011 11:19AM Beau Hindman said

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@MrKnify Oh dude don't get me started about getting an SSD. haha I want to so bad, but I have three laptops in this place. :)


Posted: Nov 6th 2011 1:00PM TheNetAvenger said

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Not sure if you are conflating the two of us, as your response seems to be dualy directed.

As for Aero, enabling 'classic' as you suggest IS DISABLING Aero and the DWM. Portions of the WDM/WDDM are still funcational of course, but all the UI acceleration features are disabled in 'classic' or 'basic' mode.

Aero is more than pretty 'glass', as I tried to point out. The DWM/Aero of Vista and Windows 7 is an advanced vector rendering and composing engine that utilizes kernel level GPU scheduling to offload more complex processing to the GPU.

Even on a system with a fast CPU, if you have an idle GPU that can be working along side the CPU, it is like adding in another GP core for these operations. Also consider that some of the functions that the 3D processing of the GPU is handling in these circumstances are specific functions that the GPU is designed to process faster than any CPU and do so with less energy consumption. (Hence why notebooks leave Aero Enabled when running on battery, even if some turn off transparency on lower end GPUs.)

The entire list of advantages would be a lengthly whitepaper, that even Microsoft has not fully completed, as some of the features are only generally referenced as they become too technical even for many of the non-kernel Windows NT developers themselves.

Regarding the 'good old days', the look of Windows NT 4.0 and Win9x OSes are not modern, and in some ways are detrimental to general usability for even power users.

As for my 'good old days', we would have to go back almost 10 years before NT was in development, and UIs and primitive GUIs were flat out ugly.

Maybe this is why I don't ahve the same nostalgic feelings about 'classic' mode that others have.

Also to be a bit more accurate the UI model of classic is a representation of Windows NT 4.0 and Win2k, even though the Win9x OSes also were co-designed with the same UI constructs. However, since NONE of the code of the Win9x OSes has been used since WindowsME, classic mode has nothing to do with them, other than sharing the look, which was developed for Windows 3.51/4.0 at the same time it was designed for Win95 Chicago.

Anyone the moral of the story, don't turn off Aero, and if you hate the 'glassy' look, only turn off transparency, and deal with the evolution from the classic UI. ;)


Posted: Nov 6th 2011 1:24PM Beau Hindman said

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@TheNetAvenger Curious, Net, if you know of a good source for specific tweaks of Win 7 or ways of speeding up netbook performance. My main goal with netbooks is to show a cheap source for a PC.

Of course, the prices for "normal" laptops are getting so cheap that players can just go for one of those, but even then they might be curious on some tweaks. While it definitely seems as though you know what you are talking about, someone like me would need to translate a bit. If many understood what the heck you mean (even though I do) then they wouldn't be looking for a guide.

I need to holla at some of my Engadget sister-site writers! :)


Posted: Nov 6th 2011 2:45PM TheNetAvenger said

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@Beau Hindman

With regard to the entire list, I started to address the issues on the site you linked directly, but just the few items I mentioned became a bit exhastive to correct.

My personal advice, the list is flawed, and misses some of the more important tips that will have an impact on performance.

Here is the short answer, ignore that list, and run from it...

However, I put together a short answer version below, but it is still al long read, so refer to the line above, and DON'T use any of the tips from the linked 26 ways to Speed up Windows 7:

1) Disable Aero - No
It actually hurts performance 99.9999% of the time, more than offseting any gains in overall use.

2) Disabling the Search Indexing - No
Again, this hurts performance, as features in the OS and applications use the Search Index with SQL like syntax, so they don't have to dig through the folders and documents. On this Core2 Duo laptop, with 1.4 million items indexed, the indexers has consume 3.5 minutes of CPU time over the course of 11 days. (It is a bad suggestion, even if it didn't slow down things, just based on the functionality the user loses.)

3) Change the Power Plan To Maximum - Blah
This effectively does nothing except consumes more power, and depending on the laptop/computer will run your GPU and CPU hotter. Balanced scales up to Maximum performance, with the only exception is on a laptop running on battery, some GPUs use a 'reduced' speed setting. (So it would be better to just tell people to modify the Balanced power settings to keep the GPU at Maximum performance even when on battery.)

4) How to Increase Virtual Memory - No
This is a big NO with Vista and Windows 7. They have memory prioritization, and no longer dump 'assumed' old RAM in use to the pagefile. The OS will manage this, and increase it if needed.
(It is even a bigger NO when you see how the author calculates what to allocate, and also 'limits' the maximum. The math is wrong, and a 4GB limit is too small for a user that may open a multi-GB video to edit.)

5) Disabling the Unwanted Visual Effects - No
There are optoins in here that will help, but NOT the ones the articles lists, nor for the reasons listed, and even the technical terminology is incorrect. (Turn off the three that start with the word 'Fade' - it will make things appear faster and feel snappier.)
*Turning some of the others off can cause problems, and reduce performance.

6) Disks Defragmentation - No
Windows 7 reduces fragmentation on HD writes already, but it also will notice if a document/application file is severly fragmented when it is opened/loaded, and when the system is idle, use VSC and defrag it seamlessly. On top of this, every Wednesday, a full Defrag is scheduled at night. The chance a user would ever open the Defrag tool and see anything but 0% fragmentation is rare.

7) Sync Centre Synchronization - No
This is talking about Offline Files, which unless you are using Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise you don't have. The other types of shares like WMPNetwork can reduce performance, and can be turned off. In WMP or Advanced Sharing, turn off media streaming. (This won't make much difference, as it only really runs when new content is added to the computer, and again, you lose the ability to access your media from other computers/XBox/DLNA devices, et.c)

8) Disable the Windows 7 Sidebar - Maybe, probably No
Windows 7 doesn't enable Gadgets/Sidebar by default like Vista did. So if you turned it on, you can turn it off. However, it might be eating 10-30mb of RAM at the most depending on your Gadgets, and this will compact down as RAM is needed.

9) Unwanted System Sounds - No
The sound stack was rewritten in Vista. Windows 7 has the lowest sound latency and distortion rates of ANY audio subystem in an OS. (Besting OS X drastically when up or down sampling, which is why audiophiles that understand digital conversion won't use Macs.) Windows 7 mixes the audio into a predefined stream quality.So if you have 1 or 20 sounds playing at the same time, it isn't take any more computing, as it is already allocating the resampling stream for just one sound.

10) Disable the User account control (UAC) - NO!!!
Ok, this is now just getting insane, there is no performance gain in turning this off, and since it is just the password broker for NTFS security, it isn't doing anything. The only suggestion is to turn down the UAC setting one notch, so it doesn't gray out the screen, when presenting a prompt.

11) Turn OFF Windows 7 Password Protection - No
Stop turning off your computer, and use Hiberante instead. In Power Settings, turn off 'Ask for password' on resume. (Having no password prevents Windows from storing credentials and other key features used onlinie and for encryption, etc.)

12) Remove IPv6 - No
This has no bearing on performance, as the Network Stack in Windows 7 was rewritten, so it inherently uses and understand IPv6 - it has no performance affect.

13) Turn OFF Windows 7 Screen Saver and Wallpaper - No
The Screensaver doesn't matter unless you are running some weird 3D screensaver. The Wallpaper consumes 4MB of RAM if you have Aero disabled. With Aero enabled, it only uses about 250KB of RAM.

14) Disable the Thumbnail Preview - Maybe
Again if Aero is disabled (like I say not to do), pulling thumbnails are CPU bound and can slow down Explorer a lot. However, either way, once the thumbnail is acquired, it is cached, so it is only the first time you open a folder of pictures/videos that you take this hit. Also for gaming, this has no relevance.

15) Turn off Unused Windows 7 Features - No
Windows NT is NOT Linux or OS X. It can dynamically load kernel level services as needed. So the only thing you gain by removing features is a few MB of HD space. This is why Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate is the same speed as Windows 7 Home Premium, and they have a lot more fatures enabled and available. Comments like this are from people that are still stuck in *nix kernel models like Linux that MUST load kernel level services 'just in case' an Application may need the feature. Windows NT doesn't and never has worked like this. So if you aren't running something, it is using 0 RAM and 0 CPU.
*However, 'bloatware' 3rd party software, should be removed, as they often have their own goofy schedulers and other processes loaded and running all the time. Again, they are coding like it is Linux or OS X, which is a bit crazy as most of them were Windows developers frist, and should know better.

16) Disable Unwanted Start Up Items - Yes

17) Disable the Aero Peek and Aero Snap - No
Why even? Unless they annoy you, they gain nothing in turning them off.

18) SetUp the Windows 7 Ready Boost Service - Maybe
With newer HDs, this often won't help much. The reason it works is the Flash/USB Drive offers concurrency, so it can be providing information while the HD is also providing information, and on Random seeks Flash can be significantly faster.

19) Disabling the Unwanted Services - No
In Vista this was a good tip, in Windows 7, not so much, as even the 'enabled' services suspend themsevles for you.

20) Remove RDC to improve Network - No
This only helps if you are using an really old NIC running on Vista. There were issues with Vista and NIC drivers that made this slower. However, in Windows 7, this issue doesn't truly happen, unless someone is silly enough to load the old NIC drivers that had this problem.
*Turning this off can reduce performance, as Windows 7 copying a Movie over the network that you edited a couple of frames, only has to send the couple of frames that changed instead of a 2GB file for example.

21) Virus check with Microsoft Security Essential - YES!
Finally a Yes... However, a tip for power users, is to adjust real-time monitoring, so it only checks incoming Files, and odd behavior, turn off All file activity and Network inspection.

22) Most Essential Softwares To Speed - NO!
All of the programs listed are dangerous on Windows 7 and Vista as well. Registry cleaners have no way to understand if file locations have been virtualized, so it will see the Registry entry and not find the file in the place Windows 'pretends' it is, when it is really stored in C:\ProgramData or C:\Users\UserName\AppData
If you used one of these, do a System Restore to the point before you ran it to fix things, as they will at 'best' slow down Applications, and at worest break Applications and delete data.

23) Windows 7 Disk Clean up - Yes
It usually offers deleting the 'Thumbnail Cache' I mentioned above, uncheck this option. This is more about reclaiming HD space than actual peformance though, as it would take 50,000 files in a Temp folder to start to see a performance drop, and this number is unlikely.

24) Run Error-Checking on disks - No
NTFS is not as fragile as FAT/FAT32, and Windows 7 requires NTFS on the boot volume and HOPEFULLY everyone is using NTFS on all their other hard drives and volumes. If an error is 'possible' Windows 7 will let you know and schedule error checking on the next reboot.

25) Disable Windows Defender - See #21 - No
If you are using MSE, Defender is replaced/augmented with MSE, so you don't have to touch it or turn it off. If you are using Norton or McAfee, uninstall them and install MSE instead. (Norton and McAfee can mess with applications and hardware working properly, let alone they are a major drain on system performance.

26) Compatibility of drivers and programs - Yes
But Windows 7 already warns you if you try to do this. The better tip is to check monthly for Video driver updates from NVidia and AMD/ATI, as newer drivers from them for your Video card. (They are also released through Windows Update, but not as often and may be lacking features that you get from NVida or ATI/AMD


Posted: Nov 6th 2011 3:24PM Beau Hindman said

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@TheNetAvenger Cool, thanks. Most of those I did not touch. I mainly did the ones that had to do with the "look" of the OS. I also removed the surprisingly not-so-heavy bloatware from the device. I was surprised, only 3 or 4 things really were junk.

I'll tweak some more. Right now I have a lot of processes running but it sits at 0% idle and 680 mb memory usage. I'll adjust back how you have described and look at it again.

Thanks, and if you'd like to send me any more ideas, feel free to at beau at massively.com. I want to get some good ideas for a holiday round up for people who might want to speed up Xmas gift laptops/netbooks.


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