MCTS 70-680: Performance options in Windows 7

Uploaded by itfreetraining on 18.02.2012

Here is another free video for the Windows 7 course from IT Free Training. This video
looks at the performance options you can configure in Windows 7 to improve the overall running
of the computer. In some cases the changes are tweaks to get a little bit more performance
out of your system, but nothing beats upgrading or installing additional hardware.
First of all I will look at RAM. Most of the time when you have performance problems in
Windows 7 it is generally due to a lack of RAM. In order to run the operating system
and programs, the computer requires RAM. The RAM in the computer holds the programs’
instructions and data. It would be great if you could have unlimited RAM but in reality
your RAM will be decided by the limitations of your hardware or the limitations of your
budget, unless of course money is no object.
When your system runs out of RAM, it starts using the hard disk as virtual RAM. As shown
here, when all of your RAM is used, Windows will extend the RAM onto the hard disk. Notice
that Windows will start swapping parts of RAM to the hard disk. Windows tries to determine
which parts of the RAM are less likely to be used any time soon and puts these on the
hard disk.
Memory is divided into blocks which are called pages. The process of moving RAM to the hard
drive and vice versa is called paging. If your system is paging a lot of the time, the
performance of the system will suffer.
Windows will attempt to swap pages from RAM to the virtual memory file based on a working
set. A working set is basically a set of pages that Windows feels is most likely going to
be used by the program.
The reality of the situation is that if your system starts to page heavily no algorithm
in the world will prevent your computer from slowing down. There are some ways to improve
the performance of your virtual memory in your computer but nothing beats getting more
One point to remember when looking at performance options, particularly in exam questions, is
to ask yourself is this a one time performance problem or an ongoing issue. If the user,
for example, prints a large print job which causes Windows 7 to start paging, would you
purchase more RAM? The answer is no. It is normal for your system to page now and then.
If your system is paging a lot, then you need to install additional RAM. Beware of exam
questions that state something along the line of the system has occasional spikes in RAM
or CPU usage. This is normal and there is no need to upgrade the hardware in the system.
I will now change to my Windows 7 computer to show you how to change the virtual RAM
settings in Windows 7 and point out some of the performance options as well.
The virtual machine settings for Windows 7 are found in the control panel. Once in the
control panel select system and security and then select system. From the system control
panel select the option on the left hand side advanced system settings. Select the advanced
tab and press the button marked settings.
These settings allow you to change a lot of the visual effects that Windows uses if you
want to fine tune your system. In most cases it is best to leave them on the default as
Windows will add or reduce effects depending on the load on the system.
To access the virtual memory settings, select the advanced tab. At the top you will notice
that the processor scheduling can be set to programs or background services. On a client
computer like Windows 7 this will be set to programs. On a server operating system this
will be set to background services.
The difference is that when the performance is adjusted for programs, Windows will attempt
to make interactive programs run faster. Interactive programs are simply programs the user can
interact with using the mouse and keyboard. An example of this is when you switch between
different programs in the task bar. With the optimization set to programs, Windows is optimized
to make this process as fast as possible.
The second option is background services. When selected Windows will favour services
like printing and file sharing over making desktop applications interact with the user
faster. If you want to make sure applications are responsive, make sure this option is set
to programs. If you want your print jobs and other services to run faster at the expensive
of responsiveness in your applications, set this setting to background services.
Finally at the bottom is the option for virtual memory. To change this setting simply press
the button change. By default Windows 7 will manage the virtual memory settings by itself.
I would recommend that you let Windows 7 do this for you.
If you want to change this setting, de-select the tick box at the top “automatically manage
paging file size for all drives.” Notice that once this is de–selected, I can manually
set paging up on any drive that I wish.
If you want to improve the virtual memory on your system, you could place the virtual
memory file on its own hard disk or a hard disk separate from the operating system. In
this case, there are 3 drives in this system but they are all on the same hard disk. It
is not worth placing the paging file onto different drives unless they are on separate
hard disks.
When I select the c drive, you can see that it is currently set to “system managed size”.
When this setting is configured, Windows 7 will automatically make the paging file bigger
and smaller depending on what is required. Generally speaking Windows will allocate a
minimum size for the paging file and increase it as required.
In the options above you can set a custom size. If you are worried about your page file
getting fragmented, one trick is to set the initial size and maximum size to the same
amount. This will ensure the page file is created all at once and will reduce the chance
of the file being fragmented. If you do decide to do this, I would recommend defragging your
hard disk first to ensure Windows can put the page file in the one location, otherwise
it may divide up the page file anyway. A badly fragmented page file can decrease the responsiveness
of paging.
On most systems I would recommend leaving it on the default. If your system needs the
page file tweaked to get better performance I would consider buying more RAM. More RAM
will always give better performance than performing tweaks like putting the page file on a separate
hard disk. The exception to this is usually servers that run large batch jobs at night
that require a lot of RAM. In this case it may be too expensive to buy additional RAM
and as long as the job finishes by morning, no one is too worried. In cases like these
I would consider moving the paging file to another hard disk and optimizing the page
file the best way I could.
When I accept the defaults and exit the virtual memory settings, I will get a message asking
me to reboot because Windows thinks the settings have changed. The last thing that I want to
show you is the page file, so I will exit out of control panel and open windows explorer.
The page file is located in the root directory of the c drive; however, it is a hidden system
file. To get it to appear, hold down alt to get access to the hidden menu. In a lot of
places in Windows, you will find hidden menus like these that are accessed by holding down
To access these options, select the tools menu and then select folder options. From
here select the view tab. The page file is a hidden and a system file so I will need
to select show hidden files and also de-select hide protected operating system files.
I will get a message asking me if I really want to unhide protected system files because
they are essential to run Windows. I will press yes and apply and go back to Windows
Explorer. In Windows Explorer notice that under the c drive there is a file called PageFile.Sys.
This is the file that contains all the data that has been transferred from the computer
RAM to the virtual page file.
Paging is only one of the problems you may have with a poorly performing Windows system.
Certain settings in Windows are enabled and disabled depending on the hardware inside
your computer and the features it supports. To get an idea of what sort of performance
you can expect from your computer, Windows gives the system a score called the Windows
experience index. To access this, open the control panel and select system and security
and then select the option check Windows experience index under system.
The index is set to the lowest value in the system, currently 1. An experience index of
1 will disable features like the 3d aero interface. In this case a new graphics card has been
put into the computer so I can regenerate the index by pressing the refresh now button.
If this option does not appear you can select the option re-run assessment at the bottom
of the screen. Of course if no hardware has changed the values should come out very simpler
to the last time the assessment was run. Windows will run a few tests to determine what the
values should be. The process does take a few minutes so I will pause the video and
return shortly.
Notice that the index has now changed to 3.7. This is high enough to run Aero but the interface
is still not enabled. You can tell because transparent effects that are used on the task
bar are not shown.
If I right click the desktop and select personalization, I can see that the current theme is set to
Windows 7 basic. In order to enable Aero, I need to select a theme that supports the
Aero interface. Once the Aero theme has been enabled, notice that the task bar has now
become transparent.
If you want to speed up a slow system, try choosing a basic theme or even switching the
wallpaper to a solid colour. Modern computers with high performance graphics cards won’t
see any noticeable difference by switching off the wallpaper, but if you access the computer
from a remote location, this can speed up the screen refreshes.
This concludes some of the performance changes you can make to speed up your Windows 7 system.
In the next video I will look at how to backup your data in Windows 7 so that your data will
be safe in case you have a hard disk crash. Once again, thanks for watching. If you want
to see more videos, consider subscribing to our YouTube channel.