Windows 7 is speedy—this we know the moment we fire it up the first time. With use, however, any system can slow down, even with a powerhouse operating system installed.

Fortunately, along with its blazing speed, Windows comes with tools and techniques useful for maintaining its efficiency and responsiveness. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Streamline. One easy way to boost system performance is to keep things visually simple and straightforward. You can do this by selecting the Windows 7 Basic theme (learn how)—or, if you want fine-grained choices, try customizing which Windows visual effects you see.
    Windows 7 Basic and High Contrast Themes
  • Eject unwanted passengers. A program you no longer use still takes up space in your system—and may even consume small amounts of memory you'd rather have available for other uses. Be sure to uninstall unused programs (don't just delete them!):
    Uninstall unneeded programs
  • Lean on a trusty mechanic. The Performance troubleshooter can poke around your system for problems that will bog you down—and it's right there in your control panel, ready to help out. Type troubleshooter in the Control Panel search box, then click Check for performance issues under System and Security:
    Troubleshoot computer problems
  • Keep a clean machine. Even the most carefully maintained computer collects unnecessary and temporary files that eat up disk space. Use the Disk Cleanup utility to send these troublemakers packing:
    Performance Information and Tools
  • Add horsepower. Windows 7 feels most at home (and does its best work) in a system with 3GB or more of memory—though it will run on as little as 1GB. If you can add more memory, your system will go faster. If your internal memory slots are maxed out, you may still be able to add memory with ReadyBoost.
  • Deny admission to known troublemakers. Virus and spyware infections can act like nails on the track, slowing your system to a crawl. Use virus protection—and, if you think you might already have caught a bug, here's how check your system.

As with any fine machine, preventive maintenance is a good idea. But it's only human to put off using some of these tools until your system begins to slow down—and that's OK, too. Windows responds well to these techniques, and you'll likely be back on the fast track in no time. Enjoy the autobahn!

Jeff