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Speed up the desktop in Windows 7 and Vista

A new feature was introduced in Windows Vista that continues to be used in Windows 7 called desktop composition. It uses a different technique to draw the screen display than previous versions of Windows and it enables special visual effects to be used, such as aero glass desktop themes, semi transparent window title bar and borders, 3-D window animation transitions and so on. This is nice if your PC is super fast and can handle it, but more modestly powered computers will work better without it. They might not have the fancy graphical effects on the desktop, but they will be more responsive and speedier. Do you need desktop composition? Why not try it without.

Desktop composition means that programs don't draw directly on the screen. They draw to a special area off the screen and then Windows copies everything onto the screen. It even sounds slow with all that copying going on.

The simple way to disable desktop composition is to go to the Control Panel and in small icons view, click Performance Information and Tools. In the left panel click Adjust visual effects. This displays the Performance Options window and the Visual Effects tab should be selected.

There are a lot of settings here and none are essential. Select Adjust for best performance and you'll see that all the items are disabled - Windows runs fine without them. It's fast, but it makes Windows visually dull. It is best to select Adjust for best appearance to tick all the boxes and then go through the list and clear the ticks against those you think you can live without.

You might want to disable Aero Peek, Enable desktop composition, and Enable transparent glass. That will speed up Windows a little by disabling desktop composition described earlier. Other things you might want to disable include Save taskbar thumbnail previews, Animate windows when minimising and maximising, Animations in the taskbar and Start menu, Fade or slide menus into view, and Fade or slide ToolTips into view. It's a matter of taste whether you want shadows under the mouse and windows.

Special graphical effects like aero themes, transparent window borders and so on, are produced by a service called Desktop Window Manager Session Manager. Stopping this service stops the special graphical effects and this can produce an additional slight speed boost.

Click Start and enter services.msc into the search box. In the Services window double click Desktop Window Manager Session Manager and in the window that is displayed set the Startup type to Disabled. (The normal setting is Automatic in case you want to put things back as they were.). Click OK to close the window, close the Services window and restart Windows.

If you don't like Windows without the special graphical effects it is easy enough to change the settings back the way they were.

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