I am responsible for more than 100 PC's in a medium sized company, and when I install new PC's with the default windows settings, I always wonder which settings could actually be changed to optimize the PC for performance (without loss of functionality).

Our default PC image includes office apps and a lot of security apps, so the initial boot time on a brand new Lenovo T400 is more than 3 mins. Of course network domain and logon scripts is a time consuming factor, but still I feel there's room for improvement in the OS.

We still run WinXP, but most core settings in both WinXP and Vista have roots back to Win2000 and NT, so please share your answer regardless which Windows Version you use. (If your setting is Vista specific though, please indicate this in your answer - Thanks!).

So to my question:

"What default settings do you change immediately after installing windows to optimize for performance, while not losing functionality?"

(If you turn off things like firewall or built-in DHCP services please explain your reasoning behind it - why are these services unnecessary in your environment?)

Also, if you change many settings, please put in multiple answers with only 1 setting and explanation in each answer, so we can vote on them separately - Thanks!


Make the swap / paging file a fixed size. This will eliminate the overhead of auto-growing the paging file. It also reduces fragmentation. Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance Settings -> Advanced -> Change.

In the windows performance settings, Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Performance Settings, turn off all of the cute effects, like fading, transitions, etc.

Disable unnecessary services. Some people argue that this has no effect, but I don't see how having less programs running doesn't help.

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  • I would also suggest you learn about each of the workstation services. Determine which are need in your environment and then make the changes via a GPO Policy. Also your delayed startup could be a hardware issue so make sure you standard config has at least 1gig of ram. – JJ01 Jun 1 '09 at 18:06
  • Suggested fixed Paging File size is 1.5x RAM size, so if you have 4096 MB RAM, set the Paging Size Mininum/Maximum to 6144 MB. – Gordon Bell Jun 1 '09 at 18:26

Disable the MS indexing and/or search services. They have reduced functionality in a networked environment, and will cause huge HD performance loss.

Otherwise I would advise not going down the route of too many perf tweaks. Performance is normally a tradeoff with stability and functionality, and with 100 networked PCs the last thing you need is 100 disgruntled users yelling down the phone at you.

If they run good enough, then they're good enough.

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I set the desktop background to a color rather than a picture.

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  • I do this as well. It definitely makes a difference on older hardware! – fretje Jun 12 '09 at 14:33

You don't make mention of what you do with your images. I install all necessary programs on my base image and lastly, I defrag prior to making the image.

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  • Are you talking about defragmenting before capturing an image? If so, that is unnecessary... images don't capture fragmentation, just data. In fact, capturing an image, wiping the drive, and then re-applying an image would remove all fragmentation on the drive (completely overkill way to defrag, but whatever :) – Sean Earp Jun 1 '09 at 15:17
  • Yes I am talking about defragmenting prior to creating an image. What you're saying simply isn't true. Please point to documentation stating that Ghost will defragment your drive as you're IMAGING it. Imaging is exactly that, it's a byte for byte image...including the fragmented files. – GregD Jun 1 '09 at 15:47
  • @Evan Teran - I deleted my comment for that reason. – GregD Jun 1 '09 at 16:06
  • I don't think Ghost image NTFS byte by byte unless you tell it to with an optional parameter - it actually scans the filesystem and pick the files out... the same is true with wim - which I guess is what Microsoft wants you to use today. It also explains why you so easily can "ghost" a partition and re-image it to a much smaller partition without any problems as long as it's at least the size of the contained files/data. But I haven't actually checked for fragmentation after a re-image so I might be wrong ^^ – Oskar Duveborn Jun 1 '09 at 18:09

regedit, browse to the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

delete all unnecessary services.

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  • You can also disable many unnecessary services without deleting them from the registry (where it is hard to recover from an accidental deletion) by using msconfig (start --> run --> msconfig) – Sean Earp Jun 1 '09 at 15:19
  • msconfig doesn't scale well enough for 100+ machines... You would be better off using a GPO or a registry edit via login scripts – JJ01 Jun 1 '09 at 18:06
  • or you can use live.sysinternals.com/autoruns.exe – fretje Jun 12 '09 at 14:35

The only change I make is, if possible, move the page file to a separate physical disk. This should help stop a busy system, which may need to page a lot, from slowing down the OS too much as it fights for disk time.

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For Windows XP deployments you can get a TON of tweaks/suggestions here: http://www.tweakxp.com/performance_tweaks.aspx

Be aware, however, that not all tweaks are necessarily "good". That site, thankfully, has had editors follow up with warnings on some of those.

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In addition to almost everything mentioned above, I always disable System Restore and Hibernation.

For a list of services and what they do go to http://www.blackviper.com

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Disable automatic rebooting on blue screen. If i get a blue screen, i want to know about it.

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  • I don't think this really doesn't help performance in the way the Christian is looking for. – DCNYAM Jun 1 '09 at 14:13

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