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Slimming down Windows 7

Last response: in Windows 7
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June 29, 2011 6:02:42 AM

Hi guys,

I'm a control freak who likes to own my computer system, not be told how to run my computer by overprotective Microsoft parents. I like to tweak my system my way and have windows put things where I want them to go. Up until now I've stuck with Window XP because it is so controllable but have decided it is time to switch to Windows 7, mainly because I want to use a windows media centre remote.

I've searched everywhere for good practical advice on slimming down windows 7 installation files as I like to install the bare minimum but nowhere I can find is all the information in one place so I'm going to put what I have learnt here for advice on what I may have done wrong, and what else I can do. To hopefully create a slimming guide. This is my 4th full install in the last month so I've had a little practice. If anybody knows that this has been done elsewhere in these forums just let me know where and I'll remove this and go read the prior work.

Please don't follow these steps unless you are a confident windows user. By the end almost all of windows safety control features end up being turned off, if in doubt stick to the ones that make sense to you. I feel I can make these changes as I run up to date security software and only me and my wife use the system and all my guests get told not to install ANY software on my system - no ifs, no buts.

First up I partition my system into a number of drives. My minimum (I have two systems) is 4 partitions. (Actually I run on about 8-10 drives/partitions, but 4 would be the minimum)

1 for OS. (about 20GB)
1 for program files (to keep them from clogging up OS drive).(About 20GB- although on no system have I ever used more than 8)
1 for media files, documents, music games etc, etc, etc. (Whatever is left over.)
1 for swap files / virtual memory. (to keep it from clogging up OS drive). (About 10 GB)

I've tried N7-Lite or somesuch program for a slimmed down install but it only saved a little space in the end for a lot of fuss so I now do a full install which means choosing a username and opening a default account. I like having a fast boot up so I don't enter any passwords to login.

Even if you don't go any further than this because it seems dangerous; 2 quick safe extremelly effective ways of slimming down your OS drive are:

Moving or deleting the pagefile and hibernate files in the OS drive. (You won't see them unless you turn on "show hidden and system files" from the files and folder option in the control panel.

On my desktop i have no reason for hibernate so i safely turn that off:
Go to startmenu search bar - type "cmd" - right click and run as administrator - type: "powercfg /hibernate off" - then press the return button. This deletes the hibfile. This file is about as big as the amount of RAM in your system. (For me thats 3-4GB)

I then move my pagefile.sys by entering control panel - system. Choose the advance system settings on the left and then push the performance settings button. Go to the advanced tab and choose virtual memory change button. Choose C: drive - no paging option. then choose another partition, (or even better another completely different physical drive) and choose system managed option. This will require a restart but again this file can be as much as 1.5 times as big as your RAM. Mine was 7 GB when I moved it and that was after only running my system for 3 hours post a fresh install.


The next stuff is not so straight forward but after installation I aim at cutting down user files and folders within C: drive.

Firstly ensure you have the minimum amount of accounts. For me this is one active account and one guest account which is turned off, but can't be deleted from within windows. Because I believe in controlling my system and being able to achieve what I want on my system when I want it, the account I choose to keep is administrator. This is a hidden account so first you have to turn it on.

Go to the start menu search bar and type cmd. Right click and choose the run as administrator option.
Type: "net user administrator /active:yes" and press return.
Restart your system and press F8 at the appropriate time, or just keep pressing F8 to enter alternative booting options, and then choose to run in safe mode. Choose to login as administrator and then go to user accounts, either through the search menu or control panel. Modify another account, choose the account you set up during installation and delete it and all it's files. There goes 56MB of crap.

Restart your computer. You will be now running permanently in administrator mode.

Next there will be a lot of deleting from the windows file, so you will need full ownership of all files and user account controls minimised.

UAC first - type UAC into the startmenu search bar and choose to change settings. I run my system at one notch from the bottom, which means I can make changes to my system but will have to accept a new program installing on my system manually.

Next I download and run a regedit called: takeownership regedit. (Please search and download it yourself.) I then go to my OS drive and program file drive (Drives C: & D:)  and hightlight everything, right click and then choose the "take ownership option". I now can just about delete or change anything I want without getting permission each time. Still there are some files and programs that resist, so when you meet them just right click - take ownership. You can then change, open or delete them, depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Next I go to public folders and delete most of them (anything you want to share over a network you can choose to share under properties.) This is another 56MB worth of useless files gone. The folders will be replaced by windows later when it finds them missing but they will be empty.

I then merge all the information kept in default user and all users with my administrator files and delete all the files which are already in my administrator account. (i.e. start up, my pictures, desktop etc.) I also delete the entire guest account as I have it kept turned off and have no intention of turning it on. If it is turned on later I'm sure windows will create all the files needed plus 50MB more worth of junk to fill it.

I don't want extra files now finding their way onto C: drive clogging up the space I have just made so I change the location of all my "windows special folders" (i.e. junk folders that I never use anyway) onto another partition. This is done through my computer, C: drive, Users, Administrator. Then choose the folder eg. Downloads. Right click on it, go to properties, click on the location tab, move, type in another folder in another partition or browse and apply. Once you are finished any automatic saves or downloads go to a new partition. (Don't forget My Documents, Movies, Pictures etc.) I also don't use windows explorer or internet explorer so I delete the links folder and the favourites folder.

Next is to ensure programs are installed onto a different drive whenever you install. This is done by ALWAYS pushing custom install and/or choosing the directory the program goes in when you run an installion file. It's why I have partition D:.

This is about as far as I can go at the moment. I'm currently exploring with two regedits I created, one to change the installation folder which I run just before I intall a program which doesn't let me choose a folder, and one which I run as soon as I am finished. (Programs such as CCleaner) it seems to work (it did for Ccleaner, but not for Norton's or Google chrome - they still found their way onto C: drive) but I don't know what the long term effect of this will be will windows go searching for a file where it expects it to be? Any guesses, my two regedits (which are just changing drive and file names back and forth) are:


Change for installation:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion]
"SM_GamesName"="Games"
"SM_ConfigureProgramsName"="Set Program Access and Defaults"
"CommonFilesDir"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs\\Common Files"
"CommonFilesDir (x86)"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs\\Common Files"
"CommonW6432Dir"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs\\Common Files"
"DevicePath"=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,6f,\
00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,69,00,6e,00,66,00,00,00
"MediaPathUnexpanded"=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,\
6f,00,6f,00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,4d,00,65,00,64,00,69,00,61,00,00,00
"ProgramFilesDir"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs"
"ProgramFilesDir (x86)"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs"
"ProgramFilesPath"=hex(2):44,00,3a,00,5c,00,4f,00,62,00,74,00,72,00,75,00,73,\
00,69,00,76,00,65,00,20,00,50,00,72,00,6f,00,67,00,72,00,61,00,6d,00,73,00,\
00,00
"ProgramW6432Dir"="D:\\Obtrusive Programs"



Change post installation

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion]
"SM_GamesName"="Games"
"SM_ConfigureProgramsName"="Set Program Access and Defaults"
"CommonFilesDir"="C:\\Program Files\\Common Files"
"CommonFilesDir (x86)"="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Common Files"
"CommonW6432Dir"="C:\\Program Files\\Common Files"
"DevicePath"=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,6f,\
00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,69,00,6e,00,66,00,00,00
"MediaPathUnexpanded"=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,\
6f,00,6f,00,74,00,25,00,5c,00,4d,00,65,00,64,00,69,00,61,00,00,00
"ProgramFilesDir"="C:\\Program Files"
"ProgramFilesDir (x86)"="C:\\Program Files (x86)"
"ProgramFilesPath"=hex(2):25,00,50,00,72,00,6f,00,67,00,72,00,61,00,6d,00,46,\
00,69,00,6c,00,65,00,73,00,25,00,00,00
"ProgramW6432Dir"="C:\\Program Files"


I've tried to leave the folder names changed as per the first regedit but found that windows media player and media centre are always creating new files so end up placing crap everywhere, getting split up and eventually not working. Usually no great loss to me as I hate using anything microsoft but like I said I'm doing all this just to use the remote control so I currently need WMC working.

If anyone has any further advice on what can be deleted in C: or how to get rid of uneccessary windows files let me know. (And not through turning windows features off, because as a rule it doesn't seem to delete them, therefore no space saved.

Currently my C: is taking up 8.4 GB of a 20GB drive.

PS - why do I stick with windows and not go to linux? The answer is gaming. It's so much easier on windows. My current system will eventually be a dual boot linux. But for now I'm just concentrating on Windows.

More about : slimming windows

a b $ Windows 7
June 29, 2011 6:19:50 AM

Does doing this allow you to save to C:? I remember installing 7 and needing to save something. In the past I've always saved things I need to find quickly in the root of C, but 7 didn't allow this.

Dear MS: Let me save what I want where I want. If I wanted an OS that prevents me from doing things, I'd be using a MAC. [/rant]

Only change I would make is in your partitioning. First, the 10GB swap file should be the first partition. This puts it on the outer most edge of the disk, making it the fastest. For anything that needs to be read/wrote to quickly this would make it the fastest. Second, while 20GBs might work for your OS drive, I would make it larger. You don't need to worry about defragging seeing as your swap is on a different disk, and if you need more OS drive space it could be troublesome. I decided to dual boot 7 and XP. (I haven't booted into XP since I set my system up probably 3mo ago now.) XP I gave around 30GB, 7 I think I gave 80GB, it might have been 60GB) I like having lots of programs however so everyone is different.
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June 29, 2011 6:31:56 AM

Hmm, admittingly ever since I first tried windows 7 about 6 months ago and hated the experience I have always run the take ownership regedit within 20minutes of a fresh install so didn't even know saving to C: was an issue. I just saved your avatar to my root C: to check, and yes, I can.

Thanks for tip on swapfile. I actually have 10GB free at the begininning of my drive which I was saving for linux, but until then I will place my pagefile there. (I'm acutally running mine split between a separate partition and a separate drive.
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a b $ Windows 7
June 29, 2011 6:42:11 AM

I haven't run into that issue again, though I've been forcing myself to save things elsewhere. Like you I HATE being told by my OS what I can and can't do. I don't care if its a protected system folder, let me see the contents! Don't hide file types on me! Let me do what I want. I understand they need to take these steps for some. I had a friend of mine call me in a panic because he was trying to get more room on his drive and deleted his mouse drivers. (never delete a .sys file!) But MS should make a copy of windows for us who have a clue what they are doing.

Forgot to mention in my first post, wouldn't it be easier to just ghost the drive once you have things setup the way you like? That way you don't have to do all those things over again.
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June 29, 2011 6:53:56 AM

Yep, been saying it for years, make it an option during installation - click this box if you don't want to be treated like an idiot.

Regarding ghost - definitely, but up until now I've been exploring with what I can and can't get rid of (and making mistakes. :-D ), so haven't been ready to ghost image. But now as you've mentioned it I used to use Bart PE with a boot disk to ghost my C: drive, but now I have a system running raid 1 array so I need raid support. Do you know of any good freeware partition copiers / ghosting programs? I've currently got installed easus PM free as supposedly it can make a copy while windows is running, but currently I haven't worked out how to make it do that.

Hmm, I seem to have left my own topic.
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a b $ Windows 7
June 29, 2011 7:48:41 AM

It's your topic, change it as needed. It helps if you stick to one however.

While I preach it, I don't use ghost of any form. I keep meaning to, but I never seem to get around to it. Mostly because I need to add "one more program". As I mentioned before however I'm a program junkie so its literally always "one more".
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June 29, 2011 10:17:48 AM

Please do not put the swap file in a different partition, away from the Windows and Program file partitions. Put it on another HDD, but not partition on the same HDD. Forget about sequential speed, think about head movement. Why do some use only 500GB of seagate's 2TB drive? Because they get the Raptor's performance. I would say leave a 30-40GB partition for windows, light programs (like under 10GB) and swap. Better yet, if you have enough memory (4GB or more), disable it. If you don't at least do the following:
1. disable swap file and reboot
2. defragment windows partition
3. re-enable swap file with fixed min=max and reboot.
This way, your swap file will not be fragmented and will never grow.
The only reason to move the swap file is if you put it on another HDD. Otherwise keep it with windows. Also, for 4GB+ RAM, I can't see the reason for more than 2GB swap file. It will only use the swap file to make room for cache in RAM.

Regarding partitioning, I always supported just 2 for windows: OS+programs, documents+big programs+media.
Also, I tend to spend time with GNU/Linux, so too many partitions give me headaches.
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a b $ Windows 7
June 29, 2011 10:48:02 AM

If the partitions are right next to each other I doubt it will increase head movement by much at all. More so if you have a tiny 5-10GB partition for it. That's a drop in the bucket for the heads.
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June 29, 2011 12:37:08 PM

what you described there with your symptoms and all, i prescribe a big dose of linux. HAPPY HACKING.
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June 29, 2011 12:38:18 PM

sorry, I need to learn reading it all before replying.
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a b $ Windows 7
July 10, 2011 8:11:47 AM

U need to know more about win7. Page file works different now and even if u have 12GB RAM u still gonna benefit from PF. U wrote so much, get SSD. That's way more useful than partitioning HD. Better yet, if u get 2 SSD's than u can split your documents,app installs and page file on 1 and system on the other in case something gets messed up so u don't loose any doc files if u don't back up..

Read here (done right) http://tweakhound.com/windows7/index.htm
(and why) http://www.tweakhound.com/windows7/tweaking/index.html
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