Windows 7 on the go

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Tiny ‘netbook’ laptops are flying off the shelves – find out howWindows 7 can help you get the best performance from portable PCs of all types


Even just a few years ago, the idea of taking a computer out and about would have struck some people as rather pointless. Many consumers chose laptops simply because they didn’t take up much space in the home. Those laptops lightweight enough to carry from home to work or school were much more expensive and aimed at those who had a real need to work on documents while out and about.

Today’s laptops are lighter and cheaper than ever but there’s a new generation of portable computers that use low-powered processors and solid-state storage to produce smaller, leaner and even less expensive computers called ‘netbooks’. Early netbookswere sold with Linux, while more recently Windows XP has been the supplied operating system. Vista was much rarer, largely because it required more memory and processing power to run than XP. Windows 7was designed from the outset with portability in mind and despite it being more advanced than Vista, most netbooks can run it with little impact on performance. In this article we will show you how to get the best performance From a netbook running Windows 7.

One of the quickest ways to boost netbook performance is to turn off the advanced graphics features that make Windows 7 look great, but which use a significant proportion of processing power. The main culprit is Aero, which produces the transparent effect on the edges of Windows and includes handy tools such as AeroPeek and JumpLists. These are useful tools but if you need the extra performance for other tasks, it is easy to limit Aero’s processor use. Right-click the desktop, select Personalize, scroll down the page until you see ‘Basic and high-contrast themes’ and choose Windows 7 Basic. You’ll still get a basic level of Peek and Jump Lists continue to work.



Power down
Battery life is an important concern if you want to use a computer away from home. Netbook processors use less power but their displays and other components still draw lots of energy – just like laptops. The good news is that you can change the settings in
Windows 7 to preserve power. Click the Start menu icon and select Control Panel followed by Power Options. A selection of power plans is displayed here – a plan is a group of settings that tell Windows how much power to use for various components and when to dim the display and cut power to some components altogether. The default setting in Windows 7 Home Premium is Balanced, which ensures the processor has enough power to give good performance when in active use by applications while reducing energy usage if the computer is not being used after a set time. The Power Saver plan is ideal for portable PCs when away from a mains connection. While Balanced dims the screen after 10 minutes of inactivity, Power Saver does this after five minutes. Similarly, the amount of time Power Saver waits to put the PC into Sleep mode is cut by half to 15 minutes. Sleep mode cuts power to everything but memory, so work in open documents is not lost. To change the power plan your computer uses, click the button next to its name so the circle has a blue dot in it and close the Power Options window.
You can also customise the power settings to save even more battery life. Each plan has a link next to it labelled ‘Change plan settings’, which you can click to change the time Windows 7waits before switching off the display or entering Sleep mode. Windows 7 also reactivates the display and sleeping components much more quickly than Vista.



Customise settings
Windows 7 also enables you to create your own power plan. Back at the main Power Option window click ‘Create a power plan’ to devise your own, which is handy if you want to have settings for use at home and at a second specific location. The settings are the same whichever method you choose so let’s create our own plan for using the netbook while on a train. First choose the settings you want to change, Power Saver in our case, and give it a name before clicking Next. Then set how long to wait before dimming the display and entering Sleep mode before clicking Create. Our plan now appears in the ‘Select a power plan’ window, where we can click ‘Change plan settings’ and then ‘Change advanced power settings’.



Wonderful wireless
Wireless networking also eats into battery life because the network adapter in the computer is continually using energy. Many netbooks have a switch or keyboard button to deactivate wireless when not needed – consult your computer’s manual to find out about this. You can also reduce the power consumption of the wireless adapter in your power plan (although this might affect your web access if the signal strength from the wireless network is low). Open Wireless Adapter Settings, then Power Saving Mode and left-click ‘Setting’ to reveal a drop down menu where you can choose your preference. You can always undo changes by clicking ‘Restore plan defaults’. Our final tip concerns the netbook screen. The relatively small size of some netbook displays can make it difficult to read documents and websites. You should check that your display is set to its native resolution; open the Start menu, click Control Panel and then double-click Display followed by Screen Resolution. The resolution of the display is normally included in the netbook’s manual, although Windows 7 can detect this. Click the resolution dropdown menu and ensure the figure selected has ‘(recommended)’ next to it. Another way to reclaim a valuable proportion of display space is to set the Taskbar to appear only when
it is needed. Right-click the Taskbar and select Properties. In the dialogue box that appears, click the box labelled ‘Auto-hide the taskbar’, followed by OK. The Taskbar nowappears only when the mouse pointer is moved towards it. There’s no doubt that Windows 7 performs well on most netbook computers. There are more options to conserve battery life, networking is easier and with more touch screen netbooks due to launch later this year, using a computer while travelling looks set to become even easier.


Source of Information : Computer Active Issue 310 January 7 2010

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