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Use the Windows 8 registry to reduce CPU cycle waste

The Windows 8 registry is a key component of the OS that admins can use to disable background checks and other activities to make systems run faster.

As I explained in previous parts of this article series, regular disk cleanup, third-party tools and certain settings are all necessary to ensure that Windows PCs run quickly. In addition, some Windows 8 registry tweaks may further improve the performance of endpoint devices using Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

The Windows 8 registry is a big repository for the operating system to store its volatile and nonvolatile information. A Microsoft OS cannot operate without the registry database. Several actions are performed in Windows, depending on what is configured in the registry.

In addition to using Registry Editor for desktop configuration, you can tweak two types of registry settings to improve the overall performance of Windows PCs. Let's start by looking at how to disable the background checks and other OS activities through the Windows 8 registry.

Disabling background checks

Windows performs many system processes. Either Kernel Manager or a Windows Service can implement a system process. These run in the background and harm the overall performance of Windows by expending CPU cycles.For example, Windows Explorer (running as the Explorer.exe process in Task Manager) performs several background checks. When performing these checks, Explorer.exe uses CPU cycles and I/O operations. It might be necessary sometimes to disable background checks to improve overall PC or laptop performance. You can disable some background checks by tweaking the registry.

Note: Registry tweaks have been available since Windows XP, but since they are still supported on Windows 8 and 8.1, it makes sense to apply them to improve performance on devices running more recent versions of Windows.

Disabling low disk space check: Explorer.exe performs routine checks and will display a message to the currently logged-on user when the disk runs out of space. You can configure a registry entry to control this behavior.

To disable the low disk space warning, lunch Registry Editor and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer registry location. Then create NoLowDiskSpaceChecks REG_DWORD registry entry and set the value to "1." Explorer.exe will stop executing this function.

Disabling balloon notifications: System processes perform several routine checks to show the balloon notifications on the Taskbar. If you want to disable the balloon notifications using the registry editor, navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer location and then create the following registry entries:

  • Registry Entry: EnableBalloonTips
  • Registry Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 00000000
  • Registry Entry: ShowInfoTip
  • Registry Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 00000000

Disabling Action Center notifications: Windows 8 and later OSes will show you security changes that you might not want to see. For example, you have Automatic Updates and Windows Firewall disabled intentionally, and Action Center will notify you about this every day. You can control notifications from the Action Center settings as shown in Figure 1.

Windows Action Center allows users to disable notifications.
Figure 1. Select which notifications you want to receive regularly from Windows.

Disabling Windows Search: Windows Search service, implemented as a WSearch process in Task Manager, also performs background activity. The indexing feature of Windows Search service scans all the locations and indexes all items from the locations, which helps speed up the search operations.

You might want to disable the Windows Search service from Services.msc snap-in or configure the Windows Search to index only the required locations/items. To configure the items to be indexed, type "Indexing Options" in the Start Screen, and then click on the Indexing Options tool to bring the Indexing Options window as shown in Figure 2.

You can set Windows Search to index only certain items.
Figure 2. Disable the Windows Search service through the Indexing Options menu.

In the Indexing Options window, click Modify button to configure the items which you want to index as shown in Figure 3.

Click the Modify button to get a list of indexed locations.
Figure 3. After clicking Modify, select which items you want Windows Search to index.

Disable screen saver: Windows runs a timer in the background to make sure Screen Saver is activated when the set interval expires. You might want to disable the Screen Saver from the Control Panel to reduce the CPU cycles caused by the system processes.

My fourth and final article in this series will look at how to use Windows 8 registry tweaks to speed up disk access.

Next Steps

Windows 8 registry tweaks provide app control

Avoid overtaxing processors when copying Windows Explorer files

Two add-ons expand the ability of Windows Explorer to create thumbnails

How to set folder displays in Windows Explorer

This was last published in December 2014

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Do you typically change any Windows 8 registry settings?
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With rare exception, my company's systems and use of Windows 8 run smooth and effectively. Being of the mindset of, "if it is not broken, why fix it?" we rarely make changes in the registry settings for our Windows 8 machines. So far the current registry settings have served us well and have given us no real issues to speak of. Windows 8 is running smooth so there's  no need to alter registry.
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