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Registry tweaks can speed up Windows 8 performance

Our latest article on using the Windows registry to improve Windows 8 performance looks at disk access and shutting down Windows Store apps

Tweaks for speeding up actions

Windows 8 users and desktop administrators may not be aware of some best practices that can speed up their PCs. Simple actions such as routine disk cleanup, changing operating system settings and disabling notifications can improve performance. Another registry configuration tweak is to reduce the time it takes to perform an action.

The OS performs a few actions internally, and the user performs a few others, such as accessing a file on the disk.

Speeding up disk access: To speed up the disk access, disable updating the Last Access attribute by configuring the following Windows Registry entry:

  • Registry Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem
  • Registry Entry: "NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate"
  • Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 00000001

Decreasing shutdown time: Two types of processes operate in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1: processes created by user applications and system processes created by the OS. These processes keep doing something in the background. When the PC is shut down, Windows notifies these processes to close automatically.

Windows allows some time for a process to close before it can shut down normally. You might expect application processes to always close normally, but some processes might not receive the shutdown/logoff/restart message from the OS, which in turn increases the wait time before system can shut down itself.

By default, OS waits for 20 seconds to allow both user and system processes to be closed automatically. It is recommended to change the waiting time from 20 seconds to 2 seconds configuring the WaitToKillAppTimeout and WaitToKillServiceTimeout registry entries:

  • Registry Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
  • Registry Entry: WaitToKillAppTimeout
  • Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 2000

The WaitToKillAppTimeout registry entry reduces the waiting time before killing user processes.

  • Registry Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control
  • Registry Entry: WaitToKillServiceTimeout
  • Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 2000

The WaitToKillServiceTimeout registry entry helps you reduce the waiting time before terminating system processes.

It is also important to note that when the interval specified in the WaitToKillAppTimeout registry entry expires, the OS will notify you of the processes that cannot be terminated automatically. In case you do not want to be notified and you want OS to terminate these processes forcefully, configure the "AutoEndTasks" registry entry at the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop registry location. All you need to do is to create a REG_SZ registry entry and set the value to "1".

Speeding up closing of Windows Store apps: Windows Store apps can be closed by dragging the Apps to the bottom of the Start Screen. System waits for 2 seconds (2,000 milliseconds) before the app can be closed. You can change this behavior by configuring the CloseDwellTimeout registry entry on Windows 8.1 PCs:

  • Registry Key: HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell\Switcher
  • Registry Entry: CloseDwellTimeout
  • Registry Type: REG_DWORD
  • Value: 80

By default, the above registry entry is configured at 2,000 ms. Setting the value to 80 ms will speed up the closing of Windows Store Apps.

Tweaking and disabling certain settings improves Windows 8 performance, but it is also a good idea to follow some best practices. For example, check that Windows Update is enabled to apply the latest updates to system components and hotfixes to resolve known problems. You can also disable unused Windows services and make use of solid-state disk hard drives.

Next Steps

Control Windows 8 apps by tweaking the registry, disabling apps

Assessment and Deployment Toolkit addresses enterprise concerns about Windows 8.1

Avoid compatibility problems by checking Windows Store apps

Look back at Windows 7 performance monitoring tools

This was last published in December 2014

Dig Deeper on Windows 8 and 8.1

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Have you addressed Windows 8 performance with registry tweaks, or did you do something else?
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My business uses Windows 8 and we have used several registry tweaks. The tweaks used helped to improve speed overall to the OS and gave custom User Interfaces. These custom user interfaces have streamlined work flow in the office and made for a much more efficient work environment. We did experiment with some suggested tweaks that we ended up scuttling within a week of implementation simply because they did not help work productivity.
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