Friday, October 2, 2009

Basic Netbook Tweaks - XP

Since my little brother got one of these puppies for his birthday I figure I better pick up the pace on my netbook blogs!

There are a couple of basic tweaks that I have found useful.  Most apply to any of my laptops and are power related, but a couple I applied specifically to my netbook.
First and foremost I am a bit of a freak about a clean desktop.  Anyone who knows the slob that I am may find this surprising, but the clutter of a thousand icons on my desktop just drives me nuts.  The madness is quelled in a few ways:

Launchy - I mentioned this outstanding little application launcher/ anything you want it to do wonder of a program before.  It eliminates the need for clicking on those dirty little icons by making the launching of programs accessible through a few keystrokes.  The mousepad can be a pain for some people, especially on a little netbook, so this program is essential.

Taking control of your toolbar - That little toolbar down there can be very useful! Begin by right clicking on any empty space.  If there is a check next to 'Lock the taskbar' then click on that to uncheck it.  Right click again to bring the menu back if it disappears then go to 'toolbars' and another drop down menu should show when you hover over it.  The only toolbar I leave checked here is the quick launch.  Anything else, such as the language bar, should be unchecked to save real estate - unless you use it of course.
The quick launch is kind of a second launchy.  I put any icons that I use a lot here where they are much more readily accessible than on the desktop.  Things like My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and any other folders or programs that you access a lot can go there.  If the program is not there then just drag the icon from the desktop to the quick launch bar and viola!
After setting up the quick launch with about five icons visible and the rest accessible from the drop down menu that comes up when you hover over the arrow icon, I get a hold of the notification area - that little area on the bottom right that is so important yet few people probably pay much attention to.
The notification area is so important because it is the first step in controlling your valuable resources.  A lot of programs tend to overestimate their importance and think it is ok for them to load up on startup and run in the background, taking up very valuable resources - or wasting them I should say.  Those programs generally post a little icon in this area, so the first order of business is to  look at each icon and see what it represents.  If it is a program that you are not using right now, then it should not be there.  I recommend CCleaner for the newbie - it gets rid of all the crap (CrapCleaner - get it?) and there is a section for taking control of what starts up with windows.  Go there and be very frugal about what you let start with Windows - security programs, utilities such as process hacker and any drivers should be about it.  When people experience a slow down in performance, this is the first place to look.
Once you get control of your auto-starts then you can control the real estate.  If you right click on the bar, choose 'properties' and then 'customize' under the notification area, you are presented with a list of all the icons that can show up.  Any that I don't need to see all the time, like security related icons, I click 'always hide'.  This saves a ton of space!

Finally, power related tweaks.  Go to Start then choose Control Panel and Power Options, which brings up the 'power options properties' box with a few tabs.  The initial tab - power schemes - is your choice.  I choose never for turning off the hard disks then whatever you choose for the others.  Next go to the Hibernate tab and enable Hibernation.  This may prove to be a problem for those with netbooks using SSD's because Hibernation needs at least a few gigs of HD space.  Next go to the Advanced tab, where the magic happens.
For 'when I close the lid' I chose do nothing, because I sometimes use my netbook to listen to music and I like to close the lid and keep listening.  There are some heat issues with this, I have found, so use speedfan to keep track of that and see if it is the same for you.
For 'when I press the power button' I chose to put the computer into hibernation.  More on that later, but one of the main advantages is that coming out of hibernation you have the F8 option so if something catastrophic happens you can get into safe mode.
For 'when I press the sleep button' I put standby - though my netbook doesn't have a sleep button.  For standby, I just go the old school route of Start -> Turn off computer ->Standby.
On this tab you can also choose whether you have to enter your password everytime you come out of standy or hibernation.  I chose to do this.

Standby and hibernation are very similiar in that the current state of the machine is saved and the machine is powered down.  Startup is much faster because you are not rebooting - the computer basically picks up where you left off.  The difference is that in Standby the state goes to RAM, so that there is still power going to the RAM and your battery will be depleted, though startup is theoretically faster, and you're not writing to the HD.  In hibernation the state is saved to the HDD and everything is powered down.  Standby and hibernation are very useful with netbooks because I find myself using it for very short periods of time sometimes so you can essentially power the system down and come right back to what you were doing.
Again, I recommend using your power button to go into hibernation because it is a quick way to power down the system in such a way that you can get right back to what you were doing and you have the F8 option if something goes bad, which you don't have with standby.

On a side note, I have found some freeze up issues with my netbook when going into standby with the computer plugged in.  It may be my tweaking, though.

Well, this was a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would be!  I hope you found something useful here.