15 Ways to Accelerate Your PC’s Slowest Component: You!

9. Configure Your File Associations to Open Documents with the Program You Want

Unless you just bought your computer yesterday, you probably have at least five different programs that can open JPEGs, four programs that can play MP3s, two that can display PDFs and six that can edit TXT files. Unfortunately, the default program which launches when you double click on a file isn’t necessarily the one you need.For example, if you want to crop a picture and remove red eye from it, you’ll need to open the JPEG in Photoshop, not Windows Gallery. 

To change file associations in Windows, type the term “file type” into the Start menu search box and then select “Make a file type always open in a specific program.” Then select the file extension you wish to change (ex: .jpg) and click the Change program button. Finally, you’ll need to pick the program you want to open with and click Ok.

Change File Associations

Time Saved: 10 seconds

10. Avoid the Scroll Bar

Every time you roll your mouse pointer over to the scroll bar on the right side of a window and use it to move down the page, you’ve wasting time, a lot of it. If you have a mouse, the answer is obvious: use the scroll wheel to slide down your documents, emails and web pages. However, if you don’t have a mouse, use two finger scrolling on your touchpad; just place your index and middle finger next to each other and drag them down the pad.  Pointing sticks like Lenovo’s TrackPoint provide dedicated scroll buttons as well.

In web browsers, hitting the spacebar key is even faste,  as a single tap takes you down exactly one screen. In my tests, using the scroll bar to navigate down to the “display” section of a smartphone review took 4 seconds, using the mouse scroll wheel took 2 seconds, and hitting the space bar to jump down two screens took just 1 second.

Time Saved: 2 to 3 seconds

11. Learn Windows’ Keyboard Shortcuts

I’ve explained already explained how you can assign keyboard macros to commonly typed text or to opening programs, but it’s equally important to memorize Windows’ own built-in hot keys. Every time you use one of the following key combinations, you save precious seconds you’d otherwise spend rolling the pointer across the screen until you found these options on various menus and sub-menus.

  • ALT + F4: Close the current window [save 1.3 seconds]
  • Windows Key or CTRL + ESC: Open start menu [ save 1 second]
  • F5 or CTRL + R: Refresh web page [ save 1 second]
  • CTRL + F: Find within document [save 3 seconds]
  • CTRL + D: Bookmark this page (in browsers) [save 1.5 seconds]
  • CTRL + Left or Right Arrow: Jump forward or back one word [save 2 seconds]
  • CTRL + Up or Down: Jump up or down a paragraph (only works in some programs) [save 1.5 seconds]
  • CTRL  + A: Select All [save 2 seconds per full page of text, save 17 seconds on an 8 page document]
  • CTRL + Shift + Arrow Key: Select Text [save .5 seconds over scrolling, but be more accurate]
  • F2: Rename file (used primarily when browsing folders) [save 2 seconds]
  • CTRL + S: Save (hit this instinctively every few seconds when working on documents) [save 1.4 seconds]
  • CTRL + Z / CTRL + Y: Undo / Redo [save 1.5 seconds]
  • CTRL + C / CTRL + X / CTRL + V: Copy / Cut / Paste (but you knew that already, right?) [save 1.5 seconds]

12. Increase the Number of Google/Bing Results Per Page

When you conduct a web search on Google or Bing, you see just the first 10 results by default. If you don’t see the exact result you want on the first page you have to click again and again to see the second, third or fourth page of results. All that clicking and loading takes time, approximately 3.6 seconds per extra page of results you visit. 

Fortunately, you can configure the two major search engines to show you more than 10 results on a page, allowing you to scroll through more results without clicking on a next button and waiting for another page to load. 

To change the number of results in Google:

  1. Select Search Settings from the gear menu in the upper right corner of the screen.
    Search Settings in Google 
  2. Set Google Instant Predictions to “Never”
    Google Predictions 
  3. Slide the Results per Page bar to 50 or 100. I find that 50 provides the best balance between speed and selection.
    Google Results Per Page Bar 
  4. Click Save. 

To change the number of results in Bing:

  1. Click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen.
  2. Click the Web button in the left column.
    Bing Web button
  3. Select 50 from the Results dropdown.
    Show results 
  4. Click save.

Time Saved: 3.6 seconds per search result page.

13. Set Your Taskbar to “Never Combine” Icons

By default, Windows 7 takes all the open windows from a particular program and combines them into a single taskbar icon. While this may provide a neater looking taskbar, it saps precious seconds of your life away every time you have to hover over an icon to change windows.

For example, I had six Word documents open and wanted to select the one labeled “Smartphone Buyer’s Guide.” When I had to hover over the single Word icon to look for that document, it took me 2.5 seconds to locate the document and click it. When the document had its own button on the task bar, it took me just 1.5 seconds to select it.

To stop Windows 7 from combining all of a program’s windows into one taskbar icon:

  1. Right click on the Start button and select Properties
  2. Select the Taskbar tab.
  3. Select Never Combine from the Taskbar buttons menu.
    Never Combine 
  4. Click Ok.

Time Savings: 1 second

14. Configure Autoplay for External Storage

When you first plug in a new USB flash drive, hard drive, smartphone, MP3 player or other USB device with storage, by default you are hit with Windows 7’s Autorun menu, which gives you a slew of choices that range from “viewing” the content to editing it.

Windows Autoplay Menu

However, most of the time, what you want is to see a view of all the files and then decide whether to copy them, open them or add to them with other files you drag over. Selecting the Autoplay window and then choosing the “Open folder to view files” option took me a mind-bending 3.5 seconds, enough time to observe millions of particle collisions in CERN.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be prompted every time you pop in a new storage device. Here’s how to configure Autoplay so it automatically opens all your drives in folder view:

  1. Type “Autoplay” into the Start Menu search box.
  2. Click Autoplay.
    Click Autoplay from the Start Menu 
  3. Select Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer for Pictures, Video Files, Audio Files and Mixed content. You may also want to select that option for specific devices that may appear on your list like your camera or phone.
     AutoPlay Config

Time Saved: 3.5 seconds

15. Don’t Put Your Laptop to Sleep when You Close the Lid

Every notebook user has had this experience. Your notebook is sitting open on your lap,  you need to reach into your bag that’s on the ground and you’re in a tight space so you close the lid to prevent the notebook from falling over as you bend. The notebook lid is only closed for a couple of seconds, but when you open it again, you have to wait a while for the system to wake. If your system has password protection, it may even prompt you to enter your password when you lift the lid.

Even if you’re traveling down the hallway at work for a full two minutes, it doesn’t pay to put your laptop to sleep. You want to keep your notebook safe by closing the lid before you carry it, but you don’t want to waste time logging back in. The easiest way to avoid this whole sleep/wake problem is to configure your notebook not to sleep on lid close. 

To stop your PC laptop from sleeping on lid close:

  1. Type “Lid” into the Start Menu search box.
  2. Click “Change what closing the lid does”
    Lid Close from Start Menu 
  3. Select Do nothing under On battery and Plugged in. 
    Do Nothing on Lid Close 
  4. Click Save Changes

After making this change you can still put  your notebook to sleep. You’ll just need to press the power button or use the sleep option on the Start Menu. 

Time Saved:10 to 15 seconds (a lot more if you wake the notebook before it has gone to sleep)

15 Ways to Accelerate Your PC’s Slowest Component: You!

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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Submit Comments

  1. Charles Baslow Says:

    I think that all this does is promote lazyness. I mean if you aren’t going to put forth 1 second to find the window you need, then why are you wasting years of your life, you might as well kill yourself now. Or if you are so busy that you can’t spare that one second, then you need to use the 1st century technique of delagating tasks to improve efficiency. Good day and good bye

  2. steve jobs Says:

    I agree with charles.

  3. Paul Newberry Says:

    What! I just wasted 4.9487 seconds. :)

  4. Macinac Harper Says:

    I found some very useful ideas in this article. (1) I have several memory sticks and I like having a window pop up to show me the contents. (2) I had forgotten about the two window feature, so thanks for reminding me! (3) I assigned CTL + ALT + Q to bring up the print queue. I already had an icon but this is faster. (4) I like having discrete window tabs.

  5. Thomas Says:

    All these posters have no idea what they are talking about. Many of your ideas are great tips. Obviously the writer of this article is presenting his tips in a humorous way to engage his audience. And it must’ve worked a little too well because now we have uneducated ruffians leaving boring comments.

  6. Max Says:

    Using the techniques laid out here, it would take me years to earn back the time I lost in reading this article and implementing these tips. Not even going to touch on the security issues.

  7. Windel Says:

    I think the whole point of the article is to be more productive on the computer, since many people spend a great deal of time on it…

    If you can be more productive on the computer, it makes you a faster, and better worker than those around you…

  8. KingLogic Says:

    actually, all the things the article talked about are things that i’ve been doing since 65 million years ago. are there no other more useful, unheard-of tips out there? i just wasted time reading – i thought there was something in there i didn’t know yet.

  9. Christina Says:

    Interesting, but I guess I’m not in that much of a hurry…. to save X minutes. Accurate touch typing would be at the top of my list.

  10. Dave Says:

    I like that you included touch typing in the list. It is one of the most overlooked productivity increasing skills!

  11. Opera Fanboy Says:

    16. Expand Notification Icons – By default, Windows 7 combines all of the icons in a popup menu on the taskbar when you click the ^ arrow icon.

    a. Press the Windows key.
    b. Type “Notification Area Icons”
    c. Left click on it in the list
    d. At the bottom of the dialog, check the box “Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar”
    e. Click the OK button

    Time Saved: 2-3 seconds

    17. Install Opera & Use the Built in M2 Mail Client – Opera now offers hardware acceleration and in my tests make it is as fast (maybe a hair slower) than IE10, and still boasts the built in mail client.

    a. Download Opera: http://www.opera.com/
    b. Enable Hardware Acceleration:
    -type opera:config in the Opera URL adress bar
    -type “enable ha” in the Quick find search box; “Enable Hardware Acceleration” should appear
    -change the 0 to a 1 in the box and click the Save button
    -close and relaunch Opera
    -type opera:gpu in the URL address bar; the “Hardware acceleration status” page should appear
    -if you see “Hardware acceleration Enabled”, you are good to go
    c. Setup your email accounts in the browser
    -This is too long to describe here. Watch this vid I found to help you do this: http://youtu.be/M1Kitdlxn5Q

    Time Saved: Only you will know the answer to this. How much time do you spend waiting for pages to load in your current browser? How much time do you spend surfing to your webmail site and logging in? I believe you will find that Opera saves you a lot of time.

  12. purplerose Says:

    I installed Window 8 and am now unable o forward or reply to Yahoo e-mails. Any suggestions??? Tanks.

  13. chuck Says:

    I found many of these useful; especially creating keyboard shortcuts for often used apps.

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