Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Top 7 Windows 7 tweaking utilities

If you're running the Windows 7 RC, chances are good that you're the kind of user that likes to monkey around with settings and tweak your OS. While you can go the DIY route and hack your registry and run your mouse ragged clicking through various control panel screens, there are a number of good, free apps available designed to simplify tweaking.

Pro tip: if you run one of these apps, use their built-in checkpoint creator before committing changes or create a system restore point yourself - just in case something goes awry.

Here are five - go ahead and add your picks in the comments if you don't see your favorite listed!

EnhanceMySe7en (pictured above) - One strike against EM7 is that you must install it. On the plus side, it's 32 and 64-bit (native). On the minus side, it uses 65Mb memory when running. On the plus side, it comes with a free frogurt!

Joking aside, EM7 is absolutely packed with options. Apart from tweaks covering every nook and cranny in Windows 7, the program also includes CCleaner-like registry and disk cleaning tools, a shortcut creator, fast access to many built-in Windows utilities, and much, much more. It's a beast.

Little Tweaker - Lightweight, portable, and focused on common adjustments, Little Tweaker is a good option for those of you who want an uncomplicated way to manipulate the context menu, disk space warnings, and the like. it failed to run on x64, telling me that I needed to have Windows 7 Ultimate installed (which I do).
Ultimate Windows Tweaker- It's impressive what the crew at WinVistaClub is able to cram into less than 200Kb. Ultimate was built for Vista, but it works just fine with Windows 7 as well. Loads of options cover everything from accounts and UAC to the taskbar and start menu and beyond. UWT is totally portable.
XDN Tweaker  - This one falls somewhere in between Little Tweaker and Ultimate. It's a good choice for the average user - not quite the overwhelming number of choices of EM7 or Ultimate, but more than just basic interface tweaks. XDn is available as both a portable and installable app.

Windows 7 Manager - As the name implies, this one boasts non-tweaking features as well. System cleanup, privacy tools, process monitoring, an uninstaller, a duplicate file finder, and a handy repair center are all included. On the tweaking side, everything from UI customization to network and IE settings is easy to monkey with. This one's available in 32 and 64-bit flavors as an installer only.
 TweakNow Power Pack 2009 - Like EM7, TweakNow is much more than a tweaking tool. It also sports registry cleaning and tuning tools, a disk usage analyzer, history cleaner, startup manager, and more. The interface is well-organized, and if you can't find a setting you want to tweak with PowerPack it might not exist.

TweakNow is install-only, but it's worth doing for the additional built-in utilities (if you need them, of course). One big gripe: once I heard my fan spin up to tornado speed, I called up task manager. 48% CPU use. Ouch!