Top 7 Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

After years of lamenting the shortcomings of Windows Vista, Windows 7 was released to resounding virtual applause and much media fanfare. Intrigued, I installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine on my Ubuntu box. In a word, impressive.

One of the most fun things about installing a new piece of software is exploring the new features and all the customizations that make your computing experience more personal.

In this article, I’ve compiled a collection of useful tips and tricks to help power users like yourself get the most of your Windows 7 installation. Here’s what’s covered:

  1. Ten Useful Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows 7
  2. Using the Windows 7 Taskbar Like a Pro
  3. How to Gauge Power Efficiency in Windows 7
  4. Customize Your Windows 7 Jump Lists
  5. Unlock Hidden Windows 7 Wallpapers
  6. Speed Up Boot Time in Windows 7
  7. New Processes = Less Crashes

If you’ve been using a computer for as long as I have, keyboard shortcuts can be a life saver. Some of these key combinations totally replace the mouse, while others reduce the number of clicks. With time, you’ll be using your mouse less and less.

Here are a few keyboard shortcuts that you should be aware of. Also, check out a more detailed list here. For each option, Win of course refers to the Windows key on your keyboard and the numbers 1-9 represent the position of the application in the taskbar.

  1. Win+number (1-9): Starts the application pinned to the taskbar or switches to that program
  2. Shift+Win+number (1-9): Starts a new instance of the application pinned to the taskbar
  3. Ctrl+Win+number (1-9): Cycles through open windows for the application pinned to the taskbar
  4. Alt+Win+number (1-9): Opens the Jump List for the application pinned to the taskbar
  5. Win+T: Focus and scroll through items on the taskbar
  6. Win+B: Focuses the System Tray icons
  7. Shift+Click on a taskbar button: Open a program or quickly open another instance of a program
  8. Ctrl+Shift+Click on a taskbar button: Open a program as an administrator
  9. Shift+Drag a File to a taskbar button: to open a file with the current application
  10. Middle-Click on a Aero Thumbnail: to close that application instance

The taskbar and its new functionality is one of best new features of Windows 7. But there are a number of uses and features that aren’t initially apparent. For example, most of us have folders that we use frequently. Why not pin this folder to the taskbar for easy access?

Pinned searches are also handy. Simply enter a term in Windows 7 search and then drag that icon to the taskbar. This will be useful for searching recently modified files.

For more information see the video on getting the most out of your Windows 7 Taskbar.

3. How to Gauge Power Efficiency in Windows 7

With the growth of the mobile workforce, many desktop computers are being replaced with laptops. While processor speed and storage are no longer major issues, battery life is. Windows 7 has a neat but largely hidden tool that will assess your energy usage and make recommendations on how to improve it.

You’ll need to run a command with administrator rights, so open a search box and type in cmd. When theĀ  icon appears, right-click it and choose “Run as administrator.”

At the command line, type in this command, replacing “folder” with the folder name where you’d like to save the file.

powercfg -energy -output FolderEnergy_Report.html

Following a 60 second analysis, Windows 7 will create and save the report in html format in the folder you specified. Open to review any recommendations.

Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

4. Customize Your Windows 7 Jump Lists

A jump list is the menu that opens when you right-click on a taskbar icon. But did you know you can also access this menu with the left mouse button? Just hold the left mouse button and dragging upwards. Laptop users without an external mouse will find this most useful, as it makes accessing the jump list easier with a touchpad.

You can also change the default number of items that show up on the list. Go to taskbar properties > start menu tab > customize. The options are near the bottom of the window.

Top 7 Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

5. Unlock Hidden Windows 7 Wallpapers

Based on your responses to things like language during the Windows 7 install, you’ll get a different set of wallpapers and themes. For those in the U.S., for example, your selection will yield country/state specific scenery.

If you’re curious about the wallpapers available to other areas of the world, here’s how to access them:

In the search box in the Start menu, type C:WindowsGlobalizationMCT and press Enter. Windows Explorer will launch and show you a list of subfolders under C:WindowsGlobalizationMCT: MCT-AU, MCT-CA, MCT-GB, MCT-US, and MCT-ZA.

Each subfolder has wallpapers for a specific country: AU for Australia, CA for Canada, GB for Great Britain, US for the United States, and ZA for South Africa.

Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

Navigate to the Theme folder for Australia, then double-click the theme file. For example, MCTMCT-AUThemeAU. The new theme is added to your Personalization folder and applied to the desktop.

Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

6. Troubleshoot Processors in Windows 7 *

Today’s computers have multiple processors. And sometimes things go awry with one, making troubleshooting a challenge. A little known Windows 7 feature will allow you change the number of processors the system uses – thereby helping to isolate the offending hardware.

Launch the Start menu search bar and type msconfig. Select the Boot tab. Click on Advanced options and set the number of processors from 2 to 4, of course dependent upon your systems hardware.

Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users

7. New Processes = Less Crashes

When you start Windows 7, every folder you launch uses the same process. While this is an excellent way to conserve system resources, having everything tied together means that if something goes wrong with one folder, they all suffer the same consequences.

In order to launch folders in a separate process, double-click on the desktop Computer icon, hold down the shift key, right click on your drive and select Open in New Process. Now, folders will be launched in separate processes.

Top Windows 7 Tips and Tricks for Power Users


It seems that more Windows 7 features are uncovered everyday. In the race to be more productive, the search for even more hidden tweaks will undoubtedly continue. If you have additional trips or tricks, feel free to share them in the comments.

* original post updated on July 16, to reflect change to tip #6.


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