Actually Hardcore Tweaks to Make Your Laptop Faster & More Efficient

These are the tweaks I use every time I set up a Windows laptop, to make it faster, more power-efficient (better battery life), and less annoying. Some of these are pretty standard and well known; but the tweaks get more nuanced or hardcore as you go down the article.

Fresh Windows Installation

Benefits: Skip OEM bloatware altogether and start with a clean slate. YOU decide what OEM packages you want to install back. For example, on my MateBook, reinstalling Windows and never installing back Huawei PC Manager allowed Windows Update to naturally take care of driver and BIOS updates (like it should and does on most other computers), instead of the error-prone Huawei cringeware. If your laptop has this kind of bullshit too, get rid of it; you'll feel refreshed.

  1. Back up your files. If your laptop comes with a display calibration profile (like Razer Blade), then find the ICC file in Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color and back it up.
  2. Use the Windows Media Creation Tool to make an installation USB drive.
  3. If you want features like Group Policy Editor (helpful but not absolutely necessary for some tweaks below), you'll want to install the Pro version instead. In this case, download this ei.cfg file (right click, save link as) and put it in the \Sources folder of the created install disk. You'll need a Pro license (or some less lawful equivalent) to activate Windows 10 Pro.
  4. In the installer, make sure you choose the "Custom" option instead of "Upgrade", and delete all the partitions.

Reduce Startup Programs

Benefits: Make Windows start up faster by not allowing unnecessary programs to automatically launch.

  1. Open Task Manager (you can press Ctrl+Shift+Esc).
  2. Go to the Startup tab and disable any programs you don't need to automatically self-launch every time you turn on the computer.
  3. You can also do the same thing for many programs like Spotify and Skype from within the application's own settings page.

Disable Intel's Cringe-worthy Graphics Features

Benefits: Does the brightness or color of your display change by itself from time to time? Intel's "image enhancement" is probably messing with you. All these "enhancements" do is make the image worse and inconsistent.

  1. Open Intel Graphics Settings, by right-clicking on the desktop or by searching in the Start Menu.
  2. Go to the Video section.
  3. In "Color Enhancement", disable Total Color Correction.
  4. In "Image Enhancement", disable Skin Tone Enhancement, Contrast Enhancement, and Film Mode Detection. All of these mess up the color content.
  5. Go back to the Power section.
  6. Disable Display Power Saving Technology. This one fucks with your display brightness.
  7. Anything you change in the Power section gets reset with every Windows version update, so set them again when that happens.

Disable Panel Self-Refresh

Benefits: If your laptop feels choppy and doesn't feel like the display is operating at full refresh rate when scrolling, etc., this may fix it.

  1. Again in Intel Graphics Control Panel's Power section, disable Panel Self-Refresh.

Nvidia Control Panel

Benefits: Improves graphical performance for gaming, CAD, etc.

  1. Right click on the desktop and open NVIDIA Control Panel.
  2. Select "Manage 3D Settings" from the left-side menu.
  3. Change the Power Management Mode to "NVIDIA driver-controlled". This mode is more responsive than the default power-saving one and will dynamically adjust GPU frequency according to load.
  4. In the other tab, "Program Settings", you can set different settings for individual programs. If a game or graphics-heavy program is laggy, check its settings and make sure it's set to run on the "High-performance NVIDIA processor".
  5. You can turn on Triple Buffering and set Maximum Pre-rendered Frames to 4 for programs in which you prefer smoothness over low latency.

Turn Off Transparency Effects

Benefits: If you're using a high-resolution display, Windows may run with a lot of lag or stutter. For example, the Start Menu may have a delay when opening. Turning off transparency effects makes the UI smoother and snappier.

  1. Search "transparency" in Start (simply hit the Start button/key and start typing) to find the setting. Turn Transparency effects off.

Change Active Hours

Benefits: Sometimes, Windows Updates can automatically start installing updates while you want to use the computer. You can change the Active Hours to prevent that.

  1. Search "active hours" in Start to find the setting.
  2. Go into "Change active hours" to set the time frame in which you don't want Windows Update to run.

Use SpeedShift Instead of SpeedStep

Benefits: By default, Windows uses the software-based SpeedStep to scale the CPU frequency up and down according to load. This is an archaic method that is prone to micro-lag. Switching to the new hardware-based SpeedShift makes the computer more responsive yet more power-efficient, because the CPU can ramp up quickly and get back down quickly instead of lingering at high frequencies for nothing.

  1. Download ThrottleStop and put it in a convenient location like "C:\Program Files\ThrottleStop".
  2. You need both x86 and x64 versions of the Visual C++ Redistributable installed to run it.
  3. Open ThrottleStop. Click the "Turn On" button at the bottom.
  4. In the Options menu, enable AC Profile and Battery Profile. Now, ThrottleStop will use the Performance profile when the laptop is plugged in and the Battery profile when running on battery.
  5. Turn off SpeedStep and turn on Speed Shift. Go over to the other profile and do the same.
  6. We can set a different Speed Shift value for running on battery and for when plugged in. I set Speed Shift to 0 in Performance and 128 in Battery. Greater number means more favoritism toward lower frequencies (more power-saving). Meanwhile, 0 is great for reducing micro-lag. This way, I get full performance when plugged in but then my CPU is sensible when on battery.
  7. Follow this guide to have ThrottleStop run at startup. You can also check "Start Minimized" in ThrottleStop's Options. You can always find ThrottleStop in the system tray.

Undervolt

Benefits: Increases overall efficiency by making the CPU and iGPU run at a voltage no higher than necessary. The processor will generate less heat and therefore throttle less, and also use less battery.

  1. Open ThrottleStop's FIVR menu.
  2. Notice in the top left corner there are again the four profiles. Start with the Battery profile.
  3. Use Offset Voltage to lower the voltage of the CPU CoreCPU CacheIntel GPU, and iGPU Unslice.
    1. Keep the CPU-related voltages the same, and keep the GPU-related voltages the same. -90mV CPU and -40mV iGPU are safe values to start at. The appropriate values are different for each machine, so you need to test them if you want the optimum.
    2. To test whether the undervolt is stable on battery, unplug your laptop and open ThrottleStop's TS Bench menu. Set the Size to 1024M and click Start. You can also test using your favorite game or large program.
    3. If your laptop goes through these tests successfully without crashing, you can lower the offset voltage by 10mV and test again. Repeat this until you get a BSOD. Now raise it by 5mV and test again. Soon you'll find the optimal voltage.
    4. I reached a stable setting of -105mV core and -50mV graphics. You should get something similar.
    5. Plug in your laptop. Punch in the same values for the Performance profile.
    6. The same values are generally good enough, but you may be able to overclock slightly further when plugged in. But try unplugging while running a stress test to make sure it doesn't crash in those cases.
  4. Once you've gotten a stable undervolt, select "Save Voltages Immediately" in the bottom right corner to make it persistent across reboots.
  5. If at any time in the near future you get a blue screen, the first thing you should check is your undervolt. Make sure it's stable!

Overclock the GPU

Benefits: Improves graphical performance for gaming, CAD, etc.

  1. Install MSI Afterburner from the bottom of MSI's page. I recommend Afterburner over EVGA Precision because the latter uses more resources when running and may cause severe problems with Office and other programs. When installing, don't tick "RivaTuner Statistics Server" unless you know you need it.
  2. Open MSI Afterburner, and turn on the little Windows button under "Startup". This makes the settings stick after reboots.
  3. I would start with +100MHz core clock and +200MHz memory clock for a Pascal-based GPU like MX150 or GTX1050. Your mileage may vary and it helps to research what other people have gotten with your laptop model.
  4. Work your way up with small increments. Test with a game, benchmark or stress test each time. You will eventually reach instability, so dial it back a bit from there and you've found your max stable overclock. You may find one game/program stable and another unstable under the same overclock, so test a variety of them and make sure they are all stable.

Speaker Enhancements

Benefits: Makes the laptop's speakers sound much better, with more bass, more balanced tonality, and more volume.

  1. If you use a MateBook X Pro, simply follow this. If not, you should either measure the frequency response yourself or use someone else's (such as NotebookCheck) measurements of your laptop model's frequency response.
  2. Set up DynamiQ by following the instructions on GitHub.

Use an Ad Blocker for Better Internet Hygiene

Benefits: The best way is keep your computer malware-free is to avoid downloading malware in the first place. Many ad blockers block malware domains and malicious ads. You can also enjoy the faster load times that the lack of ads gives you.

  1. I recommend Nano Adblocker, which is based on uBlock Origin. You can get it from the Chrome Web Store.
  2. It works best with Nano Defender, also on the Chrome Web Store. This is an anti-anti-adblocker extension, like the now-discontinued Anti-Adblock-Killer.
  3. Go in Nano Adblocker's settings and enable the filters you want. Make sure the Malware Domains lists are enabled.

For the More Adventurous:

These require a little more caution. You need to know what you're doing. If you consider yourself a "power user", you should be fine.

Disable User Account Control Notifications

Benefits: Gets rid of the annoying pop-ups whenever you run a program with administrator permissions. I know what I'm doing; just get out of my way.

  1. Search "user account control" in the Start Menu/Cortana and it will take you straight to the setting.
  2. Drag the slider all the way down.

Disable Windows Defender

Benefits: Windows Defender defends hardly anything besides Microsoft's corporate interests. The only things it's ever managed to flag for me is keygens and KMS activators. The most effective way to keep your computer secure nowadays is install security patches and don't download crap from the internet. Get an ad blocker with anti-malware protection instead. I recommend Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender.

  1. In Group Policy Editor, go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Defender Antivirus and enable "Turn off Windows Defender Antivirus". Using the Group Policy ensures that Windows Defender doesn't re-enable itself or pull some other bullshit.
  2. Disable the "Windows Security notification icon" startup item in Task Manager so it goes away from the system tray.
Alternate Method for Windows 10 Home
  1. Download DisableAntiSpyware.reg (right click, save link as).
  2. Open the file and confirm Yes to apply the registry tweak.

If you want to revert this:

In Registry Editor, find these keys and change their values from 1 to 0:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\DisableAntiSpyware
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Reporting\DisableEnhancedNotifications

Disable Windows Security and Maintenance Notifications

Benefits: Windows Defender will keep trying to get itself re-enabled by bugging you with endless notifications. So let's shut them up.

  1. In Group Policy Editor, go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Security\Notifications and enable "Hide all notifications".
Alternate Method for Windows 10 Home
  1. Download DisableNotifications.reg (right click, save link as).
  2. Open the file and confirm Yes to apply the registry tweak.

If you want to revert this:

In Registry Editor, find this keys and change its value from 1 to 0:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender Security Center\Notifications\DisableNotifications

Hardware Mods & Raising Power Limits

If you're using a MateBook X Pro, you're in luck: I've created a comprehensive guide to more than double its cooling capacity and extract 30% more performance. If you have a different laptop, many of those tricks are transferable/adaptable.

April 28, 2019

  • Added Fresh Windows Installation tip.
  • Refined ThrottleStop instructions.

April 30, 2019

  • Added Active Hours tip.
  • Added Triple Buffering and Maximum Pre-rendered Frames for Nvidia Control Panel.

May 9, 2019

  • Added Startup Programs tip.

May 23, 2019

  • Moved instruction to make ThrottleStop auto-start from Undervolt to Speed Shift.

July 14, 2019

  • Updated Undervolt instructions to distinguish between plugged in vs on battery.

July 18, 2019

  • Clarified that "High-performance NVIDIA processor" is not necessarily recommended for all applications, but mainly those that are graphically intensive.
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I had set throttlestop to run automatically at log in before undercoating. Now whenever I log in I get BSOD bc it’s applying unstable undervolt settings automatically. Is there any way to fix this? I just need to kill the process before it stars but I can’t log in to… Read more »

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Deni Chow

what does msi afterburner overclocking scanner confidence level is 0% when completed brad?

is it good or bad?