Turning off Aero: why bother?

While reviewing the stats for HalfByte, I noticed that there was, recently, an uptick in postings about the eye candy in Vista and Windows 7.  I’m guessing it is from folks who purchased some of the newer netbooks and put Windows 7 Home Premium on them. Or they are upgrading an older machine from XP to 7.  Whatever the reason, it seems to be of interest lately.  Curious to see how people are finding HalfByte, I Bing-ed ‘Windows 7 eye candy’ and also Googled it.  I was happy to see one of HalfByte’s posts at the top of the Google search (it was buried by Bing, interestingly enough.) Google ‘turn off windows 7 eye candy’ and one of HalfByte’s post, ‘Taming the Windows 7 interface’ comes up in the #2 spot.  High Google ranking aside, I got to wondering why you’d want to turn this stuff off.  So, I started clicking the other links and reading comments.  The general consensus is that Aero slows down the PC.  I don’t think this is true, at least on modern PC’s.  Modern being anything made in the last five years.

Now, admittedly, what follows is strictly my own opinion and based on observation only.  It is, by no means, scientific.  That said, I’ve performed a number of informal comparisons with all of the eye candy turned off and then all on.

Staying in the Aero theme, but turning off the visual effects resulted in zero increase in speed.  Windows pop up just as fast-or slowly, depending on the app-as they did with everything enabled.  Switching to Aero Basic, the theme that is the default on many of the netbooks, also does little to speed up anything.  Interestingly, switching to the old, battleship gray ‘classic’ theme seemed to actually degrade things a bit.  Again, this is based solely on my own observation. 

I think one of the reasons why turning off the eye candy makes little difference now is that the graphics system in Windows 7 (and Vista, as well) are highly optimized for today’s hardware.  This could also be why the non-Aero (and old, outdated and ugly) Windows ‘Classic’ theme seems slower.  It, likely, does not take full advantage of the graphics power of most of today’s chipsets. 

With the cost going down and the processing power going up, there’s little (if any) reason to turn this stuff.  Unless you simply don’t like it, leaving Aero fully enabled should not slow down your machine at all.  Really, how is turning off Aero going to make Word faster? It isn’t.  It isn’t going to speed up your rendering of your kids soccer match.  It isn’t going to make Crysis run any faster (especially since it doesn’t even use Aero.) 

Aero is more than eye candy too.  There are many subtle ways that it makes using the operating system easier.  Aero Snap, Aero Peek and the task bar previews are just a few of them.  Play around with it, dig into Aero and discover the many small improvements it brings that all add up to a significant usability improvement to the operating system. Embrace the Aero!

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