Updated: October 1, 2021
By and large, I've never really had any problems with Windows performance. I never experienced any issues with operating systems getting slower over time, either. And if you don't load your machine with junk, things can run nice and sprightly all the time. That said, I also don't subscribe to the whole "newer is better" school of thought. Yes, with time, things got faster, but that's because of the underlying hardware, not software. Overall, my speed satisfaction with Windows has been consistent for the past twenty years. Until now.
This could all be Windows 11 Dev Build jitters, or it could be something else. But Windows 11 is decidedly less sprightly than it should be. Actions take (too much) time, or rather, there's a noticeable initial lag when launching programs, opening Windows Explorer, and such. Things are a bit more syrupy than Windows 10. And so, I decided to compile a little guide on how to make things faster in this operating system. Let's see what gives.
More on the problem at hand
To baseline my work, we're talking Lenovo IdeaPad 3, with Ryzen 5 processor, Vega 8 graphics and NVMe storage. This is a mid-range machine, less than a year old, fully supported. The responsiveness should be decent, equivalent to what I got in Windows 10 before the upgrade, or similar to the Linux distros installed on the box. In Windows 10, things were okay, and now they are slightly less so.
The noticeable issues are as follows:
- Launching Explorer windows takes time - about a full second until they display on screen, and then another until the contents are shown. There is no real-time anti-whatever reason. The system is as frugal as it gets.
- Right-click menu takes a few hundred milliseconds to open, more than before. The same extends to any action you select in the right-click menu.
- The system menu lags about 100-200 ms when opening - not so with Open-Shell, mind.
- Program startup is also slower than it should be, a few hundred ms here or there.
Disable visual effects (some)
My first port of call was to disable some of the visual effects - not all of them. Advanced Computer Settings, Performance Options, Visual Effects. Rather than turning everything off, which also leads to watery or grainy fonts, I only disabled the first three checkboxes - controls, windows and taskbar animations.
This led to an immediate improvement in the rendering of objects on the screen, most notably Explorer windows and right-click menu. However, the loading of drive and folder structures in the right-pane of the Explorer Windows still takes a full second.
Power plan & CPU states
Normally, I never mess with power plans on laptops. On the desktop, I do turn some of the supposedly power-saving features, because they don't really do much. For instance, I don't like having my disks turned off, as this introduces a delay when you access them after a while. More so on HDD, less so on SDD, but still.
Here, I toggled the max. performance option, and this led to some further improvement. Most notably, the application startup is faster. However, what made the most significant difference is that I changed the processor minimum state from 5% (default in the plan) to 25%. This reduced the lagginess a great deal.
I find this fascinating, because I have an AMD-powered desktop, and there, with Windows 10, there isn't really any difference in the overall behavior, regardless of the minimum processor power state. I do know that Intel and AMD processors have different sleep modes for inactive cores, but I've never observed any meaningful performance or responsiveness differences before, regardless of the actual values used for different laptops. Here though, I do see a difference, which is quite surprising. This leads me to believe that Windows 11 drivers (in the Dev build) aren't fully optimized for Ryzen just yet, or that AMD hasn't tweaked their drivers for this new operating system. One or the other. Or whatever.
This is the end of it. No big generic tweaking - specific changes that render noticeable, measurable results. With animations turned off, the power plan set to max + min power state raised, Windows 11 Dev now exercises speed more comparable to Windows 10 (on this box, before the upgrade), but still behind, and not as good as the resident Linux distros. The fact Windows Explorer still takes time to show content, and that disabling animations can result in one whole second change in the program display tells a lot. Then, I'm thoroughly disappointed by pretty much everything in Windows 11, so I don't really care, deep down.
I don't know where the root of the problem stems from me, but at least it can be somewhat mitigated. But that also means putting up with nonsense. A reasonable 2020 laptop with NVMe not being snappy, that's ridiculous. And so, I have no intention of upgrading any of my Windows 10 boxes to this new shiny-happy release. Ever. Come the end of support in 2025, we will think of contingencies. Anyway, if you're also facing lagginess in Windows 11, try these two tricks first. Perhaps it will make the experience slightly more tolerable. On a technical side, I will dig more deeply into the processor states thingie, but as a user, this is another in a long strings of nos when it comes to the last Windows ever, plus one.