Top 5 Hidden Features in Windows 7

Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

So you own Windows 7, but you’d like to get more out of it. Here are five hidden features in Windows 7.

1. Themes

Right click on the desktop (hit Windows+D to get there) and click Personalize. These change your Windows background, screen saver, colors and sound effects. If you don’t see any you like, you can get more online. Themes are a great way to customize a PC and make you more comfortable using it.

2. “God Mode”

How would you like a folder that includes every conceivable option for Windows settings, all in one place? Create a new folder anywhere on your PC such as the desktop, and name the folder this, minus the quotes: “GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

The new folder is populated with a sorted list of every setting in Windows. It’s even more comprehensive than Control Panel. You’ll find you like playing God.

3. Reliability Monitor

If you’d like to know if your PC has been crashing a lot, if you’d like to know if certain apps haven’t been very stable, or if you’d like to remember when your last Blue Screen of Death took place, click Start, type reliability and press Enter. A nice color-coded graph will appear of your PC’s recent stability performance. Below that are details, including patches installed and critical events.

The God Mode folder has everything you could ever want.

4. Jump Lists

Right click on any of the open apps in your toolbar. Or, left click and move the mouse upward really quickly. See that text box that appears? It’s called a Jump List, and you’re going to want to get to know it. Not only does it list all the currently open windows, but it also lets you perform frequently-used tasks of the application. For example, Chrome‘s Jump List lets you create a new window.

5. Fix Frozen Apps

Before Windows 7, if an application froze, you had to kill the entire process in Task Manager; there was no other way. Now, it’s possible to unstick the app and get it running, giving you a chance to save your work. This won’t work every time, but will save you many lost hours when it does work.

Here’s how to unfreeze a frozen app:

  1. Click Start
  2. Type RESMON in the box and press Enter
  3. In the Resource Monitor, click the CPU tab and look for the process in red. This is your frozen app.
  4. Right-click this process and click Analyze Wait Chain.
  5. It should say that the app is waiting on another process. Select this process (the bottom most one) and click End Process.

With a bit of luck, your app will start working again!

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