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Improving the Windows 7 Taskbar Preview Response Time

Windows 7 has taken the Aero interface to the next level and has pushed the hardware industry to deliver a certain standard, so that they can handle this new Windowing system from Microsoft. Aero was quite notorious in the days of Windows XP, and I remember many of my friends spoiling their computers in an attempt to try out the Aero interface with the Longhorn Transformation pack.

Things are different now, and we can run Windows Vista and Windows 7 with ease. Both of these operating systems have Aero as not just a visual feature, but have also brought some interesting usability with the Aero interface.

For users who prefer speed over visual appeal, sometimes Aero can still make the User Interface lag considerably. Most of the time, it is the system set delay in initializing Aero that gives it a particularly smooth effect. However, as most of us are interested in speed, and would never want to compromise it, we would like to speed-up the rendering of Aero controls that slow down our work.

Today, we will see how to speed up the thumbnails you see when hovering over the taskbar on an open application in Windows 7.

This guide is relatively simple and requires a few simple steps to modify the registry. If the CPU is the heart of the computer, the registry is the heart of the Windows operating system, and even a slight change in the registry is enough to block some arteries. So, make the changes wisely and exactly as this guide says. As a failsafe measure, backup your registry before we proceed. Instructions for that can be found here [1].

However, even before we proceed, let us see what Taskbar Previews are, and how the behave. Taskbar previews are thumbnail previews for applications residing on the taskbar. You can have a look at them here.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_1 [2]

As you see, the application that shows the preview has a glow about itself in the taskbar and the thumbnail of the application shows the application name with a preview of the window. This is handy when you have multiple windows and do not want to switch to them to see their status or content.

However, the time these thumbnails take to come up is occasionally too long and makes things slow. This registry modification will show you how to change the response time of these thumbnails.

Getting to the Registry Editor

Click on the Start button. Start typing regedit right away. You do not need to position your mouse cursor on the search box and click on it after clicking the start button. This is one time-waster mistake I see many people make. Windows 7 allows you to launch any program with this awesome Launchy application that is integrated into the Start Menu. My Start Menu looks different because of some themes. Nevertheless, the behavior of my start menu is the same as it is for you.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_2 [3]

After you type regedit into that box, the regedit application will come up. It is the Registry Editor for Windows.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_3 [4]

The Registry Editor will come up as shown below.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_4 [5]

We are interested in the CURRENT USER section. So, click on it and follow the path given below.


This will take you to a window like this.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_5 [6]

Our next job is to create a new key because Microsoft does not already have a key for this functionality.

Creating a new registry value

Creating a new DWORD is simpler than you may think. Right-click on any empty area and you will get a New >DWORD (32-bit) Value menu option. Click on it. This will let you create a new DWORD. On opening the DWORD with a double click, a new Dialog appears that will prompt you for details of the DWORD.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_6 [7]

Supplying values to the new DWORD

Before we go into this, DWORDS are used to define specific application behaviors even after they are installed. That is exactly what we are doing in this guide.

Once you select the New >DWORD, it will create a new DWORD and scroll your screen to the bottom.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_7 [8]

Select the value created here and press the F2 key. Your screen will look as shown above. Now, enter the name of the DWORD as: ExtendedUIHoverTime and double click on it to get a dialog, which lets you edit the value.

kanjilal_taskbar_preview_8 [9]

Give the DWORD a value of 1. This is the time in milliseconds to bring up the thumbnail. You do not need to change the Base, as 1 in Hexadecimal is same as 1 in Decimal. Click on OK.

You are all set and your Aero UI should show faster thumbnail previews for the taskbar. To test this, save all your work, Logoff from Windows and Login again.

If for any reason, the change is giving you trouble, simply delete the DWORD.

If you want to slow down the thumbnail, give a higher value for the DWORD but remember to change the Base to Decimal, because if you give 1000 thinking it is 1 second and keep the Base as Hexadecimal, you are actually giving 4096 in decimal, which is 4 seconds. Try this and share your experience with us.

~Chinmoy Kanjilal