Recently I’ve been following along with a discussion on tips to improve system performance on an IT email list. One of the tips involved keeping your desktop clean and not using it for file storage. While that has been my recommendation for quite some time, I wanted to find out what others thought and the reason behind it.

I’ve never really had any scientific reasons, other than it just “feels” like systems are more responsive with a clean desktop.

Finally, someone nailed it: Your system generates icon previews for each file.

When your files are tucked away in a folder, the system doesn’t need to constantly refresh those icons.  However, when you open a folder, or as in the case of the desktop where it is open all the time, your system has to constantly update the icons. By doing this, it slows down the performance of your desktop.

If you absolutely must store files on your desktop, which I strongly discourage this practice, create a folder on your desktop and name it Files and store those files in it. At least then the system does not have to constantly refresh the icons.

Keep in mind that if we are providing backup services, any files placed on your desktop is not being backed up and if something happens to your system, those files are gone forever.

While on this subject, there are a few things that need to be pointed out:

  • The Recycle Bin on your desktop is not for storing important files. This is where deleted files go and they are deleted frequently.
  • The Deleted Items in Outlook is not for storing important emails. Items placed here are deleted on a regular basis.
  • The Junk Mail folder is not for storing important emails. This folder has the same retention as Deleted Items and is deleted on a regular basis.

Here is also a tip to increase the performance of Outlook:

  1. Do not keep all of your email in your Inbox, create an Archive Folder

Create Archive Folder

As can see, I already have a folder called Archive, so for this demonstration, I created a folder called Archive Folder. Notice also that this folder is NOT under Inbox, but rather under the Top Level Mailbox (i.e., your email address or name). Outlook caches the Inbox on your local hard drive, to increase responsiveness. This works great for recent emails and emails that you are currently working with, but emails that you don’t normally access do not need to be cached. By design, this works best with a small number of emails. When I say small, I’m referring to say, a year’s worth of emails.

I would also suggest creating a  Quick Step to move emails to this folder, as shown here:


This is what the Quick Step actually looks like, notice also, there is a shortcut key, so with one or more emails selected, I can press CTRL, SHIFT, and 1 and it will move the selected emails to my Archive folder and mark them as read (if not already read).


Bonus tip: Using a solid color instead of a picture as your background also improves performance for the same reason. Your system does not have to redraw the picture each time you move windows around. A solid color takes less system resources.

Those two items alone (keeping your desktop clean and using an archive folder) plus the bonus tip should provide a noticeable performance increase to your system. 

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