What is Tweaking?

R. Kayne

Tweaking is making performance modifications to software or hardware. In the case of hardware, tweaking can refer to changing the clock speed of the computer processing unit (CPU), a procedure known as “overclocking.” Software tweaks can be done on the level of programmable code by the author to improve a program’s performance, or they can be done by the end-user by changing default options to improve functionality.

Tweaking refers to the process of making performance modifications to computer software or hardware.
Tweaking refers to the process of making performance modifications to computer software or hardware.

For many computer geeks the computer system is all about benchmarks. In the 1950s the thing to do might have been souping up the hot rod, but today it’s all about souping up the system. Tweaking voltage, random access memory (RAM) speed, and CPU clock cycles can squeeze out a few more performance points from a setup. Add a high-end graphics card and customized water cooling, and the only thing missing is the fuzzy dice.

Tweaking can refer to changing the clock speed of a computer's CPU.
Tweaking can refer to changing the clock speed of a computer's CPU.

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Tweakers are also often "modders." A change that is aesthetic rather than geared towards performance is a “mod,” short for modification, rather than a tweak. Modders decorate the computer with LED lights that sport windowed chassis and illuminated power supplies.

Tweaking software is all about making it function better or perform according to one’s needs or desires. While Apple™ Macintosh™ systems don’t allow for tweaking, Windows™ operating systems can be tweaked with a little know-how. Some tweaks can be made by using configuration menus, but many options are not offered in the graphical user interface and must be done by editing the registry. Here one can make little changes to customize the Windows OS or Internet Explorer to make some aspect of the software look or behave differently.

A few common software tweaks include turning off tooltips, removing “undeletable” icons from the desktop, turning off Messenger, forcing hidden systems files to display in Desktop Explorer, and removing unneeded devices and processes from the Start Manager. Other tweaks can help prevent Internet Explorer from being “hijacked” when surfing the Web, or bookmarks from being modified by malware.

Tweaking software through menu options is safe enough, as the option can be changed back if the result is undesired. While the registry can also be changed back it’s not as easy as placing a tick in a box or removing it, and might be confusing to the uninitiated. Prior to tweaking the registry it’s always a good idea to create a “restore point” using the built-in system administration tools. If the registry edit creates problems you can tell Windows to revert back to the restore point.

In addition to manual tweaking there are many popular programs that allow the user to tweak Windows from a handy set of menus. Two such programs are TweakUI, the “UI” standing for “user interface,” and Tweak XP. These programs make it easy to apply dozens of tweaks that otherwise involve registry edits or mining down to inconveniently placed menu options.

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