44 Vista Tips and Tricks and Tweaks
We wouldnt be a Tech Support site if we didnt have a list of Vista Tech Tip, Tweaks and Tricks we hope you enjoy this list!
1. Instant search
The Instant Search box is at the bottom of the Start menu.
Enter the name of a file or program in here and the white column of the Start menu will display results instantly as you type. It’s the quickest and easiest way to find anything on your PC.
2. Vista gadgets
Gadgets are completely new to Windows Vista. These little utilities can provide instant access from your desktop to useful things like a clock or calculator as well as fun stuff like a mini-slideshow of your photos. Click on Windows Sidebar in your taskbar to access gadgets.
3. Check security status
Windows Vista features an all-new Security Center that monitors your computer’s safety.
To find out your computer’s current level of security, go to Start > Control Panel and click on the link that says ‘Check this computer’s security status’ under the ‘Security’ heading.
4. Using the Security Center
The Security Center window is divided up into two main sections.
The sidebar on the left lists the different security programs that are running on your computer and in the main window you’ll find a list of Security essentials, with status reports for each one.
The status reports work like traffic lights, so green is good, amber shows something that might need attention and red denotes a danger that needs to be rectified immediately.
Click on the down arrows next to the traffic lights to see more details and more options.
5. Scan for spyware
For specific security tasks, go to Start > Control Panel > Security.
Here you can also run a check for any spyware or other malicious software. To do this, click Scan for spyware and other unwanted software. Windows Defender will search your PC for malware.
Once the scan has finished, Defender will present you with its results. If it has found any suspicious software, Defender will ask you what you’d like to do with it. The safest option is to click Remove.
6. Configure user accounts
With Vista’s parental controls you can make sure that all the valuable files and settings on our PC are kept safe. To use the parental control features, you’ll need to set up separate accounts for everyone who uses your PC. The default user account in Vista is ‘Administrator’, which allows you to alter settings, as such it’s only really suitable for adult users.
Go to Start > Control Panel and under the ‘User Accounts and Family Safety’ heading, click on Add or Remove User Accounts. A warning screen may appear at this point. Click Continue. In the Manage Accounts screen, click on the Create new account link. Type the name of the person into the box, ensure Standard user is selected and click on Create account.
7. Parental controls
With all the requisite user accounts created, go to Start Control Panel and under the ‘User Accounts and Family Safety’ heading, click on Set up parental controls for any user. If a warning screen appears, click Continue.
From the list of users that appears next, click on the name of the person you require.
The next screen contains all the different parental control features that you can switch on for that user. First, put a check next to where it says ‘On, enforce current settings’.
Your computer can keep a record of the user’s activity so that you can find out things like how long the person used the computer for, which programs they used, which websites they visited, which blocked sites they tried to access and so on.
To switch this feature on, put a check next to ‘On, collect information about computer usage’ under the Activity. Reporting heading. Under Windows Settings, you’ll also find a number of other parental control options. Use these to filter unsuitable websites and set usage time limits or block access to programs and unsuitable games. When you have finished, click on OK to confirm your selections.
8. Change your desktop
To change the appearance of Vista right click on your computer desktop and click Personalize.
Click Desktop then Browse and browse to the picture you want to set as your desktop image, double click on the picture.
Now select how the picture should appear, then click OK.
9. Magnify Windows
To make it easier to use Windows click Start > Control Panel > Personalization.
Click Ease of Access on the left hand side of the resulting window.
From here you can launch a Magnifier tool.
This will magnify the area of the screen that your cursor is pointing at and display it in a window at the top of the screen.
10. Adjust mouse settings
To change the appearance of your mouse click Start > Control Panel > Personalization.
Click Ease of Access on the left hand side of the resulting window.
Click the blue link that says Make mouse easier to use.
Tick to select how you’d like your cursor to appear onscreen ‘Extra large black‘, for example.
11. Customise the Taskbar
The taskbar is the greyed out area at the bottom of your screen where you’ll see notifications about programs that need updating as well as information about your network status or your battery life (if you’re using a laptop).
To customize the taskbar click Start > Control Panel > Taskbar and Start menu.
From here you can change the appearance of the taskbar by choosing to hide or unhide it, keep the taskbar on top of other windows and whether you want to group similar buttons together.
12. Customise the Start Bar
To customize the Vista Start bar, click Start > Control Panel > Taskbar and Start menu. Click on the Start Menu tab. From here you can choose to revert to the Classic view of Windows or use the new-look Vista Start menu.
Click Customize to further change the appearance of the Start menu. Alter how pictures look in Vista You can change the colour and appearance of windows within Vista. To do this, click Start > Control Panel > Personalization. Here you can choose whether to make windows transparent or to change the colour of windows.
13. Install Windows updates
It’s essential for the security and performance of your computer that you download all Vista’s updates as soon as they’re released. Make sure that automatic updates are switched on by clicking Start > Control Panel > Windows Update.
Click the button labelled Install Updates to download any available updates. Click change settings on the left-hand side of the window and then ensure that the button marked ‘Install updates automatically (recommended)’ is ticked.
14. View system information
To see information on the version of Vista you’re using, click Start > Control Panel > System.
Here you’ll see information about the version of Vista you’re using. You can also press Windows key + break
15. Add your Home Folder to Desktop
In XP, it is possible to display the My Documents folder on the desktop. While the technique described below is also available in XP, however, in Vista ‘Show On Desktop’ is more spectacular.
Right Click Username
Select ‘Show on Desktop‘
Return to the desktop and admire the new icon; it looks like a diary or an organizer and it contains a dozen folders, not just the Documents.
16. Resize Desktop Icons
Before I tackle the shortcut keys, here is a trick with mouse. Hold down the ‘Ctrl‘ key and scroll the mouse wheel. See how the Vista Desktop Icons resize. You can also try this Ctrl +Scroll wheel trick in Windows Explorer.
The Ctrl key and the mouse wheel also resize fonts and pictures in Internet Explorer (IE7).
17. Disable User Account Control (UAC)
Contrary to popular belief, User Account Control (UAC) is actually quite a good thing because it increases the security of the computer and makes it harder for viruses, spyware and adware to get into the system, and we all want more of that. However, it can also be a source of irritation if you frequently change Windows settings because it pops up a warning message on the screen every time you try to do something. It can also cause problems when running software that was designed for Windows XP in Vista. If you have tried running a program in Vista and it won’t work properly you should try it without UAC enabled and you may find it’s OK.
To turn off UAC click Start, Control Panel and switch to Classic View. Double click User Accounts and then click Turn User Account Control on or off. Clear the tickbox and click OK. You will need to restart Windows in order for the change to take effect.
18. Show me the menu
If you open an Explorer window in XP you will see a menu at the top that enables you to access various functions, such as cut, copy, paste, list view, details view, and many more. If you open an Explorer window in Vista though, click Start, Computer, for example, you won’t see a menu at the top of the window.
Most of the time you don’t need a menu because you can access the functions in other ways. For example, you can right click files or folders and access cut, copy, and paste functions and so on.
However, you do need the menu if you want to change Explorer’s settings because the menu option isn’t available elsewhere (actually it’s in the Control Panel, but it’s a hassle going there).
To display the menu bar in an Explorer window, just tap the Alt key on the keyboard. The menu will appear so you can select a menu option and then it will disappear from view afterwards.
19. Show hidden files and folders
You can view the files and folders on the hard disk drive using Explorer. Just click Start, Computer and then double click the disk you want to view. Not all the files on a disk are visible though and some are hidden from view. These are usually ones that Windows thinks you don’t need to access, but sometimes you do, especially when you want to configure certain options and perform certain other advanced tasks.
It is easy to show these hidden files though. Open an Explorer window and tap the Alt key to show the menu. Then select Folder Options on the Tools menu (it’s the same Folder Options that you can access from the Control Panel), and click the View tab. Select Show hidden files and folders, and then clear the tick against Hide protected operating system files. Click OK and previously hidden files will be shown in the Explorer window.
20. How to open the command prompt from anywhere in Windows Explorer
You can open up the command prompt from any location using Windows Explorer. On the menu located on the left-hand side of the Windows Explorer window hold down Shift and right-click on the folder you want the command prompt to open up at. Select Open Command Window Here and the command prompt will open.
21. Generate a system health report to quickly identify problems with your PCIf you want to make sure that your PC is working correctly, you can use the tools included with Windows Vista to give you an easy to understand overview of your computer’s ‘health’ – and any problems, such as lack of space on your hard drive or out-of-date drivers, will be helpfully highlighted.
To create a report open up the Start menu and go to Control Panel > System & Maintenance > Performance Information and Tools. Click on Advanced tools on the left-hand side of the window and select Generate a system health report.
22. Stop the UAC from blacking out your desktop
In the Business, Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows Vista open the Start menu and type in gpedit.msc into the search box, and press Enter.
On the left-hand menu click to expand Computer Configuration and navigate to Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options. In the policies window on the right scroll down to the User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation policy and double-click it. Change the option to Disabled and then click OK.
23. Increase SATA drive performance.
This tip “enhances” drive performance by allowing the drive in question to perform more write caching to system memory. The danger is if your system loses power and you do not have a backup power source (UPS), whatever data is cached to system memory will be lost. If you’re the adventurous type and want a bit more responsiveness out of your system, click Start, type Device Manager in the Search box, click the Device Manager, open up the Disk drives tree, right-click a drive, and select Properties. Go to the Policies tab and check “Enable Advanced Performance.” Click OK.
24. More widescreen Vista wallpapers.
When Microsoft went shopping for panoramic, widescreen wallpapers for Vista, it tapped Hamad Darwish to shoot some photos. Some of his photos made it into the initial shipping version of Vista, but many did not. Now Darwish is offering all of them for download, absolutely free – click here.
25. Speed up Flip3D
This tip will be useful for notebook owners or anyone whose PC is packing less than stellar graphics processing power. The Flip3D animation can bog down weaker graphics cards if it has to flip a lot of windows, so this is a tweak that lets you set the number of windows that will be rendered in 3D at one time.
• Click on the Start Button, type regedit in the Search bar, and press Enter.
• Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software, Microsoft, Windows, and DWM.
• Create a new DWORD and call it Max3DWindows.
• Set the value of this to something between four and nine (“4” and “9”) depending on the performance of your card (a higher number requires more video card power). You should then feel free to experiment to find the best value for your computer. Restart your PC to finalize the change.
26. Discover what applications are linked to certain processes.
The Processes tab of the Windows XP Task Manager was a confusing, barren wasteland of cryptically-named processes. If you wanted to find out which application was responsible for a certain process, all you could do was to copy down the name of the executable, and then search for it in Windows to locate it or Google it. This was an annoying process. Thankfully, Microsoft has fixed this in Vista by adding an “open file location” option when you right-click any process. Doing so opens the folder the process is running from, which can help you figure out if a certain process can be turned off or not.
You can also click “View” at the top of the Task Manager and click Select Columns to select which columns to display.
27. Stretch your wallpaper across two displays.
We love our dual displays, but we don’t like staring at two instances of the same image all day. Thankfully, Vista lets us stretch our wallpaper across both displays quite easily. This was also possible in XP, but it was not an intuitive process. Keep in mind, however, that stretching an image across two displays obviously requires a picture that is large enough to stretch all the way across both displays, so you’ll need to add up the resolution of both displays and find an image that is of those dimensions.
Right-click the desktop, select Personalize, and then Desktop Background. Select your image, and then select the middle option for “tile” to stretch it across both displays.
28. Turn off unneeded Windows features.
This one is self-explanatory. Do you need Tablet PC components installed? Probably not, unless you are using a Tablet PC. So turn off whatever you don’t need in the name of keeping your Windows install as lean as possible.
Click Start, Control Panel, then under Programs at the bottom click “Uninstall a Program.” In the left-hand pane you’ll see “Turn Windows Features on or off.” Uncheck whatever you don’t need.
29. Enable Aero mouse pointers.
Microsoft made new Aero-based mouse pointers for Vista, but the default mouse pointer is the old 3D white scheme. To enable the new mouse pointers and animations, right-click the desktop, select Personalize, then Mouse Pointers. Click on the drop-down box under the word Scheme, and select Windows Aero (system scheme). Click OK.
30. Make XP computers show up in your network map.
Vista uses a new protocol named Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) to display a network “map” of all computers in a network, but the protocol is only in Vista, so XP computers do not show up in this map.
Microsoft has generously released the software for XP, and it must be installed on an XP machine for it to show up in the Vista map. Click here to download the software for Windows XP SP2.
31. Start applications on specific CPU and priority
There is a great little utility that has been around for ages in Windows called the start command. This dos command allows you to start any process with advanced settings. In Windows Vista it is perfect if you want to start an application and tell windows to only run it on one CPU and at a high priority level. For example, let’s say that you want to start Microsoft Paint and have it run on your second CPU core at Above Normal priority. The command below will accomplish this:
start /affinity 2 /abovenormal mspaint.exe
You can customize the command above and replace the 2 with the processor number (in hex) that you want the processor to run on. You can also adjust the priority level by using one of the flags below:
32. Increase max IE7 downloads
Internet Explorer 7 only allows you to download two files from the same server at a time. This is not a software limit but rather a limit imposed based on the web standard. Since this is simply a software setting, it can be modified and you can increase the limit to something much high such as 10. Follow the steps below to increase your max downloads from the same server:
- Click on the Start Button and type in Regedit.
- When Registry Editor loads navigate through HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion and Internet Settings.
- Right click on MaxConnectionsPerServer and select Modify. Set the decimal value to something greater than 2.
- Right click on MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server and select Modify. Set the decimal value to something greater than 2.
33. Instantly copy a path to the Clipboard
Have you ever wanted to obtain a copy of the path of a file nested deep down in your hard drive’s organization structure? If so, you know the drill, launch Windows Explorer, traverse the directory to the file, select the contents of the address bar, copy the path, paste it in Notepad, and then type the filename itself.
Fortunately, with Windows Vista, you no longer have to perform such acrobatics just to get the path to a file. All you have to do is hold down the [Shift] key, right-click on the file or folder, and select the new command titled Copy as Path, as shown in Figure G. When you do, the path to the file or folder is copied to the Clipboard and you can simply paste it anywhere you want.
Creating a shortcut to switch the active user is as easy as creating a shortcut to c:windowssystem32tsdiscon.exe
- Right click where you want the shortcut to be created and select New and then Shortcut.
- Copy and paste “c:windowssystem32tsdiscon.exe” into the location box and hit Next.
- Give it a name and hit Finish.
For example if you want to run Autoruns (a great program to see what starts up automatically) type live.sysinternals.comtoolsautoruns.exe and hit Enter.
Every Sysinternals utility is available for “live” use.
Windows and 1 opens the shortcut next to the button (usually Show Desktop), Windows and 2 opens the second shortcut (usually Flip 3D) and so on. To add or rearrange shortcuts, just click and drag them.
43. Disable unwanted services
Click start and type services.msc in the search field
Then use the following website as a guide http://www.speedyvista.com/services5min.php
44. System File Checker
Something messed up in your Windows install? Vista has a system checker that will check your files against the install media.
- Open an Admin Command Prompt (right click on cmd, and select run as Administrator)
- type ‘sfc /scannow’
- insert vista DVD
- checks against Vista DVD