15 Tips for Windows Vista

September 30, 2008

• Partition unused space
Vista has a built-in hard-drive partitioning tool that’ll let you take unused space from your main partition and form an extra partition, say, a D: drive for storing photos and videos. It can also consolidate extra space into a single partition. The utility can be found in the Computer Management console located in Vista’s Administrative Tools Control Panel.

• Watch TV on your Vista PC
If one is not already built in, you can buy an external TV tuner and use Windows Media Center to watch TV and record through the handy program guides. For buildings or homes that are cable-ready, high-definition channels are unscrambled or ready to watch without a cable box.

• Send faxes and scan documents
The odds are good that your PC has an integrated fax modem. Take advantage of it by using Vista’s built-in Fax and Scan utility (found in Vista Business and Ultimate editions). This same utility can also take advantage of that old scanner to image documents without purchasing new, Vista-compatible software.

• Have kids? Use parental controls
Go to the Control Panel and select User Accounts and Family Safety. Next, click on the link that says "Set up parental controls for any user." From there, you can block inappropriate Web sites, set up a time schedule for playing games, limit use of instant-messaging software, and create boundaries for browsing the Internet. You can even print out an activity report for your child.

• Conserve battery power
In addition to setting up a Power scheme, Vista can automatically crank down the brightness of the screen (via a slide bar or by percentage points) when a laptop is running on battery. Go to Control Panel | Power options | Advanced Settings | Display and set the brightness to 50%. This can add an extra 20 to 30 minutes’ worth of battery time for your commute home.

• Turn off annoying prompts
Vista added the A Program Needs Your Permission to Continue prompt to help prevent you from inadvertently installing malware or making unauthorized changes to your computer. It’s annoying to see that dialog box constantly pop up. If you’re computer savvy, you can turn it off by deactivating User Account Control in the User Accounts Control Panel.

• Two clocks for two time zones
If you work in different time zones, you can add up to two additional clocks on the system task tray. Left-click on the clock, select Change date and time settings, and go to the Additional Clocks tab. You can then enter the display name for the clock(s) and choose its time zone.

• Boost compatibility
Before throwing your computer against a wall because a particular piece of legacy software is not working in Vista, try running compatibility mode. Right-click on the program’s EXE file and choose Properties. Then click the Compatibility tab, check the box that says Run this program in compatibility mode for:, and select the operating system that worked best with the software.

• Expanded shortcut menu
You can add useful options to the right-click menu on any file or folder. By holding down Shift as you right-click an item, you can add any file to the Start menu or Quick Launch toolbar, copy the entire path of the file or folder to the clipboard, or open a command prompt window.

• Get a health report from Vista
People get physical checkups, and so do computers. Vista can run a complete and well-organized diagnostic report highlighting potential problems. In the Control Panel, click System and Maintenance | Performance Information and Tools. In the Tasks list along the left, click Advanced tools. The last item on the resulting list is Generate a system health report.

• Remove metadata from pictures
Picture and documents have hidden data about the type of equipment used, as well as personal information about you. You can remove these details by right-clicking the file icon and selecting Properties. On the Details tab, click Remove Properties and Personal Information. You can remove several properties at a time or all of them by the check boxes next to a property.

• Create a shortcut to lock a PC
Slice steps off your system log-off routine by putting a log-off shortcut on your desktop. Start by right-clicking an empty space on the desktop and then selecting New shortcut. In the space below Type the location of the item, type in rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation (remember to watch your spacing and case). Finally, create a clever name for the icon besides the default "rundll32"—how about "Lock PC"? Then click the shortcut to lock your computer with ease.

• Virtualize your keyboard
If you’re running Vista on a Mac via Boot Camp, you won’t be able to find the PrintScrn key—a Mac doesn’t have one on its keyboard. Good thing Vista has a virtual on-screen keyboard built in. It’s in the Ease of Access folder, under Accessories, in the Start menu. You should see the psc key next to the F12 key.

• Bypass the log-on screen
You don’t have to be confronted by that eyesore of a log-on screen every time you boot up the system. Make Vista log in automatically by typing netplwiz into the Start menu search box. That will bring up the Advanced User Accounts Control where you can uncheck the box that reads: Users must enter a username and password to use this computer.

• Take smarter screen shots
Windows could always capture an image of your desktop (with the PrintScrn key) or an active window (type Alt-PrtSc). With the Snipping Tool, in the Accessories folder, you can snip a portion of the screen, or part of a Web site, document, or picture, and save it as an image file. Keep it handy by checking the option to display an icon of it in the Quick Launch toolbar.


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