BOOT CAMP 481 (19/06/07)

Switching to Vista, part 1


From now on Windows Vista is going to be installed on virtually all new desktop and laptop PCs – unless of course you opt for a Mac – and for newcomers to computers that’s no bad thing. Vista is easy to use; it looks great, does lots of useful things quite well and on the evidence so far, appears to be more stable and has better security than XP.


However, a fair number of PC users, accustomed to the ways of Windows XP, are not looking forward to making the change. There’s also an understandable suspicion that Vista is just another ploy to extract money from our pockets.


Nevertheless, sooner or later we’ll all have to get to grips with it, but switching to Vista needn’t be a problem. It can be housetrained and if you are dreading the prospect of buying a new PC then hopefully we can help you to make a relatively painless transition.


But first, if you feel the urge to upgrade to Vista, don’t! If your current Windows XP installation is behaving and doing everything that you want then why bother? In my opinion the safest route to Vista is via a PC that has been specifically designed to use it, so unless your computer is a fast, top-end model and less than nine months old it may require a lot of money spending on it to get anything like decent performance out of it.


Even if your PC is Vista-capable upgrading an operating system can be a messy business. There is no way of knowing how many problems will be carried across to the new installation, from corrupt system files, viruses and malware, and some previously reliable applications may stop working or behave erratically until they are ‘patched’ or upgraded (assuming a fix is available…).


In the end you will probably waste a lot of time trying to sort things out, maybe more than it takes to install Vista on a freshly formatted drive.


Having installed shop-bought Vista and the pre-release Beta and Longhorn evaluation versions more times than I care to remember, I have got to know the operating system quite so we’ll begin this week with a few quick and simple changes for Vista newbies, there’s also some handy Vista-only tweaks in this week’s Top Tip.


On a new Vista PC the annoying Welcome Centre appears every time you boot up so uncheck the ‘Run at Startup…’ box in the bottom left hand corner.


I’m not terribly keen on the Windows Sidebar and ‘Gadgets’ and it occupies the spot on the right side of the screen where I prefer to have the Taskbar. Putting it there frees up space at the bottom of the screen for more important things like deeper documents and web pages, so it’s next to go. To do that right-click into the Sidebar, select Properties and uncheck the item ‘Start Sidebar when Windows Starts’. (If you want it back you’ll find the launcher icon by going to Start > Programs > Accessories).


If you want the Taskbar on the right side, right-click into an empty area and uncheck ‘Unlock The Taskbar’ then click and hold the mouse pointer in a vacant spot and drag it to the side (or top or left) of the screen. You can adjust the width by dragging the border. I prefer it to be fairly narrow, showing no more than two or three icons side by side. When you are happy with it right click again and select ‘Lock the Taskbar’.


The Icons on the Start menu are much too big and can look awkward on laptop screens. Unfortunately the option to make them smaller is buried away; right-click on the taskbar, select Properties then the Start Menu tab, click Customize, scroll to the very bottom of the list and uncheck ‘Use Large Icons’ then click OK.


One of my pet hates with Vista (and XP before it) is the way Windows Explorer is hidden from view by default, and even when you find it, it opens to display Microsoft’s choice of common folders. This arrangement can be less confusing to a novice but once you get a basic feel for Windows it is useful to be able to see all of your drives displayed in Explorer’s left pane, so that no file or folder is more than a click or two away.


To put shortcuts to Windows Explorer on the Desktop and in the Quick Launch area (next to or below the Start button), all you have to do it go to Start > Programs > Accessories and right-click on the Windows Explorer icon. Click once on ‘Add to Quick Launch, then go back and click on Send To > Desktop (Create Shortcut).


Finally, to force Windows Explorer to open on your C: drive you can use an old XP trick. Right-click on the Window Explorer icon in the Quick Launch area of the Taskbar and select Properties. In the Target box, (it normally says: %SystemRoot%explorer.exe) add the following ‘switches’:  /n,/e,c: so that it looks like this: %SystemRoot%explorer.exe /n,/e,c: and note that there should be a space in front of /n.


Next Week – Switching to Vista





Pre-release version of a program or application, made available to testers and volunteers on an at-their-own-risk basis, to help identify any last remaining bugs, glitches and conflicts



Small programs and shortcuts providing quick access to tools and services



An instruction (or instructions) added to the end of a system or DOS command




Many users want fast access to their ‘Home’ folder (Pictures, Documents, Favorites, Music etc.) and Vista has an easy way to put this on the desktop. Click Start, right click on your Username icon then select Show on Desktop’.


Here’s a small selection of Vista shortcuts using the Windows ‘Winkey’. Winkey + U opens the Ease of Use Centre (Accessibility features); Winkey + Tab activates the eye-catching 3D Flip feature; Winkey + G displays and cycles through the Sidebar Gadgets and if you have a laptop you’ll find Winkey + X very useful as it displays the Mobility Centre, containing info and controls for display brightness, wireless connections, battery state and Sync Centre.



© R. Maybury 2007, 1306

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.