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
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
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
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
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
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
programs and shortcuts providing quick access to tools and services
instruction (or instructions) added to the end of a system or DOS command
TIP OF THE WEEK
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
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
© R. Maybury 2007, 1306