BOOT CAMP 482 (26/06/07)

Switching to Vista, part 2


Making the transition from Windows XP to Vista needn’t be difficult and once you get past the initial frustration of things not always being where you expect them to be you will find that under the skin XP and Vista are very much alike.


If like me you are a bit of a stick in the mud you will probably want to move the furniture around a bit, to make it feel more like home, but at the same time there are some very useful features in Vista that are worth getting to know; here are some more quick and simple tips to help get you acquainted.


Restore Run To Start Menu

One of Vista’s best features is the Search facility, which pops up all over the place and on the Start menu. It’s brilliant, just start typing a keyword and it immediately starts trying to figure out what you are looking for. This includes applications, which is why I suspect Microsoft decided to remove Run from the Start menu. As you know Run is the place to go to launch a wide range of behind the scenes applications, from the configuration utility (msconfig) to the Registry editor (regedit). Run is now less important than it was but I still like to have it on the Start menu. To get it back right-click on the Taskbar and select Properties, then the Start Menu tab and click the Customize button. Scroll down the list and check ‘Run Command’ and it’s back.


Easier Access to Snipping Tool

This next tip brings to the fore a nifty little feature that you might overlook. It’s called the Snipping Tool and it lets you capture a screen grab of any part of the screen. Unfortunately there’s no hot key assignment; you can get to it by typing ‘sni’ in Search on the Start menu but it’s far better to have a Quick Launch icon, so go to Start > Programs Accessories and right-click on the Snipping Tool icon and select Send To > Desktop, then drag the icon from the desktop to the Quick Launch area.


Revert to XP Display

Vista’s ‘Aero Glass’ graphics is one of its main selling points but there are a couple of problems with it. Firstly the PC must have a powerful video card, and second, it saps performance, especially on PCs that are only just fast enough to run Vista. Some users simply don’t like it, so here’s a way to switch it off, speed up your PC and make it look more like XP. Right-click on the desktop and select Personalise then click the link ‘Open classic appearance properties…’. Select Windows Classic from the list, then OK and you’re back in XP land.


Disable User Account Control (UAC)

Old XP hands quickly tire of the User Account Control (UAC) pop-up which appears every time you try to do something, like change a system setting or install a program. Of course it’s there to protect users from accidentally doing daft things or installing potentially malicious software, so be warned, switching it off will reduce your computer’s security, but if you’ve managed to get by without it up until now, and you find it annoying, you can disable it. Here’s how, open Control Panel, select User Accounts and there at the bottom is ‘Turn User Account (UAC) on of off’. Click on it and after half a dozen warning screens and a reboot it’s gone.



Extra Clocks and Time Zones

The clock in the System Tray has been given a bit of a makeover and now it’s possible to display up to two additional clocks when you hover your mouse over the standard clock. Right click on the clock display and select Adjust Time/Date from the menu that appears then select the Additional Clocks tab. You can now enable one or both clocks, set the time zone you want to display, and even give it a name, such as the city, or maybe the name of someone you know who lives in that time zone.



How Reliable is Vista?

Only time will tell but so far the signs are good. However, you can easily keep a check on your own machine’s record with the Reliability and Performance Monitor. You can get to it from Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools, but here’s a another illustration of how good Vista’s Search facility is, just type ‘reli’ into a Search box, and up it pops. Once it opens select Reliability Monitor from the left hand pane and you’ll see a chart showing how well your machine has been doing since the day you first switched it on. It lists faults and software changes, so if you start having problems, check the chart and you might find a clue as to what caused it. 


Prettier Boot Screen

To finish off here’s a way to change Vista’s rather boring boot screen. Go to Run on the Start menu (or Search, if you haven’t got around to enabling it yet) and type ‘msconfig’ (without the quotes), select the Boot tab and check the item ‘No GUI boot’, click OK and restart. You’ll like what you see.


Next Week – Battle of the Browsers





‘Gooey’ or the Graphical User Interface – the bits of an operating system you see and interact with, i.e. mouse icons, dialogue boxes etc.



The group of Icons next to the Start button, for launching frequently used applications



Or Notification Area, displays control icons for programs and applications that launch automatically with Windows




Here’s another nifty little feature that you will want to try. It’s called Ready Boost and it’s a quick, simple and cheap way to pep up a sluggish Vista. All you have to do is plug in an empty USB memory stick or card and when the Windows AutoPlay box opens select ‘Speed Up My System’. Vista will now use the card or stick as super fast temporary disc drive for frequently used data and files. There’s only one caveat, not all sticks and cards work and you may find that only ones made in the last six months or so are suitable but portable memory is now exceptionally cheap so it’s no great hardship.



© R. Maybury 2007, 2006

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