by Gina Trapani
After using Windows Vista for awhile, even the most begrudging upgrader will find that it’s got a lot more features and options for the power user compared to Windows XP. After weeks of test-driving Windows Vista full-time, there are several tips and tweaks I wish I’d known before I started.
In the spirit of saving you the time when it’s your turn, today I’ve got a selection of useful Vista pointers for power upgraders.
Dual-boot Vista: It’s still early in Vista’s life, and you should probably wait to pull the trigger for a seamless Vista transition. But, for those of you throwing caution to the wind: if you’re concerned about incompatibilities – or you just want to dip your toes in Vista without fully committing – consider dual booting your current PC with Vista. Here’s a rundown of how to dual boot Windows XP and Vista.
Currently you’ll need the full installation (not the upgrade disks) to do this the way Microsoft intended, but big brother site Gizmodo just posted a tip on how to install a Vista upgrade on a blank hard drive..
Once you’ve got dual-booting set up, you can set your primary boot partition (the default OS at startup) right inside Vista.
Hardware drivers: Before you start your Vista installation, do try to have all your current drivers downloaded or on disk and easily accessible. Vista’s pretty good at detecting devices and installing the drivers itself, but just in case you get stuck with an unrecognized device, here’s a good place to find missing drivers for Vista.
Grade your PC’s Vista capabilities: Once Vista’s installed you want to see how your hardware stacks up against the new OS, and maybe identify where a little upgrade here or there could improve your PC’s performance. Here’s how to get your PC’s “Windows Experience Index.” (We don’t like the name either.)
Get a system health report: Admins who want more details on their PC’s health and status from head to toe should run a System Diagnostics report. There might be more information here than you ever wanted to know, but this thing comes in handy when there’s something awry.
Speed it up with a flash drive: Perhaps one of my favorite performance-improving strategies, using Windows Vista’s new ReadyBoost technology, you can speed up your PC on the fly by simply plugging in a USB drive (or iPod or Compact Flash card or any external drive) with some spare megabytage. Nifty.
Disable UAC: Roast me over the hot, user-specific coals if you want for this one, but Vista’s annoying “Windows needs your permission to continue” dialogs are nothing short of a total nuisance during your PC’s initial setup, especially since they appear every time you try to install software. Here’s how to disable User Account Control to install your favorite proggies in peace. Should you turn it back on when you’re done? Well sure. It is a big part of Vista’s new security strategy. But you know what you’re doing, so I trust you’ll make the right decision either way.
Repartition your hard drive in Vista: Once Vista’s installed, and you decide you want to store all your data or music on a separate partition, you can create that partition on the fly right inside Vista. Here’s a step-by-step on expanding, shrinking and creating disk partitions with Vista.
Trick out the Windows Task Manager: Finally! As compared to XP, the Windows Task manager in Vista can actually give you useful information about running processes. Windows guy Chris Pirillo explains:
The Windows Task Manager gives you a lot more troubleshooting information in Vista. Flip to the Processes tab, and in the View menu, click “Select Columns” and add Description, Command Line, and Image Path Name. Moreover, when you right-click a process, you can select either “Go to Service(s)” or “Open File Location.” These are all long overdue options.
Run DOS games: If Vista’s inability to run your classic DOS game in fullscreen mode on Vista takes the air out of your tires, check out Hackszine’s workaround using the free, open source DOSBox.
Disable the Sidebar: I’m not saying you shouldn’t try out the Sidebar, explore different gadgets, and see if it all works for you. I’m just saying if it doesn’t? Here’s how to disable it.
Set up Favorite folders: Stop unnecessarily exploring the file tree! Easy access to folders you use often is essential for quick Open and Save As dialog action and Windows Explorer usage. Here’s how to set up your favorite locations in Vista.
Quick Launch bar keyboard shortcuts: The Quick Launch bar in Vista is the same thing as in XP – except it’s got built-in keyboard shortcuts! Here’s how to open your favorite apps and documents from the Quick Launch bar with a key combination.
Saved searches: Finally, the most powerful and interesting thing Windows Vista can do is save folders based on search criteria, ala iTune’s Smart Playlists and Mac’s Spotlight. This one will get more ink once we figure out how to use all of Vista’s file metadata well, but in the meantime, here’s how to save your searches in virtual folders on Vista.
What have been your favorite power user discoveries in Vista? Let us know in the comments.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, enjoys a good operating system upgrade. Her semi-weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Wednesday and Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.
Filed under: Windows |