Friday, April 19, 2024

Using Vista, Part 3: 13 New Vista Tips

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The end of this month will mark the one-year anniversary of Vista’s launch. While Windows Vista has been met with a somewhat tepid response in some circles (most notably, businesses and hard-core enthusiasts), there are lots of people happily — well, contently, anyway — running Vista.

If you’re one of them, read on for a handy collection of Vista-related tips, and be sure to check out our earlier tips stories (Part 1 and Part 2) if you missed them.

Launch a Command Prompt with Elevated Access

Even in Vista, you may sometimes need to do things from the good old-fashioned command prompt. But when you do, operations often fail without administrator access. To easily launch a command prompt with administrative privileges, type cmd into the start menu, but instead of pressing Enter, press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER.

You’ll still get the customary UAC (User Account Control) confirmation dialog box, but the good news is that any program or command you run from that command prompt will automatically have administrator access.

Create a Password Reset Disk

If you ever forget the password for your Vista account, it’s possible to regain access to the account by having someone with an Administrator account reset the password for you. However, in cases when such a person isn’t around to help you it’s possible to reset your own password by using a Password Reset Disk, but only if you’ve prepared one in advance.

To create one, go to Control Panel, then User Accounts, and then click the Create a Password Reset Disk link. Follow the prompts to enter your current password and select a disk (it can be a USB storage device) to store the data.

To use your Password Reset Disk, click the Reset Password link on the Vista account login page, which will appear only after you’ve entered an incorrect password. Then just insert your Password Reset Disk and follow the prompts.


Make the Most of Your Mousewheel

The super-efficient scrolling capabilities of the modern mousewheel can easily be taken for granted until you find yourself stuck with an old-fashioned mouse and little more than the Page Up and Page Down keys for navigating Web pages, Word documents, and the like. The surprising thing is not only do we not know how good we have it until it’s gone, even when we do have it most of us don’t know just how good we really have it.

Case in point is the magic of the secret CTRL+Mousewheel combination that reveals itself in a number of helpful and often surprising ways. Starting with the Windows Explorer, the CTRL+Mousewheel combination allows you to quickly increase or decrease the size and style of the icons displayed in folder views.

Rather than having to click on the Views tab and then select a specific icon view, the CTRL+Mousewheel combination quickly and efficiently scrolls through the various icon views available in Explorer, including Tiles, Details, and List Views, as well as small, medium, large, and extra large icon displays.

The CTRL+Mousewheel combination will also increase/decrease the size of the icons on your desktop and in Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox) allows you to quickly increase or decrease the size of the font used on Web pages displayed in the current tab or window.

Expose a Hidden Boot Screen

If you want to see something a little more interesting than a black screen and progress bar while your system is booting up, you can enable an alternate boot image in Vista with MSCONFIG. After launching the utility, click the Boot tab and put a check next to No GUI boot. Apply your changes and restart, and you’ll soon be looking at a new splash screen.

Flip Through Your Running Applications

You probably already know you can cycle through running applications in Vista via the Flip feature by using the familiar ALT+TAB keystroke combination. Flip will display two-dimensional thumbnails of all your open windows, but if you’ve got a decent graphics adapter and any version of Vista other than Home Basic, you can use Flip 3D instead, which will give you a nice three-dimensional effect (kind of like flipping through index cards).

To use Flip 3D, press START+TAB instead of ALT+TAB (START is otherwise known as the Windows logo key). If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can also use it with Flip 3D to cycle between applications.

You can also fire up Flip 3D through a shortcut link. To do that, right-click the desktop, select New, then Shortcut, then type rundll32 dwmapi #105.

Ditch Vista’s Startup Sound

If that sprightly sound effect that’s played every time Vista starts is getting on your nerves, there’s an easy way to turn it off. Just go to Control Panel, then Sound, and then click the Sounds tab and remove the check next to Play Windows Startup sound.

Run Vista for Almost Four Months without an Activation Key

If you bought a boxed copy of Vista to install on an existing PC, you probably would want to avoid activating Vista on that system until you’re sure all your hardware and software will work as expected. Fortunately, Vista will let you install without an activation key and then run for 30 days without an activation key before it converts to a limited function mode, where it remains until you to activate the operating system.

But if the default trial period isn’t long enough for you to evaluate Vista, you can get yourself some more time &mdah; and do so without violating Microsoft’s license agreement. Just before the 30 days is up, run cmd from the Start menu, and be sure to hold down CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER so the command prompt launches with administrator-level access (as mentioned in the tip above).

Then type slmgr – rearm and wait for the confirmation to reboot your system, which will add another 30 days to the clock. You can run this command a total of three times to extend Vista’s trial period up to 120 days in all.

As in prior versions of Windows, the Task Manager offers an easy way to see which applications are running on your system along with how much CPU and RAM they’re using. To get even more detailed information, click the Resource Monitor button found within Task Manager’s Performance tab.

With the Resource Monitor, you’ll be able to simultaneously view data not only on CPU and RAM consumption, but disk and network use as well. The status bars will report the current and historical usage for each category, while clicking the arrows along the right edge will open up windows displaying more detailed data on a per-process basis.


Go Directly to Task Manager

Longtime users of Windows XP Home, Professional, or Media Center (the latter two when not part of a domain) are probably accustomed to calling up Task Manager with CTRL-ALT-DEL. In Vista, however, this keystroke combo will only produce a menu from which you can launch Task Manager. To get to Task Manager without this intermediate step, just press CTRL-SHIFT-ESC.

Micro-Manage Your Startups

Managing the various startup programs and services has been a major pain in each version of Windows, and while Windows Vista certainly isn’t perfect in this respect, it does offer help in the form of a handy startup manager in the System Configuration tool. To access the System Configuration tool, simply type System Configuration in the Start Menu search bar.

The Startup Manager is accessed via the startup tab and clearly identifies the various apps and services currently set to run upon system startup. The helpful part is that no matter whether the startup processes have been set in the registry (either by machine or by user), in your user profile, or simply placed in the startup folder, you can now easily see which ones are set to run upon startup and can efficiently disable nonessential processes as desired.

Those looking for even more powerful management of startup programs and services will want to check out Autoruns from Microsoft’s Sysinternals family of Windows management tools.

The Windows Vista System Configuration is worth checking out for more than just its Startup Manager, as the tool also offers numerous configuration settings for Windows and quick access to a variety of useful Windows tools such as the Performance Monitor (perfmon.exe), Computer Management (compmgmt.msc), IP Configuration (ipconfig.exe), and the Registry Editor (regedt32.exe).


Old Help Files

When running certain older Windows applications under Vista, you may find yourself greeted by an error message when you access the application’s help feature. That’s because Vista lacks the winhelp32.exe file, which is required to read 32-bit help files written in the .HLP format.

If any of your programs use this kind of help, go to this Microsoft page, where you can download the winhelp32.exe file for Vista.

Show Network Activity in the Windows Tray

In Windows XP, network connection icons in the Windows tray indicated network activity with flashing lights. Vista can do the same thing, but the option isn’t turned on by default. To activate it, right-click the network connection tray icon and select Turn on activity animation.

Get XP Systems to Appear in Vista’s Network Map

Wondering why the XP systems on your network don’t appear within the Network Map accessible from Vista’s Network and Sharing Center? It’s because the map uses a network protocol, LLTD (for Link Layer Topology Discovery), that doesn’t come with XP. To fix this problem, download the LLTD responder from here and install it on all your XP systems.

We’ve also compiled a collection of links to Windows Vista resources that we recommend for discovering the latest Vista tips, tricks, and secrets. Enjoy, and if you have your own Vista tips and secrets that you’d like to share with others, send them to us and we’ll include them in a future Vista Tips article.

Windows Vista Resources

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