Performance and Security
» Check Your System's Heath
Does your system feel a bit out of sorts? See what might be wrong with it by running a system health report. You can get one by accessing Control Panel | System and Maintenance | Performance Information and Tools, and then clicking the Advanced tools link.
When you click Generate a system heath report, after about a minute or so Vista will display a comprehensive list of issues that might be negatively affecting your system, including missing hardware drivers or software (e.g. anti-virus) or things like high usage of system resources like CPU, RAM, or disk space. You can save the reports to track your system's performance over time.
Expert Tip: To generate this report automatically from a command line, enter
» Enable Parental Controls
Despite its name, Vista Parental Controls' value certainly isn't limited to family use. Small business owners may also find Parental Controls useful in restricting their employees' access to certain sites and for monitoring Internet activity on a company computer.
» Force Secure Account Login
Just like in XP, when a Vista system is set up with multiple user profiles, different people can log on by clicking their account icon and entering a password. But this method leaves open the possibility, however remote, of a malicious program intercepting an account password by displaying a faux Windows logon screen.
For an extra later of security, you can force users to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete before they can log in. To do this, run
netcplwiz, click the Advanced tab, and put a check next to Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
» Turn Off User Account Control
Although it's not recommended from a security standpoint, you can eliminate the nagging dialogs by disabling the UAC feature for a given account. Just go to Control Panel | User Accounts and Family Safety | User Accounts and click Turn User Account Control on or off. Don't think you can simply escape the UAC nagging without any repercussions, though; if you use tools like Windows OneCare Live, you can expect to receive frequent nags to turn the UAC alerts back on or risk compromised security.
» Check Your Memory
Sometimes when a system crashes a lot or behaves erratically, the cause may be faulty RAM. XP didn't offer a way to test system memory, but Vista does.
You can use Windows Vista's Memory Diagnostics Tool to run a memory test that's far more comprehensive than the POST test done when the system boots. The only catch is that the test can only be run before Windows loads, so when you launch the Memory Diagnostic Tool you'll have the choice to restart the system immediately or have the test run the next time you restart.
» Give Your System a Boost
Flash memory drives are a convenient way to move files around, but in Vista they can also help speed up your system's performance. ReadyBoost can use your 512 MB-or-larger USB 2.0-based memory device as a high-speed cache. It also works with devices like CompactFlash or SD memory cards.
» Getting Older Programs to Run in Vista
It's no secret that some older (and some not so old) Windows programs have trouble running under Vista. When this happens, you may have better luck when you use Vista's Compatibility Mode.
To run a particular application in compatibility mode, right-click the program's icon, click Properties, and select the Compatibility tab. After you put a check next to Run this program in compatibility mode, you'll be able to select a specific version of Windows (including XP Service Pack 2) that you want Vista to emulate when running the program.
Unlike Windows XP, Vista will allow you to change the size of an existing disk partition without wiping out your data. From the Start menu, right-click Computer and choose Manage. Then select Disk Management and select the partition you want to change. You can then choose either Extend Volume or Shrink Volume and specify a new size.
» Quick Configuration on Notebooks
From here you can also conveniently put the notebook into presentation mode, which will do things like disable standby/hibernate modes (as well as disable the screen saver) and set the speakers to a predefined volume.
A View to More Vista
» Do Your Drivers Speak Vista?
No matter how much beta testing an OS has gone through, the release of a new operating system version inevitably results in some broken or poorly optimized drivers for your hardware, especially when it comes to older equipment. While not all hardware has been optimized for Vista yet, a wealth of Vista-optimized driver updates have been made available in recent months.
Our partner site WinDrivers has a helpful (and frequently updated) list of the most current Vista drivers for a variety of hardware tools. You can also check the harware vendor's Website to ensure you're using the latest Windows Vista-certified driver for your equipment.
» Does Your Software Speak Vista?
Your existing hardware's compatibility with Vista isn't the only factor you need to consider when upgrading to Windows Vista, as not all software will work in Microsoft's new operating system. Microsoft has created two logos to help customers identify whether an app will work under Vista or not.
An app that carries the Certified for Windows Vista logo has passed a rigorous testing program on computers that are running Windows Vista that focuses on four core areas: reliability, security, compatibility with Windows Vista and future operating systems, and installation and removal.
The Works with Windows Vista logo applies to a less stringent certification program and is used for existing software programs that have met Microsoft's guidelines for Windows Vista compatibility.
Microsoft has an extensive list of applications that have earned either the Certified for Windows Vista or Works with Windows Vista logo available on this Vista Software compatibility page.
» Want More from Vista?
Windows Vista development didn't cease with the operating system's mainstream release on January 30th. The Vista team continues to refine and optimize the operating system as well as release new features and Vista-specific tools. Many of these updates, security patches, and bug fixes will be downloaded and updated automatically via Windows Update, but some of the add-on tools and Vista-enabled software need to be downloaded separately.
Microsoft's Windows Vista Team Blog is the first place to look for continued Vista developments and new technology and software releases such as Sliverlight and Windows Media Player on Firefox.
This article was first published on WinPlanet.com.