Top 10 Tweaks, Tips, and Tricks for Windows Vista

  1. If you’re annoyed by Internet Explorer’s incessant barking that you’ve lowered your security settings (like, if you’re a non-paranoid expert), launch “gpedit.msc” from either the Run command or Start Search field, navigate through Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Internet Explorer. In the rightmost pane, double-click “Turn off the Security Settings Check feature” and set it to Enabled.
  2. If Internet Explorer’s Information Bar also annoys you, you can turn it off (again) in the Group Policy Object Editor (gpedit.msc) through Local Computer Policy / Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Internet Explorer / Security Features. In the rightmost pane, double-click “Internet Explorer Processes” and set it to Disabled. Hallelujah!
  3. I’ve just mentioned two tweaks that are buried inside the Group Policy Editor. Jim Allchin pointed out that there’s a Group Policy Settings Reference spreadsheet available. Makes for great weekend reading.
  4. Read the Background on Backgrounds if you’re a performance junkie. Don’t set your wallpaper through Internet Explorer ever again! Now that Windows supports JPG wallpapers, there’s absolutely no need (or excuse) for using BMPs anymore.
  5. If you insist on keeping UAC (User Account Control) turned on for yourself, you might care to make the elevation prompts a bit less visually jarring. Brandon told me about this one, even though I have UAC turned off. Launch the Local Security Policy manager (secpol.msc), and navigate through Security Settings / Local Policies / Security Options. In the rightmost pane, scroll to the bottom and double-click “User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation.” Disable it, and you can keep UAC turned on without getting turned off by the embarrassingly craptacular Aero Basic theme.
  6. Vista can send you emails! The Computer Management tool can still be accessed by right-clicking “Computer” and selecting “Manage” from the menu. However, now you can attach a task to any event. Try navigating through System Tools / Event Viewer / Windows Logs / Application. Now, go ahead and select an event – then look to the rightmost pane and click “Attach Task to This Event.” Name it whatever, describe it however, click through the next step, then in the Action step, you’ll see the “Send an e-mail” option.
  7. 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.
  8. This one’s interesting. Open up the Date and Time Control Panel applet. Flip to the “Additional Clocks” tab. There, you can configure two more clocks from different time zones. They’ll appear in the tooltip when you hover over the Taskbar clock. No additional software (or silly sidebar widgets) necessary.
  9. Applicable in other versions of Windows, I’m going to throw it in here for good measure. Create a shortcut to RegSvr32.exe in your SendTo folder. To get there quickly, enter “shell:sendto” in the Run command dialog or Start Search field. Now, when you wanna register a DLL or OCX file with the system, you can select it/them and “Send To” the RegSvr32 shortcut.
  10. I figured I’d round out my first set of Windows Vista tips and tricks with a tiny bit of eye candy. It doesn’t beat Picasa, but the Windows Photo Gallery is better than nothing. Once it’s indexed all your photos, click the icon next to the Search field and turn on the “Table of Contents.” That’s kinda nifty.

If this list doesn’t make Lifehacker, nothing will.

118 thoughts on “Top 10 Tweaks, Tips, and Tricks for Windows Vista”

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  17. Chris,

    Awesome list of tips for Vista!

    Please keep them coming and please keep posting as much as possible about your issues with your transition to Vista. You are a respected authority on all things Microsoft and the community is benefited inmensely by what you share with us.

    See ya in Seattle in August!

  18. Excellent list of tips. I think you left out a small part on tip #2.

    After clicking on “Security Features” you need to click on “Information Bar” before you’ll find “Internet Explorer Processes”

  19. I think that the UAC prompts appear on the secure desktop for, um, security reasons. My understanding is that this prevents them from being the target of Shatter attacks, so that an attacker can’t automatically click the Allow button for you.

  20. Chris,

    Thanks again for your “new” links newsletter. As a long time reader of your advice and newletters, I can say, this is the best. Dale

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  22. Nice list of tips Chris, although I now disagree with #5.

    Although when using RC1 I previously switched off the Secure Desktop finding it too intrusive, I discovered there’s actually a very good reason NOT to recommend this to the average user. The reason for implementing it is that it is a very secure way to prevent malicious applications spoofing the dialogue window that requests elevation or even authorising itself, since only system processes (nothing run at the user level) are allowed on the Secure Desktop.

    Jim discusses this more depth on the UACBlog just below the last screenshot:

  23. My tip would be dont use it – based on current press reports it sounds just like every other microsoft first release – bloated and full of bugs

  24. Thanks for providing these tips, I purchased a new laptop yesterday that came loaded with Vista. These tips will definately come in handy.

  25. On the side at the top of your page you have a link to receive a free Windows Vista. Of course anything free is not and if it sounds too good to be true it is. I spent over 20 minutes filling out mind numbing forms, answering no to senseless offers only to find my self in a labyrinth of endless forms, never to reach the goal of the final offer.

    My question is this. Why would someone I trust as being reputable put such a link on your website? Now I can only imagine all the junk mail I am going to receive and I know I will never get the copy of Windows Vista.

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  28. Please at least allow your system settings to stabilize before you do something as stupid as disabling UAC. I am an extreme power user and a developer, and I do all sorts of evil things to my computers. Despite all of that I generally only hit 1 UAC prompt per day.

    UAC is tons more than just the prompts, please give it a chance. Do not rely on the carmudgeons who write blogs to get your information.

    On the opposite end of the user spectrum, I have talked to several home users who have purchased OEM machines with Vista preinstalled. For each of them, I have deliberately triggered a UAC prompt, and asked them if they had seen it in (some have had their computers for a week, others for months). Few of them had seen a prompt, and only then if they were installing one of their old applications.

  29. I just bought a laptop with vista and cant get the toggle function to work properly. I like switching between window/applications using alt+tab, I call this toggling. What am I doing wrong? This has worked on windows since the caveman days??

  30. I’ll apply this to my Windows 7 and test it out. I modified my UAC a bit but I think a better subtitiution for step 2 wold be “use Firefox”.

  31. I think someone should post this solution to the Information bar security check nag in Vista Home addition;

    Follow this string: HKLMSoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftInternet ExplorerSecurity
    Right click on security and select Creat new DWORD;
    Type “DisableSecuritySettingsCheck” without the quotes…
    Now Change the value to equal 1 instead of 0
    Problem gone.

    Seriously , none other solutions out here did as well as this one we hacked up here in our office, THIS IS A “No Exceptions” Information Bar dis-abler that roasted the nag from security for good.

  32. You can leave UAC on but it won’t be so jolting like your computer just had a heart attack whenever it starts to get a little bit worried.

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