Windows Vista forum

General discussion

READ ME: Vista Tips and Guides...

by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 11:47 AM PDT

Welcome current and potential Windows Vista users!

If you are new to this forum, grab your favorite drink, pull up a chair, put your feet up, and take the time to read on. This thread was designed for you to make your life easier, and we aim to please. Happy

Step 1: Have a look-see at the tips and tricks posted below. You may just get lucky and find a ready-made answer to your question.

Step 2: Use CNET's Forum Search feature?your question may have already been asked, making for an easy answer.

Step 3: Don?t overlook the power of the Windows Vista product page. There you?ll find version comparisons, summaries of the new features, special downloads, and more.

Step 4: If you haven?t seen the answer you?re looking for, click here to post your question as a new thread. Be sure to include as much information as possible, including the version of Windows Vista. (Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, etc.)

Step 5: If you have a valuable tip you would like to have added to this thread or you spot a discrepancy, feel free to PM me or another moderator for this forum.

Well, that?s it! Get out there, play by the rules, and have fun! Cool

John

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Installing Vista from the ISO...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 11:58 AM PDT

If you have downloaded the Windows Vista ISO but do not have a DVD burner or you are having problems with faulty burns/installations, you can use the following method to install Vista directly from the ISO, without having to burn a DVD.

1.) Click here to download Daemon Tools, a free virtual cd/dvd-rom emulator.

2.) During installation please uncheck ''DAEMON Tools Search Bar''...it is adware that is installed by default unless told otherwise. If you uncheck this option no adware will be installed.

3.) You should now see a red 'lightning bolt' icon in your system tray...right-click it and go Virtual CD/DVD-ROM->Device 0: [D:] No media->Mount image.

4.) In the file chooser browse and select the Vista ISO and click OK.

5.) Open up My Computer and you should see the new virtual drive present. Double-click that to launch the Vista installer.

6.) When the installer launches click ''Install now'' and follow the on-screen prompts to install Vista.

7.) After you are done installing Vista you should unmount the image the same way it was mounted.


NOTES:
1.) This is only applicable if you are upgrading from Windows XP or are installing Vista on a secondary partition.
2.) Yes, this will work for most software in ISO form, not just Windows Vista.
3.) Use of this software, due to its nature, may be illegal in certain countries. Please follow local law as applicable.

John

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Creating a dual-boot setup...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:09 PM PDT

The tip which previously resided at this location, guiding readers through the process of installing Windows Vista into a dual-boot setup alongside an existing installation of Windows XP, has been transformed into a more comprehensive Cnet Tips & Tricks online course, which can be found by clicking here. During periods while the course is in session questions may be directed to the designated Class Leader on the Classroom Discussion board, but the forums remain available to address any questions you may have as well.

For those of you owning a computer with Windows Vista preinstalled and looking to dual-boot with Windows XP, the process is more or less the same but with three important notes:

1.) Many have found the need to enter their system BIOS and disable SATA/RAID support, if such an option exists, in order for the Windows XP installer to correctly recognize the hard drive and successfully install Windows XP. Motherboard drivers, available from the manufacturer, may also be needed during installation.

2.) Most manufacturers are not offering XP-compatible drivers for computers with Vista preinstalled, so you are on your own to track down drivers for older but similar models. You can also check the manufacturerʼs website for each individual component (graphics card, sound card, etc) using the information obtained by the free application Everest.

3.) Installing a previous version of Windows after Windows Vista will cause Vista to become temporarily unbootable, leaving you with access to Windows XP only. To resolve this problem you must follow the instructions found in Microsoft KB919529 or, alternatively, use VistaBootPRO to reinstall the Windows Boot Manager.

John

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Removing Vista from a dual-boot setup...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:12 PM PDT

Windows Vista introduces the new Windows Boot Manager as opposed to the NT Loader of Windows 2000/XP/Server 2003 and utilizes a BCD store instead of boot.ini. In this case what matters is that you need to remove the new WBM so that your computer stops looking for Vista after it has been removed from your dual-boot computer. To do this:

1.) Boot to either Windows Vista or the earlier version of Windows.
2a.) If in Windows XP or earlier: Go Start->Run, type in cmd, and press enter.
2b.) If in Windows Vista: Click Start, click Accessories, right-click the command-prompt shortcut, and then click Run as Administrator.
3.) In the command prompt type in: Drive:\Boot\Bootsect.exe ?NT52 All (including the two spaces), where "Drive" is the drive letter where the Vista DVD is located or the Vista ISO has been mounted.
4.) Reboot your computer.
5.) Open My Computer, right-click the drive that contains Vista, and select Format.
6.) You can now use this partition for extra storage or use partitioning software (such as Partition Magic) to merge that partition with another one.

NOTES:
1.) This can ONLY be done if Vista is NOT the primary operating system (ie Vista is on the first partition, usually designated C:\). If Vista IS the primary operating system and you delete the Vista partition then you will also be deleting the boot files for the other installations of Windows, making your computer unbootable!

2.) If you have two installations of Vista, you do NOT want to remove Windows Boot Manager. Instead you want to modify the BCD store and skip ahead to step #5. However, Note #1 still applies...you cannot remove that installation of Vista if it is the primary OS.

John

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Problems after installing/repairing a previous version...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:14 PM PDT

If you perform a repair installation on a previous version of Windows or you install a previous version of Windows on a computer that already has Windows Vista installed, Vista will no longer boot or you will receive a Disk Read Error. This is a known issue, which can be resolved by clicking here for instructions from the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

John

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Boot Managers?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:30 AM PDT

Unlike Windows 2000/XP, Vista does not use the boot.ini file for determining boot order or enabling boot options. Instead, it uses a new Windows Boot Manager and the ?BCD store.? Vista does not provide an easy way to manipulate this, but you can use the free third-party boot managers VistaBootPRO or EasyBCD. With those applications you can safely edit the boot process for any Vista installations, and also designate a ?previous version of Windows? to be the primary OS.

NOTE: In a dual-boot system, the BCD store is used for all Vista-based OSes while boot.ini is used for legacy versions. The new Windows Boot Manager will be run first, and then the old NT Loader will be launched if a previous version is to be booted.

John

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Pricing and requirements...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:19 PM PDT
Requirements:

For basic operation you must have at least:
* An 800MHz processor.
* 512MB of RAM.
* A 20GB hard drive with 15GB free space.
* A graphics card that supports DirectX 9.

The recommended minimum specifications are:
* A 1GHz processor.
* 1GB of RAM.
* A 40GB hard drive with 15GB free space.
* A graphics card that supports DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver.
* 128MB dedicated memory for the graphics card.

Note that if your graphics card is not supported then you will not be able to run the new Aero interface (including some animations and the Glass look) and some included software, such as the DVD creator, will refuse to launch. If you are questioning whether or not your graphics card is supported check with the manufacturer's website...most have lists of supported cards.

To find out if you meet the requirements to use the various features and display the advanced graphics of Windows Vista, it is highly recommended that you click here to download and run the Vista Upgrade Advisor first. (Requires Windows XP.) You can also click here for a similar online test from ATI.

========================================================

Official Vista Pricing:

Full Retail:
* XP Home w/ SP2: $199
* Vista Home Basic: $199
* Vista Home Premium: $239
* Vista Business: $299
* XP Pro. w/ SP2: $299
* Vista Ultimate: $399

Upgrades:
* XP Home w/ SP2: $99
* Vista Home Basic: $99
* Vista Home Premium: $159
* XP Pro. w/ SP2: $199
* Vista Business: $199
* Vista Ultimate: $259

Those who already own a license to a copy of Vista can purchase additional licenses by purchasing the associated License Pack, which costs an average of $20 less than the above listings.

Also for comparison, equivalences are:
Windows Vista Home Basic = Windows XP Home
Windows Vista Home Premium = Windows XP Media Center Edition
Windows Vista Business = Windows XP Professional
Windows Vista Ultimate = No matching SKU

========================================================

Who is eligible for the upgrade?

* Only those running Windows 2000 or XP are eligible for upgrade editions of Windows Vista.
* Those running older versions of Windows must pay the full price for a retail or OEM copy and perform a clean installation.

In addition:
* Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional x64 edition users, while eligible for the upgrade, must perform a clean installation of Windows Vista when the time comes.
* Windows XP Professional, Media Center, and Tablet PC users are restricted as to which editions of Vista they can upgrade to without performing a clean installation.

For the full upgrade compatibility/eligibility chart from Microsoft, click here.

John
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Software and Hardware Compatibility...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:24 PM PDT

One of the most prominent challenges for users will be finding/identifying compatible software. Most software that worked with Windows XP will also work with Vista, though there are exceptions, particularly when it comes to security software. No list can be comprehensive and the lack of an 'edit' option to keep potential charts updated here in the Cnet forums certainly does not help matters. With that in mind, I suggest clicking here to review a wiki that has been dedicated to the topic. It contains a vast list of software that has been tested (unofficially, by other users) on Vista and determined to be compatible, incompatible, or somewhere in between. A similar wiki exists for hardware that's been tested with Windows Vista...click here. If you have hardware or software that you have tested with Windows Vista and is not listed I encourage you to add it to the list so that others may benefit from that knowledge. You must register to update the list, but registration is free. In addition to those two wikis, Microsoft recently compiled their own list, which can be found by clicking here

Aside from that, keep in mind that some software that fails to install or run on Windows Vista can be dealt with in one of two ways:

1.) Use Compatibility Mode. Vista is designed to enter Compatibility Mode automatically for programs it detects are designed for a previous version of Windows, but, like in Windows XP, it can be enabled manually. To manually enable Compatibility Mode, right-click the program, select Properties, and select the Compatibility tab. You can then enable Compatibility Mode for that program and select a previous version of Windows from the drop-down menu, among other options.

2.) Make sure you check back to the author's website for updated versions, patches, and drivers that enable Windows Vista compatibility. Not all software will be made compatible, but in the months after Vista's release you should see a dramatic increase in support by third-party vendors.

If you have a specific question about hardware or software compatibility feel free to start a new thread, but please check the above lists first.

John

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ReadyBoost...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:26 PM PDT

In Windows XP you have two sources of memory:

1.) Physical RAM: It's the sticks of memory you insert into your computer.

2.) Virtual Memory: Also known as a swap file or paging file, it's a file on your computer's hard drive that acts like RAM. It can pick up the slack when there is a lack of RAM, usually holding data that is accessed less often. The downside is that it's incredibly slow compared to RAM, resulting in a drop in performance the more it must be used. In addition, Windows and various software may refuse to install or run if you do not have enough physical RAM.

Now, with the new ReadyBoost technology in Windows Vista you have a third option...flash memory. (Including USB 2.0 flash drives and memory cards such as SD, CF, etc.) It's considered the middle of the road option because it is still slower than physical RAM but at the same time usually much faster than reading from and writing to the hard drive. It cannot be used as a complete substitute to physical RAM, but it can be used to give you a boost in speed over relying heavily on the paging file alone.

NOTES:
1.) Regardless of whether you use ReadyBoost or not, you still need at least 512MB RAM to run Windows Vista decently.
2.) ReadyBoost is an option on the AutoPlay menu whenever you insert a compatible device.
3.) If ReadyBoost returns an error message stating that you cannot use it on that drive it means that either the drive or your computer does not support the transfer rates required by ReadyBoost.

John

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Problems with Roxio/Sonic DLA...
by John.Wilkinson / March 17, 2007 12:43 PM PDT

The program DLA (Drive Letter Access), part of several Roxio CD/DVD burning products and preinstalled on most new computers under the original Sonic brand name, has known compatibility issues with Windows Vista. If you are receiving error messages in regards to Roxio/Sonic DLA, you can download a patch from Dell by clicking here or directly from Roxio by clicking here. If DLA was supplied by another manufacturer, be sure to check their website for updates.

John

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Disabling Unnecessary Programs?
by John.Wilkinson / April 20, 2007 10:35 AM PDT

As you may have noticed, Windows Vista requires more memory than its predecessors, resulting in a decrease in overall performance, particularly if you have less than 1GB of RAM. To alleviate some of the pressure, you can disable unnecessary programs and processes.

1.) Look in the Notification Area next to the system clock for icons of currently running programs. In most cases you can right-click each icon for information about the program, adjust its settings, and exit the application. Close any programs that you are not actively using.

2.) Press Windows + R, type in msconfig, and press Enter. Select the Startup tab, and then uncheck the box next to any application you do not need/want to run automatically when you start your computer. If you have a question about a particular listing, feel free to ask. When you?re done, click OK and reboot your computer. You will be notified you are running in ?Selective Startup? mode. Tell it not to remind you again and click OK.

3.) Press Windows + R, type in services.msc, and press Enter. These services are used by various installed programs and Windows itself, but not all are necessary and disabling some can have significant benefits. Just right-click the service, select Properties, and select the setting that suits your needs best. To help discern which are safe to disable, click here. Please keep in mind, though, that while a service may be ?safe? to disable you may have features enabled that rely on it to function. Thus, it is best to only disable a couple at a time, then reboot and wait to ensure no problems arise. And, as always, make notes as to what services you disabled, just in case.

4.) If at any time performance seems to suddenly drop, you can see what is happening by pressing ctrl + shift + Esc to launch the Task Manager, then selecting the Performance tab. You can also see how much RAM and CPU processing time each process is using by selecting the Processes tab, and even terminate the process if you need.

5.) If you are low on system RAM and looking to further increase system performance, you may want to consider using ReadyBoost. Just know that it is not a cure-all solution, as noted here.

John

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Reverting to Windows XP?
by John.Wilkinson / May 14, 2007 3:20 PM PDT

Given the number of people looking to remove Vista from their systems, I would like to offer a few notes:

1.) Microsoft does not support ?downgrading? Windows, so if you wish to revert to Windows XP you must format the drive, which means you will lose all personal files and settings. Please back everything up before reverting.

2.) Most manufacturers are no longer shipping recovery system CDs/DVDs with new computers, so if Vista was preinstalled I would strongly recommend burning the CDs/DVDs yourself from the hidden partition the manufacturer created on your hard drive. To do this you should find an option in the Start Menu along the lines of ?burning system restore discs.? Without these discs you will be unable to reinstall Vista at a later date, if you so choose.

3.) Many people have reported being unable to install XP on the same drive/partition as the current Vista installation. If you find yourself unable to reformat or delete the partition using the XP CD, you can use the free utility DBAN to wipe your hard drive and give you a clean start. If creating a bootable floppy or flash drive, please note that you need to run the executable you download in order to create the bootable disk?you cannot simply copy the .EXE onto the disk. On the other hand, if you are creating a bootable CD/DVD please note that you must burn the ISO as an image file, not just as a data file.

4.) If Vista was preinstalled understand that the computer manufacturer most likely will not support your installation of XP, meaning they will neither provide full technical support nor provide all of the required drivers. Make sure such drivers are available from the third-party manufacturers (ATI, Nvidia, Realtek, C-Media, Lucent, etc) before reverting to XP.

5.) Please note that if you have an OEM copy of Windows XP from another computer you can not install it on your new computer. OEM and otherwise preinstalled copies of Windows are tied to the specific computer and cannot be legally moved. You can only transfer the license to the new computer if it was a full retail copy.

6.) You may also consider dual-booting Vista with another operating system, such as Windows XP, letting you switch back and forth between the two at will. Have a look at the above tips to get started.

If you have any additional questions concerning reverting to a previous version of Windows feel free to ask.
John

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OEM and Pre-Installed Copies?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:25 AM PDT

While the following is certainly not unique to Windows Vista, this should help shed some light on the topic for those unfamiliar.

For the Purchaser/Installer:

1.) A recent change in the Windows OEM System Builder licensing agreement stipulates that you may only purchase/install an OEM Windows license on a computer you are building yourself for sale to an unrelated third party. Purchase/installation for yourself, a friend, or a family member is prohibited.

2.) OEM licenses cannot be transferred to another computer and all motherboard replacements must be for both the same make and model.

3.) You are obligated to provide all support to the end user. Microsoft does not provide support to end users for OEM licenses, with few exceptions.

4.) OEM licenses may only be purchased for a new system build, not to upgrade an operating system on an existing system.

You should consider your role in the computer development process, your provision of technical support, and the end user?s intended length of ownership of the computer in the decision-making process. The lower cost of OEM licenses may not be worth it.

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For the End User:

1.) The system builder/manufacturer, not Microsoft, is responsible for providing all technical support. Only a few exceptions apply, such as when troubleshooting a Windows Update issue.

2.) You cannot install that copy of Windows, or use that license/product key on any other computer, even if the original computer is no longer in use/existence. In addition, you may only replace the motherboard with one of the exact same model.

3.) It is strongly advised that you burn a set of ?system recovery? CDs/DVDs as soon as possible if the system builder/manufacturer did not provide a set with the computer. (Most have not for a few years now.) You should find the option to burn them in the Start Menu, usually under the Accessories or a ?manufacturer?s tools? section.

4.) If you did not burn a set of recovery CDs/DVDs, you can usually order them from the system builder/manufacturer for a nominal fee. However, they are only kept in stock for the computer?s lifecycle, so none may be available more than a year after purchase.

5.) You cannot use a friend?s recovery CDs/DVDs or retail Windows DVD to repair or reinstall Windows on your computer unless the discs are for the same system builder/manufacturer and make/model of computer.

John

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Where has my disk space gone?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:27 AM PDT

Here are the top consumers of disk space and what you can do about it:

1.) After extraction, Vista itself can take over 5GB for a clean installation, and upwards of 10GB if it is a pre-installed copy from the manufacturer. This is normal.

2.) If you are upgrading from a previous version or installing another copy of Windows on the same partition, look for a WINDOWS.OLD folder in the local drive. (Usually C:\) That will contain previously-installed programs, documents, etc. that had to be moved for the installation. Copy out what you need/want and delete the rest.

3.) System Restore can reserve a considerable amount of space (up to 15% of the drive?s capacity) for saving restore points, particularly if your copy of Vista supports Shadow Copies. Unlike with XP, there is no easy slider option to adjust the maximum space used, but you can still do so using the command line. (Press Windows + R and type in cmd followed by pressing enter.) When the command prompt appears, type in the following, entering the correct drive letters and intended size: vssadmin resize shadowstorage /For=C: /On=C: /MaxSize=5GB (this is just an example).

4.) IBM and Lenovo include a feature called Rescue and Recovery, which automatically backs up key files similarly to System Restore. While this is designed to protect you from data loss it can take up considerable space on your hard drive, in excess of 50GB in some cases. If this proves to be problematic you can disable the feature by accessing the ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery utility and unchecking the "Schedule Your Backups" box under Set Schedule and Preferences. You can then recover the lost space by going into the Advanced preferences and using the "Delete Backups" option. A special thanks to rimb1172 for bringing this issue to our attention.

5.) The Recycle Bin can take up space as well, so right-click it, select Properties, and adjust the permitted capacity as needed.

6.) The system paging file (also known as Virtual Memory or the ?swap? file) also takes up space on the hard disk, though it is recommended that you let Windows continue to manage it as it sees fit. Restricting it can reduce system performance and cause ?virtual memory? error messages.

7.) A lesser-known fact is that there are two different definitions of the terms megabyte, gigabyte, etc. In short, hard drive manufacturers say 1GB is equal to 10^9 bytes, whereas Windows is based on the idea that 1GB equals 2^30 bytes (technically a gibibyte, not a gigabyte). Thus, a 100GB hard drive will be reported as being 93GB by Windows. You were not cheated, it?s simply a difference in definition.

8.) Last, but certainly not least, personal files, downloads, etc. can take up hundreds of GBs. To identify the areas in which most of the space is being used I suggest the free program TreeSize. With a few clicks you should be able to find the source, and delete it if you desire.

John

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Outlook Express? evolution?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:28 AM PDT

Since Windows 95, Outlook Express has been a staple in the world of e-mail clients. With Vista, however, Microsoft has signaled the end of the OE era, replacing it with Windows Mail. Lacking the flexibility and interoperability of Outlook Express, Windows Mail is actually intended to be just a placeholder until Windows Live Mail desktop (currently in beta) is released. WLM has been designed as the ultimate successor to Outlook Express for both Windows Vista and Windows XP users.

Key features of Windows Live Mail include:
* Redesigned interface characteristic of Vista and IE7.
* In-line spell checking without the need for Microsoft Office.
* Native support for POP3, IMAP, and HTTP accounts such as Hotmail.
* Built-in support for RSS feeds.
* Individual storage of messages and contacts instead of utilizing a unified database.

If you wish, you can download the beta now by clicking here, or hold off until it is officially released. Please note, though, that for the time being the e-mail client displays viewer-targeted advertisements along the right-hand column. That is expected to be omitted in the final release.

When installing you will be prompted to import mail and contacts from your current e-mail client. If you would like to do so at a later date, or you are attempting to transition from one computer to another, you can use the Import/Export options available through the File menu in Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail desktop. (For the latter just press the alt key to display the menu bar.)

John

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Performing regular maintenance?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:29 AM PDT

1.) Uninstall any unnecessary programs using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.

2.) Delete any unnecessary files. CCleaner provides an easy, free way of quickly finding and deleting most of the unnecessary temporary and junk files on your computer, recovering disk space for future use.

3.) Run Disk Cleanup (press ctrl + r and type in cleanmgr.exe) to remove additional files that are no longer necessary. This includes memory dumps and old System Restore points.

4.) Run a registry cleaner. While there is no real performance benefit on modern systems, those who prefer can use a registry cleaner such as RegSeeker to delete obsolete entries. Keep in mind, though, that registry cleaners may delete required entries that could potentially cause programs to malfunction. The highly-touted Registry Mechanic is one example of this. Thus, you should always use the program?s option to backup the registry before proceeding.

5.) Defragment the hard drive. Some may dispute the value of defragmentation, but I strongly recommend performing an analysis weekly and defragmenting if it is suggested. Doing so, as needed, will decrease the time needed to search for and open files on the slowest component of your computer.

6.) Perform a virus and spyware scan. Real-time protection is great, but a weekly scan of your hard drive is more or less necessary in a time when destruction of another person?s data is considered ?recreation? for some gifted, but misdirected, individuals.

7.) Backup your important files. I cannot stress this enough. The Vista Backup and Restore Center, available through the Control Panel, makes protecting your files easy, and the free Microsoft ?powertoy? SyncToy gives those looking to backup just selected directories no excuse. Accidental deletions, malware, hardware failure, and theft demand such precautionary measures.

John

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Moving to a new computer?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:30 AM PDT

If you are moving to a new computer, I highly recommend reviewing this overview of the new Vista Easy Transfer, the replacement to Windows XP?s File and Settings Transfer Wizard. It should enable you to quickly and easily transfer most, if not all, of your personal files and settings over to your new computer. For those that are not transferred, you?ll need to look for an Import/Export option (usually in the File menu of the particular program) or transfer the files over yourself. Please remember that this does not transfer programs from one computer to the next, so you?ll still need to install them from scratch first.

John

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Top FREE Security Software?
by John.Wilkinson / May 20, 2007 8:32 AM PDT
Firewalls:
* Jetico Personal Firewall 2.0
* PC Tools Firewall (32-bit only)
* Sphinx Vista Firewall
* ZoneAlarm 7.1 (32-bit only)
* Comodo Professional 3.0

Antivirus:
* Avast Home Edition
* AVG FREE
* Avira AntiVir Personal
* PC Tools Free Edition

Miscellaneous:
* Ad-Aware 2007 Free
* AVG Antispyware
* Spyboy S&D
* Trend Micro?s HiJackThis (power tool)

Please note that the Windows Vista firewall, preinstalled, now offers two-way protection (unlike the Windows firewall in Windows XP), but it is still recommended that you choose a third-party firewall for better protection. Likewise in regards to Windows Defender, Microsoft?s preinstalled antispyware solution.

John
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Using third-party themes/styles?
by John.Wilkinson / June 17, 2007 7:27 AM PDT

As you have most likely discovered, Windows does not support the usage of third-party themes and styles, restricting you to those that developed by Microsoft. Namely, that limits you to Aero and ?Windows Classic,? based on the Windows 95/98/ME/2000 style. While Aero supports color changing, a great advancement over the three Windows XP Luna styles, it is still quite limited. Stardock?s WindowBlinds and StyleXP , both priced at $19.95, have remained the leading third-party applications designed to make using third-party themes and styles simple. The both have free trials, and you?re more than welcome to experiment with them.

For those of you who do not wish to pay for such an ability, though, I provide the following alternative solutions. First, try Vista Glazz (freeware) a try. It is designed to be a quick and simple ?click here? solution to enabling the usage of third-party themes while avoiding the cost and drag on system resources incurred by using the above-mentioned applications. It will work in most cases, is quite safe to use, and its changes can be undone by running the program again.
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You can also replace the three system files manually. Before continuing, however, please keep in mind that you do so at your own risk. As with Vista Glazz, all changes can be undone by simply reversing the process, but if you have any reservations I suggest exploring the above third-party applications.

That said:
1.) Login to an account with administrative credentials.
2.) Click here to download a ZIP archive containing the three files you need to replace, courtesy of anti-tgtsoft.com, and extract them.
3.) Browse to C:\Windows\System32, right-click shsvcs.dll, and select Properties.
4.) Select the Security tab, click the Advanced button, select the Owner tab, click the Edit button, select your username, and OK your way out.
5.) Rename shsvcs.dll to shsvcs.dll.OLD, then copy-and-paste the downloaded shsvcs.dll into C:\Windows\System32.
6.) Repeat steps 3-5 for themeui.dll and uxteme.dll.
7.) Restart the computer.

If the process fails you can download/install the free program Unlocker to assist you. Once it?s installed right-click each of the files to be replaced, select Unlocker, and then choose Unlock All followed by Kill Process. This will temporarily grant you the ability to rename and/or delete the file and replace it with the downloaded version.
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Once your theme files have been patched you can use just about any unsigned third-party theme you want, including those from DeviantArt. Just copy them to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes, then double-click the theme file and click OK to apply.

Please remember:
1.) Vista Glazz and the above manual patch do not enable you to use Window Blinds themes?you still need to purchase Window Blinds.
2.) Not all themes support Aero Glass, so you may want to check before downloading and applying the theme.

Enjoy! Happy
John

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Other *free* customizations?
by John.Wilkinson / June 17, 2007 8:05 AM PDT

1.) Change your logon screen/Welcome Screen with Stardock?s LogonStudio, a freeware program recently updated to support Windows Vista. Usage is fairly straight forward and free logon screens can be found by clicking here. (Please do not use Logon screens or the original LogonStudio designed for Windows XP.)

2.) Change your cursor on a per-user basis using another Stardock creation, CursorXP, which does indeed work with Windows Vista. Once installed you can download cursor packages by clicking here and apply them just by double-clicking the CurXPTheme file. Please note that CursorXP does not work with other cursor packages.

3.) Windows Sidebar Styler is an up-and-coming application that lets you skin the Windows Sidebar and enable additional support for various widgets/gadgets. There are not many skins to choose from yet, but be sure to watch for them as the project develops.

4.) If the Windows Sidebar isn?t enough for you, check out Yahoo! Widgets, formerly Konfabulator. Backed by a large group of volunteer developers, it boasts over 4,000 widgets to choose from. If you can?t find a widget that suits you, you really need to go outside more. Happy

5.) For Windows Vista Ultimate users only, Deskscapes is another free Stardock application that extends DreamScene?s abilities to create and display animated wallpapers. A collection of animated wallpapers is available here.

Enjoy! Happy
John

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32-bit vs 64-bit Overview...
by John.Wilkinson / October 26, 2008 4:58 AM PDT

As this question has been raised numerous times the following is a brief overview of Windows Vista 32-bit (x86) editions and Windows Vista 64-bit (x64) editions.

1.) System Requirements: In order to use a 64-bit operating system you must have a 64-bit processor. (Note: Most processors sold since 2007 are 64-bit.) However, if you do have a 64-bit processor you are not required to have a 64-bit operating system?you may choose to install/use a 32-bit operating system if you wish. Edge: 32-bit

2.) RAM Limitation: 32-bit operating systems are limited to 4GB of physical RAM, with only 3.2GB to 3.7GB being available for use depending on your exact hardware configuration. This is not a Windows- or Vista-specific limitation, but rather the 32-bit architecture. With a 64-bit edition this limit is greatly increased, to 8GB for Windows Vista Home Basic users, 16GB for Windows Vista Home Premium users, and 128GB for Windows Vista Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate users. Edge: 64-bit

3.) Software Compatibility: Not all software that ran under Windows XP will work with Windows Vista, so be consult the Windows Vista Compatibility Center and/or the program?s developer to ensure compatibility. However, 98% of all software which works with Vista x86 will also work with Vista x64 with no decrease in performance or reliability. The exceptions are applications which tightly integrate themselves with the operating system, such as antivirus/firewall software and Windows customization utilities. You will need to check the compatibility of these select applications individually with the applications? developers. Edge: 32-bit

4.) Driver Compatibility: Unlike with software compatibility, driver compatibility remains a significant issue. Many device manufacturers have not released 64-bit drivers for their devices, meaning many older (2006 and before) printers, scanners, cameras, MP3 players, etc, as well as some new ones, may not work correctly or at all under Vista x64 when they may work perfectly under Vista x86. Please check the manufacturer?s website for 64-bit drivers, and Vista compatibility in general, before purchasing the device or upgrading to Vista x64. Edge: 32-bit

5.) Performance: 64-bit computing is designed to offer an increase in performance, generally considered to be between 10% and 20%, for tasks which involve large amounts of computation, such as graphics editing, gaming, video encoding, etc. However, there is little to no benefit from using a 64-bit processor and 64-bit operating system unless the program is specifically optimized for 64-bit use. Thus, AutoCAD x64 would show a performance increase while Microsoft Office or Firefox would not. Edge: 64-bit

6.) License/Media: A retail copy of Windows Vista generally includes only an x86 DVD unless you purchase Vista Ultimate, which includes both. However, Microsoft will ship you a DVD containing either edition for the cost of shipping and handling. Further, note that a retail Windows Vista license works for both x86 and x64 editions, provided you?re only using the product key to activate one installation at any given time. This does not apply to pre-installed OEM copies of Windows Vista from HP, Dell, Sony, etc, which are governed by a different set of licensing restrictions. Edge: 32-bit

7.) Upgrading: Note that it is not possible to upgrade from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system, or to go in the reverse direction. Any change between the two would require you to backup all of your personal files, erase your hard drive?s partition, install your operating system and programs from scratch, and restore your files from that backup. You should consider this before the initial installation to avoid a tumultuous transition. Edge: None

Hope this helps,
John

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Vista USB. My USB device will not install on Windows Vista
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 12, 2009 10:18 PM PST

A few makers offer advice on what to do when USB devices stop being registered or installed on Vista.

Links:
http://www.kingston.com/support/USBFLASHDRIVES/faq/pcdt_20.asp
(copy below in case it vanishes)

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/926171 notes what to do if you see a reference to the MF.SYS driver (case does not matter in the driver name.)

Copy of the Kingston text.
"
There are several possible reasons why your DataTraveler is not installing on Windows Vista.

1. If the ?Add New Hardware? wizard is searching for device driver, point to Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository and enable ?Include subfolders? in the Browse window. If this fails, point to one of the subfolders within FileRepository:

FileRepository\usbstor.inf_...
FileRepository\disk.inf_...
FileRepository\volume.inf_...
FileRepository\wpdfs.inf_...

2. If the FileRepository location does not work, point to the following location: Windows\System32\Spool\Drivers and enable ?Include subfolders? in the Browse window.

3. Microsoft has released a hotfix for USB devices that Vista is unable to automatically detect. Click on the following link or copy and paste to your web browser for details: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/940199/en-us.

4. If the hotfix does not work, the usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files may be missing or corrupted.

4a. Insert the DataTraveler, if you receive a ?Found New Hardware? dialog box, click Cancel and unplug the DataTraveler.

4b. Go to (C:)>Windows>inf to confirm that the usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files are present. If missing, they may have been corrupt or deleted during Vista installation/ upgrade and therefore will not load. If the usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files are missing, do the following:

(4b) 1. Locate the latest usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files from Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\usbstor.inf
Note: There may be multiple usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files. Choose the most recently created file. To do this, sort the files by date.

(4b) 2. Copy the usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf files to Windows>inf.

(4b) 3. Reinsert the DataTraveler.

If the above instructions did not work, and/or the usbstor.inf and usbstor.pnf exist in Windows\Inf. Remove the drive and reinsert it and wait for the Found New Hardware dialog box. Select ?Locate and install driver software (recommended).? Click on the continue button for permission. Select ?Don?t search online.? Select ?I don?t have disc, show me other instructions.? Select ?my computer for driver software (advanced).? Browse the following locations for driver search (enable "Include subfolders" in the Browse window):

a) Windows\Inf
c) Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\
d) Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\usbstor.inf_...
e) Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\disk.inf_...
f) Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\volume.inf_...
g) Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\wpdfs.inf_...
h) Windows\System32\Spool\Drivers
"

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