Resources > Windows 7 Tips > Make Windows XP / Vista easier and faster to use

Make Windows XP / Vista easier and faster to use

In this article we show you the hidden secrets of Windows XP and Vista. You can find time-saving keyboard shortcuts, performance-enhancing techniques and tips to improve the look of Windows. Although these tips will not damage your PC, we recommend that you backup of all important files before it is too easy click the wrong button.

All references to Control Panel in XP assume the Classic View is being used. Check this now by opening the Start menu and selecting Control Panel ­ – a link at the top-left of the window will enable you to switch to Classic View, although if it is labelled ‘Switch to Category View’ you need take no further action.

Create a Flip 3D shortcut (Vista)
Pressing and holding two keys to activate Flip 3D can be fiddly. It’s far better to activate it via a desktop shortcut. To do this, right-click an empty part of the desktop and select New, then Shortcut. Now type RunDll32 DwmApi #105 and click Next, then give the shortcut a name. After clicking the shortcut you can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to move through the pages.

Close multiple Taskbar items (XP)
To close multiple folders and applications on the Taskbar items in one go, hold down the Control key while double-clicking on each one in turn. Now right-click one and select Close Group.

Recover System Restore disk space (XP)

If you are running low on the hard drive is possible to limit it, how much of the system used restore. Click Start, open Control Panel and then double-click the system icon. Choose “System restore” tab and use the slider to determine how much space can be used. If you a complete, regular disk backup routine have no need for system restore because you, you can completely turn it off.

Put a web shortcut in the Taskbar (Vista)
To open websites faster right-click an empty area of the Taskbar, select Toolbars and click the Address option. Now you can type website addresses here and Windows will open it in your web browser.

Bypass the Recycle Bin (XP and Vista)
To save disk space, hold down the Control key when pressing or clicking Delete. This means it will bypass the Recycle Bin and Windows can overwrite the space it occupies on the disk.

Control who can shut down your PC (XP)

To stop other household members from shutdown your PC from the login screen, click Start, click Control Panel, then Administrative Tools. Now double-click local security policy. In the window that appears, double-click local policies, then click Security options. On the right side, scroll down and double click on “shutdown: shut down the system allow to be shut down without logging”, and select “Disabled”.

Subdue your Sidebar (Vista)
If the Sidebar is a little overbearing, you can adjust the transparency of each gadget by right-clicking each in turn, selecting Opacity and choosing a percentage value.

Save time with your disc drive (XP)
To add a quick launch icon for your CD or DVD drive, open My Computer and drag the CD or DVD icon to the Quick Launch area of the Taskbar. This will enable you to view files waiting to be burned and even open the drive tray. You can create shortcuts to any other files and folders in the same way.

Use an XP-style file menu (Vista)
Vista’s Start menu looks impressive but some find the old XP version easier to use. To switch between the two, right-click the Start button and select Properties. Now choose either the Start Menu or Classic Start Menu option and click OK.

Speed up Start menu items (XP)
This tip is for confident users only. To eliminate the delay when clicking on the Start menu, click Start, select run and type regedit and press Enter. Double-click HKEY_CURRENT USER, then Control Panel and Desktop. In the right-hand section of the window, locate and double-click the MenuShowDelay entry. Enter ‘0’ as the value and restart.

Change Security Center warnings (Vista)
Windows Security Center helps ensure that your PC is safe from attack but its constant pop-up alerts can become annoying. To change these, type security center into the Start menu and press Enter. On the left, click ‘Change the way Security Center alerts me’ and then choose one of the three options.

Disable error reporting (XP)
To stop XP asking if it can send an error report when a program crashes, click Start, Control Panel and then System. Click the Error Reporting button at the bottom and you can enable or disable error report requests.

Turn off balloon tips (XP)
If you find the pop-up balloon tips in XP annoying, you can turn them off. We recommend you set a System Restore point first (click Start then All Programs, Accessories followed by System Tools and System Restore). Click Run then type regedit and press Enter. Now double-click the HKEY_CURRENT_USER entry and then, in turn, double-click Software, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion, Explorer and finally Advanced. Right-click anywhere in the right-hand side of the window and choose New, then DWORD and name it EnableBalloonTips. Double-click this new entry, type 0 in the ‘Value data’ field, click OK and then restart your PC.

Use keyboard shortcuts (Vista)

There are many keyboard shortcuts in Vista that help, accelerate the accomplish of everyday tasks. The sidebar is displayed by pressing the Windows key and the SPACEBAR (as long as it runs in the background), while the Windows and T key combination cycles through a live preview in the system tray terms. Can words in the Quick Launch section by you the Windows key and press the corresponding number (Windows and 1 to the first entry to start quick launch, and so on).

Add extra world clocks (Vista)
If you need to keep track of the time across the world, right-click the clock in the Notification Area and select ‘Adjust Date/Time’. Select the Additional Clocks tab and click one or both of the ‘Show this clock’ options. Choose the time zone for each and click OK. Hover over the clock and the new time zones will appear.

Check reliability (Vista)
Curious about how reliable Vista is on your PC? Type reliability and performance into the Start menu search box and press Enter. Under Monitoring Tools, select the Reliability Monitor option and you’ll see a calendar detailing when problems have occurred.

Get a detailed system health report (Vista)
Vista comes with a detailed report generator that tests your hardware and highlights potential problems. To run the report, click Start, type performance and information and press Enter. On the left, click ‘Advanced tools’ and then ‘Generate a system health report’. After a short wait, your report will appear.

Take quick screenshots (Vista)
There are plenty of third-party screenshot tools, but Vista has its own built in. Type snipping tool in the Start menu search box and press Enter. You can then take a screenshot of the entire screen or just a selection.

Activate voice recognition (Vista)
A vastly under-used component of Vista is its voice recognition. To give it a go, make sure you have a microphone attached and then click Start, type windows speech recognition and press Enter. You will now be taken through the setup process. Before you know it, you’ll be using voice instructions instead of your keyboard and mouse. It’s also very handy for dictating rather than typing text into documents.

Increase the font size (Vista)
If you have a high-resolution monitor, text may be very small. To increase the text size, right-click the desktop and select Personalize. On the left, click ‘Adjust font size (DPI)’ and either select the ‘Larger scale’ option or choose your own by clicking Custom DPI.

Disable fast user switching (XP)
By default, XP lets you switch user accounts without logging off, however this can slow down performance. To disable this feature, click Start, Control Panel then User Accounts. Select the ‘Change the way users log on and off’ option and then remove the tick from the ‘Use fast user switching’ box.

Rebuild the search index (Vista)
Vista’s built-in indexing tool that lets you perform super-quick searches can sometimes slow down or even stop working altogether. If this happens, click Start, type indexing options and then click Advanced. Now click the Rebuild button.

Operate the mouse via the keyboard (Vista)
In Vista the keyboard can take over the controls usually provided by a mouse. Click Start, then Control Panel. Double-click the Ease of Access Center option and click the ‘Make the mouse easier to use’ option. Now place a tick in the ‘Turn on mouse keys’ box and then click ‘Set up mouse keys’ to configure it.

Change the mouse scroll speed (Vista)
In order to change the speed of the scroll action on your mouse, click Start, type mouse and then press Enter. Now click the Wheel tab and change the number in the Vertical Scrolling section to adjust the scroll speed.

Change Recycle Bin size (XP)
By default, the Recycle Bin is able to take up to 10 per cent of your hard disk’s space, but if you have a large hard disk (more than 250GB, for example) this is probably unnecessary. To change how much space it’s able to use, right-click the Recycle Bin icon, select Properties and then use the slider to adjust the maximum size.

Reveal the Hibernate option (XP)
If you want to hibernate Windows instead of switching to Standby or shutting down, click Start, Turn Off Computer and then hold the Shift key. The Hibernate option will now temporarily replace Standby. Hibernation mode saves open documents to the hard disk and so is safer than Standby, which saves them to the memory.

Increase battery life (Vista)

You can increase battery life on your laptop by the processor utilization. Click Start, type power options enter and press. Choose to design the desired performance and click “Change plan settings” and then “change advanced power settings”. Double-click on ‘ processor power management “and then” maximum performance state “.” Choose a lower percentage boost battery life, but also limit performance.

Review the event log (Vista)
Vista keeps a record of all events that occur while it’s switched on. This lets you find out, for example, exactly when the battery in a laptop ran out or when a critical error occurred. To view the log, type event viewer into the Start menu search box, double-click Windows Logs and then click System. Further information on each entry can be obtained by double-clicking it.

Create a shortcut to abort shutdowns (Vista)
If a rogue application regularly tries to restart your PC, right-click the desktop, then select New, Shortcut. Enter shutdown.exe -a, click Next and give it a name. When your PC starts to shut down, double-click this shortcut to stop the process.

Open folders with single click (XP)
To speed up program and folder opening times, open My Computer and select Folder Options from the Tools menu. Under ‘Click items as follows’ select the single-click option.

Alter the Shutdown button (Vista)
To change the function of the Start menu’s Power button, click Start then type power options and press Enter. Under the currently running plan, click ‘Change plan settings’ and then select ‘change advanced power settings’. Open the ‘Power buttons and lid’ option and then ‘Start menu power button’. You can now choose between Sleep, Shutdown and Hibernate.

Give old software a chance to run (Vista)
If you’re having trouble running an old Windows program in Vista, right-click its .exe file and select Options. Click the Compatibility tab, place a tick in the ‘Run this program in compatibility mode for’ box and then select from the list of operating systems in the dropdown box. If you’re not sure where the program file is, right-click the shortcut you use to open it and select ‘Open file location’.

Turn off delete confirmation messages dialogue box (XP)
The confirmation dialogue box that appears when you delete a file might seem unnecessary, especially when you’ve got the Recycle Bin to help recover them. To stop it appearing, right-click Recycle Bin and deselect the ‘Display delete confirmation dialog’ option.

Customise folder settings (Vista)
Vista attempts to decide the best folder settings depending on the content stored within each one. However, you can override this by right-clicking the folder in question, selecting Properties and then clicking the Customize tab. Use the dropdown menu to choose the type of folder settings you want.

Check virtual memory (XP)

Virtual memory used hard disk space, improve performance, but it must be set correctly. Right click my computer, select properties and select Advanced tab. See the performance settings and you choose then “Advanced” tab. On the ground under virtual memory settings. Finally in the window that appears, make sure ‘ system managed size “is selected.”

Hide folders from the search index (Vista)
To make sure certain areas of your hard disk don’t get included in the Vista search index, type indexing options into the Start menu search box and press Enter. Now click the Modify button and use the directory tree to navigate to the folder you want to hide. When you locate it, remove the tick from the box to its left.

Add items to the Start menu (XP)
You can quickly add any file or folder to the Start menu by dragging it to the Start button, waiting for the Start window to pop up, and then finally dropping it into the top section of the menu.

Insert a timestamp in Notepad (XP & Vista)
This is a handy tip for those who often use the Notepad program. With the application open in either XP or Vista, pressing F5 will insert the current date and time; perfect for quickly logging phone messages and the like.

Obtain detailed system information (XP)
XP is able to display detailed information about your computer, including how long it has been switched on for. Click Start and then Run. Now type cmd and press Enter. In the resulting window, type systeminfo. After a short wait, detailed information relating to your PC will appear. Scroll up and you’ll see the System Up Time entry.

Defragment automatically (Vista)
Disk Defragmenter improves performance but it needs to be run regularly. Click Start, type defrag and press Enter. Make sure the ‘Run on a schedule’ box is ticked and then click Modify Schedule. You can now choose the exact time it should run as well as how often.

Maintain the wireless networks list (XP)
XP stores previously accessed wireless networks so you don’t have to enter login details in the future. To keep track of what networks it will automatically log on to, click Start then Network Connections. Right-click the wireless network entry and select Properties. You’ll now see a list of preferred networks. To delete one, highlight it and click Remove.

Resurrect desktop icons (XP)

If you find the workplace, missing your desktop documents “or” my network places it’s icon (or even all three), easily, they again. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, select properties and in my properties display that appears, select the Desktop tab. Click now customize button on the desktop and you’ll see boxes for all three desktop icons.

Change desktop icon size (Vista)
To quickly adjust the size of the icons on the Windows desktop, minimise all windows and then hold down the Control key. Now rotate your mouse’s scroll wheel to adjust the icon size.

Don’t forget your Windows password (XP)

If you’re worried about forgetting a your account, when you log on to your computer, insert a formatted USB flash drive and record the drive letter, XP ranks them. Next, click Start, Control Panel, and select “Accounts”. Click your user account, and then click the “password prevent” option on the left forgotten. XP will now help, save a copy of the password on the memory key (the password is encrypted, so it can be seen by other people, if the drive is lost). If you give XP provide an incorrect password when you next log in to your computer, it again using the memory key.

Manage Notification Area icons (Vista)
The Notification Area in the bottom-right hand corner of the Windows desktop can soon get cluttered. To organise it, right-click the Start button, click Properties and select the Notification Area tab. Click Customize and a list of all current icons will be displayed. For each one, click the Behaviour dropdown box to specify when it should be displayed.

Stop new programs being highlighted (XP)

XP showing new programs are installed on your computer in the start menu, but this may look messy. To disable this feature, click the start, select properties and then the start menu tab. Now click on “Customize” button next to the start menu option and select the Advanced tab. The second highlight option from above.

Re-order the Start menu’s program list alphabetically (XP)
As you install new programs, the list of programs in the Start menu can start to look messy. To get everything listed alphabetically, right-click anywhere within the Start menu’s program list and select ‘Sort by name’.

Control what games are played by children (Vista)
To prevent children playing inappropriate games, click Start, type parental controls and press Enter. Select the child’s user account and then click the Games option. Now click ‘Set game ratings’ and choose from the list of age limits.

Rename multiple files (XP and Vista)
To rename more than one file, highlight them all then right-click one and select Rename. Give it a name and the others will use the same name but with a unique number appended.

Control restart reminders after updates
If you don’t want regular reminders to restart your PC after an update, it’s easy to reconfigure in XP and Vista. However, it’s important to understand that not restarting immediately after a Windows, firewall or anti-virus security update may leave your PC vulnerable. You should create a System Restore point first. Click Start (then Run if using XP) and type gpedit.msc and press Enter.

In the section on the left side of the window, double-click Administrative Templates then double-click Windows Components. Now scroll down and click on Windows Update. A list of settings will appear on the right. Double-click the ‘No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic update installations’.

Select Enabled to prevent Windows from automatically restarting. Alternatively, return to the previous window and double-click ‘Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations’, click Enable and enter a time in seconds. When you next click ‘Restart later’, Windows will now wait this length of time before reminding you to restart.

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