Vista Hints and Tips
Don Bradbury offers some guidance to make life easier with Windows Vista...
User Account Control (UAC) is a security feature of Windows Vista, but its nagging requests for confirmation for so many actions means frustration for all who have to endure it dozens of times a day.
So much so, that many have been tempted to switch UAC off altogether, especially if they consider themselves adept with Windows operations and don't fear making a security slip-up. However, that's not a recommendation we are prepared to make here because of the arcane nature of the UAC security system (which we haven't space to go into here). However, if you want to switch it off it's easily done via the Control Panel: select User Accounts then click on 'Turn User Account Control On or Off' and make the selection.
Fortunately there is a way to keep the security aspects of UAC active while switching off the nag screens if you use Vista Basic or Home Premium.
For those who feel comfortable editing the Windows Registry (back it up first, and preferably do a full disk backup as well just to be sure), then click on the Vista Orb, type 'Regedit' to open the editor, and navigate down to HKEY_LOCAL-MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System.
Click on ConsentPromptBehaviourAdmin to select it, open MODIFY from the menus, and change the existing value 2 to 0 (ie zero).
Close Regedit from its menus with File/Exit, and thereafter you'll not see the UAC nags that have so far plagued your life. Check, if you like, that UAC is still switched on (see above).
Bear in mind, though, that making this move slightly increases the risk of someone on the computer making a security slip that the momentary mouse activity is intended to bring to mind before the move is made. If you're the only user, you may consider that OK.
Users of other versions of Vista should use Control Panel>Administration Tools>Local Security Policy>Local Policies>Security Options to gain access to this change. In 'UAC: Behaviour of the Elevation Prompt for administrators in Admin Approval Mode', double-click it and set the menu to 'Elevate without Prompting'.
Resurrecting Hibernate Mode
A computer's Hibernate mode is useful because, unlike shut-down, it writes your current system state to disk and maintains it there while using minimal power, so when you restart, not only is the current state of your system fully restored, it's up and running in a fraction of the time that's required for a full system boot. Vista is notoriously slow at that because of all the services and other startup options it performs by default.
But if you ever fall into the trap of letting Vista clean up your system automatically and inadvertently include the 'Hibernate Temporary Files' option, you won't be able to select the Hibernate mode thereafter from Vista's shut-down options. Annoying, but there it is. It's best to permanently exclude that option during cleanup if you routinely use Hibernate mode. Fortunately, once set, Vista remembers the setting.
Select the Performance Information and Tools option from the Control Panel and then select Open Disk Cleanup. Let Vista determine how much disk space you can recover in this automatic mode, and make sure the Hibernate option is deselected before you give the cleanup go ahead.
If you forget, selecting (clicking on) the Hibernation File Cleaner option to highlight it will give you an explanation of what the option does, but if you ever forget, and you regularly use the Hibernate mode, this is what you should do to get the Hibernate option back.
Left-click on Start, type 'CMD' (without the quotes) and press the Enter key.
Right-click on CMD in the search results list above, select 'Run As Administrator', and click 'Continue' in UAC.
Type 'powercfg.exe/hibernate on' (without the quotes) and press the Enter key.
Type 'Exit', and close the Window.
Hibernate mode should now be available for selection in the power options and you'll save yourself uncounted hours from not having to wait for full system starts.
Bear in mind, though, that making full reboots now and then is a recommended move because Hibernation leaves behind a certain amount of junk from previous operations that a full reboot would clear.
Good gadget - Control System With Search
Vista is nothing if not a security conscious Operating System. It has taken Windows' caring for your system to new levels, but in several areas only at the expense of requiring multi-keystrokes that, as we said, frustrate some PC users.
So any way that you can operate with a reduction in the required number of keystrokes is to be welcomed. But these are not always accessed via deep probes into the system, the Vista Gadgets Sidebar is a welcome addition that lets you put useful utilities in place that are nicely to hand in a trice.
One we have particularly come to appreciate having is the 'Control System With Search' gadget. Its principal function is to place the Vista shortcuts for Shut Down, Hibernate, Log Off, StandBy, and system Restart with a single mouse click, and that's surprisingly handy when you're in a hurry.
This little Gadget has other functions you might appreciate having, too. Besides a digital clock, usefully incorporating a seconds counter - few things make a system appear more live that an active counter of any sort - it also features a Google search bar.
Just type whatever you are looking for into the search bar and either click on the magnifying glass icon or hit the Enter key. Your Web Browser is fired up with the search finds listed as usual, supplemented by a couple of potentially useful adverts.
There's a Lock On/Off switch at the bottom of the Gadget which slides a translucent cover over the five function keys as a security measure for those with twitchy fingers, otherwise leave the function icons uncovered.
But therein lies our only complaint with this gadget. After a hibernation, as you hover the mouse over one of the function icons, there should be a prompt to remind you of the function, should you need it (we don't think you will). We find that the prompt isn't shown from restart until you slide the translucent cover over, by clicking on the bar, and then back again. Thereafter the prompt function works OK. It's a very minor grumble, and we wouldn't be without this useful little addition to our Sidebar.
Go to the online Gadgets Download Gallery by right clicking on the Sidebar, and then on Add Gadgets, locate the Tools and Utilities section and then the required Gadget (there's a simpler one with just the clock and system options but we think you'll appreciate the Google search facility), opt to download to the Windows Desktop, wait for the download to complete, and then double click the icon to install the Gadget. Drag it to whatever location on the Sidebar you want.
As far as personalising this Gadget goes, there's just the option to change the background colours. We think the overall black background looks swish, but you might decide to try blending with the Sidebar colours you've set.
Recovering Disk Space from System Restore
Windows Vista is also something of a resource hog. A classical case is with System Restore which, by default, grabs for itself a mind-blowing 15% of your precious disk capacity (it's 12% in XP). That's outrageous by any normal standard; 4 or 5% should be more than adequate for most people.
To recover that resource, open the Registry as before, scroll down to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE|Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SystemRestore\cfg.
Right click DiskPercent, select MODIFY from the menus, switch to the Decimal option, and type in 4 or whatever percentage you think appropriate. Close the Registry as before. You might then decide to clear out all the old Restore Points except the last one - which you wouldn't want to get rid of anyway.
Reducing Recycle Bin
This is another resource hog, but it's easily tamed by right clicking on the shortcut on the Windows Desktop, selecting Properties, and then typing in your chosen smaller number for the maximum size Recycle Bin is allowed to use.
A regularly cleaned out Recycle Bin should be a priority for Windows users. If it gets anywhere near to being full, it's way too big, but the capacity is hogged whatever the contents.