Why you need to be discriminating with those Vista tips

Chris Pirillo published his list of Top 10 Tweaks, Tips, and Tricks for Windows Vista last week. I just saw it today for the first time and have a couple of comments.

  • Tips 1 and 2 only work on Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions. If you have Home Basic or Home Premium, you don’t get the Group Policy Editor. It would have been nice of Chris to point that out. And I wouldn’t recommend either of these tweaks for 98% of the known universe.
  • Tip 3 is a pointer to a list of Group Policy settings. Again, these won’t work for you if you’re using Home Basic or Home Premium. So if you’re one of the majority of people who will be running Home Premium, don’t waste your time.
  • Tip 5 is potentially disastrous. Chris’s tip suggests that turning off Secure Desktop will “make the elevation prompts a bit less visually jarring.” Well, that’s true. Except that this change also makes them dramatically less secure. When you switch to Secure Desktop, the process is running in a new protected context that will only respond to local input. If you remove the Secure Desktop, you allow another process to interact with UAC. Basically, if you’re going to do this, you might as well just disable UAC completely, because you’ve gutted its protection. Fortunately, secpol.msc is yet another console app that is not available to Home Basic and Home Premium users, only Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate.
  • Tips 7 and 8 look familiar. Oh yes. Here’s more detail than you might want to know about Tip 7 and here’s a more detailed, illustrated explanation of Tip 8.
  • Tip 9, as Chris notes, applies to most 21st Century versions of Windows and isn’t Vista-specific at all.

So, four out of the 10 tips won’t work for the majority of Vista users running a Home edition, and a fifth isn’t Vista-specific.

Chris notes in his wrap-up: “If this list doesn’t make Lifehacker, nothing will.” It did. But Gina Trapani at Lifehacker did her own collection of Vista upgrade tips a week later, complete with illustrations. The Lifehacker tips collection is much more down-to-earth, and I’d recommend it for anyone just beginning to use Windows Vista.

However, Gina offers one piece of advice that I don’t agree with. She recommends that you disable UAC while you’re getting set up initially and installing programs. Not a good idea, as you’ll discover if you try it. User settings for some programs go in different places, depending on whether UAC is on or off. If you install with UAC off and then turn it back on, some of your programs might get confused.

Updated: What triggers those UAC prompts?

7 thoughts on “Why you need to be discriminating with those Vista tips

  1. Agreed about not disabling UAC. For one, you get an idea of where it does and doesn’t trigger off. I’ve left it on perpetually, and for regular work — mail, word processing, most file-copying, etc. — it never pops up.

  2. I find it amusing that so many people are willing to yell about Windows not being secure, but when Microsoft makes a change to increase security everybody scrambles to disable it. (I’m not claiming Chris is guilty of this, but I see a lot of it flying around these days)

    I turned off UAC for awhile as I’ve been running the RC and couldn’t tell if programs I was trying out were failing because of it or just Vista in general. It will be activated once I get the retail version up and running.

  3. While it’s not necessarily a tip on Vista, it’s a good idea to read the install notes for programs. Some say to install the program as an administrator. I believe a couple of the antivirus solutions required this. Maybe it’s changed now though.

  4. It has changed, David. In fact, with UAC on, you need to provide an administrator’s consent to install any program, regardless of whether UAC is on or off.

    But I agree that it is always a good idea to read the installation notes first.

  5. The UAC thing is entirely new with me, but I totally agree with Serdar. I also like to know what does and does not trigger it to pop up.

  6. Well, I guess what I meant was that you had to be an admin, and not a standard user. I thought at the time, trend micro required you to be an admin, not a standard user with an admin password to install their antivirus solution. I hope that made sense.

    Just as you comment, I wonder what impact moving one’s account back and forth between admin and standard user will have on programs. I’ve done it. I haven’t noticed to many ill effects, but then again I wouldn’t have attributed it to that.

  7. Right. The point is not, though, to learn what triggers UAC so that you can assiduously avoid it, but just to get an idea for what sorts of things are protected.

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