My favorite Windows Vista tweaks

I just published part 1 of a monster how-to series over at ZDNet. It’s a compilation of my 10 favorite tweaks for Windows Vista. It’s a huge package, in two parts (five tweaks this week, the remaining five next week) with step-by-step instructions in a separate gallery of annotated screenshots.

Here’s a summary of what’s in 10 Top tweaks for Windows Vista, Part 1:

1. Get installed programs organized and up-to-date

The default format for the list of installed programs in Control Panel is a dull, gray list that matches its Windows XP predecessor. But with a few clicks, you can add a wealth of useful information (like current version numbers for every program in the list) and group entries in ways that are more useful.

2. Tweak the taskbar and desktop

The first thing I do with every new Windows system I set up is to make the taskbar taller. I also make desktop clutter vanish completely without losing access to files and shortcuts on the desktop. Here’s how.

3. Set up a smart, automated backup system

How often should you have to reinstall Windows? The correct answer is “Never.” Using built-in backup tools that are included with some Vista editions, you can save a system image that can be restored from disk – complete with drivers and your installed programs – in a fraction of the time it would take to reinstall.

4. Get fast access to common tasks

I constantly hear that some tasks in Windows Vista take too long, especially those that have to do with networking. Want one-click access to network settings and other useful tasks, complete with automatic keyboard shortcuts? Follow the step-by-step instructions.

5. Fine-tune Windows Explorer

Vista’s version of Windows Explorer is a radical reworking of the XP-style Explorer you know and probably don’t love. With three tweaks and a slightly adjusted mindset (hint: think of a modern airline’s hub-and-spoke model), you’ll find most file-management tasks significantly easier.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, feel free to ask in the comments here or in the TalkBack section there.

2 thoughts on “My favorite Windows Vista tweaks

  1. Ed:
    This is a fantastic list. I knew some of them but you showed me several I was unaware of. Furthermore, you demonstrate creativity and imagination in how you utilize the subtlety built into Vista. Microsoft should commission you to teach Vista to its 150,000,000 licensees.
    I am looking forward to the second set.

  2. Ed:

    Don’t forget that the task bar doesn’t have to stay at the bottom. On a new (admittedly inexpensive) laptop with a display resolution fixed at 1280×800, I’m finding the screen too wide and not tall enough.

    So I’ve pulled the task bar to the left side of the screen and widened it enough to see the clock decently. It probably takes up as much actual screen area, having gone from long and narrow to short and fat, but it’s now taking up area I’m happy to devote to it.

    Thanks for the great post, by the way. Awesome work!

    — Tim

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