The best ways to enhance performance and productivity with Windows are usually fairly simple. They don’t require registry edits or custom code; instead, they involve learning how the basic building blocks of Windows work, and then rearranging those components to cut steps out of the tasks you perform most often. Vista changed some of those building blocks, and many people are struggling because they’re trying to use the new tools with the old techniques. In that spirit, I’ve put together this list of my 10 favorite tweaks to Windows Vista. In Part 1 of a two-part series, I explain how to make the list of installed programs easier to work with and how to tweak the taskbar, the Start menu, the Quick Launch toolbar, and Windows Explorer. I also cover the most important time-saving technique for any user of any computer: how to create an easy, automatic backup routine that works.
The Ed Bott Report
Get outspoken insights and expert advice on the products and companies that define today's tech landscape, from a source who knows these technologies inside and out.
Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications.
Microsoft today announced that it has released a public beta version of Power Pack 1 for Windows Home Server. It’s more than a service pack, with at least two significant new features and a long list of enhancements. Forget about the new stuff, though. Every Windows Home Server user wants to know: Does this update fix the data corruption bug first uncovered late last year? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, and the delay was worth it. Here's an inside look at what you can expect from Power Pack 1 and how you can get your hands on it.
In previous installments of this series, I discussed the virtues of a clean Vista install, some useful User Account Control workarounds, top tools for troubleshooting, and the wisdom of shutting off Windows system services. Today’s fifth and final installment is a little different from its predecessors. It focuses not so much on fixing what might be broken, but rather on taking advantage of a feature in Windows Vista that has the potential to transform the way you work. Through the years, I’ve tried just about every third-party desktop search utility for Windows. But I threw them all away after a few weeks of using Vista’s built-in Windows Search capability. In this post, I’ll explain how Windows Search works, how to monitor the SearchIndexer service to avoid potential performance problems, and how to speed up indexing operations on the fly. I'll also point you to an update that every Windows Vista user should install right now.
Here we go again, with yet another round of bogus reporting about the extent of malware infections in the United States. A wide range of news agencies are reporting the results of a new report that supposedly reveals that one in four computers in the U.S. are infected with malware. But all it takes is a little digging to discover that this is literally a fourth-hand report of data originally gathered in 2005. The most ironic part? When I tried to view the original report from the Pew Internet project, Google stopped me with a false warning that I was about to visit an unsafe site.
The trouble with UAC isn't a single request for permission. Instead, what bothers most people is the second UAC prompt, and the third, and the fourth, and so on. was all prepared to lay out my modest proposal for how Microsoft should tweak UAC in Windows 7. And then I said, "Hey, wait a minute! I already did this." My four suggestions for easing the pain of UAC fell on deaf ears when I first published them more than two years ago. Maybe someone in Redmond is more willing to listen today.
If you troubleshoot Windows PCs for fun or profit, then chances are you've used one or more tools from Sysinternals. Microsoft bought the company and its amazing library of diagnostic and troubleshooting utilities in 2006, and the collection has been continually updated ever since. A few weeks ago, I ran into Sysinternals co-founder Mark Russinovich at a technical conference, where he told me about a new Sysinternals service that was in private beta testing. Today, I'm pleased to break the news that Sysinternals Live is now open to the public.
Our technical press, like the mainstream media, sometimes has a hard time letting go of an idea it's been pushing. That's true even when new facts show that the old story wasn't, strictly speaking, accurate. Or when facts on the ground have changed and maybe it's time to alert your readers to the new realities. Today's case in point: A magazine devoted to hardcore gamers and tech enthusiasts does a bunch of tests and proves that Windows Vista with SP1 is every bit as fast as XP, on identical hardware. So what do they do with the story? The answer would make my old J-school professors weep.
In one of his best columns ever, Bruce Schneier explains why some computer security companies can't help selling fear. The way we as humans respond to potential threats provides a powerful economic incentive for a security vendor to find something, anything, and then to make some noise about what it found. Not so much that you'll be annoyed, but just enough to let you know they're on the job. So how do you strike the right balance between a healthy understanding of the risks of using the Internet and bug-eyed paranoia? How many layers of security do you need?
My colleague Mary Jo Foley and I have our ears to the ground in Redmond, listening for news of Windows 7, and we're hearing ... nothing. If this were like previous Windows development cycles, we would have already been buried in hype and white papers, but new Windows boss Steven Sinofsky has imposed an information lockdown. Is that a bad thing? With Vista, Microsoft overpromised and underdelivered. Will a "talk less, ship more" philosophy produce a better product?
An Australian developer of Windows security software is making headlines with research that claims to Windows Vista's is Windows Vista is "still a long way from immunity to online threats." So, what operating system is invulnerable to malware? When did that become the criterion for success in security? The data is sketchy (to say the least) and the underlying argument is flawed. As long as crooks are trying to scam their way onto your PC, humans will occasionally make bad decisions about which software to install. Do you really want an OS that substitutes its judgment for yours and refuses to install a program you want or need?