Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hide Hard Disk Drive in Windows Vista

It is possible to hide a hard drive letter using Windows Vista, preventing it from showing up in applications and Windows Explorer. However, this will not prevent you from access files from it manually (by browsing directly to it by typing "D:" for example). This can be useful to hide files quickly and easily.

To being, load the Registry Editor from the run box (Press WINDOWS KEY + R to access this) by typing "regedit" and clicking OK:

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deleting Temporary Files in Windows Vista

Windows Vista includes a very useful "Disk Cleanup Tool" which does exactly as the name suggests, and allows you to remove a wide variety of temporary and cached files that you no longer need. Most applications will automatically remove the temporary files once you have closed the software down, but in some cases (such as crashes or bad programming), trails can be left behind. Removing these files will create extra diskspace and keep your system in good condition.

To begin, load the Run box by pressing WINDOWS KEY + R, then type "cleanmgr" and click OK:

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Select Multiple Files with Checkboxes in Windows Vista

There are many occasions when you will want to select multiple files in Windows Explorer view when the normal "drag and highlight" can't cope with the spread of files.

The usual method of selecting these multiple files is to hold down CTRL and then single click on each file you wish to select.

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Automatic Backups in Windows Vista

Windows Vista includes an option to back up documents, photos and several other file types automatically, on a schedule you select. However, you can't select to backup your entire PC on a regular basis by default.

If you have a NAS drive or 2nd hard drive, it would be ideal to be able to automatically backup your computer should the worse happen. Thankfully, you can use the command line interface and the "Task Scheduler" to create an automated backup solution without any other software. This will only work with Ultimate, Business or Enterprise editions of Vista in Administrator mode.

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Windows Vista Disk Manager

Windows XP came with a reasonable partition manager, however it didn't let you resize partitions like the new Vista version can do. The new options of shrink and extend allow you to resize active partitions, something that required 3rd party software until now.

To load this application, run compmgmt.msc from the command line and select Disk Management from the left hand menu.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Change Windows Vista Password

Most users will be required to log on to Windows Vista with a password each time they start their PC, allowing many different users to each have a unique login username and storage area.

If you wish to change your username at some point, go to the control panel by clicking the Start Menu and then Control Panel:

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Disable User Access Control in Windows Vista

Windows Vista introduced the User Access Control (UAC) feature to improve security for the end user, however if you are an experienced power-user it is quite likely that you find UAC extremely annoying.

Fortunately, disabling it is very straight forward (although I would not recommend doing this unless you are aware of the consequences).

First, load the MS config utility by typing "msconfig" in the run box (Press WINDOWS KEY + R to access this) then click OK:

Once MSConfig is loaded, click on the Tools menu then select Disable UAC in the menu then click OK:

This will then run a script to disable UAC, which requires a restart to complete. If you wish to re-enable UAC, simply repeat the above steps but click Enable UAC instead.

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Windows Vista Password Expired

You may find when using some editions of Windows Vista that your password expires and you are required to change it. This problem will keep re-occurring until you change your account profile to prevent password expiration.

To do this, start lusrmgr.msc from the run box (Press WINDOWS KEY + R to access this):

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Lock Windows Vista from Shortcut IconLock Windows Vista from Shortcut Icon

Locking Windows Vista is a good way to secure your PC when you leave your computer for a while (especially in an office environment). Normally you can lock Vista by clicking on the padlock icon on the start menu or by pressing WINDOWS KEY + L. However, you can easily add an icon to the desktop to perform this same task.

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Password Protect Folder in Windows Vista

Although Vista allows you to encrypt files and folders using the Windows file security system. However if you wish to protect your files, you will need to have a Business or Ultimate edition of Vista. You will not be prompted for a password each time you access the file, only when you log on to your user account. This user account has the decryption key associated with it, allowing you access to the data.

To begin, right click the folder you wish to encrypt and select Properties:

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Windows Vista Automatic Windows Logon

If you are the sole user of your computer it may be that you don't wish to log on with a password each time you turn your PC on. Although this could be a security risk if other people have access, plenty of people did this before Vista.

To disable the log on screen, run netplwiz from the command line to enter the User Accounts dialog box. Click on the username you wish to automatically log on to Windows and then untick the "users must enter a username and password to use this computer" box.

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Windows Vista Error Code 80073712

You may experience Windows Vista error code 80073712 (or 0x80073712)when you try to use Windows Update. This error can occur when the windows update files are corrupt.

To fix this, run the following command from the run window (Press WINDOWS KEY + R):

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No Audio Output Device Installed In Windows Vista

Some users have been experiencing problems with a "No Audio Output Device Installed" error when trying to play music, or when hovering the mouse over the speaker icon in the system tray. You may get a white X in a red circle to indicate this error.

Go to the device manager by pressing WINDOWS KEY + R to go to the run menu, and then run "devmgmt.msc".

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Disable Automatic Restart in Windows Vista

Windows Vista automatically restarts if your PC encounters an error that causes it to crash. This doesn't matter if it happens once in a blue moon, but if you have a serious problem that happens each time you boot - your PC will constantly reset itself.

The easiest way to solve this problem is to disable automatic restart within the Vista control panel. This won't solve the problem causing the crash, but it will provide some on-screen information that will help you diagnose the error.

To disable automatic restart, press WINDOWS KEY + PAUSE/BREAK to load the System Properties Dialog (you can also access this via the Control Panel > System). Then click on "Advanced Settings":

Then, select Settings in the "Startup and Recovery" area:

This will load the Startup and Recovery window, allowing you to untick the Automatically Restart box and then click OK:

Next time your have a crash in Windows Vista, your PC will not automatically reset and you will be able to view the error message.

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Delete File In Use in Windows Vista

No doubt at some point you have tried to delete a file (or folder) and have received the following error:

Cannot delete file: It is being used by another person or program

This means that an application is currently using this file and you cannot delete it, this shouldn't normally happen but may occur if a network is using a shared file or a program hasn't closed a file properly.

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Fix MBR in Windows Vista

If your hard drive encounters a serious error (perhaps a failed operating system install, corruption or a virus) then you may get an "Error Loading Operating System" message on boot.

This often means that you have a corrupt Master Boot Record (MBR) which can be fixed with the Vista repair tool. This should be one of the first things done to resolve the above error message, as performing a format and reinstall will cause a loss of data.

First, insert the Vista DVD into the computer and restart it (to start the boot process). You will be asked to press any key to boot from the DVD:

Then, fill in the language and location options and click Next:

Now, click Repair your Computer:

Then, select your Vista partition and click Next

Select Command Prompt from the system recovery options window:

Once you are at the command prompt, run the following commands:

Bootrec.exe /fixMBR
Bootrec.exe /fixBoot

The first command fixes the Master Boot Record, and the second fixes the Boot Sector (just in case it is also damaged).

You can now close the command prompt, remove the Vista DVD and click Restart. This should reload Windows with a repaired MBR:

You may have noticed there was a "startup repair" option in the Vista boot application. This may also be able to fix your startup problems, but this slightly longer method will fix MBR problems.

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Windows Vista Startup Problems

It is possible that at some point during using your computer that Windows Vista will be unable to boot. Corruption, viruses and failing hard drives can all cause this, but fortunately Windows Vista can auto-diagnose and fix most problems quite easily.

First, insert the Vista DVD into the computer and restart it (to start the boot process). You will be asked to press any key to boot from the DVD:

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Repairing Corrupted Windows Vista Files

Some Windows Vista errors are caused by corrupt system files causing instabilities, but troubleshooting these problems manually can be almost impossible. Thankfully, Vista includes a "System File Checker" application that will verify the integrity of core system files.

There are 2 types of scan, a verification and a scan/repair mode. The former will only check the files without repairing them automatically, the latter will fix any errors it finds.

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Windows Vista System Stability Index

Windows Vista contains a very clever tool that lets you monitor the stability of your system, allowing you to troubleshoot potential problems where necessary. This rating (from 0-10) gives an indication of how stable your system is in relation to normal.

To load the tool, click the following options:

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Windows Vista System Health Report

Vista is able to generate a System Health Report that is great for troubleshooting potential problems with your system. This 60 second process will create a list of system technical details, earmarking those which could cause system performance problems.

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Windows Vista Readyboost Explained

Windows Vista has introduced a clever new caching system that can take advantage of your existing high-speed storage devices (such as USB Drives and MWindows Vista has introduced a clever new caching system that can take advantage of your existing high-speed storage devices (such as USB Drives and Memory Cards). This should boost performance when performing disk intensive tasks. Some flash memory devices are up to 100x faster than a standard hard disk, so it makes sense to use these to cache common files.

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Can Your system run Windows Vista

Although many new computers will come with Windows Vista already installed, many users will want to upgrade their old PC with the latest operating system.

The recommended minimum requirements for Windows Vista Home Premium / Business / Ultimate are:
1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
1 GB of system memory
40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
WDDM Driver
128 MB of graphics memory
Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
32 bits per pixel
DVD-ROM drive
Audio Output
Internet access

However you can run the Windows Vista Upgrade Adviser to scan your PC to see if it meets the minimum requirements above and check individual hardware components. If any compatibility problems are noticed you will then be notified of them in advance.

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Disk Defragmenter In Windows Vista

Windows Disk Defragmenter is a handy tool that may help you gain some extra performance from your PC. When Vista writes to your hard drive the bits of information that make up a file can be spread all over the disk (this is called fragmentation). The "defrag" tool will try to join up all of the parts that makes up files so that they are in the same location, decreasing the time it takes to find all of the parts.

To load Windows Defrag, run dfrgui.exe from the run box (Press WINDOWS KEY + R to load this). In this window you can choose to "Defragment Now" if you wish to perform this operation now, or alternatively you can schedule a time for your PC to defrag automatically (ideally when you are not using your PC):

If you click the button to defrag immediately, you will be informed that this is in progress but there is no graphical indicator like in previous versions of degrag.

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Speed Up Vista Slow Network

Windows Vista has been known to cause slow network transfer speeds for some users, most noticeable when copying files across a network that take much longer than before.

Some suggestions that may help users experiencing slow network performance are as follows:

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Increase Menu Speed in Windows Vista

Windows Vista has a built in menu delay setting so that it waits a certain length of time when you hover over a menu item before expanding the further options. For most users this is fine, but power users may find the wait rather annoying and would rather have instant menu opening speeds on mouse over.

A simple registry tweak will allow you to speed up the menu. First load the registry editor by launching regedit from the Run menu (Press WINDOWS KEY + R to access the run menu):

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Speed Up Internet Explorer In Windows Vista

It may be possible to speed up the browsing performance of Internet Explorer with some careful tweaking (assuming you already have a reasonably high speed connection, i.e over 512kbps).

Normally Internet Explorer makes use of a maximum of 2 connections to a server when downloading a webpage. For example, this page is made up of a single HTML file, several images and other scripts. All of them are needed to render the page, so Internet Explorer uses 2 connections to download them as quick as possible.

Two connections are used as this is a defined in the HTTP standards, however increasing this limit may speed up some pages made from many elements. This does involve modifying the registry, so should only be attempted if you are confident in doing so (and have appropriate backups).

To start, load the Registry Editor by starting "regedit" from the run box (press WINDOWS KEY + R to load this):

Then browse to the following folder:
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings]

In the right panel there are two entries called MaxConnectionsPerServer and MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server that store the maximum connection values. Double clicking each of them and selecting a decimal value will create a new connection limit. 8 Connections is a sensible limit to see how the performance changes:

Once you have restarted your computer, the new connection limit will be in place. To revert the changes, simply change the connection limit back to 2.

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Speed Up Windows Vista Shutdown Process

It is fairly common for Windows Vista to shutdown slowly sometimes, and this can be for a variety of reasons (such as installing updates, crashed applications or driver problems). If this happens more frequently, it indicates that this problem shouldn't be happening and is worth troubleshooting.

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