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Updated 7.02.07 - Below are bits of information about Vista I have picked up from various sources and from my own use of Windows Vista.  Note: These tips were tested on Vista Ultimate. Most will work on the Vista Business and Enterprise versions, but some of the tips might not work on the Home versions.


Drive Letters for Vista Installations
1. Boot from the DVD and do a clean install to a fresh partition. Your new installation is assigned drive letter C: when you boot into Vista.  If this is dual boot system, then your other OS will also continue to use C:

2. Launch Setup from Windows XP and do a clean installation to a fresh partition. Your new copy of Windows Vista is assigned the next available drive letter and your existing Windows installation keeps drive C:.

You have three choices when you run Vista setup
1.  Boot from the DVD and do a clean install to a fresh partition. Your new installation is assigned drive letter C: when you boot into Vista. This option would also include deleting any existing operating system partition and creating a new partition. (Clean installs are always the best option when installing a new Operating System.)
2.  Launch Setup from Windows XP and do a clean installation. Your new copy of Windows Vista is assigned the next available drive letter and your existing Windows installation keeps drive C:.
3.  Launch Setup from Windows XP and choose the Upgrade option. This option is not recommend unless you have a full image backup to restore as needed, and it is always best to do a clean install of any new OS.

If you’re planning to evaluate Windows Vista in a dual-boot setup, be sure to use a separate partition or physical disk, and allow at least 20GB for testing purposes. Allow much more if you intend to really use Windows Vista.  

Remove Windows Vista From a Dual Boot System
Example: You have Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista on the same HDD, but different partitions.
1. Boot into Windows Server 2003
2. Put your Vista DVD in the DVD drive. When the Vista install screen appears, just close it.
3. Open a command prompt and run:
X:\boot\bootsect /nt52 c:  (X: = the drive letter from the DVD)
You will get an error warning the update may be wrong because the drive is
in use, but it will restore the bootmanager from Windows Server 2003.
4. Open Disk Manager in Windows Server 2003 and delete the Vista partition.
5. Reboot the computer (you should now only see Windows Server 2003 at boot up).

Step 3 restores the original boot.ini file for Windows Server 2003. This is important because Vista no longer uses boot.ini and replaces it with the new Boot Configuration Data (BCD) store.

Note: The above will work with Windows XP too.

For more information about BCD - Click Here
For Bootsect command line options - Click Here

Pick your Vista version: A single Windows Vista DVD contains the code for every version. Normally, you unlock the version you plan to use by entering a product ID that is specific to that version. If you leave out the product ID, the Setup program has no way to know which version you own, so you get to choose your version. This is an ideal way to test different versions for up to 30 days, after which you have to either enter a product ID or do another clean install (or see next).

How do I extend my Vista Activation Grace Period?
From an elevated command prompt, type: slmgr.vbs -rearm and press <enter>.  This will reset your Activation grace period to 30 days.  You will have to restart your PC after you run this.  You can extend your activation up to 3 times (Note: slmgr does not work with the Enterprise version of Vista).

You can also extend the number of times you can extend the activation grace period from 3 to 8 times by changing the following registry setting:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL]

Note: Microsoft has now limited the activation grace periods to 3 times in the Home versions of Vista, and could change activation grace periods at anytime through Windows Update.

New Power Button.  Many Vista users are annoyed by the behavior of the new power button on the Start menu, which puts the computer into sleep mode instead of shutting it down. To fix this annoyance, open Control panel, Power Options, click Change plan settings, click Change advanced power settings, scroll down to Power buttons and lid, click the plus sign next to Start Menu Power Button, click on Sleep, and change to Shutdown (Wow - only 8 steps !) .  

Show Run on the Start Menu: Microsoft took the Run command off of the Start Menu in Vista. To get this back, do this:

1. Right click the Task Bar
2. Choose Properties
3. Click the Start Menu tab, click Customize next to "Start Menu".
4. Scroll down a little way, and you will see "Run command".
5. Check the box next to it and click OK all the way back out.    

Setting up ReadyBoost. Want to improve the performance of your system? You can use a USB Flash drive, a Compact Flash card, or a Secure Digital card, as long as there’s at least 235 MB of free space, as additional memory in your Vista PC.  From the Computer window, right-click the flash drive icon, choose Properties, click the ReadyBoost tab, and enable the options.

Rules for ReadyBoost Drives
To be used as a ReadyBoost device, your Flash device has to pass several tests, including available free space, write performance, and random read performance. Your PC and Flash device must also be USB 2.x compliant.  When you connect a supported Flash device to your system, Vista will open a window asking you what you want to do with the device.  If you choose the Speed Up My System option, Windows Vista runs a quick performance test to see if the device meets minimum standards required for ReadyBoost.  You can also test your Flash device on the ReadyBoost tab of the device's properties (right click it, in Computer).

The Minimum standard in order to use a Flash device in Vista is:
2.5 MB/sec throughput for 4 KB random reads
1.75 MB/sec throughput for 512 KB random writes

The Enhanced standard that Microsoft recommends is:
5 MB/sec throughput for random 4 KB reads
3 MB/sec throughput for random 512 KB writes

These results must be consistent across the entire device. In addition, the device must be at least 235 MB in size (although you can designate less than the full space on the drive for the ReadyBoost cache).  If any of these tests fail, the drive is rejected, and will not be used for ReadyBoost.

To see if the Flash device pass/failed the minimum standard test, open Event Viewer (Start, Run, Eventvwr.msc) and click the Applications and Services Logs category on the left in the console tree.  Under this heading, click Microsoft, Windows, and ReadyBoost. Then click Operational under ReadyBoost.  The log entries in the center pane will show performance test results for both successful and unsuccessful attempts.

Note: The Event Viewer logs report results in KB/sec instead of MB/sec. Although the spec says 1.75 MB/sec write performance, the report in Event viewer would display this as 1750 KB/sec.

What is Superfetch, ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive?
SuperFetch, a new memory manager for Windows, uses available memory to proactively cache data that you're likely to need. Eventually, it learns which applications and data you (and any other users who log in to your machine) habitually use and when you use them, and it does so on a per-user basis.

ReadyBoost makes more memory available to SuperFetch by creating new memory pages on USB flash drives and other Flash memory media.

ReadyDrive uses the Non-Volatile RAM (NVRAM) cache on a hybrid drive (H-HDD) to store critical data during state transitions such as when booting your PC or resuming from standby. Before shutting down, Vista transfers the critical data your PC will use for booting or resuming into that NVRAM cache.  As a result, the PC doesn't have to wait for a hard disk to spin up before it can start loading data.

Click Here for a white paper on these technologies.

Smarter searches. When you enter a snippet of text in the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu, the results come from just about everywhere: programs, e-mail, files, even your browser history. You can control which categories appear in Start menu searches using these settings in the Customize Start Menu dialog box (available from a link on the Appearance and Personalization group in Control Panel).

Check your index.  Fast searches depend on having a good index. To check the current status of the search index, open Control Panel, Indexing Options. The settings show you whether indexing is currently under way and which locations are included. Click the Modify button to add more locations to the index. (You’ll need to do this for certain if you move data files from their default location or if you store some files on an external drive.)  

Indexing2.  Click the Advanced button in the Indexing applet to open this dialog box, where you can rebuild the index (handy if you notice that searches aren’t working as they’re supposed to), move the index to a faster drive, and (on the File Types tab) include or exclude particular types of files from the index.        

Indexing3.  One last set of search options can be found on the Search tab in the Folder Options dialog box. These options control how Windows Vista does searches. If you’re willing to take the performance hit, you can expand searches to look in locations and in file types that aren’t normally indexed

Administrator Account in Vista
1. There are differences in Vista between accounts with "computer administrator" privileges and the Administrator account.  Accounts with "computer administrator" privileges are ones added to the Administrators local group.  The Administrator account, also a member of the local Administrators group, is a separate account that has higher privileges than other users in the local Administrators group.  This is very different from previous versions of Windows.
2. To login with the true Administrator account, the account first has to be enabled.  By default, the Administrator account is disabled.
3. To access the Administrator account, open Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, Local Users and Groups, Users.  Right click the Administrator account and uncheck disabled. (Note: You cannot access the Administrator account in Control Panel, User Accounts.)
4. The Administrator account does not have User Account Control (UAC) enabled.
5. You can enable the Administrator account with one line from an elevated command line :
net user administrator somecomplexp@ssword /active:yes
6. One More Step: Note: I have not noticed this to be true, but I am passing it on in case:
I have also read that there is one more important thing that needs to be done in Vista to enable the Administrator account.  Not only do you have to enable the Administrator account, you also have to disable all other accounts with computer administrator privileges - before the Administrator account can be used as the "Superuser" Administrator.  This is unusual, but not surprising considering Microsoft's phobia about security.  After you enable the Administrator account, just right click each account in the local Administrators group and disable them.  Then reboot the PC and login as Administrator.

Add an elevated Command Prompt  
Click Start and type command in the Search box. This should produce a list consisting of one entry: the shortcut to Command Prompt.

  1. Right-click the Command Prompt shortcut and choose Pin to Start Menu.
  2. Click Start again. Right-click the Command Prompt shortcut you just added to the Start menu and choose Properties.
  3. Click the Advanced button and click to select the Run as administrator checkbox.
  4. Click OK to save your changes.      

Windows Explorer
1. Get rid of the Favorites Link section in the navigation Pane – Move your mouse to the top edge of the Folder section so that the mouse turns to a two headed arrow. Left click and hold and drag the Folders pane up so that it covers the Favorites pane.

2. Make the C: Drive the default focus when opening Windows Explorer – Click on the Start Button, All Programs, Accessories, right click Windows Explorer and choose Properties.
In the Target field add /e,c: so that the command line looks like this:

SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /e,c:

Use whatever drive letter suits your needs, C:, D:, E: etc.

Get an expanded shortcut menu When you work with files and folders in Windows Explorer, get in the habit of holding down Shift as you right-click an item. Using this shortcut, you can add any file to the Start menu or the Quick Launch bar, open a Command Prompt window rooted in the selected folder, or copy the full path for a file or folder to the Clipboard

NOTE: Some of these extra menu options are only available for files.  For example, if you hold down the Shift key and right click a folder, you won't see "Copy as Path", but you will see this if you right click a file while holding down the Shift key.  Not sure why the limitation is there.

How to get your Windows Explorer menus back
To get Vista's Windows Explorer to show you menus, press the Alt key. That brings Windows Explorer's menus back, temporarily. (The same trick works in Internet Explorer.)

Unfortunately, pressing the Alt key doesn't bring the menus back permanently. In fact, if you click just about anywhere inside the Explorer window, Vista takes it upon itself to turn the menus off again. To make the menus appear all the time, do this:

1.  In Vista, bring up Windows Explorer (Start, Run, type explorer, press <enter>).
2.  Press the Alt key. That brings up the menus.
3.  Click Tools, Folder Options. Then click the View tab.
4.  Near the top, check the box that says Always Show Menus.
5.  While you're in this dialog box, you can configure some improvements:

  Make Vista show you hidden files and folders by clicking the box marked Show hidden files and folders
  Make Vista show you filename extensions - uncheck the box marked Hide extensions for known file types
  Have Vista show you all of your files. To do this, uncheck the box marked Hide protected operating system files (recommended).

6. Click OK.

Make text easier to read. There's a strong correlation between high display resolutions and eyestrain. All that small text can give anyone a headache. The solution is not to dial back screen resolution but rather to increase text size intelligently. Start in Control Panel and type Adjust font size in the Search box at the top right, which will take you directly to the link for the DPI Scaling utility (You can also right click the desktop, choose Personalize, and on the top left of the resulting window, you will see the option for DPI Scaling). The preset value of 120 DPI might be too big , so click the Custom DPI button and use the slider control to bump the size up to a more restrained 110 DPI. Feel free to experiment.

Snip a screen shot.  Type snip into the Start menu Search box to quickly find the Snipping Tool shortcut. Right-click that shortcut and pin it to the Start menu or add it to the Quick Launch bar for easy access. When you run the Snipping Tool, click the drop-down arrow next to the New button to select what you want to copy: a portion of the screen, a window, or the full screen. Click the Options button to open a dialog box where you can specify custom settings. I recommend getting rid of the red ink border; you might want to ditch the prompt to save files each time you exit the tool as well.           

Get a quick system checkup Windows Vista has no shortage of diagnostic tools. The System Health Report is one of the most useful. It takes input from the Performance and Reliability Monitor and turns it into a well-organized, information-packed report that does a good job of spotlighting potential problems. To run this report, open Control Panel, click System and Maintenance, and then click Performance Information and Tools. In the Tasks list along the left, click Advanced tools. The last item on the resulting list is Generate a system health report.

Each report gathers information for roughly 60 seconds, so it's easy to run several reports. To establish a baseline, run a report immediately after startup, with no programs running except those that start up automatically. You can run additional reports while you run particularly stressful programs to see whether the load is overtaxing your system.        

Master the Quick Launch bar.  The Quick Launch bar has been around forever, but it's a little more useful in Vista. For starters, it's much easier to add programs to the Quick Launch bar, thanks to the new Add to Quick Launch shortcut menu option.  First things first, though: Make sure the Quick Launch bar isn't hidden; if you can't see it, right-click any empty space on the task bar, choose Toolbars, and click Quick Launch. Don't feel like aiming at those tiny icons with the mouse pointer? Use the shortcut keys instead. Each of the first ten shortcuts on the Quick Launch bar has its own custom keyboard shortcut. Press the Windows key plus the number 1 to launch or switch to the first item on the Quick Launch bar. Press Windows key+2 for the second, and so on. For shortcut number 10, use Windows key+0.          

Make Security Center go away.  The Security Center icon in the notification area is a nag. There's just no other word for it. And if you're confident that your security settings are in order, you really don't need the nagging. To make Security Center disappear into the background, open its icon in Control Panel and click Change the way Security Center alerts me in the Tasks pane on the left. In the resulting dialog box, choose Don't notify me and don't display the icon.      

Use the Mobility Center on a notebook.  It's about time notebook users got an easy-to-access control panel for common configuration options. Vista's Mobility Center gives you the ability to quickly enable or disable an external monitor, enable or disable a wireless adapter, check your battery level, and much more. To configure your notebook so  Mobility Center is always available, add its shortcut to the Startup group. To open or switch to Mobility Center, use its keyboard shortcut: Windows logo key+X.        

Back it all up: The Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista include the Complete PC Backup feature. It allows you to save an image backup of your system drive (and, optionally, other drives as well), which you can restore in a matter of minutes if you need to recover from a hardware failure or a software mess. Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Backup and Restore Center, Create a Windows Complete PC Backup.

NOTE: There is very little compression for Complete PC Backup (why?), so you will need free media space equal to the space your current hard drive is using, which could become substantial after a while.

Access to the HOSTS file:
You can give yourself enough control of HOSTS to modify it by first taking ownership of it, then granting yourself full control to HOSTS.  That's most easily done from an elevated command prompt. 

(Note:  an "elevated command prompt" means that you right-click the Command Prompt icon and choose "Run as administrator," and then click "Confirm" when you get the User Account Control prompt.)

From the elevated command prompt, type these two lines:

takeown /f c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

icacls c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts /grant yourusername:f

Those are two new Vista command-line tools.  The first lets you take ownership of a file or folder, as its name suggests.  That line that you typed is the simplest form of takeown:  just add a "/f" and the name of the file or folder to take ownership of.  (Takeown even lets you take ownership of things on remote systems, which can be convenient.)  The second command lets you adjust NTFS permissions and file/folder integrity levels -- it's intended to be the replacement for cacls, which has been around since NT 3.1, and its syntax closely mirrors cacls's.  In that command, I'm using the /grant option to allow me to give the account "yourusername" full control; that's what the "F" stands for.

Letting Vista Respond to Pings
Like XP SP2, Vista includes Windows Firewall, and Vista enables that firewall by default.  The firewall's defaults do not include responding to pings, not the best idea.  Worse yet, XP SP2's GUI included a way to allow ping responses, but for some reason Microsoft removed that part of GUI from Vista's firewall.  How, then, to let a Vista box respond to pings without disabling the entire firewall?

Simple:  use the command line.  Open an elevated command prompt and type

netsh firewall set icmpsetting 8 enable

Or, alternatively, you can use the Windows Firewall group policy settings, which are basically identical to Windows Firewall settings.  Vista's firewall additionally has another, more powerful group policy interface as well, but the standard group policy one will do for this simple exception.

Vista Setup for BitLocker
You need either Vista Ultimate or Enterprise to use BitLocker.
Despite being called " BitLocker Drive Encryption," BitLocker actually encrypts just the C: volume, and can't work unless your system's first hard disk is chopped up into two partitions.  One partition must be 1.5 GB in size, and it contains some basic boot code.  You can use the rest of the drive for C:.  To make BitLocker work, then, your system's first hard disk must be arranged so that

  • One partition is 1.5 GB in size and is marked "active," and
  • One other partition is at least 16 GB in size, and Vista is installed to that partition.

This requirement presents two problems.  First, no one seems to know about it, and so people just set up their laptop's entire disk as C: and install Vista.  Then, once Vista's installed, they want to turn on BitLocker... only to find that it refuses to install because of the lack of the 1.5 GB partition.  Second, even if you do know beforehand about the 1.5 GB partition requirement, there isn't any way in Vista's Setup GUI that would let you create a 1.5 GB partition and mark it active.

As is so often the case, however, there's an answer.. the command line.

Installing BitLocker on clean system:

1) Boot Vista install disk.

2) When you get to the screen that says Windows Vista / Install Now, click "Repair Your Computer."

3) In the subsequent dialog, choose "Command Prompt"

4) From command prompt, do this:


select disk 0


create partition primary

assign letter=c

shrink minimum=1500

create partition primary


assign letter=p


format c: /y /q /fs:NTFS

format p: /y /q fs:NTFS


5) Once out of the command prompt, press ESC to return to the "Install Now" screen.

6) Install Vista as usual.  When Vista asks which partition to install Windows to, direct it to C:.

At that point you'll have a copy of Vista that works fine either with or without BitLocker, and that lets you add BitLocker whenever you'd like.  Notice also that command "shrink minimum=1500."  This is a neat diskpart command that actually lets you shrink an existing partition.  The documentation says it only works on basic disks.

Turning off UAC (User Account Control)
1. Open GPEDIT.MSC and then disable everything beginning with "User Account Control" under Computer Configuration/Windows Settings/Security Settings/Local Policies/Security Options.
Use Secpol.msc, which is the Local Polices section in the above Gpedit settings.

2. You can also turn off UAC in Control Panel, User Accounts. Click the link there that reads Change security settings, then, Turn User Account Control Off.

3. Or... Press the Windows + R keys > type msconfig > open the Tools pane.
Scroll down to Disable UAC and click once on that line.  Click the Launch button.

Disabling just Administrative Prompts in UAC
UAC does become annoying after a while. You can minimize the annoying prompts without totally shutting off UAC. One thing that can be shut off, is the nagging for Admin access when you are already a member of the local Administrators group.

1. Click the Start button and type secpol.msc and press <enter>. This will open the Local Security Policy console.
2. On the left, expand Local Policies > Security Options.
3. On the right, scroll to the bottom of the list and select:
User Account Control: Behavior of the elevation prompt for administrators in Admin Approval Mode.
4. Double-click on this setting. Choose Elevate without Prompting in the drop down list.
5. Click OK.

Resize Partitions with Vista Disk Management
In Windows Vista it is now possible to resize partitions without any data loss in the new Disk Management console.

Resizing Partitions with Windows Vista:

1. Click on the Start Button and right click on Computer and select Manage.
2. Expand the Storage section and select Disk Management.
3. Then just right click on any partition and select either Expand or Shrink to change the size of the partition.

This will allow you to safely resize your partitions without any data loss.

Restart the Desktop Window Manager Session Manager service
The Desktop Window Manager is used to enable/control the new Windows Aero user interface. If you need to restart the DWM, it can be done in services.msc or, at a command prompt by typing
net stop uxsms
net start uxsms

Animate your network icon
In your system tray you will find the Network and Sharing Center icon that allows you to easily connect and disconnect network connections and view your connection status. With the help of a simple tweak, you can animate the icon so that it shows when your connections are actively transferring data.

It is very easy to turn on icon animation, just right click on the network icon next to the clock and select Turn on activity animation.

Enable alternative logon screen
Microsoft has removed the classic Windows NT style logon screen in Windows Vista. You can no longer press CTRL+ALT+Delete to get to the classic logon box where you can type in the username and password (unless your PC is joined to a Windows Domain).  Do the following to enable both the Username and Password fields on the Vista Welcome/Logon screen:

1. Click on the Start Button, type in secpol.msc and press <enter>.
2. Click Local Policies, then click Security Options.
3. In the right hand pane, locate "Interactive logon: Do not display last user name", right click on it and select Properties.
4. Select Enable and click OK.
5. Close the Local Security Policy editor.

Log off and you will see the new logon screen.

Tip: If you need to log into a domain sign in with "domain\username". If you want to log into a local computer account, sign in with ".\local_username" or "computername\local_username".

Enable Crtl+Alt+Del on the Vista Logon Screen
Windows Vista does not require you to press Ctrl+Alt+Del to login to Windows. Something that has been a part of Windows for a long time (unless your PC is joined to a Windows Domain). You can enable this requirement to log into Windows Vista by doing the following:

1. Click on the Start button, type in netplwiz and press <enter> (or type it in the Run box) .
2. Click the Advanced tab in the User Accounts window that opens.
3. In the Secure logon section at the bottom of the window, check the box next to
"Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete".
4. Click OK.

Enable/Disable Clear Type
1. Right click on your desktop and select Personalize.
2. Click on Windows Color and Appearance.
3. Click on Open Classic Appearance Properties
4. Click Effects.
5. Check or Uncheck "Use the Following method to smooth edges of screen fonts."
6. Select Clear Type from the drop down list (to use Clear Type)
7. Click OK and OK.

Change the Size of Icons in Windows Explorer or the Desktop
Simply hold down the Ctrl key and move your mouse scroll wheel, up or down, to resize the icons from small to extra large (they can get giant size if you want).  For the Desktop, make sure the desktop has focus first (click anywhere on the desktop).

Open a Command Prompt Window Fast
I always wondered why there was no simple Windows key combination to open a command prompt window (in any version of Windows).  How hard would it be to program this into Windows?  Anyway, in Vista, it gets close to this.
- Press the Windows key on your keyboard to open the Start Menu
- Type in cmd (it defaults to typing in the Search box)
- Press the Enter key.
- For an administrative command prompt, press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER

Use the Windows Key to run Quick Launch Programs
Simply use Win+1, Win+2, Win+3 and so on to launch each application on the Quick launch bar. Win+1 would be the left most app, Win+2 the one next to that, and so on.
(Win+1 means - press the Windows key and while holding it, press the number 1 key)

Disable / Enable Hibernation
Hibernation is automatically enabled in Windows Vista.  There are no options in Power options to disable it, but you can disable/enable Hibernation from a command prompt.  If you don't use it, then hibernation will be taking up valuable disk space.  You can disable it and reclaim the disk space allocated to the hiberfil.sys.

Open an elevated command prompt window (Run as Administrator) and type:

powercfg -H off  (To Disable Hibernation)
powercfg -H on  (To Enable Hibernation)

You can also use the Disk Cleanup utility in Vista to delete your hibernation file.
- Click Start, type "clean" in the search box at the bottom, press <enter>.
- Choose "Files from All Users"
- Check the box next to "Hibernation File Cleaner"
- Click OK

How do I display my Windows XP Computers in Vista's Network Map?
Before a computer running Windows XP can be detected and appear on the network map, you need to install the LLTD protocol (Link Layer Topology Discovery protocol) on the XP computer(s).  For more information about how to display computers running Windows XP on the network map, go to the Network and Sharing Center Operations Guide on the Microsoft web site.

I shared a folder on my Vista PC, but cannot access it from my XP PC
As long as you assigned proper Share permissions, this is most likely a Firewall issue in Vista. Windows Vista, whether using the Windows Firewall or the Live OneCare Firewall, needs to be told to allow File and Print Sharing.   You will have to go into the properties of either the Windows Firewall or the Live OneCare Firewall, and tell it to allow File and Print Sharing for your local subnet.

Change your User Picture in Vista
You HAVE to have a user picture in Windows Vista... sigh.  If you want to change your user picture, click Start to open the start menu and then click on your picture at the top.  This will open the User Accounts control panel applet where you can click on "Change your picture".

Quick PC Health Check
You can create a shortcut on your Desktop, or where ever you want, that will allow for a one click PC Health Check.

- Right click your desktop, choose New > Shortcut.
- In the Location field type,  perfmon /report
- Click Next.
- In the name for your Shortcut type, PC Health Check
- Click Finish.

You will now have a nice icon on your desktop that will run the Windows Vista Reliability and Performance monitor just by clicking on it.

Quick Vista Assessment
You know that annoying Windows Assessment operation the runs after you install Vista and right before you login for the first time? Well, the program that runs that, Winsat.exe can be found in C:\Windows\System32\WinSat.exe.
You can create a shortcut on your desktop and run this tool anytime.

- Right click your desktop, choose New > Shortcut.
- In the Location field type,  winsat.exe formal
- Click Next.
- In the name for your Shortcut type, Windows Vista Assessment
- Click Finish.

You will now have a nice icon on your desktop that will run the Windows Vista Assessment program. When it finishes, it will update your Windows Experience Index. To see your Windows Experience Index, Click Start > right click Computer > click Properties.

Winsat.exe saves your performance rating results in an .xml file in the C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT\DataStore folder. Each time you run WinSAT, it creates a new XML file and stores it in this folder with the assessment run date at the beginning of the file name.

For example: 2007-02-26 Assessment (Formal).WinSAT.xml.

Interestingly, if you right click the latest XML file and choose Open With > Wordpad, you can cheat your Windows Experience Index. Towards the top of the XML file you will see the numbers listed for your Windows Experience Index. Just change them to what you want, and save the file (don't go above 5.9). Voila! you suddenly have a smokin' computer. Of course it would be silly to do this, but it's interesting to know you could. There is other interesting info in this XML file too. For example, if you have less than 1.5GB of memory, your Memory score will never be higher than 4.5. It tells you right there.

To see the options for running Winsat.exe, open a command prompt window and type:
winsat.exe -?   <enter>

To disable automatic searching of Windows Update for device drivers
. Windows Update is notorious for supplying hardware drivers that are not really suited for your PC. If you would rather not have Windows search Windows Update for device drivers, when you add a new device to your computer, then do the following.

1. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.
2. In the Tasks list (on the left), click Advanced System Settings.
3. On the System Properties dialog box, click the Hardware tab, and then click Windows Update Driver Settings.
4. Select Never check for drivers when I connect a device.
5. Click OK twice, and then close the System dialog box.

Turn DEP on for all programs in Vista
1. Click Start, right click Computer and choose Properties.
2. In the Task pane, (on the top left) click Advanced System Settings
3. On the Advanced tab, under Performance, click the Settings button
4. Click the Data Execution Prevention tab and choose, "Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select:" You will have to reboot.

Another option would be to run an elevated command prompt and type:

bcdedit.exe /set NX optout   - for AMD processors
bcdedit.exe /set XD optout   - for Intel processors

The above steps will take effect on the next reboot, and by default, it will force all programs that don't explicitly tell Windows they DON'T want to use DEP - to use it.  Note: If you want to undo the bcdedit command, run the command again and substitute optin for optout.

If you get a program complaining about DEP preventing its running, just add it to the Optout list on the Data Execution Prevention tab above.

View Vista Bootup Time and Shutdown Time
Open Event Viewer (Start, Run, eventvwr <enter>) and in the left pane, click Applications and Services logs > Microsoft > Windows > Diagnostics-Performance > Operational.

Events 100-199 are Bootup entries. 200-299 are Shutdown entries and 400-499 are System Performance entries.

Every time you start your computer, Windows logs your boot time, starting as soon as the kernel loads and ending after every background service and process has finished loading and the system has been idle for at least 10 seconds. (does not include time in POST and the time for the BIOS to hand off control to the OS loader) The total boot time is divided into two parts:

MainPathBootTime measures the time it takes for the system to load all drivers and services that are critical to user interaction and get to the Windows desktop where the user can begin doing things.
BootPostBootTime includes all the other drivers and processes that aren’t critical to user interaction and can be loaded with low-priority I/O that always gives preference to user-initiated actions that execute using Normal I/O priority.

If you look in Event Viewer, you’ll see a separate value called BootTime, which measures the sum of these two values. (Subtract 10 seconds from this value to account for the idle time that indicates the boot process is completely done.) In addition, the logs are filled with clues that can help you figure out what went wrong and why a specific startup (or shutdown) took longer than normal.

Get Security Center and Network Mapping back for Domain joined Computers
When a Windows Vista Computer is joined to a domain, both Security Center and the full Network Map in the Network and Sharing Center, are no longer able to be viewed. They get disabled by default for domain connected PCs. To get these back, do the following. You will need administrative access to the Vista PC:

Open gpedit.msc. Start, Run gpedit.msc <enter>

Get Security Center Back:
Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Security Center > Turn on Security Center (Domain PCs only)
Change this policy to Enabled.
You might also be prompted to enable UAC. You should do this.

Get the Full Network Map Back:
Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Network > Link-Layer Topology Discovery
Change the following 2 policies to Enabled:
Turn on Mapper I/O (LLTDIO) driver
Turn on Responder (RSPNDR) driver