Before you make any major changes to the way your PC works, (including any of the Registry tweaks on these pages and elsewhere in the Ultimate Guide), you need to safely back up your Registry. In Vista, you can back it up by setting a System Restore point. Go to the Start menu, type System Restore and then click on the System Restore icon that appears in the list above. Click Continue if you see a User Account Control (UAC) prompt and, in the next window, click the open System Protection link at the bottom. Now click on Create, give your restore point a recognisable name and click Create again. To revert your Registry back to a previous state, launch System Restore as described above and select 'Choose a different restore point’ to find the one you named earlier.
Windows Vista automatically reboots your PC after installing a Windows update (if required), which is frustrating if it interrupts something like an overnight download. There are, however, several solutions. Click Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Windows Update > Change Settings and set ‘Install new updates’ to a time during the day, when you’ll be around to postpone a reboot. Alternatively, just before you go to bed, click Start, type services.msc and press Enter on your keyboard. Double-click theWindows Update service and click Stop > OK. Nothing will be downloaded until you restart again.
If you find copying files across your Windows Vista network is slow then there are a couple of obscure tricks to try. First, click Start, type OptionalFeatures.exe and press Enter on your keyboard, clear the box next to Remote Differential Compression and click OK. Reboot, and try copying again. Turn it back on if things are no better. Windows Vista SP1 introduced Registry settings that may help, too. Launch REGEDIT (to do this, type REGEDIT into the Start menu search box) and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\ WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile. Set NetworkThrottlingIndex or SystemResponsiveness to much higher values, perhaps 50 or 60, then reboot to test.
Windows Vista launches all kinds of odd components when it boots, whether you need them or not. And some are extremely difficult to track down. Have you heard of the Transient Multi-Monitor Manager (TMM), for instance? It’s a tool that helps laptop users configure external monitors. The problem is it launches by default on PCs, even if you have no intention of ever switching monitors. To turn this off click Start, right- click Computer and choose Manage. Navigate to Task Scheduler > Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Mobile PC, right-click TMM in the central pane and choose Disable.
The Windows Vista version of Explorer looks very different, but still has some of the same old problems. It often forgets the settings you’ve chosen for individual folders. To start resolving this, go to Start > Computer, press Alt then click Tools > Folder Options > View, and make sure the box to ‘Remember each folder’s view settings’ is checked. If that doesn’t help then your folder settings may be corrupted. Launch REGEDIT, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\LocalSettings\So ftware\Microsoft\Windows\Shell, right-click Bags in the right-hand pane and delete Edit > Delete > Yes. Repeat the process to erase the BagMRU key, too, then go to HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\ Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell, doubleclick on BagMRU Size, select Decimal and set it to 10000. This should help ensure Explorer remembers your folder settings.
Do this to restore the desktop Display Settings option. Launch REGEDIT, browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ Directory\Background\ Shell. Right-click Shell, select New > Key and call it Display Settings. Doubleclick ‘(Default)’ in the right-hand pane and enter Display Settings in the Value Data box. Right-click Display Settings in the left-hand pane, select New > Key again, and call this key ‘command’. Double-click this new key’s (Default) value and enter: rundll32 shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL DESK.CPL,@0,3 Click OK, right-click the desktop to bring the option back.
No matter how busy you are working on one PC task, there’s no escape from others: emails, phone calls and knocks at the door. If you have a microphone then Windows Vista can help you keep track of things with a little-known tool: Sticky Notes. Type Sticky in the Start menu search box, then click the Sticky Notes link to display a blank note. If the Sticky Notes link doesn’t appear when you do this, click Start, type optionalfeatures and press Enter on your keyboard, then check Tablet PC Optional Components and click OK. The next time you have an idea switch back to the note and click Record to make a voice note.
The Windows Vista Aero interface can slow down old PCs, yet also delivers nice features like Flip 3D. The answer? Create an easy way to toggle Aero on and off when you need it. Run REGEDIT, and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ Directory\Background\ Shell. With Shell highlighted, click Edit > New > Key and call the key Aero Off. Click on the Aero Off key, select Edit > New > Key and call the key Command. Click Command and enter: Rundll32 dwmApi #104 … as the default value. Return to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\Background\Shell, creating a matching key called Aero On, and a command key below that with the value: Rundll32 dwmApi #102 Now right-click the desktop and you’ll have options to turn Aero on or off.
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 delivered many bug fixes but also removed the Search option from many places throughout the system. Click Start, for instance, and you won’t see a Search button any more. Annoyingly, SP1 also got rid of the right-click Search option from folders, drives and ZIP files. To undo this damage, run REGEDIT, and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CompressedFolder\shell\find. Look in the right-hand pane for a LegacyDisable key, right-click it and select Delete. Repeat the same procedure at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Directory\shell\find and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Drive\shell\find to bring your rightclick search options back to normal.
Is Windows set up to deliver its best green results? Click Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Power Options > Very Low Power > Change Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings to find out. If you can see the Processor Power Management, expand it and set your Maximum Processor State to 10 per cent, say, then Windows is working just fine. Select the Very Low Power plan and performance will drop, but you’ll save a lot of energy, ideal for running a PC overnight or boosting laptop battery life. If you don’t see the Processor Power Management option then check your Bios setup program, make sure Intel Speedstep or AMD Cool and Quiet is enabled, reboot and check the plan again.
You can change the Start Menu so that it displays more recent programs in its list every time you click on it, rather than just a handful of recently used applications. First, right-click on the Start button and select Properties. In the dialogue box that appears, click on the Customize button. This will bring up the Customize Start Menu dialogue box. Scroll down the list of options until you get to the last one and remove the tick next to where it says ‘use large icons’. Now, just underneath, type a higher number into the box next to where it says ‘Number of recent programs to display’ — you can start by increasing it to 18, but it’s possible to come back and change this if it doesn’t suit. Now Click OK > OK to finish.