Windows Tips for Everyone

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Project #2: Find Files Faster

Switch From FAT to NTFS

Windows' NTFS file format offers a number of performance, security, and other benefits over the older FAT and FAT32. You're asked if you'd like to convert your drive to NTFS when you upgrade from XP to Vista, but to switch a drive manually from FAT or FAT32 to NTFS, click Start, Run (or just Start on Vista's menu), type cmd, and press <Enter> to open a command prompt. Type convert x : /fs:ntfs (with x being your hard drive's letter) and press <Enter>.

Right-Click for a Command Prompt

Sometimes the fastest way to get something done in Windows is via the command prompt. And the fastest way to get to a command prompt is through your right-click menu. To do so, click Start, Run (or just Start on Vista's menu), type regedit, and press <Enter> to launch the Registry Editor. Navigate in the left pane to HKEY_ LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Classes/Folder/shell. Right-click in the right pane and select New, Key. Name it Command Prompt. Select the new key in the left pane, and double-click (Default) in the right pane. In the 'Value data' field, type Open Command Prompt, and press <Enter>. Right-click in the right pane, select New, Key, and type Command. Choose this key in the left pane, and double-click (Default) in the right pane. In the 'Value data' field, type cmd.exe /k pushd %L. Press <Enter>. After you exit the Registry Editor, an Open Command Prompt entry will appear whenever you right-click a folder. Select this option to open a command prompt with that folder preselected.

Clean Your 'Open With' Menu

When you right-click a file in Windows Explorer, you see the Open With option, which lists the programs that you can use to open the file. For certain file types the list can be long, because as you install new programs, they add themselves to this list. Unfortunately, some of the programs listed may not be able to open the file in question. Do you really want to open a bitmap graphics file (.bmp) with, say, Microsoft Word?

To clean them out, click Start, Run (or just Start on Vista's menu), type regedit, and press <Enter> to open the Registry Editor. Navigate in the right pane to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows
\CurrentVersion\ Explorer\FileExts, and choose the extension whose Open With list you want to edit. For example, to remove Word from the list of apps for bitmaps, choose .bmp and then OpenWithList.

In the right pane you'll see an alphabetical list of keys, each of which represents an entry on that file type's Open With list ('winword.exe', for instance). Delete any entry you want to remove from the list. Now double-click the MRUList and delete the letter of the application you just removed. For example, if winword.exe had the value 'a', delete that letter from the MRUList.

Add Folders to the Search Index

Vista's new search tool is much faster than its XP equivalent, but by default it indexes only a handful of folders--so it may miss a broad swath of files on your PC.

You can manually add folders to the index by selecting Start and typing any term in the Start Search box (or click Start, Search, For Files or Folders in the Classic Start menu). When the results appear, click Search Tools and select Modify Index Locations. Choose Modify, and then click Show all locations to open the Indexed Locations dialog box. The top window displays your storage devices. Check the box next to one of them (or double-click the entry to see a list of subfolders), select the locations you want added to the index, and click OK and Close to return to the search window (see FIGURE 3

FIGURE 3: Add folders to Vista's index of locations for the OS to search.
).

Save Searches

To save and update your Vista searches, select Start, Search (or Start, Search, For Files or Folders in the Classic Start menu) and type your search term. Then click Save Search to open the 'Save as' dialog box, and then choose Save. Your saved search will appear in the Searches folder of the Search window's left pane. Bonus tip: For a different way to find files in XP, try the free Tag2Find utility.

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