Last OS Standing: Make the Most of Windows Vista

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It's official: On June 30, Windows XP enjoyed its last day as a readily available consumer operating system. Henceforth, it will be available only under a few marginal circumstances.  People who already own XP-powered PCs will continue to receive official Microsoft support until 2014 (if their computers last that long), but the rest of us have seen our Windows options reduced to one: Vista.

Hobbled by slow performance, annoying security features, and wonky support for many existing devices, Vista has earned its bad reputation. But now that it's the only game in town for mainstream PC users, you might as well make the best of it.

PC World's writers and editors have spent countless hours digging through all of Vista's menus and options, tweaking and optimizing its performance. And we've found tons of ways to tame the quirks and foibles of this somewhat-maligned, somewhat-malignant OS. Here's a judicious sampling of what we've found.

Speed Up Windows Vista

Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista may not give your system much extra oomph--but as Contributing Editor Scott Dunn details, there are other ways to increase Vista's speed. Spending a few minutes (or a few dollars) optimizing your Vista PC can pep it up noticeably.

In Video: How to Speed Up Windows Vista

Make Vista's User Account Control Work for You

For safer computing, demote an extra account to the level of a standard user and log in there whenever you plan to do general-purpose work on your Vista PC. Because you'll be working as a less-privileged computer user, you won't be able to do things that trigger UAC's interest (and interference).
Scott Dunn also has some sound advice about how to maintain your PC's protection without having to endure incessant UAC interruptions. Logging on as a user with fewer privileges is one way to accomplish this. The less privileged your log-in profile is, the more secure your PC will be.

Activate Vista's Snipping Tool

The screen-capture utility built into Vista got dropped from some versions of the OS. But Scott Dunn (once again) has put together a straightforward explanation of how to turn the Vista snipping tool on if you have it and how to upgrade to it if you don't.

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