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
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.
Add Vista Ultimate Features to Your Home Premium PC
The numerous and confusing differences among Vista versions have led many people to opt for Home Premium ($240, or $160 as an upgrade from XP) rather than the full-featured Ultimate ($399, or $260 as an upgrade). Fortunately, you can give Home Premium many Ultimate features, often for free, with tips courtesy of the amazing Scott Dunn.
Our Answer Line expert, Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector, checks in with a quick but extremely useful tip for making Vista’s Defrag work in Safe Mode.
Minimize Your Vista-Related Hardware Hassles
If you plan to upgrade to Windows Vista, check out Contributing Editor Kirk Steers’s tried and true tips for easing your move to the newer OS. For instance, he offers guidance on how to check Vista’s Device Manager for peripherals or devices that Vista considers problematic: In Device Manager’s list of hardware, all such instances will be flagged with an exclamation point in a yellow triangle, as shown here.
More Vista Tweaks and Fixes
And finally, Contributing Editor Steve Bass presents five great workarounds for the things that ail Vista–and antagonize Vista users–most.