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Vista’s still brand-spanking new, but there are already some things you can do to make it perform better
Vista keeps a meticulous record of every error that’s ever caused a program to stop working or presented a compatibility problem, but even better, you can make Windows check for solutions and save yourself a recurring headache. You’ll find the Problem Reports and Solutions Wizard under System and Maintenance in the Control Panel. In the left-hand pane under Tasks, click “See problems to check” to bring up a list of applications; put a check mark next to any or all of them and click “Check for solutions.”
Optimize nearly every nook and cranny in Windows Vista through an intuitive GUI by installing Tweak VI (free, http://tinyurl.com/24yz6q). Tweaks run the gamut from the strictly visual to performance boosts—and include everything in between. Setting up a PC for the kids? Configure Tweak VI to hide a bevy of configuration options to prevent them from accidentally mucking up a system, and then password protect Tweak VI to keep curious fingers from undoing changes.
Using the Windows key in combination with the numbers 0 through 9 will open up the corresponding sequential programs in the Quick Launch toolbar. Make sure the Quick Launch toolbar is visible (if not, right-click the taskbar and select Quick Launch from the Toolbars menu) and then rearrange the first 10 programs however you see fit.
Vista’s built-in Snipping Tool does for screen captures what Bruce Lee did for kung fu movies, but without the cheesy sound effects. Just type Snipping into the search box and start taking screenshots like you’ve never taken them before. Draw a perfect box around the area you want to capture or use the free-form tool, then highlight or draw over the capture before saving it as a JPEG, PNG, GIF, or MHT file.
Vista’s Start menu marks a departure from the familiar theme found in XP, and one such change includes swapping the Shut Down button for a Sleep icon. With a little bit of digging, you can bring back the Shut Down button. Navigate to the Control Panel, then System and Maintenance, then Power Options. Under the selected power plan, click “Change plan settings,” and then click “Change advanced power settings.” Expand “Power buttons and lid” and then “Start menu power button.” Highlight Setting and choose Shut Down from the pull-down menu.
Vista giveth DirectX 10 and taketh away DirectSound3D, killing off hardware acceleration and EAX effects for the legacy format. But don’t despair, because Creative came up with a workaround for Audigy and X-Fi owners. Install Creative’s ALchemy software (free, http://tinyurl.com/29ghqj), let it automatically detect any installed DS3D games, and then click the arrow to move them to the right-hand pane, so they’ll be translated into OpenAL.