Microsoft Vista – Configuration

Microsoft Vista Configuration Microsoft Vista Sidebar

The purpose of this page is to act as a sitemap for Vista Configuration.  Topics include the new Windows Explorer, finding your way around the Vista Control Panel and mastering the UAC (User Account Control).

Microsoft Windows Vista Configuration Topics

Vista Tools and Extras


Microsoft Vista Security

Security is rarely a glamorous topic, yet it may be the killer reason to persuade the financial director to loosen the purse strings so that you can upgrade from XP to Vista.  The wide ranging and detailed measures that Microsoft has take to make the operating system secure, underpin every aspect of Vista.  From controlling actions with UAC (User Account Control), through ‘service hardening’ to registry restriction, Windows Vista offers top to bottom security.  Not only has each component been created from scratch, but also Microsoft has redesigned each component with security in mind.  More on Windows Vista Security

Vista AERO Graphics

Aero Graphics is hard to define, but fortunately it’s easy to use. From one perspective, AERO is Vista’s replacement of XP’s Luna desktop.  Others define AERO as Windows Graphics Foundation 2.0 and the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) combining to deliver stunning visual displays.  Microsoft would like to emphasis that AERO is the most efficient and intuitive front end to date.  For me, I would cast aside the hype and ignore the jargon and say, ‘Vista is fun to learn and gives me more information than any other Version of Windows Explorer’.  See more on Vista’s Aero Graphics

Vista Control Panel

The Vista Control Panel shows its XP roots, in fact, the Control Panel is a good barometer for comparing the new features of Vista with the old features of XP.  One new element is ‘Solutions to Problems’, which you find under Performance and Maintenance.  Solutions to Problems evolved from XP’s troubleshooters and they illustrate how advances in Vista’s artificial intelligence provide a more productive and less frustrating computing experience.

Some of the old Control Panel items have been re-arranged, for example, I found the Add or Remove Programs under Additional Options.  One Control Panel section that has mushroomed is networking, in particular, the Network Center caught my eye.  See detail of the Vista Control Panel

Guy Recommends:  A Free Trial of the Network Performance Monitor (NPM)Review of Orion NPM v11.5 v11.5

SolarWinds’ Orion performance monitor will help you discover what’s happening on your network.  This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.

What I like best is the way NPM suggests solutions to network problems.  Its also has the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines.  If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you try NPM now.

Download a free trial of Solarwinds’ Network Performance Monitor

Vista’s Explorer

Although they now have the same look and feel, Vista’s Windows Explorer and IE7 are distinct programs launched by different executables.  Indeed, it is this similarity which helps to make the Vista interfaces more consistent than those in XP.  Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the ‘Searches Folders’, otherwise known as Virtual Folders.  These folders, which are color coded blue, literally open up a new dimension for Explorer.  What the blue Searches folders do is enable you to display data from different physical areas in one virtual folder.  Vista Explorer also Virtual Folders (Searches)

Vista Tips – NCPA.CPL (Network Connection Shortcut)

For years I wished that Microsoft would make a keyboard shortcut for the Network Connection.  The nearest I have found is Start Search : ncpa.cpl.  Try this combination and see the network connections appear by magic.  Note: Mr Angry wrote saying ncpa did not work for him, what Mr Angry was missing was the .cpl, you must type the full name ncpa.cpl.

Reverting to my keyboard shortcut idea, what I did was to make a shortcut to ncpa.cpl, and assign it to a keyboard combination, for example Ctrl +Alt +n.

See more Vista Tips

Guy Recommends: SolarWinds Free Network Bandwidth MonitorFree Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor

This freeware monitor is great for checking whether your network’s load-balancing is performing as expected, for example, are two interfaces are getting about equal traffic?

It’s easy to install and straightforward to configure. You will soon be running tests to see how much network bandwidth your applications consume.

The GUI has a lovely balance between immediate network traffic data in the middle, combined with buttons to seek related data and configuration settings. Give this monitor a try, it’s free! 

Download your free network bandwidth monitor

If you need more comprehensive network analysis software:
Download a free trial of NPM (Network Performance Monitor)

Best Practice for Editing the Vista Registry

  • Before you make any changes to the registry settings, get into the habit of exporting at the branch of the registry that you are working with.
  • Backup the system state before you try anything radical in the registry.
  • Check out the .sav files in the \system32\config folder.
  • Research Volume Shadow Copy, and test how it restores a previous version of your registry files.
  • If your computer has a serious problem, which requires pressing F8 at boot-up, remember to try Last Known Good as your first recovery option.
  • Seek alternative methods; think laterally.  Instead of risking making changes with your registry editor, what else could you do?  I urge you to consider configuring a Group Policy rather than tweaking the registry.  Occasionally Vista may provide a new GUI to configure a setting, for example, instead of launching regedit and changing the value for AutoAdminLogon, you could launch the Control Panel –> Users and un-tick the setting called, ‘Users must enter a user name and password.’
  • Learn how to perform a remote registry edit with: Connect Network Registry.
  • As you work through my registry examples, make a point of studying each page’s ‘Key Learning Points’.