It's been two years since Microsoft released Vista, and I still don't like it. I have two desktops and a laptop; they all run on XP. When I replace my laptop, I'm sure I'll replace Vista and install XP Pro in its place.
But I do have a system partitioned with Vista Business on it and, I admit, there are some enhancements worth mentioning. We're not here to bash Vista today, but to praise its limited glory.
So let's talk utilities, gadgets and permissions. It's the latter that drives me nuts. I grow weary each time Windows asks for my permission, on my computer, practically every click of the mouse. Then I discovered how to disable that feature. It is in fact a safety feature built in to Windows for our protection against rogue programs and spyware, but it is annoying just the same.
To turn it off, find your way to Control Panel in Classic View and double-click User Accounts. Then simply click User Accounts Control (UAC) off by unchecking the box. But be forewarned that you are disabling attempts to advise you of programs that may not be kosher, so tread carefully. Know what you install and what you click on.
Vista, for some reason, will let you delete the recycle bin. By right-clicking on it, you can inadvertently delete the icon and the ability to tidy up your desktop instead of simply deleting the trash. Should this happen to you, right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize from the shortcuts menu. In the task pane on the left, chose Change Desktop Icons and check the box next to Recycle Bin. Click Apply and OK and you're back to recycling.
Some things are missing from Vista that XP had, but are still accessible. There is no more "Run" command in the Start Menu, but you can access it by hitting the Windows Key + R. Also Control + R should do it.
Network Places is also gone. Find it by clicking Start, then Network.
Outlook Express has become Mail and has lost the ability to check web mail such as Yahoo and Hotmail. You can still do it from your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox) though.
Add/Remove Programs is now hidden. To find it, click Start, then Control Panel, then Programs and Features where you'll see Uninstall.
System Restore is still there, but also difficult to find. In Control Panel, it's in the Backup and Restore Center. Easier yet, from the Search box, type Restore.
One of the things Vista can do that its predecessors could not, is partition unused hard disk space.
"What is that?" you ask. There is a built in utility that lets you create storage outside of Windows. Why put your photos or music in jeopardy by storing them with your system folders. Should your computer crash, you may lose the images of your last vacation.
From Start and All Programs, go to the Administrative Tools Control Panel and then to the Computer Management Console.
Also in the Administrative Tools area is a RAM tester if you suspect a memory glitch. Click on the Memory Diagnostic Tool and choose the first option, allow the system to restart and choose Basic when it reboots to the DOS screen. F1 will take you to the tests and F10 will initiate them.
Another plus from Vista is the Health Report. In Control Panel, click System and Maintenance Performance Information and Tools. On the left in Advanced Tools, the last item will say, "Generate a system health report."
While there, look for Problem Reports and Solutions that will not only discover what's wrong in your computer, but will try to fix it.
If you have a USB thumb drive with extra memory on it, you can use it to boost your system. Upon insertion, you'll be asked if you want to use it for storage or for a memory boost. Just choose.
Windows Defender is a utility that XP users can download, but Vista comes with it installed. It is Microsoft's defense against spyware. It will monitor attempts of hijacking, stop rogue programs from running and prevent pop-ups. It's accessible from the Control Panel by going to Security, then Windows Defender. It will run automatically, but you can initiate a scan at will.
Vista has other benefits, but considering my space restraints, I can't mention them all. Sure there are some cool tools and nifty gadgets to behold. But if I want weather gizmos or another clock, I'll add it to my XP desktop.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.