Six Quick Vista Tricks

Work Vista like a pro with these shortcuts and secrets.

By Brian Livingston and Paul Thurrott

Dual-boot the right way. Installing Windows Vista in a dual-boot configuration with Windows XP is a great way to test the new operating system while still retaining the comfort and compatibility of the old one. But if you install Vista from within XP, the new OS is installed on a new partition with a new drive letter, typically D:. A better idea is to create a dual-boot setup by booting the PC with the Vista DVD and installing at that point. This way, both Vista and XP—whichever one you're running at the time—will appear to be on C:, not D:. Applications that automatically default to C: will run without confusion, and any you install while using Vista will show up on your primary partition.

Get network drivers that work. Micro­soft tested more than 100 XP-era hardware drivers that work fine in Vista but that are not included with the operating system for various reasons. Most affected are Ethernet cards and Wi-Fi adapters. If one of these devices doesn't work after you've installed Vista, it more than likely will if you download the XP driver from the manufacturer's site. Microsoft engineers prepared a list of drivers they found to be compatible with Vista, but the document was never posted. We've posted the list ourselves at ­

Edit TV shows and skip commercials. Only the Vista edition of Windows Movie Maker lets you edit Media ­Cen­ter-recorded TV shows. That means you can edit out the commercials (although you're limited to ­standard-definition television content). You can also archive your favorite shows in WMV (Windows Media Video) format, which creates much smaller files than Media Center's MS-DVR format.

Use Virtual Folders.
Vista's new Virtual Folders feature has been downplayed to the point that it's almost invisible in the user interface. But it's still there and highly usable. Look for prebuilt examples in C:\Users\username\Searches. In a search window (Windows-F) click Save Search to create a search folder, such as "documents by Jack that mention the Nexus project." Your folder dynami­cally updates its view to include any such file that's added, changed, or removed.

Keep malware at bay.
To get better ­security defenses than are possible in XP, leave Vista's User Account Protection enabled and select a Standard User account. You must enter an admin password occasionally, but it's worth the trouble in the interest of keeping Trojan horses and other malware from silently infecting your system. For even better security, apply Parental Controls to your Standard User account, even though you're an adult. Power users do this to get a pop-up reminder when they're about to visit a suspect Web site or run a rogue application.

Get the best 3D rendering. The new OS includes striking 3D effects. But you won't get the best rendering in, say, Vista's new chess game unless you know the trick. Click Game, then Options, and push the Graphic Quality slider all the way to the right. When you click OK, you'll notice the game instantly becomes smoother and less jagged-looking. To get the opposite effect, push the slider all the way to the left. The game then downshifts to a 2D mode that's just right for older PCs.