harbar.net component based software & platform hygiene

Vista tweaks and utilities

Print | posted on Saturday, March 31, 2007 6:24 PM

Ahh, Windows Vista, isn't it nice - as I've mentioned previously finally a computing experience which fulfills the promise. Trouble is, for a front-end and platform hygiene kinda guy, there's a few annoyances that need fixed. So here are my favorite shell tweaks I use on my Vista boxes. Some are old, and some are new. Hopefully you'll see some you like.

IE icon fix
In this release, the Internet Explorer link has vanished from the Desktop, and you can't get it back via the Desktop Icons applet. You could just add a normal shortcut, but you get the horrible shortcut overlay and lose the ability to jump into IE's options from a right click. This registry tweak brings it back just how you want it.

Disk Performance Settings
You can tweak your disk's performance by going into the Policy tab of the Drive Properties in Device Manager and enabling Advanced Performance. Good for laptop drives this. Obviously there is a risk, but you backup right?

Ultimate Wallpapers
Ultimate Edition doesn't ship with any decent wallpapers OOTB, but you can grab some cool ones which offer a preview of the soon to be released DreamScene content. Somewhat bizarre that this content is available to everyone, but they are just JPGs afterall.

Screensaver settings
The new screensavers don't allow you to alter their options via the GUI. These tweaks let you fiddle and make them a bit more impressive to annoy those you meet who are still running XP.

Aurora Boot Screen
The default boot screen is naff, this tweak gets you a nicer one.

Add Event Viewer to My Computer context menu.
Notice how Computer Management is way slower in Vista due to all the new 'features'? This hold over from my XP/W2K3 tweaks adds Event Viewer to the My Computer context menu to ease the pain somewhat.

Take Ownership context menu.
Adds Take Ownership to the right click options. Useful for deleting things that don't want to be deleted!

I notice there are now the usual tweaking utils - TweakVI and Vista Manager in particular. Why are these tools so horrible, asking for registration or even fees, and then doing updates etc etc. These are such bad citizens in the OS. Yuk! Having said that, I do use TweakVista to set up my IE search providers and then delete it. I know there are easier ways to do this - but can't be bothered configuring it.

Of course I use Autoruns to kill a bunch of spyware "reminders" and other nasties dubious vendors like to put in my startup.

I definitely don't turn off UAC - that'd be silly - but of course disable it during the build process.

I'm not convinced about the Sidebar yet - I don't actually like the sidebar itself, and would prefer to just have the gadgets float on the Desktop. The trouble with this is that most of them are massive when undocked. Also, I've not seen too many actually useful gadgets yet - the Recent Documents one from Office is pretty sweet. If you know of actually useful ones let me know!

Also, I've yet to find a decent Start Menu addin yet - I use SlickRun on servers, but there's not much use for it in Vista. There's Start++ but it's slow and crappy - if I install a shell addin, it's gotta be robust and quick.

In some respects it's interesting that Vista needs less tweaking - and most of the above are for turning things on that the team didn't have time for making a GUI. I'm sure there are more out there, but I need them to be truly useful or offer visual improvements to consider them.

I've yet to play with some of the MCE tweaks - I may well cover those in the future.