Archive for August 18, 2009

Creating Your Own Search Folders

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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Although the built-in saved searches can be handy, the real power of these virtual folders

is that you can make your own. As you use Windows Vista, you may find yourself occasionally

performing the same search over and over again. If that’s the case, you can simply

save the results as a Search Folder, which you can then access later as if it were a normal

folder.

Like the built-in Search Folders, any Search Folder that you create yourself is dynamic,

meaning that it can change every time you open it (and cause its underlying search query

to run). For example, if you create a Search Folder that looks for all Microsoft Word (*.doc

and *.docx) files, you may produce a search results list in which there are 125 matches.

But if you add a new Word document to your Documents folder and re-open the Search

Folder, you’ll see that you now have 126 matches. The point here is that Search Folders

aren’t static, and they don’t cease being relevant after they’re created. Because they literally

re-query the file system every time they’re run, saved searches will always return the

most up-to-date possible results.

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Let’s step back a bit before diving too deeply into potentially confusing territory. In

order to understand Vista’s virtual folders, it’s important to first understand the thinking

that went into this feature. And since this is the ever-delayed Windows Vista we’re

talking about, it might also be helpful to know about Microsoft’s original plans for the

Vista shell and virtual folders and compare the plans with what eventually happened.

You see, Microsoft originally envisioned that it would not include in Vista a traditional

file system with drive letters, physical file system paths, and real folders. Instead, the

software giant wanted to virtualize the entire file system so that you wouldn’t need to

worry about such arcane things as “the root of C:” and the Program Files folder.

Instead, you would just access your documents and applications, and not ever think

about where they resided on the disk. After all, that sort of electronic housekeeping is

what a computer is good at, right?

This original vision required a healthy dose of technology. The core piece of this technology

was a new storage engine called WinFS (short for Windows Future Storage),

which would have combined the best features of the NTFS file system with the relational

database functionality of Microsoft’s SQL Server products. As of this writing,

Microsoft has been working on WinFS, and its predecessors, for about a decade.

There was just one problem: The WinFS technology wasn’t even close to being ready

in time for Windows Vista. So Microsoft pulled WinFS out of Vista and began developing

it separately from the OS. Then, it completely cancelled plans to ship WinFS as

a separate product. Instead, WinFS technologies will be integrated into future

Windows versions and other Microsoft products.

Even though WinFS was out of the picture, Microsoft figured it could deliver much of

that system’s benefits using an updated version of the file system indexer it has

shipped in Windows for years. And for about a year of Vista’s development in

2004–05, that was the plan. Instead of special shell folders like Documents, users

would access virtual folders such as All Documents, which would aggregate all of the

documents on the hard drive and present them in a single location. Other special

shell folders, like Pictures and Music, would also be replaced by virtual folders.

Problem solved, right? Wrong. Beta testers found the transition from normal folders

to virtual folders to be extremely confusing. In retrospect, this should have been obvious.

After all, a virtual folder that displays all of your documents is kind of useful when

you’re looking for something. But where do you save a new file? Is a virtual folder

even a real place for applications that want to save data? And do users need to understand

the differences between normal folders and virtual folders? Why are there both

kinds of folders?

With the delays mounting, Microsoft stepped back from the virtual folder scheme,

just as it had when it stripped out WinFS previously. So the file system you see in

Windows Vista is actually quite similar to that in Windows XP and previous Windows

versions. That is, the file system still uses drive letters, normal folders, and special shell

folders like Documents and Pictures. If you’re familiar with any prior Windows version,

you should feel right at home in the Vista shell.

There’s just one major difference, although it’s not particularly obvious. Even though

Microsoft has decided not to replace special shell folders with virtual folders in this

release, the company is still shipping virtual folder technology in Windows Vista. The

idea is that users will get used to virtual folders now, and then perhaps a future

Windows version will simply move to that system, and eventually we’ll reach some

nerdvana where all the silly file system constructs we use today are suddenly passé.

So virtual folders are somewhat hidden in Windows Vista. That makes them a power

user feature and, for readers of this book, inherently interesting. Most people won’t

even discover virtual folders and their contained shared searches. In fact, if you want

to harness some of the most awesome technology in Windows Vista, this is the place

to start. And heck, the skills you learn now will give you a leg up when Microsoft

finally gets around to retiring the current file system. It’s only a matter of time.

One of the big questions you likely have, of course, is what the heck happened to the

familiar Display Properties dialog box that’s graced every version of Windows from

Windows 95 to Windows XP? Sadly, that dialog box is gone, but pieces of it can be

found throughout the Personalization control panel if you know where to look. In

Table 4-4, we’ll show you how to find the different sections, or tabs, of the old Display

Properties dialog box, which have been effectively scattered to the winds.

It’s unclear whether Windows Vista’s approach is better, but if you’re looking for XP

Display Properties features, you really have to know where to look.

Where to Find Old Display Properties Tabs in Windows Vista

Display Properties Tab                                                     Where It Is in Windows Vista

Themes                                                                                           Control Panel, Personalization, Themes

Desktop                                                                                          Replaced by the new Desktop Background window, found at                                                                                                                           Control Panel, Personalization, Desktop Background

Screen Saver                                                                              Control Panel, Personalization, Screen Saver

Appearance                                                                              Control Panel, Personalization, Visual Appearance, Open classic                                                                                                                  appearance properties

Settings                                                                                     Control Panel, Personalization, Display Settings

The Desktop tab of the Display Properties dialog box in Windows XP had a

Customize Desktop button that launched a Desktop Items dialog box from which you

could configure which icons appeared on the desktop and other related options. But

in Windows Vista, the Desktop tab has been replaced with the new Desktop

Background window, which does not provide a link to this functionality. To access the

Desktop Icon Properties dialog box, as it’s now known, you must open Control Panel,

choose Appearance and Personalization, Personalization, and then choose Change

desktop icons from the Tasks list on the left. Some functionality, however, is missing.

You can no longer run the Desktop Cleanup Wizard or place Web items on your

desktop, as you could in XP.

Advantages of Vista Basic over Aero

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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Windows Vista Basic isn’t as attractive as Windows Vista Aero, but there are actually

advantages to using it. For starters, it does perform better than Aero, so it’s a good

bet for lower-end computers. Notebook and Tablet PC users will notice that Vista

Basic actually provides better battery life than Aero, too. So if you’re on the road and

not connected to a power source, Vista Basic is a thriftier choice if you’re trying to

maximize runtime.

On the flipside, Windows Vista Basic has a few major if non-obvious disadvantages.

Because it uses XP-era display rendering techniques, Windows Vista Basic is not as

reliable as Aero and could thus lead to system crashes and even Blue Screen crashes

because of poorly written display drivers. Aero display drivers are typically far more

reliable, and the Aero display itself is inherently superior to that offered by Basic.

Windows Classic in Vista

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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Like Windows XP, Windows Vista includes a user experience called Windows Classic that

resembles the user interfaces that Microsoft shipped with Windows 95, 98, Me, and 2000

(it most closely resembles Windows 2000). This interface is available on all Windows Vista

product editions, including Starter edition. Classic is included in Windows Vista almost

solely for businesses that don’t want to undergo the expense of retraining their employees

to use the newer user experiences.

Even though Microsoft markets Windows Classic as being identical to the Windows

2000 look and feel, the truth is that there are numerous differences, so users will still

require some training when moving to Windows Vista and Classic mode. For example,

the Start Menu and Explorer windows still retain the layouts that debuted with

Windows Vista, and not the styles you might be used to in Windows 2000. However,

you can fix this somewhat. To use the old Start Menu, right-click the Start button and

choose Properties. Then, select the option titled Classic Start menu and then click OK.

It’s a bit more complicated to use a Windows Explorer look and feel that is closer to

that of Windows 2000. To do so, open Computer from the Start Menu and then press

the Alt key to display the Classic menu (which is disabled by default in Windows

Vista). Select Folder Options from the Tools menu to display the Folder Options dialog.

Then, select the option titled Use Windows classic folders and click OK. Voilà!

Your system should now look a bit more like Windows 2000,

If you work in the IT department of a business that is considering deploying

Windows Vista, you can actually roll out a feature called Classic Mode via Group

Policy (GP) that does, in fact, configure Windows Vista to look almost exactly like

Windows 2000. Classic Mode essentially combines the Classic user experience with

the secrets mentioned previously.

Missing Drivers after Upgradation to Vista

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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If you don’t know how to find drivers on a particular vendor’s web site, you may be
better off using DriverAgent.com. This site is run by the Touchstone Software Corp., a
Massachusetts company that has developed CheckIt Diagnostics and several other wellknown
utility programs.
At the site, you can click Scan to find which drivers may be outdated on your system
and how to obtain new drivers, whether your system is running Windows XP, 2000,
Me, or 98. Don’t install drivers that are labeled as beta unless you’re willing to take a
chance on these drivers’ readiness for widespread use.
If newer drivers are available, the site will download them for you if you pay a fee of
$29.95 for a one-year membership. This fee might save you some valuable time. If you
don’t want to pay, at least the scan will show you which of your drivers have newer versions
available. For more details, see http://www.DriverAgent.com.

If you don’t know how to find drivers on a particular vendor’s web site, you may be

better off using DriverAgent.com. This site is run by the Touchstone Software Corp., a

Massachusetts company that has developed CheckIt Diagnostics and several other wellknown

utility programs.

At the site, you can click Scan to find which drivers may be outdated on your system

and how to obtain new drivers, whether your system is running Windows XP, 2000,

Me, or 98. Don’t install drivers that are labeled as beta unless you’re willing to take a

chance on these drivers’ readiness for widespread use.

If newer drivers are available, the site will download them for you if you pay a fee of

$29.95 for a one-year membership. This fee might save you some valuable time. If you

don’t want to pay, at least the scan will show you which of your drivers have newer versions

available. For more details, see http://www.DriverAgent.com.

Upgrading to Vista

Posted: August 18, 2009 in System Information, Vista
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With all of the new features of Windows Vista, there’ll be a mighty temptation for you to

buy a copy of the operating system in a store and immediately install it over your existing

instance of Windows XP, 2000, Me, or 98.

Before you do, you should consider some of the following cautions:

_ Your old PC may not be up to the challenge of running Vista. You may need substantial

investments in additional RAM, a more capable video card, a larger hard

drive, or all of the above to get adequate performance from Vista.

_ Some of your hardware, such as printers and networking adapters, may not work

at all after you install Vista—unless you update the drivers they need to versions

that are Vista-compatible.

_ Even if you find that one or more of your drivers needs to be updated, the vendor

of your hardware may not make a Vista-compatible version available for months,

years, or ever. (It’s happened before with previous versions of Windows.)

Avoid Installing Vista over Another Version of Windows

We do recommend that you get Windows Vista preinstalled when you’re buying a

new PC. But you may be surprised to learn that we don’t recommend that you install

Vista over XP or an older version of Windows.

The reason is that installing Vista on top of another version of Windows may cause

incompatibility problems that you might not be able to easily fix. When you buy a PC

with Vista preinstalled, it’s almost certain that the components in the PC will have

been selected for their compatibility and will have the latest driver software. If you

install Vista to an older machine yourself, however, you may find that your printer,

networking adapter, or some other vital component no longer works because the

version you have of its driver is incompatible.

In general, you shouldn’t consider installing Vista over an older version of Windows

unless the following conditions are true:

• You need a feature of Vista that you can’t add to XP; or

• You need an application that requires Vista; and

• You can’t afford even the least expensive new PC that comes with Vista preinstalled

Even if one of the above cases is true, you may be better off burning your old data to

a CD, formatting the old PC’s hard drive, and doing a clean install of Vista. This avoids

the possibility that some components of the old OS will hang around to cause conflicts.

If you’ve never before backed up and formatted a hard drive, however, don’t try

to learn how on any PC that’s important to you.

A clean install, however, isn’t a panacea. Your old PC may not have enough memory,

disk space, video performance, or CPU performance to run Vista satisfactorily.

If you do decide to install Vista over an older version of Windows, at least run

Microsoft’s Vista Upgrade Advisor, described in this chapter, to see which drivers you

may need to update first.

Dual Windows Installation Truths

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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On a typical PC with two hard drives or partitions, one dedicated to Windows XP, and

one dedicated to Windows Vista, you will typically end up with XP on the C: drive

and Windows Vista on the D: drive when you initiate Windows Vista’s Setup routine

from within Windows XP. But when you reboot the system and boot with the

Windows Vista Setup DVD, something magical occurs. After both operating systems

are installed, Windows XP will be on C: and Windows Vista will be on D: while you’re

using Windows XP. But when you’re using Windows Vista, the system will report that

Windows Vista is on C: and Windows XP is on D:. This is vastly preferable to the former

method, because most people are used to seeing the operating system partition

located on the C: drive. For this very simple reason, we recommend that you always

install Windows Vista in a dual-boot scenario by booting the system with the Vista

Setup DVD and launching Setup from there.

I’ve been referring to Windows Vista’s dual-boot capabilities throughout this chapter,

but the reality is that Windows Vista (and previous NT-based Windows versions

like Windows 2000 and XP) support multi-booting. That’s right: With the right partitioning

scheme, gobs of hard drive space, and plenty of time on your hands, you

can configure your PC to boot between two, three, four, or more operating systems.

Such a setup is conceptually interesting but of little use in the real world, at least for

most people. As the saying goes, people who are dual-booting aren’t getting anything

done.

We’ve been referring to Windows Vista’s dual-boot capabilities throughout this chapter,
but the reality is that Windows Vista (and previous NT-based Windows versions
like Windows 2000 and XP) support multi-booting. That’s right: With the right partitioning
scheme, gobs of hard drive space, and plenty of time on your hands, you
can configure your PC to boot between two, three, four, or more operating systems.
Such a setup is conceptually interesting but of little use in the real world, at least for
most people. As the saying goes, people who are dual-booting aren’t getting anything
done.

Which Versions of Windows can Upgrade to Vista

RAM Limitations of Vista Versions

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Vista
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The Home versions of Vista suffer from some stricter limitations on available main memory

and peer-to-peer networking than the non-Home versions. We’ll summarize these

limits as follows:

_ 32-bit Vista versions will always be limited to 4 GB of RAM, due to limitations of

x86 processors.

_ 64-bit Vista versions have dramatically different limitations in the various editions:

Home Basic is limited to 8 GB or RAM.

Home Premium is limited to 16 GB of RAM.

Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate can access over 128 GB of RAM.