[AI] 50 WAYS TO SPEED UP WINDOWS

Sanjay ilovecold at gmail.com
Sun May 16 06:36:18 EDT 2010


 
Whether you run Windows 7, Vista or XP, these tricks will make your PC faster,
safer and even more fun to work with.

Rick Broida is your guide 

Windows 7 is being lauded as Microsoft's best operating system (OS) to date.
It's stocked with genuinely handy interface upgrades such as Aero Snap, offers
long-overdue networking improvements in the form of HomeGroups, and adds
touchscreen support and the best Windows Media Center experience yet.

Windows 7 was made publicly available as a downloadable beta for most of 2009,
giving plenty of scope for people to critique it and develop add-ons and tweaks.
The result is an OS that's more modest in its hardware demands than Vista,
more stable than Me and more secure than XP.  But while the OS doesn't need
many outright improvements, there's certainly room for refinements.

Over the following pages we've assembled more than 50 such tips and tweaks.
Most of these are designed to work with Windows 7, but many have equivalent
workarounds for use in XP and Vista.  In many cases, the suggestions we offer
will give your system a bit of a fillip, either because they tame the programs
and services Windows deems fit to run by default, or because they prioritise
what happens when rather than having everything clamouring for processor cycles.

Windows 7 isn't as much of a resource hog as its often maligned predecessor,
Vista, but there are certainly ways and means of making it leaner and cleaner.

But our tips aren't just about changing how Windows works; they also explain
how to achieve common tasks quicker using shortcuts and key combinations that
fast become second nature.  Experienced PC users will recognise some
long-standing favourites in our run-through of best ever tips on the final two
pages.  Here, we've brought together the best of the best of Windows tips
across the board.  Together, these tips can help you make Windows faster,
easier, safer and more fun.

GO FASTER

Is Windows 7 really speedier than Vista or XP?  Various tests have yielded
different results, and ultimately your Windows 7 experience depends on your
hardware and the applications you run.  In fact, with just a few simple tricks,
you can wring better performance from any machine.

Go 64bit 

Works in: Vista, Windows 7 

Windows loves RAM.  The more memory you supply, the less the OS has to rely on
the hard drive.  But if you want Windows to get the benefit from more than 3GB
of memory, you'll have to run the 64bit version.  If you're buying Windows 7
as an upgrade, you should find a 64bit installation disc in the box; ignore the
32bit disc entirely.

In addition to recognising more memory, the 64bit edition of Windows makes
better use of your PC's processor, giving you the best possible Windows
experience.

Turn off the eye candy 

Works in: Vista, Windows 7 

Everybody loves bells and whistles, but Windows' fancy graphics come at a
price - particularly on older PCs with single-core CPUs or minimal RAM.  If
you're more concerned with zippy performance than you are with transparent
windows and animated controls, consider turning off visual effects.

Open the Control Panel, type visual in the Search field, then click 'Adjust
the appearance and performance of Windows'.  Choose Adjust for best
performance, then click Apply.  After a few seconds you'll see a decidedly
starker Windows interface and enjoy a much snappier response.

If the look is too plain, choose the Custom option and select any effects you
want to restore.  The more you enable, the more performance will suffer.

Boot up quicker 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

Windows 7 boots up a little more rapidly than other Windows versions.  Even so,
the more programs you install, the slower your PC will start up (something
that's true of all Windows editions).  Many apps force Windows to run them at
startup, a situation not unlike a dozen cars trying to merge into one lane,
slowing down everything in the process.

Startup Delayer (tinyurl.com/b8ypj) is a great tool that tells the
lower-priority programs you select to sit tight, be patient and run a little bit
later, after some of the traffic has cleared.  The end result is that your
computer boots up much more quickly.

The utility presents you with a list of all the programs that launch when your
system does.  To set a delay for any of them, just drag the item to the white
bar at the bottom of the window.  You'll see a line representing the
application; drag it left or right to decrease or increase the delay.

Startup Delayer is free and one of the best ways we know of to speed up a
slow-booting PC.  Even one that runs Windows 7.

Tweak the power settings 

Works in: Vista, Windows 7 

Using Windows' power-management features to save energy makes sense, but you
shouldn't do it at the expense of productivity.

If you're working on a PC or on a laptop plugged into the mains, you don't
need your hard drive to turn off after 5 minutess, your processor to throttle
back when idle or your video playback to be optimised for power saving.  Since
you're not attempting to preserve battery life on this machine, you should
crank up the performance settings.

By default, both Vista and Windows 7 come configured with a 'Balanced' power
plan.  To crank up performance, click Start, type power and select Power
Options.  Choose the 'High performance' plan.  (If you don't see it
listed, click 'Show additional plans'.) Now your machine will run with
desktop-optimised power settings.

If you want to tweak individual settings, such as how long the hard drive should
sit idle before shutting down, click 'Change plan settings', 'Change
advanced power settings'.

Get an efficiency report 

Works in: Windows 7 

If you're using Windows 7 on a laptop, you can check that it's running
efficiently and that its battery will last as long as possible.

First run a command prompt.  Open the Start menu and type cmd in the search box.
When the cmd icon appears, right-click it and choose 'Run as administrator'.

At the command line, type powercfg --energy -output \Folder\Energy_Report.html
(where \Folder represents the folder where you want the report to be placed).

Be patient while Windows examines the behaviour of your laptop.  It will analyse
this and create a report in HTML format in the folder you specified.
Double-click the file to view the report.  Follow its recommendations for ways
to improve power performance.

Remove unwanted extras 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

Many PC manufacturers insist on stuffing their new systems with free and trial
software that consumes precious hard-drive space and slows down the machine's
startup.

We're talking about security suites you may not require, games you might not
want and vendor-branded utilities that are more nuisance than necessity.

To get rid of this bloatware, go to the Start menu and open the Control Panel,
then click 'Uninstall a program'.  Alternatively, use one of our favourite
free utilities, Revo Uninstaller ( revouninstaller.com), to make a clean sweep;
the tool not only uninstalls software, but also removes leftover files and
Registry entries.  Just make sure you don't uninstall anything important, such
as Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft .Net Framework.

Switch to Chrome 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

The web browser is probably the most frequently used program on your PC.
Switching to a faster browser can therefore speed up your Windows experience.

Google Chrome loads pages faster than Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 8.0, Opera
10.0 and Safari 4.0 (see bit.ly/7cXHIB).  The advantage may amount to only a
second or two, but every second counts.

Run Performance Monitor 

Works in: Windows 7 

If you like charts, numbers and data sets, Windows 7 has just the tool for you.
Performance Monitor tracks your PC's hardware and applications in real time,
generating all kinds of data that you can review and compare.  It's aimed at
system administrators rather than everyday users, but it can help you discover
which programs are sapping system performance.

Press the Windows key, type perfmon and press Enter.  Start assessing your
system by expanding the Monitoring Tools folder and clicking Performance
Monitor.  From there you'll probably need to delve into the built-in help
files, as the tool isn't exactly userfriendly.  For more, check out the
Microsoft Developer Network blog post on using Performance Monitor at
bit.ly/7FEwaJ.

EXPERT TIP: ELIMINATE THE AERO PEEK DELAY 

Aero Peek, one of Windows 7's most celebrated enhancements, temporarily turns
all your windows transparent when you hover the cursor over the Show Desktop
button.  If you accept the default settings, the effect takes nearly a full
second to kick in.  However, a simple Registry hack will enable instantaneous
transparency.

Press the Windows key to open the Start menu, type regedit in the search box and
press Enter.  Navigate to Hkey_Current_User\Software\Microsoft\Windows\
CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced.

Right-click an empty area in the right pane, then choose New, Dword (32bit)
Value.  In the field, enter DesktopLivePreviewHoverTime.  By default, Windows
assigns a value of 0, which is exactly what you want.  Restart the PC.  Next
time you hover the cursor over Show Desktop, you'll be peeking at light speed.

EXPERT TIP: CLEAR YOUR DESKTOP OF CLUTTER 

If you often run several programs at once, your desktop can get extremely
cluttered.  This can get annoying if you're working on one program and want to
minimise all the other windows.  In previous versions of Windows you had to
minimise them individually, but with Windows 7's 'shake' feature you can
minimise all except the window you're currently working in.

Click and hold the title bar of the window you want to keep on the desktop, then
shake it quickly back and forth until all the other windows minimise to the
Taskbar.  Then let go.  Shake the title bar again to make the other windows
return onscreen.

Admittedly, you can accomplish the same thing by pressing the Window key, Home
key combination, but it's not nearly as much fun.

Preston Gralla 

PROTECT YOURSELF

Still looking for a good reason to trade in XP for Windows 7?  Security is the
top reason.  The new OS is inherently better at fighting infections, blocking
hackers and thwarting phishing attempts.  And with the extra tools described
here, you can lock it down like a digital Fort Knox.

Install MS Security Essentials 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

Windows 7 comes equipped with some solid security tools, including a robust
firewall and the spyware-blocking Windows Defender.

On top of that, you need a good antivirus program that works in the background
and won't bog down your system.

Microsoft's Security Essentials (download it from tinyurl.com/kwsxcu) provides
real-time protection against viruses and other malware, and its impact on
performance is negligible.  Our recent tests found it holds its own against
other free antivirus utilities.  In other words, it's a great alternative to
paying an annual fee for virus protection.

Install Web of Trust 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

The seemingly innocent act of clicking a web link - even one that's at the
top of a Google search results page - can result in 'drive-by downloads'
infecting your computer.  Even seasoned users can have trouble knowing which
links are safe to click.  For an extra layer of security, try using Web of Trust
( mywot.com), a browser add-on that will warn you of unsafe sites.

The plug-in adds colour-coded icons to every link that your search engine
produces: green for safe, yellow for risky and red for dangerous.  You can also
right-click any link, such as one that appears in an online forum, and choose
'View WOT scorecard' to perform a manual safety check.

Web Of Trust is free and available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Although its rating icons add a little clutter to some web pages, we recommend
it for anyone who is concerned about security.

Create a system repair disc 

Works in: Windows 7 

Before you do anything with your PC, you should have a plan of action in case
something goes wrong.  Dig out the box it came in.  Do you see a Windows 7 disc
or a system recovery disc?  They're less common these days, so the chances are
it falls to you to create your own.  And it's vital that you do so, because if
your system ever becomes unbootable, a recovery CD or DVD might be your only
recourse.

Thankfully, Windows 7 makes the task exceedingly easy.  Just pop in a blank,
recordable CD or DVD (you'll need a burner, of course), click Start, type
repair and choose Create a System Repair Disc.  Follow the instructions from
there, remembering to label the disc when you're finished.

If you ever run into trouble, boot up your system with the repair disc.  It
includes a variety of recovery and diagnostic tools, and also lets you choose a
System Restore point to help get your PC back to a previous, working state.

Make this disc now.  If you wait until after you have a problem, it's too
late.

EXPERT TIP: TWEAK USER ACCOUNT CONTROL 

You remember User Account Control (UAC), right?  Incessant annoyance?  Symbol of
everything that was wrong with Windows Vista?  Yep, that's UAC.  It's back
in Windows 7, and its heart remains in the right place: it's still meant to
protect you from accidentally running dangerous software on your machine or from
malware being able to make unauthorised changes to your system.

UAC can still be annoying, though.  Fortunately, Microsoft now gives you control
over when and why UAC issues warnings.  To tweak the settings, click Start, type
account and select 'Change User Account Control settings'.  You'll see a
slider with four notification levels.  By default, UAC is now a little less
intrusive than it was in Vista, notifying you only when programs attempt to make
changes and not when you make changes to Windows yourself.  Want UAC to take a
hike altogether?  Drop the slider down to 'Never notify'.

MAKE THINGS EASIER

When is an OS easy to use?  When it works the way you want it to.  Here's how
to make using Windows simpler and more productive.

Close all your apps in a flash 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

Finished work for the day?  Close all your apps at once with a click of the
Close All Windows icon.  Unlike the Show Desktop function, which merely
minimises all open windows, Close All Windows (get it from ntwind.com)
terminates each running program.  If an open document needs saving, the program
will prompt you to do so.

To make the best use of the app, pin it to your Taskbar.  XP and Vista users can
add the icon to the Quick Launch toolbar.

Move the Taskbar 

Works in: Vista, Windows 7 

Widescreen monitors are great for watching films and organising windows side by
side, but much of the time that generous screen area goes to waste.  One option
is to move the Taskbar to the side where it will be accessible but not in your
way.  This may sound an odd thing to do, but since web pages, Word documents and
the like run top to bottom, the more vertical space you can give them, the
better.

Right-click an empty area of the Taskbar and remove the tick by 'Lock the
Taskbar'.  Next, left-click and hold on an empty area of the Taskbar, and drag
it to the left (or right) side of the screen.  Once you get close, you'll see
it lock in.  Now release the mouse button.

Vista users may want to extend the width of the Taskbar (by clicking and
dragging the right edge) to better see the labels for currently running
programs.  But Windows 7 users can keep the Taskbar narrow, as the new OS
doesn't use Taskbar labels anyway.

Reload programs after a reboot 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

Windows XP, Vista and 7 have at least one thing in common: they always urge you
to reboot after installing new updates and patches.  You'd think the OS would
be courteous enough to restore your running programs, much as Firefox and
Internet Explorer restore tabs after a crash or restart, but, alas, it
doesn't.

Thankfully, the free Cache My Work ( cachemywork.codeplex.com) can reopen your
apps after a reboot.  It's particularly handy for those times when you step
away from your PC only to discover upon your return that Windows has restarted
without your permission.

Install apps quickly 

Works in: XP, Vista, Windows 7 

If you've just made the move to a Windows 7 machine and need to install all
your software, try Ninite ( ninite.com).  This excellent free service
automatically downloads and installs popular apps.  Just scroll through its list
of 70-plus free programs, checking off what you want.  It offers current
versions of nearly every major freebie, including Firefox, iTunes, Microsoft
Security Essentials, OpenOffice, Picasa, Skype and Steam.

Tweak the Taskbar 

Works in: Windows 7 

With Jump Lists, program pinning and rich thumbnail previews, the Windows 7
Taskbar offers some nice amenities.  However, since it's your Windows, you may
as well make it work the way you want it to.

The 7 Taskbar Tweaker (download it from rammichael.com) offers six adjustments,
including one that replaces the Jump List with the old window menu when you
right-click a running app.  Our favourite tweak reassigns the middle mouse
button to close or focus a window instead of opening a new instance of the app.

EXPERT TIP: MAKE YOUR PC A WI-FI HOTSPOT 

Imagine you've got a broadband card in your laptop, but no way to share its
wireless connection with your iPod touch or another PC.  Or maybe you've paid
for a hotel's Wi-Fi service, but you don't want to pay again just to connect
other devices.

You need Connectify ( connectify.me), a clever utility that turns your
web-connected computer into the equivalent of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  Although it's
still an early-stage beta, it worked quite well on our test systems.  After
installing the program, just click the Connectify icon in the system tray,
choose the connection you want to share, then enter a name and password for your
wireless network.

Now fire up your other devices and look for the new connection.  Join it, enter
the password and you'll be connected.  Keep in mind, however, that because
Connectify is still in development, it may not work perfectly with every device.

On the plus side, the utility is free while it stays in beta, and it may remain
an ad-supported freebie once it's finished.

HAVE MORE FUN

If you're looking for entertainment, Windows 7 has a couple of tricks up its
sleeve: media sharing and Windows Media Center.  The latter is available in the
Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate editions of the OS; only Starter
doesn't have it.  Here's how to get more enjoyment out of your Windows
entertainment applications.

Autorotate your wallpaper 

Works in: Windows 7 

Wouldn't it be nice if Windows greeted you with a new wallpaper every time you
started up your PC or at regular intervals throughout the day.  Consider it
done.

Press the Windows key, type background, then click 'Change desktop
background'.

By default, Windows will show you its stock background art, but you can peruse
different images by clicking the Picture location drop-down menu or choosing
Browse to pull images from a folder on your hard drive.

Tick the box next to each image you want to add to the rotation, then click
'Change picture every' and set the interval to a length of time of your
choice.  Save changes.

Download themes 

Works in: Windows 7 

Microsoft has stocked Windows 7 with some stunning Aero themes - packages of
wallpapers, sounds and a pervasive colour palette.  To access the array of
choices, press Windows, type theme and click 'Change the theme'.  You can
browse what's there or click 'Get more themes online' to tap into
Microsoft's Personalization Gallery (head to bit.ly/8QqQF4).

The gallery is home to about a dozen branded themes, plus 20 international
themes.  You'll also find instructions on creating or customising a theme.

Watch TV without a tuner 

Works in: Windows 7 

Although Windows Media Center offers pretty good digital video recorder (DVR)
features, you typically need at least one TV tuner to watch and record live
programming.  If your PC doesn't have a tuner, however, you can stream a
selection of shows on-demand in the Windows 7 version of Media Center.

Stream media to other PCs 

Works in: Windows 7 

Windows 7 lets you stream music, photos and videos (including recorded TV shows)
from your home PC to other Windows 7 machines.

It's a neat trick if you're on the road with your laptop or netbook and you
want to see the football match you recorded at home.  What's not so great is
the number of hoops you have to jump through.

Launch Windows Media Player and click Stream, 'Allow Internet access to home
media'.  Click 'Link an online ID' and select 'Add an online ID
provider'.  On the web page that appears, choose either 'Download for
32bit' or 'Download for 64bit', depending on which version of Windows 7
you're using.  Save and then run the downloaded file, which installs the
Windows Live ID Sign-in Assistant app.

Having done this, return to the Link Online IDs window and, under Online ID
Provider, click 'Link online ID'.  Enter your Windows Live ID username and
password.  (Click the link in the box to sign up if you don't already have a
LiveID.) Finally, click ok.

Return to Windows Media Player and click 'Allow Internet access to home
media'.

That's one PC done.  On the second system, you'll need to repeat the
procedure.  You'll then be able to browse the Other Libraries section in
Windows Media Player to find the media you want to view from afar.

EXPERT TIP: DOWNLOAD WEB VIDEO TO A TV 

YouTube is all very well, but sometimes you want to be able to watch TV
programmes and other video content in its original broadcast quality.  For this,
there's always BBC iPlayer and its ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky equivalents.
But if you're after a broader selection, you'll need to look to the web.

Blinkx ( blinkx.com) is a good starting point, aggregating video content from
around the web and letting you create watch folders based on keywords so you
don't have to initiate a new search every time to you want to locate an
episode of 'True Blood' or 'Glee', for example.  To view programmes for
free in a full-screen web browser pane, you're taken to a third-party service
such as VuReel.  This is ad-supported, but you can pay a monthly subscription of
$5.49 (around ukp3.37) to skip the adverts and to be able to download content
for viewing on a TV or a portable entertainment device.

For additional ease of use, beam your favourite programmes to a TV and use a
GlideTV ( glide.tv) remote control to select what you want to watch.

OLD FAVOURITES

Superb shortcuts 

Toggle between apps: Use Alt, Tab to switch open programs without touching your
mouse.  The oldest (and still the best) Windows timesaver.

Navigate app windows: Press Ctrl, Tab to cycle through an application's
windows (or through a web browser's tabs).  This is probably the most
underrated tip around.

When in doubt, type it out: If you don't want to hunt through nested menus and
the like, you can access most functions, applets or files by entering their
details into the Search box.  Type Calculator, Control Panel, or even the name
of a piece of music on your hard drive and press Enter.

Unobtrusive updates: Keep your OS current by opening Windows Update (Automatic
Update in XP) and setting it to 'Download updates but let me choose whether to
install them'.  To access this option, press the Windows key and type Windows
Update.  Now you won't have Windows urging you to restart when you don't
want to - or, worse, triggering a restart when you're away from the PC with
an unsaved document open.

Tweak your Taskbar: Right-click the Taskbar and choose Properties to find
options for switching to the old Start menu, choosing which icons show in the
notification area, setting default programs to appear in the Start bar menu and
more.

Folder reveal: In Windows Explorer, click Folder Options to reveal hidden files,
show the full path in the title bar, display file extensions and more.

Partition, partition, partition: Make backups and restores easier by
partitioning your hard drive and keeping one partition for the OS and the other
for your data.

Make your text special: Need a special character such as (copyright) or a?  Press the
Windows key and type character map in the field to bring up an app that will let
you copy and paste the characters you need.

Use sticky keys: Holding down two keys at once, such as Ctrl, C to copy, can be
tricky.  Press the Shift key five times to start Sticky Keys and you'll be
able to initiate a keyboard shortcut simply by pressing Shift, Ctrl, Alt or
Windows, instead of holding down that particular key.  Press Shift five more
times to toggle Sticky Keys off.

Simple screen capture: Take a screenshot by pressing the Print Screen (PrtScrn)
button at the top right of your keyboard.  This copies an image of your entire
screen to your clipboard so you can paste it into Paint or your preferred image
editor.  To capture only the active window, use Ctrl, Alt, Print Screen.  For
more finely tuned controls, try Screenshot Captor ( bit.ly/7U4f8G).

Take a shortcut: Right-click on any application icon, bring up the Properties
menu and click the Shortcuts tab.  You can specify a keystroke combination to
start your application here.  What's more, making a shortcut for Windows 7's
Snipping Tool makes screenshots much easier.

Line 'em up: To arrange two (or more) windows side by side in XP or Vista,
hold down Ctrl and click on the desired windows in the Taskbar; then right-click
the Taskbar and select Tile Vertically.  In Windows 7, you can simply drag any
open window to the edge of your screen and then let go.

Take control: Windows' old Control Panel conveniently displayed all of its
items at once.  To revert to this sensible approach in Windows XP and Vista,
open the Control Panel and select 'Switch to Classic View'.  In Windows 7,
click the View by drop-down menu in the upper-right corner and select your
preference.

Speedier service 

Process Explorer: Windows' Task Manager (press Ctrl, Alt, Del and click Task
Manager) is great for seeing what your system is up to, but for more detail try
Process Explorer (download it from bit.ly/6zwhms).  Its additional information
can help you find a memory leak or troubleshoot a pesky DLL problem.

Index options: The Windows Search indexer speeds up built-in search functions,
but the indexing process itself can consume system resources at inconvenient
times.

Open Indexing Options in Control Panel (or press the Windows key and type
Indexing Options).  The resulting dialog box will let you specify which folders
or types of data are indexed to avoid needlessly bogging down your PC.

Clean up your startup: If your machine drags its feet during the startup
process, press the Windows key and type msconfig to open the System
Configuration utility.  Check in the Startup tab to see what your machine is
loading.  It might be loading services or apps that you don't need or want to
use on startup.

Nudge your network: If you have network problems, try opening the command prompt
(enter cmd in the Start menu's search box) and typing ipconfig /renew to reset
your network connection.

Better sharing: For a little assistance in tracking your shared folders,
right-click My Computer (or Computer in Windows 7) and click Manage to bring up
the Computer Management tool.  Then click Shared Folders to see a list of all
your machine's shared folders, file-sharing sessions and open files.

Essential add-ons 

Go mouse-free: XP users should grab Launchy ( launchy.net), a free
keyboard-driven launcher application that allows you to access programs, files
and websites with just a few keystrokes.  Vista and Windows 7 users get the same
functionality from the Start menu's search tool.

Cleaner than ever: To make sure your programs uninstall completely, use Revo
Uninstaller ( revouninstaller.com).  It's often more thorough than the
programs' own supplied uninstaller routines.

Annoyance buster: If you're tired of UAC dialog boxes popping up all the time
in Vista, but you don't want to disable the security feature completely, grab
TweakUAC (visit tinyurl.com/24hw7u) to set it to Quiet Mode.  Windows 7 has its
own UAC controls, but can still benefit from TweakUAC.

Better browsing: Optimise your web browsing with Greasemonkey for Firefox (head
to greasespot.net).  This add-on lets you choose scripts (see userscripts.org)
for blocking adverts, changing the layouts of popular sites and more.  Variants
also exist for Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari.

Windows key workout 

Lock it up: Stepping out for a minute?  Remember to press Windows, L to lock
your computer screen so no one can nose around without entering your account
password.

Run, Windows, run: To access the Run command easily, press Windows, R. 

Keyboard explorer: Want to open a new Windows Explorer window without leaving
the keyboard?  Press Windows, E.

Declutter your desktop: Access your desktop instantly by pressing Windows, D to
hide all open windows.  Press Windows, D again to return to where you were
before.

HASSLE-FREE PC 

Fix compatibility issues in Windows 7 

Windows 7 is far easier to get along with than Vista, but it still has issues,
writes Rick Broida

Like every other technology upgrade, Windows 7 suffers from its share of
mismatches with existing programs and devices.  Here, we'll show you how to
make all your old stuff work with your new operating system (OS).  We'll also
describe how to retrieve your media when it gets jammed in an optical drive.

Compatibility issues 

Windows 7 has the same core code as Vista, so, in theory, application
compatibility shouldn't be an issue.  Unfortunately, that's not quite the
case.  We recently tried to apply a firmware update to a Blu-ray drive, but the
installer was designed for Vista and produced an error in Windows 7.

Meanwhile, ongoing problems getting an iPhone to sync with iTunes has been
causing grief, even though it worked fine in Vista.

As much as we like Windows 7, at times like these we wish we could turn back the
clock and run Vista or even XP.  Actually, we can.  Windows 7 has a feature for
troubleshooting program compatibility.

Right-click the icon of the application that isn't working properly and click
'Troubleshoot compatibility'.  Windows will try to detect compatibility
issues.  If it finds any, it'll give you two options: 'Try recommended
settings' and 'Troubleshoot program'.  Choose the first option.  If it
doesn't work, you can always go back and try the second option (which gives
you the opportunity to specify the Windows OS with which you want to achieve
compatibility).

After Windows applies the settings, click Start Program and see whether the
change has solved the problem.  Click Next and Windows will make the changes
permanent.  Alternatively, try using different settings.

This tool solved both of our problems.  For iTunes, we let Windows choose the
settings (it chose XP with Service Pack 2) and the iPhone synchronised properly.
For the firmware updater, we chose Vista with SP1 (the installed OS before our
Windows 7 upgrade), and again it worked.  Compatibility problems can be vexing,
but for once Microsoft has supplied a simple workaround.

Eject your discs 

The next problem is about a media centre PC, but could happen to any machine.
It has an annoying glitch: the Blu-ray drive's Eject button doesn't work.
Discs stay trapped in the drive unless we minimise Windows Media Center, open
Computer, right-click the drive icon and choose Eject.

Tech support offered a few ways to resolve this issue, but we've found an
easier solution: a freeware app called EjectCD.

After extracting the program from the .zip file, we pinned it to the Windows 7
Taskbar.  Vista users can accomplish the same result by enabling the Quick
Launch toolbar and dragging it there.

Now a click of the EjectCD icon opens the drive, and this can be made simpler
still with a keyboard shortcut.  Every icon in the Taskbar (and in the Quick
Launch toolbar) is automatically assigned a numerical value, beginning with 1
for the icon situated closest to Start, then 2 for the one next to it and so on.
Pressing the Windows ( .  ) key and the appropriate number launches the program.

We pinned EjectCD in the first position and press .  Windows 1 to open the
drive.

We haven't been able to locate the origin of this application, but you can
grab it from tinyurl.com/y8p2xwm.



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