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30 quick fixes for Windows XP & Vista

Fast fixes for Windows users

Stifle Shadow Copies' Wastefulness

Problem: Vista is saving my data, but won't let me recover it

Fast Fix: Vista's Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate Editions include Shadow Copies (or Previous Versions), which lets you recover a file's older version. Vista Home Basic and Home Premium lack this feature but save the data anyway, wasting CPU cycles and disk space. To stop the waste, put all of your documents and other files on a drive or partition other than your Windows disk. Then click Start, type SystemPropertiesProtection, and press Enter. In the list of disks, uncheck the one that contains personal data. Click Turn System Protection Off when prompted, and click OK to close System Properties. Note that having your data on a separate partition also speeds up backups by allowing you to copy only your own files rather than your programs, which change much less frequently and thus need fewer backups.

Use Windows' Own Speed Tweakers

Problem: My computer is relatively new, but it's not nearly fast enough

Fast Fix: Use the performance tools built into Windows to maximise memory, disk space, and other resources. See 'Shift Any Version of Windows Into High Gear' for a handy guide to these utilities.

Reduce the Power Apps Have Over Your System

Problem: I don't want a Trojan horse or other malware to be able to take over my computer, but logging in as a standard user is too restrictive

Fast Fix: Even if you log in as an administrator, you can launch your applications with limited privileges. Begin by downloading Microsoft's free PsTools utility collection. Unzip the contents to a folder, and move the folder where you normally store your apps. The PsExec tool was intended for launching apps remotely, but you can use it to launch programs with reduced privileges as well.

To create a shortcut that opens Internet Explorer 7 or any other app with restrictions, right-drag its shortcut to a new location. (You might want to use the normal, high-privilege version of the shortcut, so leave that original unchanged.) Choose Copy Here. Right-click the copied shortcut and select Properties. With the Shortcut tab active, click at the beginning of the Target box and type the path to PsExec before the existing command line. Then type a space, followed by -l -d (a hyphen, the letter l, a space, a hyphen, and the letter d).

Finally, type another space. The '-l' switch reduces the program privileges, while the '-d' switch causes the command-prompt window to close as soon as the app is launched. When you're done, the text in the Target box should look something like "C:\Program Files\PsTools\ psexec.exe" -l -d "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" (your paths may differ). Click Change Icon, OK. Specify the path to the original file (iexplore.exe here) and click OK until all dialog boxes close.

To avoid restrictions on such activities as installing plug-ins for your browser, you will have to run the browser in its normal, high-privilege mode.

Repeat these steps for each shortcut you want to run with fewer privileges.

Stifle Shadow Copies' wastefulness

Use Windows’ speed tweakers

Sort out your internet connection

Automate disk cleaning

Manage files from your right-click menu

Analyse your PC's security

Automate your backup

Patch your apps & OS

Solve sluggish web surfing

Make Windows defrag for you

Turn off Auto play

Use keys to start Quick Launch items

Shut down instantly

Use dual operating systems

Our favourite fix-it freebies

Speed up your startups

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