Since June 30 has been and gone, unless you're one of the few that can get their hands on XP, you're pretty much stuck with Vista. Here's a round-up of the best tips and tricks that will make Vista a winner.
Deal with Vista defrag problems
Think Vista's defrag doesn't work in Safe Mode? Well you're not alone. But it actually does work in Safe Mode; it just doesn't tell you.
Vista treats defragging as a hidden background task, no progress bar, no pretty boxes changing colors, no sign whatsoever that anything is happening. When you launch Defrag under normal conditions (by right-clicking your hard drive's icon in Computer, selecting Properties, and clicking Tools, Defragment Now), you get a dialog box for controlling when defrags happen, but that's about it.
Do the same thing in Safe Mode, and defragging quietly starts.
Here's another Vista Defrag problem: Entering 'defrag c:' at a command prompt brings up an error message. In Vista you can launch a command-line defrag only from an administrator command prompt.
To get one, select Start, All Programs, Accessories. Right-click the Command Prompt icon and select Run as administrator. You'll know you're on the right track when Vista makes you pass through a User Account Control dialog box (if you haven't disabled this 'security' feature, that is).
Minimise Vista-related hardware hassles
If you plan to upgrade to Windows Vista, here's some tried and true tips for easing your move to the newer OS.
Study up beforehand: Make sure you've got the minimum system requirements. For example to run the bare-bones Vista Home Basic, Microsoft recommends a CPU running at 1GHz or faster, plus 512MB of RAM and 15GB of hard-drive space.
Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate editions with the Aero environment require at least 1GB of RAM, and for systems without integrated graphics, a DirectX 9.0-capable graphics processor with 128MB of its own RAM, DirectX 9, and a few other features.
Microsoft's Vista Upgrade Advisor scans your PC to determine which editions of Vista will run on it, and which of its hardware components are incompatible with Vista.
When we ran Upgrade Advisor on a year-old machine, the program found no compatibility problems, but it did list 10 components for which it had no data, including the PC's USB port.
Need to identify what components are in your system? The free Belarc Advisor utility will quickly scan your PC and identify all its hardware.
If Vista doesn't support one of your PC's components, look for updated Vista drivers on the vendor's website. If you can't find them, the drivers may still be in development, so ask the company about it. RadarSync, a device driver update service, has created a list of links to Vista drivers.
After you have identified which drivers lack Vista equivalents, copy the XP versions to a CD or anyplace you can easily access them once you've installed Vista. Make sure you have your network drivers handy so you can go online and download other device drivers and updates.
NEXT PAGE: More ways to minimise your Vista hardware hassles