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20 Windows features we love to hate

Our tribute to Microsoft's biggest flops

15. Windows Aero

Transparent Windows borders! That let you see the stuff beneath them! The Aero user interface, which Microsoft touted as one of the major breakthroughs in Windows Vista, are (mildly) cool when they work as advertised.

But the upside of Aero seems tiny given the hardware oomph required. For PCs with less-than-potent graphics (including ones on sale today), Aero is a machine-choking headache. In fact, Vista sometimes decides on its own to turn off Aero without telling you. Don't worry - you're really not missing much.

Windows Aero

Windows Aero

14. Active Desktop

You could make a case that Active Desktop (which originated as part of Internet Explorer 4.0's Windows Desktop Update and became part of the OS with Windows 98) was a decent idea a decade too early. Part of the short-lived "push" fad of the mid-1990s, it piped web content directly to your Windows wallpaper, where it would sit and auto-update itself.

That's the same basic idea as current OS enhancers such as Yahoo Widget Engine, Apple's Dashboard, and, come to think of it, Vista's Gadgets. But in an era of slow PCs and even slower dialup connections, Active Desktop was famous mostly for making Windows run like molasses.

 Active Desktop

Active Desktop

13. Windows XP Search

It's kind of astonishing: Windows users had to wait nearly a quarter century, until Windows Vista, for an OS with really good search features.

Windows XP Search may be the worst of all, with an interface that's as patronising as it is sluggish and confusing. You search with the help of a talking dog who even Microsoft's own site says some people "loathe".

After user campaigns against the irritating pooch, Microsoft was sensible enough to make sure Vista was a canine-free zone.

Windows XP Search

Windows XP Search

12. The Microsoft Network

Never used the original version of MSN, which shipped with Windows 95?

Consider yourself fortunate. Dating from the pre-web days when AOL was the hottest thing online, MSN 1.0 tried to bring a Win 95-style interface to online services - forums, for instance, were shortcuts that sat inside desktop folders.

But the whole thing was unintuitive, sparse on content, and excruciatingly slow (connection speeds initially topped out at 14.4kbs). And by the time it debuted, it was already an anachronism, forcing Microsoft to reinvent MSN as an ISP and purveyor of web services.

The Microsoft Network

The Microsoft Network

11. Windows Explorer

If your memory stretches back to the pre-Windows 95 age, you remember Windows' File Manager. You might even miss it - Windows Explorer, even in Vista, lacks some of the features File Manager had, such as the ability to use wildcards to filter a view down to documents of a certain type.

Then there features that Explorer has always needed and never gotten, like the ability to print a list of the files in a folder. As often happens, a third party has done what Microsoft hasn't: VCOM's PowerDesk is a worthy utility that's exactly what File Manager should have evolved into.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer


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