Windows

Get a handful of useful Windows Vista configuration tips and tricks

Not everyone is going to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon when it first arrives and many of you who made the move to Vista will stick with it for a while. Greg Shultz shares a handful of useful Windows Vista configuration tips and tricks you should know.

As you probably know by now, Microsoft Windows 7 is just around the corner with its scheduled release date of October 22, 2009. However, not everyone is going to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon when it first arrives, and many of you who made the move to Vista will stick with it for a while. Chances are good that you are still on the lookout for some handy tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the operating system.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll share a handful of useful Windows Vista configuration tips and tricks.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Use System Configuration's Tools tab

Vista has a lot of tools that you can employ when troubleshooting a problem. Unfortunately, these tools are located in various places in the operating system. For example, some are located in the Control Panel, some are located on the Start menu, and some are accessible from the command line. However, unbeknownst to many Vista users, the Tools tab in System Configuration utility provides you with a single access point for a wide variety of useful tools.

You can quickly launch the System Configuration utility by pressing the Windows Start Button and typing the word system. By the time you type sys, System Configuration should appear at the top of the results pane where you can select it. Keep in mind that you'll first have to go through a UAC dialog box.

Once System Configuration launches, just click the Tools tab and you'll discover that the list of available tools is comprehensive and even includes detailed descriptions, as shown in Figure A. Plus, it's easy to use: just select the tool you want and click the Launch button.

Figure A

The Tools tab makes it easy to access and run the operating system's advanced diagnostic utilities -- just select the tool you want and click the Launch button.

As you can see, when you select a tool in the list box, the command line used to launch that tool appears in the Selected Command box. This allows you to easily create shortcuts to those tools you use the most -- just select the command line and paste it into the Create Shortcut wizard.

You'll also notice that the command lines for the Internet Protocol Configuration and Performance Monitor tools provide an Advanced Options check box that when selected adds a switch to the command line. For example, the cutaways shown in Figure B, show the command line for the Internet Protocol Configuration tool with and without the Advanced Options check box selected.

Figure B

The command line for Internet Protocol Configuration tool provides an Advanced Options check box that when selected adds a switch to the command line.

Add the Run command to the Start menu

While you can easily access the Run dialog box by pressing [Windows] +R, you'll discover that the Run command no longer appears on Windows Vista's Start menu by default. It was removed to make room for other commands. However, you can easily put it back in place.

Right-click on the Start button and select the Properties command. When the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears, make sure that the Start Menu tab is selected and click the Customize button adjacent to the Start Menu option. When you see the Customize Start Menu dialog box, scroll down the list and select the Run Command check box, as shown in Figure C, and then click OK twice -- once to close the Customize Start Menu dialog box and once to close the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box.

Figure C

Selecting the Run Command check box in the Customize Start Menu dialog box will add the Run command to the Start menu.

Instantly copy a path to the Clipboard

Have you ever wanted to obtain a copy of the path of a file nested deep down in your hard drive's organization structure? If so, you know the drill: launch Windows Explorer, traverse the directory to the file, select the contents of the address bar, copy the path, paste it in Notepad, and then type the filename itself.

Fortunately, with Windows Vista, you no longer have to perform such acrobatics just to get the path to a file. All you have to do is hold down the [Shift] key, right-click on the file or folder, and select the new command titled Copy as Path, as shown in Figure D. When you do, the path to the file or folder is copied to the Clipboard and you can simply paste it anywhere you want.

Figure D

The Copy as Path command saves a lot of time and effort when it comes to getting path listings.

Match services to processes in Task Manager

The Services tab is completely new to the Task Manager in Windows Vista. This provides you with a convenient way to quickly view the Services that are running while you're troubleshooting. It also will allow you to investigate whether a running service is tied to a particular process. Right-click on a service name and select the Go to Process command, as shown in Figure E. When you do, Task Manager will then switch to the Processes tab and highlight the associated process.

Figure E

Using the Go to Process tab makes it easy to identify services running as processes.
Keep in mind that if you click Go to Process and no process is highlighted in the Processes tab, the process is not running under your user account. To view all processes you'll need to check the Show Processes from All Users box and go through the UAC, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

If the process is not running under your user account, you'll need to check the Show Processes from All Users box and go through the UAC in order to view the associated process.

What's your take?

Are you planning on sticking with Vista for a while? If so, do you have any Vista tips or tricks that you would like to pass on to other Vista users? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
TCWells
TCWells

I don't think that the MS Self-Paced Training Kit "Configuring Windows Vista Client" mentions the "System Configuration" program (msconfig.exe). => The Tools tab is indeed a nice summary of many tools built into Vista including some command line tools. Note; msconfig.exe can be launced from the Control Panel under Administrative Tools. I created a short-cut for msconfig.exe on my desktop. Thanks, Tom

james
james

Why do you need "run"? just type in the search box ??

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

I am one of the few that really likes Vista. Once you hack it up a bit, it performs better than XP. I need 64-bit native mode to run DX10. I don't really want to switch to 7 but I am sure I will eventually. Look up UXTheme patch for Vista and you can load different skins called .msstyles if you are bored with Aero. It's free, it just requires some hacking.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you have a Windows Vista configuration tip you'd like to share? We'd love to hear about it.

nettmester
nettmester

but dont' think all funktions appear when typing in searchfield. "RUN" works for all commands Correct me if im wrong. This might have to do with indexing?