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Windows Vista hints and tips

Tips index

Boot up straight to the desktop

When you switch on your computer and it starts loading Windows Vista, does it stop when it gets to the welcome screen? Does it prompt you to select an account and enter a password? Would you rather go straight to the desktop?

Vista can be made to bypass the welcome screen where you have to log on and it can automatically log you on and display the desktop instead. It saves a lot of time and the Vista desktop can be up and running in around 30 seconds of switching on the power.

To go straight to the desktop you need to be the only user of the computer, so there should be just one account - yours. You can't be logged on automatically if a password is required, so you must remove any that you have entered. This does make the computer slightly less secure, but a simple password would not prevent a determined hacker or thief from gaining access to your files anyway.

Go to the Control Panel, switch to Classic View and double click User Accounts. Click Remove your password, enter it and click Remove password.

Solve slow starting problems

Windows Vista sometimes starts very slowly, but the cause isn't always the same. If you have automatical updates turned on (it's actually a good idea), then when updates are installed they are often only partially installed. Windows files that are in used cannot be replaced whicle it is running, so you often see the updates installing as you shut down. They can be installed when Vista starts up too. After installing an update you may find that the next startup is slow. It's nothing to worry about and startup times will go back to normal afterwards.

If startup times are permanently slow then it is quite likely that a program, such as a driver or a utility, is loading with Windows and it's slowing it down. You need to find out what is loading with Windows and investigate each item to see whether it could be the cause of the problem.

The simplest utility to use is msconfig. It's been in Windows for a long time and it is still useful. Click Start and enter msconfig into the Search box. Press Return and it will start. select the Startup tab and take a close look at the programs that are listed. You can often tell what a program is from the Startup Item, Manufacturer and Command columns.

There is nothing here that is essential to Windows, so you could clear all the ticks and reboot, seeing if it is any faster. If the slow startup problem is cured then it must be one of the programs you disabled. Tick each program one by one and restart, noting how long startup takes. This will identify the problem program.

The slow startup problem might not be a regular program and it could be a service. This is a special type of program that loads with Windows and runs in the background. Select the Services tab and tick Hide all Microsoft Services. What's left is not essential to Windows (although it may be essential for the software you use). You can clear all the ticks and restart to see if it cures the problem. Tick them one by one and restart to find the problem program.

If you still haven't got to the root of the problem then a more powerful tool is required. Sysinternals AutoRuns is an excellent utility that displays everything that is loaded during Windows startup and it finds things that msconfig completely misses. Download it and run it or try this link to run a live version on the web. Click Run when prompted and then close Internet Explorer (AutoRuns tends to hide behind it).

AutoRuns

To avoid information overload, select Options, Hide Microsoft and Windows entries, then click the Refresh button in the toolbar. What's left is what's been added by other companies and these are the most likely causes of slow startups. It can be hard trying to work out what is useful and what isn't, but the name, description, publisher and path information is often a big clue. You can stop a program from loading by clearing the tick against it.

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