Windows Vista Tips & Tricks, Part 3

The end of this month will mark the one-year anniversary of Vista’s launch. While Windows Vista has been met with a somewhat tepid response in some circles (most notably, businesses and hard-core enthusiasts), there are lots of people happily — well, contently, anyway — running Vista.

If you’re one of them, read on for a handy collection of Vista-related tips, and be sure to check out our earlier tips stories (Part 1 and Part 2) if you missed them.

» Launch a Command Prompt with Elevated Access

Even in Vista, you may sometimes need to do things from the good old-fashioned command prompt. But when you do, operations often fail without administrator access. To easily launch a command prompt with administrative privileges, type cmd into the start menu, but instead of pressing Enter, press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER.

You’ll still get the customary UAC (User Account Control) confirmation dialog box, but the good news is that any program or command you run from that command prompt will automatically have administrator access.

» Create a Password Reset Disk

If you ever forget the password for your Vista account, it’s possible to regain access to the account by having someone with an Administrator account reset the password for you. However, in cases when such a person isn’t around to help you it’s possible to reset your own password by using a Password Reset Disk, but only if you’ve prepared one in advance.

To create one, go to Control Panel, then User Accounts, and then click the Create a Password Reset Disk link. Follow the prompts to enter your current password and select a disk (it can be a USB storage device) to store the data.

To use your Password Reset Disk, click the Reset Password link on the Vista account login page, which will appear only after you’ve entered an incorrect password. Then just insert your Password Reset Disk and follow the prompts.

» Make the Most of Your Mousewheel

The super-efficient scrolling capabilities of the modern mousewheel can easily be taken for granted until you find yourself stuck with an old-fashioned mouse and little more than the Page Up and Page Down keys for navigating Web pages, Word documents, and the like. The surprising thing is not only do we not know how good we have it until it’s gone, even when we do have it most of us don’t know just how good we really have it.

Case in point is the magic of the secret CTRL+Mousewheel combination that reveals itself in a number of helpful and often surprising ways. Starting with the Windows Explorer, the CTRL+Mousewheel combination allows you to quickly increase or decrease the size and style of the icons displayed in folder views.

Rather than having to click on the Views tab and then select a specific icon view, the CTRL+Mousewheel combination quickly and efficiently scrolls through the various icon views available in Explorer, including Tiles, Details, and List Views, as well as small, medium, large, and extra large icon displays.

The CTRL+Mousewheel combination will also increase/decrease the size of the icons on your desktop and in Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox) allows you to quickly increase or decrease the size of the font used on Web pages displayed in the current tab or window.

» Expose a Hidden Boot Screen

If you want to see something a little more interesting than a black screen and progress bar while your system is booting up, you can enable an alternate boot image in Vista with MSCONFIG. After launching the utility, click the Boot tab and put a check next to No GUI boot. Apply your changes and restart, and you’ll soon be looking at a new splash screen.

» Flip Through Your Running Applications

You probably already know you can cycle through running applications in Vista via the Flip feature by using the familiar ALT+TAB keystroke combination. Flip will display two-dimensional thumbnails of all your open windows, but if you’ve got a decent graphics adapter and any version of Vista other than Home Basic, you can use Flip 3D instead, which will give you a nice three-dimensional effect (kind of like flipping through index cards).

To use Flip 3D, press START+TAB instead of ALT+TAB (START is otherwise known as the Windows logo key). If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can also use it with Flip 3D to cycle between applications.

You can also fire up Flip 3D through a shortcut link. To do that, right-click the desktop, select New, then Shortcut, then type rundll32 dwmapi #105.

» Ditch Vista’s Startup Sound

If that sprightly sound effect that’s played every time Vista starts is getting on your nerves, there’s an easy way to turn it off. Just go to Control Panel, then Sound, and then click the Sounds tab and remove the check next to Play Windows Startup sound.

» Run Vista for Almost Four Months without an Activation Key

If you bought a boxed copy of Vista to install on an existing PC, you probably would want to avoid activating Vista on that system until you’re sure all your hardware and software will work as expected. Fortunately, Vista will let you install without an activation key and then run for 30 days without an activation key before it converts to a limited function mode, where it remains until you to activate the operating system.

But if the default trial period isn’t long enough for you to evaluate Vista, you can get yourself some more time &mdah; and do so without violating Microsoft’s license agreement. Just before the 30 days is up, run cmd from the Start menu, and be sure to hold down CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER so the command prompt launches with administrator-level access (as mentioned in the tip above).

Then type slmgr – rearm and wait for the confirmation to reboot your system, which will add another 30 days to the clock. You can run this command a total of three times to extend Vista’s trial period up to 120 days in all.

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