Tip 1: Disable user account control

None of Vista's improved security features causes more aggravation than the User Account Control. While it's meant as a helpful safeguard for preventing you (or malware) from running a program that could cause problems on your system, its tendency to pop up too often can make it more annoying than useful. Microsoft advises that you not to disable it, but if you want to lose it -- and the pesky warning icon that will show up in the system tray when you do -- here's how.

  • Click on the Start button, then click on Control Panel.
  • Click on User Accounts.
  • Click on User Accounts again.
  • Click on "Turn User Account Control on or off".
  • Click "Continue".
  • Uncheck the box next to "Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer" and click OK.
  • Reboot your computer.
  • Return to the Control Panel, then click on Security.
  • Click on Security Center.
  • Click on "Change the way Security Center alerts me".
  • Click "Don't notify me and don't display the icon (not recommended)".

Tip 2: Change preinstalled Vista features

Vista, like all versions of Windows, comes with a lot of preset features you may never need or want. If you don't think you'll use Remote Differential Compression, the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 XPS Viewer, or Windows Meeting Space -- or if you really need a simple telnet client -- it's easy to do.

  • Click on the Start button, then click on Control Panel.
  • Click on "Uninstall a program" under the Programs category.
  • Click on "Turn Windows features on or off".
  • Click on an empty checkbox to add a feature; conversely, uncheck the box to remove a feature.

Tip 3: Save searches

Always find yourself looking for the same kinds of files on your computer? Have you wished for a way to save your common searches for use again later? With Vista you can.

  • Click the Start button then click Search or hit Windows key + F to open a Search box.
  • Type your search term in the field provided.
  • Click on the "Save Search" button.
  • Name your search by typing in the "File name" field.
  • Click Save.
  • To use your saved search later, click on the Searches link under the search window's Favorite Links section.

Tip 4: Improve program access with quick launch

Running programs from your desktop can be a pain if you have to move all your windows to see them, and searching for them in the Start menu can be time-consuming. That's why we love the Quick Launch toolbar, which is more convenient to use in Vista than ever. Here's how it works.

  • If the Quick Launch toolbar isn't currently displayed on your Start bar, right-click on the Start bar, select Toolbars, and then click on Quick Launch.
  • Drag a program or shortcut icon into the Quick Launch toolbar. (Show desktop, Switch between windows, and Launch Internet Explorer Browser are defaults.) You can now click on the icon to start the program at any time.
  • Windows Vista also adds keyboard shortcuts for Quick Launch programs. Press the Windows key and the number of the icon's position to activate that program. For example, if the Microsoft Office Outlook icon is the fifth icon in the Quick Launch toolbar, hit Windows key + 5 to open Outlook. If you have 10 icons, use Windows key + 0 for the 10th; if you have 11 icons or more, delete some and use your Start bar for other things.

Tip 5: Use ReadyBoost to improve system performance

Have a spare flash drive sitting around? Vista lets you use it to speed up your computer.

  • Attach a flash device (such as a USB thumb drive).
  • When the AutoPlay window appears, click on "Speed up my system using Windows ReadyBoost".
  • Click on the "Use this device" radio box.
  • Click OK.