Confessions of a Windows Enthusiast

Where I rant about Microsoft products, computers and technology, and much more.

  • Controlling desktop composition through the registry

    As I was reading through some threads over at Neowin.net's Windows Vista Support forum section, I stumbled upon a thread where someone was asking how to disable the Windows Aero interface through the registry. There were several suggestions made, one of which included that the original poster disable the "Desktop Window Manager Session Manager" service completely, which to me seems like a bad solution even though it would achieve what the original poster was trying to tackle.

    You don't need to disable the "Desktop Window Manager Session Manager" service to disable Windows Aero and desktop composition. This can be done from the Windows Control Panel itself (by navigating to Control Panel, Appearance and Personalization, and under Personalization click on "Change color scheme" and then selecting "Windows Vista Basic" from the color scheme list), through Advanced system properties (by navigating to Control Panel, System and Maintenance, System, and choosing Advanced system settings from the task pane on the left, clicking the "Settings..." button under Performance, and then finally unchecking "Enable desktop composition" and clicking on the OK button), or last but not least, the registry:

    1. Click on Start, and in the Start Search field type regedit.exe and then press Enter.
    2. If User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on continue or provide the appropriate credentials.
    3. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM.
    4. Look for a REG_DWORD value named "Composition". If this key does not exist, create it.
    5. Double click on the Composition (REG_DWORD) value and change its value to 0.
    6. Log off and back on for this change to take effect.

    If you want to achieve this through the command line or through a command script, the appropriate command is REG ADD HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM /v Composition /d 0 /f.

    That will disable desktop composition even if your computer supports it. To re-enable Windows Aero and desktop composition, change the Composition (REG_DWORD) value to 1 or change the scheme by going to Control Panel, Appearance and Personalization, and under Personalization click on "Change color scheme" and then select Windows Aero from the color scheme list.

    Alternatively if you would want to re-enable Windows Aero through the command line you can achieve this by running REG ADD HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM /v Composition /d 1 /f.

    NOTE: This will NOT, under any circumstances, allow you to enable Windows Aero on graphics cards that do not have the proper support for Windows Aero or do not fit the prerequisites for enabling Windows Aero and desktop composition (for example, GeForce MX 440 graphics cards). For more information on the prerequisites and hardware requirements for Microsoft Windows Vista, please visit the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

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  • HOW-TO: Disable Automatic Folder Type Discovery

    By default, Windows Explorer in Windows Vista will try to automatically detect the contents of a folder and display the correct detail settings, however in some situations you may wish to disable this behavior and customize the view settings manually as desired.

    This article applies to:

    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Business, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Business, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise, 64-bit

    NOTE: This involves editing the registry. It is always recommended to create a back-up of the registry before making any modifications. Before performing any of the actions below, please save your work and close any Windows Explorer windows, as you will need to log off for these changes to properly take effect.

    Automatic method

    • Download the command script that I have created and extract the files to your Desktop. Once you have extracted the files, simply double click on “disable_automatic_foldertype_discovery.cmd” and read the precautions in the command prompt window that appears.

      This file has been scanned for viruses and does not perform any malicious tasks, it simply automates the task required to reset the Windows Explorer view settings and then proceed to disable the automatic folder content discovery.

    Manual method

    • Click on Start, and in the Start Search field type “REGEDIT”, and then press Enter.
    • If User Account Control prompts you, provide consent by clicking on Continue or entering a password.
    • In the left hand pane, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell
    • Right click on the “Bags” sub-key and click on Delete. When asked to confirm the operation click on Yes.
    • Right click on the "Shell" sub-key and from the menu that appears click on New, and then click on Key.
    • Give the new key a name of "Bags" (without the quotes).
    • Right click on the "Bags" sub-key and from the menu that appears click on New, and then click on Key.
    • Give the new key a name of "AllFolders" (without the quotes).
    • Right click on the "AllFolders" sub-key and from the menu that appears click on New, and then click on Key.
    • Give the new key a name of "Shell" (without the quotes).
    • Select the "Shell" key that you just creaited.
    • In the right hand pane of the Registry Editor, right click on an empty area and from the menu click on New, and then click on String Value.
    • Give the new REG_SZ (String Value) a name of "FolderType" (without the quotes).
    • Double click on the FolderType String Value and give it a value of "NotSpecified" (without the quotes).
    • Close the Registry Editor.
    • Click on Start, press the arrow next to the power buttons, and select Log Off from the menu that appears.
    • Log back in and customize your Windows Explorer folder view settings as desired.

    If you would like to reset Windows Explorer back to the way it should act by default:

    • Click on the Start button, and in the Start Search field paste the following bold text command: REG DELETE "HKCU\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags\AllFolders" /f
    • Press the Enter key to execute the command.

    Folder content auto discovery will be enabled on any folders that have not been previously opened. However, if you would like to reset the view settings on all folders so that auto-sensing is automatically enabled, simply download the "Reset Windows Explorer View Settings" command script, extract the .cmd file from the Compressed Folder (ZIP file) and execute the command script, paying attention to the on-screen information.

    Hope this helps!

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  • HOW-TO: Reset Windows Explorer's View Settings

    Consider this scenario. You have customized your "Documents" folder the way you like it with icon sizes and grouping settings. However, after you have applied these customizations and you re-open the "Documents" folder, you may see that the customizations are improperly applied, have been lost, or the folder has defaulted to a different view (for instance, the Pictures view, where all files are now displayed as large icons and thumbnails). Also, if you open the root directory of a hard drive, you may notice that columns such as "Date Taken" and "Rating" are displayed for example, when they should not be displayed. You have tried navigating to the Control Panel and opening Folder Options and clicking "Reset Folders", however this does not resolve the issue.

    Another scenario to consider: You have selected the "Extra Large Icons" option for a folder full of pictures. However, when you browse to that folder at a later date, you may notice that the pictures are now displayed in "Detail" view, and you must manually change the folder view to your desired settings.

    There are three methods in which this task can be completed: Automatic (which is the easiest), semi-manual, or manual.

    This article applies to:

    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Business, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise, 32-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Business, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, 64-bit
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise, 64-bit

    NOTE: These involve editing the registry. It is always recommended to create a back-up of the registry before making any modifications. Before performing any of the actions below, please save your work and close any Windows Explorer windows, as you will need to log off for these changes to properly take effect.

    The automatic method

    • Download the command script that I have created and extract the file to your Desktop. Once you have extracted the file, simply double click on "resetviews.cmd" and read the precautions in the command prompt window that appears.

      This file has been scanned for viruses and does not perform any malicious tasks, it simply automates the task required to reset the Windows Explorer view settings.

    The semi-manual method

    • Click on Start, and in the Start Search field copy and paste the following command that is in bold text: REG DELETE "HKCU\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell\Bags" /f
    • Press the Enter key and the command will be executed
    • Click on Start, press the arrow next to the power buttons, and select Log Off from the menu that appears.
    • Log back in.

    The manual method

    • Click on Start, and in the Start Search field type "REGEDIT", and then press Enter.
    • If User Account Control prompts you, provide consent by clicking on Continue or entering a password.
    • In the left hand pane, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell
    • Right click on the "Bags" sub-key and click on Delete. When asked to confirm the operation click on Yes.
    • Close the Registry Editor.
    • Click on Start, press the arrow next to the power buttons, and select Log Off from the menu that appears.
    • Log back in.

    Hope these instructions prove to be helpful, if you know anyone who has been affected by this please feel free to pass them a link to this article.

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  • HOW-TO: Change the window border size in Windows Vista

    If you are using the Windows Vista Basic theme you have probably noticed that the window borders are rather thick, and may even look slightly unattractive (this depends on your preferences of course). Here's how you can make that window border smaller to clean things up a bit:

    • Right click on the desktop and click on "Personalization".
    • Click on Window Color and Appearance.
    • In the Appearance Settings window select "Windows Vista Basic" from the color scheme list.
    • Click on the "Advanced…" button.
    • Under "Item" click on the drop-down list and click on "Border Padding".
    • In the "Size" box set it to 0, 1 or 2
    • Click OK to dismiss the "Advanced Appearance" dialog, and then click OK again to dismiss the "Appearance Settings" dialog.

    If you are using Windows Aero, you can still make the window border smaller but it requires two extra steps.

    • Right click on the desktop and click on "Personalization".
    • Click on Window Color and Appearance.
    • Click on "Open classic appearance properties for more color options".
    • In the Appearance Settings window select "Windows Aero" from the color scheme list.
    • Click on the "Advanced…" button.
    • Under "Item" click on the drop-down list and click on "Border Padding".
    • In the "Size" box set it to 0, 1 or 2
    • Click OK to dismiss the "Advanced Appearance" dialog, and then click OK again to dismiss the "Appearance Settings" dialog.
    • Click OK in the "Window Color and Appearance" window to apply the settings and then close the Control Panel window.
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  • Workaround for LSM.EXE Handle and Memory Leak

    Consider the following scenario. If you have a computer that uses a high definition audio device, which is running Microsoft Windows Vista, and you are using Windows Media Player 11, handles and memory may be lost because of a leak in the Lsm.exe process.

    As you fast forward through your Windows Media Player library, or have a playlist set to repeat, you may lose a large amount of handles in a short amount of time. This can lead to performance degradation and in some cases, "out of memory" error messages and other unexpected behavior. If you review the Task Manager you may notice that Lsm.exe is consuming a large amount of memory.

    This issue only occurs if the following statements are true:

    • Your computer utilizes a High Definition Audio Device
    • You are running Windows Vista, or Windows Vista 64-bit.
    • You are using Windows Media Player 11 to play back audio files.

    There is a hotfix available from Microsoft to resolve this issue, however in some cases this may not resolve the issue. The following workaround is a method that I have tested on several systems that exhibit this issue and have found that it does indeed resolve the issue.

    • Click on Start, and then click on Control Panel.
    • Click on Hardware and Sound.
    • Under Sound, click on "Manage audio devices".
    • Select your output device in the list that appears (the default output devices is commonly labelled "Speakers")
    • Right click on the device and from the context menu click on Properties.
    • In the "Properties" window, click on the "Enhancements" tab.
    • Tick/check the option box for "Disable all enhancements".
    • Click on OK to dismiss the properties window.
    • Click on OK to dismiss the "Sound" window.
    • Close the Control Panel window by clicking the Close ("X") button at the top right of the window.

    NOTE: You will have to restart your computer in order to reclaim previously lost memory and handles.

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  • Windows Vista Aurora Screensaver Hidden Settings

    For those of you who are using Windows Vista, you may have noticed that the screen savers that are included do not contain any settings. Actually, they do, but Microsoft didn't include options dialogs for them.

    Long Zheng posted the settings for the Bubbles, Mystify, and Ribbons screensavers back in September before Windows Vista officially shipped. But he didn't post the settings for Aurora.

    Through a little bit of digging and guess work, I've uncovered one registry key that actually works for customizing the Aurora screensaver. Let's get started, shall we?

    DISCLAIMER: This involves modifying the Windows registry. It is recommended that you make a back up before performing any of the steps outlined below. Kristan M. Kenney and Canucky.net can not be held responsible for any instabilities or damages that may be caused by editing the registry. Mis-use of this trick may cause your system to become unstable. Please proceed with caution.

    • Click on Start, and in the Start Search field type "regedit" (with or without the quotes).
    • If User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on Continue or provide the proper credentials.
    • In the Registry Editor window in the left hand pane navigate to "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Aurora"
    • In the right hand pane, right click on an empty spot and click "New > DWORD (32-bit) Value".
    • Give the new DWORD value a name of "NumLayers" (without the quotes).
    • Double click on the "NumLayers" DWORD value and next to "Base" on the right hand side select "Decimal".
    • Give the DWORD value a numerical value of your choice.
    • Repeat these steps for the "Amplitude" and "Speed" REG_DWORD values outlined below if you wish, and when setting the value type choose "Decimal" under the "Base" settings in the value dialog.
    • Right click on the Desktop and click on Personalize.
    • In the Personalization Control Panel window click on "Screen Saver".
    • In the Screen Saver Settings window, under "Screen saver" select the "Aurora" screen saver and click the OK button, or click Preview to view your changes.

    Other settings and explainations:

    NumLayers is a REG_DWORD value (Decimal) that can be set to any number that you desire between 1 and 15. For a darker aurora effect I'd recommend using 2 or 3. For a strong aurora effect, choose 10 or 12. Do not set this value past 15.

    Amplitude is a REG_DWORD value (Decimal) that can be set to any number between 500000000 and 2000000000. The lower the value, the slower the screen saver is. This setting also seems to affect the amount of brightness in certain areas of the aurora effect. I'd recommend a value of 1073909999.

    Speed is a REG_DWORD value (Decimal) that can be set to any number between 1000000000 and 2000000000. For a slow aurora effect, I'd recommend using 1000000000.

    If you would like to return the screen saver to its default settings, simply delete any of the REG_DWORD values that you created from above in the Registry Editor.

    I have created a preset that I am personally using now. If you would like to use it, simply click here to download the ZIP file. Open it using a file extractor of your choice and then merge the .REG file. Then navigate to the Screen Saver selection dialog and select Aurora as your active screen saver.

    Download: Northern Lights Aurora Preset (.ZIP file)

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  • Correct Disk Cleanup shortcut for Windows Vista 64-bit

    If you are using a 64-bit (x64) version of Windows Vista, then this is something you should know. By default, the shortcut in the Start menu points to the 32-bit (x86) executable for Disk Cleanup. While Disk Cleanup will work fine from this shortcut for most things, there is one function that does not work correctly – the cleaning of System Restore points and Shadow Copies / Previous Versions.

    Note that if you launch Disk Cleanup from another location in Windows, for instance by clicking the “Disk Cleanup” button on a drives properties window, it will launch the correct executable for Disk Cleanup.

    If you want to correct the Disk Cleanup shortcut in the Start menu, follow these steps:

    1. Click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, and then click on System Tools.
    2. Right click on “Disk Cleanup” and from the context menu that appears click on “Properties”.
    3. Change the “Target” from “%SystemRoot%\SysWOW64\cleanmgr.exe” to “%SystemRoot%\system32\cleanmgr.exe”.
    4. Click on OK. If User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on Continue or provide the appropriate credentials.
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  • I am now mobile!

    Take a good look at the title of this post. Yes, that's right, I now own a notebook computer. After much frustration and headaches with the Dell XPS 710 system I am getting a refund, so I decided that the replacement for the XPS would be a portable.

    After spending most of the day on Thursday browsing around through different stores looking for a decent notebook that wouldn't break the bank (for those of you who didn't know, the Dell XPS with the Dell Financial loan would have cost me a whopping $6,500), I finally found one that really caught my eye. An HP Pavilion dv6245ca Entertainment Notebook PC.

    It has a 15.4" screen at 1280x800, and has a very nice glossy coating. On the inside, it is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T5200 1.6 GHz processor, with 1 gigabyte of DDR2 memory and a 160 GB hard drive. It also has a dual layer DVD-/+RW drive with LightScribe. The system shipped with Windows Vista Home Premium on it.

    My impressions so far are good — I haven't had any problems with it. Battery life is especially good, I can play about two 1h:45m DVDs and still have some juice left for other stuff. The wireless capabilities work as you'd expect, although it took me a bit of getting used to as I've never set up a wireless network with Windows Vista before. Let's see how it works out with class work and such. I really need to get used to typing on a notebook keyboard again.

    Oh, and just to add — two really neat things that this laptop came with: A remote control which can be used for HP's QuickPlay software, and for use with Windows Media Center (which is my application of choice for multimedia besides Windows Media Player). The other thing? A webcam and built in microphone, which is conveniently located at the top of the display. Pretty nifty in my opinion.

    In case you're wondering, or even care, I'm actually writing this entry from the comfort of my couch. I like the ability to be mobile, it allows you to leave the confines of a desk and have a little fun. And you can take your work with you if you travel.

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  • HOW-TO: Unregister Cyberlink PowerDVD Deskband on Windows Vista 64-bit

    This article applies to:

    • Microsoft Windows Vista, 64-bit Editions
    • CyberLink PowerDVD 7.3

    If you are using CyberLink PowerDVD on Windows Vista 64-bit you may have noticed that it installs a taskbar toolbar (also known as a "deskband"). If you want to uninstall it, the procedure is quite simple:

    1. Click on Start, All Programs, and then click on Accessories.
    2. Right click on "Command Prompt" and click on "Run as administrator"
    3. If User Account Control prompts you for consent click on Continue.
    4. Type the following italicized text into the command prompt window: regsvr32 /u "X:\Program Files (x86)\CyberLink\PowerDVD\deskband64.dll". (Remember to replace X with the drive letter that PowerDVD is installed on).

    If for whatever reason you would like to re-enable the deskband:

    1. Click on Start, All Programs, and then click on Accessories.
    2. Right click on "Command Prompt" and click on "Run as administrator"
    3. If User Account Control prompts you for consent click on Continue.
    4. Type the following italicized text into the command prompt window: regsvr32 "X:\Program Files (x86)\CyberLink\PowerDVD\deskband64.dll". (Remember to replace X with the drive letter that PowerDVD is installed on).
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  • HOW-TO: Switch to Windows Vista 64-bit painlessly

    If your computer is fairly new (within the last year or so), there is a good chance that you may have a 64-bit processor. For instance, the AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Opteron processors are 64-bit, as well as Intel's older Pentium 4 with EM64T and Pentium D processors, and of course we can't forget the Core 2 line-up.

    You might be wondering, "What are the advantages of using 64-bit Windows?"

    • Greater stability - Windows Vista 64-bit requires that all device drivers be signed.
    • Access to more than 3.25 GB of RAM - if your computer has 4 GB of memory, you will be able to use all of it instead of being limited by the 32-bit memory addressing system.
    • Performance - running a 64-bit operating system on a 64-bit processor offers better performance than a 32-bit operating system could provide.
    • Backwards compatibility - most 32-bit applications work without an issue on 64-bit Windows, with the exception of Anti-Virus programs and some other system utilities that rely on drivers.

    In this guide I will be outlining the basic steps you will need to take to get a fully functional Windows Vista 64-bit installation up and running that serves your needs.

    DISCLAIMER: I (Kristan Kenney) cannot be held responsible if something doesn't work. I have tested these instructions and any included applications to the best of my ability and have noted their behaviour under Windows Vista Ultimate, 64-bit.

    Step One - Make sure you have the latest BIOS

    This is a very important step. Several computer manufacturers have released Flash BIOS updates for their computer systems that allow correct operation with Windows Vista. Please visit your computer manufacturers' website to check for a BIOS update that pertains to your computer model. If your computer is custom built, visit your motherboard manufacturer's website and check for a BIOS update.

    Popular Computer Manufacturers:

    Popular Motherboard Manufacturers:

    Once you have obtained the latest Flash BIOS update for your computer follow the update instructions from your computer/motherboard manufacturer. These instructions will vary, usually it is a simple flash using a Windows based tool, or you may need to boot from a USB Memory Stick or Floppy Disk.

    Step Two - Download your drivers

    Before we go ahead and format the computer to install Windows Vista 64-bit, we will want to ensure that we have all of the device drivers handy after installation in order to make our hardware work. Windows Vista has great out-of-the-box driver support, but there are a few things that you will want to make sure you have before taking the plunge - all drivers must be 64-bit, you cannot use 32-bit drivers in a 64-bit environment.

    • Chipset drivers
    • Graphics card drivers (don't necessarily need to be WHQL'd / signed as they are "user-mode" in Windows Vista, meaning that they do not interfere with the kernel - however it is always a good idea to use signed drivers for stability).
    • Serial ATA (SATA) / RAID drivers
    • Sound card drivers
    • Printer drivers

    Again, check with your computer manufacturer / hardware manufacturer(s) for these drivers - and make sure that they are for Windows Vista 64-bit. I cannot stress enough that you must use 64-bit drivers under Windows Vista 64-bit, and they must also be signed.

    Once you have downloaded your drivers, you will want to burn them to a CD or DVD, or alternatively save them to a USB Memory Stick (commonly known as a "flash" drive). This way you will have them available when you install Windows.

    Step Three - Installing Windows Vista

    To install Windows Vista 64-bit, you must perform a clean installation. You will need to back up your data before performing a clean installation as your hard drive will be formatted, meaning that any data on the hard drive will be erased, stricken from the drive like hair from a Siamese cat.

    When performing a clean installation, it is always a good idea to boot directly from the Windows Vista installation DVD. To do this, make sure you have your boot order set to look at the CD/DVD drives before the hard drives, or on some computer systems you can press a hot key during boot up to select a boot device (Dell implements this - the F12 key). Place the Windows Vista DVD in your DVD-ROM drive and restart the computer. You will then be asked "Press any key to boot from CD or DVD..." - press Enter, or any other key here.

    Windows Vista setup will load and you will go through some configuration pages. Installation is pretty straight forward, and the only configuration page you really need to be concerned with is the disk configuration page. Here you will need to create a new partition or format an existing partition for use with Windows Vista. Don't install over an existing installation of Windows, as it will turn out very messy and will not provide the best results.

    Setup usually takes about 25 minutes on average from start to finish, but this will vary on your computer specifications - processor speed, memory, hard disk access times, these are all factors in the installation time.

    Step Four - Install your drivers

    After Windows Vista 64-bit is installed, you may need to install a few drivers. You can check to see if there are any remaining hardware devices that need drivers by verifying device status using the Windows Device Manager.

    To access the Windows Device Manager:

    • Click on the Start button.
    • Right click on "Computer".
    • From the context menu that appears click on "Manage".
    • When User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on "Continue".
    • In the Computer Management window on the left hand side click on "Device Manager".

    If there are any devices listed under "Unknown Devices", right click on them individually and install the drivers. You may have to reboot after installing certain drivers.

    Step Five - Install Windows Updates

    After you have installed your drivers you will want to update Windows. This ensures that you have the latest reliability and security updates installed. To run Windows Update:

    • Click on the Start button.
    • Click on "All Programs".
    • Click on "Windows Update".
    • In the task pane on the left hand side click on "Check for updates".

    If Windows finds any updates applicable to your system it will display the number of updates and allow you to review them and install them.

    Step Six- Install Codecs

    This may ultimately be one of the most important steps, as codecs allow you to enjoy multimedia content (videos and audio) on your computer.

    32-bit applications cannot use 64-bit codecs, and vice-versa. This means that we will need to install two sets of codecs in order to get both 32-bit and 64-bit multimedia applications fully functional.

    For decoding most video files I recommend the XviD codec, which supports the decoding of both DivX and XviD, which make up the majority of video files available from the internet. You may also wish to install Apple QuickTime at this time.

    Now that we have covered 32-bit codecs we will want to install the 64-bit codecs. By installing 64-bit codecs, you will be able to manipulate DivX, XviD and other multimedia files using Windows DVD Maker and Windows Movie Maker. You will also be able to play videos using the 64-bit version of Windows Media Player. The codec package we will be installing is called "Vista Codec Pack x64 Components", and at the time of writing is at version 1.1.2. I have personally tested all codecs mentioned in this step to ensure maximum compatibility, and have found zero issues with it.

    To install the 64-bit codec package:

    • Download the codec package.
    • Run the installer. If User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on "Continue".
    • Follow the instructions in the codec package installer.

    Now, at this point you're probably wondering - what is the point of having both 32-bit and 64-bit codecs installed? The answer is simple - it ensures that you will be able to play back your multimedia files with ease, not having to worry about the application being 32-bit or 64-bit.

    Step Seven - Install your applications / games and update them

    Now that we have installed our drivers, Windows Updates, and codecs, we will want to install any applications - such as Ahead Nero or Microsoft Office. It is usually a good idea to install by date of release, however if you don't know the release dates of your applications here is a general rule of thumb I like to follow, it has served me well:

    • Microsoft applications (Office, Works, Encarta, etc.)
    • Adobe applications (Adobe Reader, Photoshop, etc.)
    • Other applications (productivity software, etc.)
    • Anti-virus software.
    • Games and game updates.
    • All application updates.

    Step Eight: Defragment your hard drive

    After installing applications, games, updates, drivers, codecs, and other things the hard drive is probably going to be a bit fragmented. This means that files are not in contiguous blocks on your hard drive, but rather scattered into little pieces - think of it like a broken cookie. Defragmenting basically puts all the files back together, so that it takes less time to access them in the future.

    To run the Windows Defragmentation program:

    • Click on the Start button.
    • Click on "Control Panel".
    • Click on "System and Maintenance".
    • Under "Administrative Tools" click on "Defragment your hard drive".
    • If User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on "Continue".
    • In the "Disk Defragmenter" window click on "Defragment now".

    You can close the window as Windows will continue defragmenting in the background. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the fragmentation.

    OPTIONAL STEP: Enable 64-bit Windows Media Player by default

    If for whatever reason you would like to use the 64-bit Windows Media Player by default:

    • 1. Click on the Start button.
    • 2. Click on "All Programs", and then click on "Accessories".
    • 3. Right click on "Command Prompt" and click "Run as administrator".
    • 4. When User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on "Continue".
    • 5. In the Command Prompt window, type "%windir%\system32\unregmp2.exe /SwapTo:64" (without the quotes) and then press Enter.
    • 6. In the Command Prompt window, type "regedit" (without the quotes).
    • 7. In the left hand side of the Registry Editor window, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\wmplayer.exe
    • 8. Create a back up of the settings in this key just in case you wish to switch back to the 32-bit Windows Media Player for whatever reason.
    • 9. Set the value for the (Default) key to "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Media Player\wmplayer.exe" (include the quotes).
    • 10. Set the value for the Path key to "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Media Player" (do not include the quotes).

    Many thanks go out to Chris Holmes for coming up with the original instruction set for this step and allowing me to modify it for this guide.

    This concludes the Windows Vista 64-bit installation and configuration guide. Thank you for taking the time to read this document, if you have any questions, concerns, or issues please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me.

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  • Start++ - Extend Windows Vista Start Search Functionality!

    Brandon Paddock, who is an employee at Microsoft, wrote this nifty little application which extends the functionality of the Windows Vista Start Menu Search with customizable commands.

    For instance you could

    • Search Wikipedia.
    • Create a playlist of a specific artist and then play the songs in Windows Media Player.
    • Execute custom commands from the Command Line as well (for instance, you can use it to create a "sudo" command which will run an application elevated, much like in Linux / UNIX).

    You can define your own custom actions and commands as well, allowing you to extend and customize the search field functionality as much as you'd like. I haven't gotten around to giving this a try yet, but I'll be sure to do so soon.

    View: Brandon Paddocks Blog - Start ++
    Download: Start++

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  • Control the Internet Explorer 7 Search Area

    If you are using Windows Internet Explorer 7 on either Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Vista, you may notice that the browser includes several new functions, including tabbed browsing and integrated search capability. If you do not like having the Search area next to the address bar there is a way to remove it on a per-user and system wide basis.

    To do this, you will need to use the Registry Editor. Editing the Registry should not be done unless you have knowledge of the Windows System Registry. Take care when editing the registry and don’t change values that you are unsure of. I can not be held responsible if you mess up the Registry while trying this.

    This article applies to:

    • Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP
    • Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Server 2003
    • Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Vista

    Steps to take in order to control the Internet Explorer Search Field:

    • Open the Registry Editor by pressing WinKey+R on your keyboard and then typing “regedit.exe” (without the quotes). On Windows Vista you may receive a User Account Control prompt asking for your consent, click on Continue.
    • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Infodelivery\Restrictions. If this key doesn’t exist, create it.
    • Create a new DWORD Value (if you are using Windows Server 2003 or Windows Vista this may be called DWORD (32-bit Value)) and give it a name of NoSearchBox.
    • Double click on the NoSearchBox DWORD value and give it a value of 1.

    Open Internet Explorer 7 and the Search area should be removed.

    For the sake of simplicity, I have created a set of four registry files that you can merge to control this feature. They are clearly named so you know which one to use:

    • Disable Internet Explorer 7 Search Box - All Users.reg
    • Disable Internet Explorer 7 Search Box - Current User.reg
    • Enable Internet Explorer 7 Search Box - All Users.reg
    • Enable Internet Explorer 7 Search Box - Current User.reg

    Download: Windows Internet Explorer 7 Search Area Enable/Disable Registry Files

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  • Fix Windows Vista Help and Support

    If you have been getting the dreaded "Internet Explorer cannot download / from help" error message when attempting to open Help and Support in Windows Vista, try this fix. It re-associates the .xml file type with its default settings, which may be altered by application installation routines such as the one for Macromedia Dreamweaver 8. Once you've merged this into the registry, re-launch Help and Support and it should work.

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  • Tuning Windows Aero performance on low-end video cards

    If you are running Windows Vista on a computer that is Windows Vista Capable, but find that the performance of Windows Aero is sluggish there are a few things which you can do to increase performance without having to use the Windows Vista Basic theme.

    Change advanced performance options

    1. Click on Start, and then click on Computer.
    2. In the Computer window, click on "System properties".
    3. In the task pane (on the left hand side), click on "Advanced system settings", and if prompted by User Account Control for consent, click on "Continue".
    4. Under "Performance" click on the "Settings..." button.
    5. Uncheck the following items:
      • Animated windows when minimizing and maximizing
      • Enable transparent glass (optional, performance change will depend on the level of graphics card you have)
      • Fade or slide menus into view
      • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
      • Fade out menu items after clicking
      • Show shadows under menus
      • Slide open combo boxes
      • Slide taskbar buttons
    6. Click on the OK button to apply the new settings and dismiss the Performance Options dialog.

    You should notice a gain in performance in terms of user interface responsiveness, although you will not see many of the cool transition effects.

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  • Enable a more Classic log on style in Windows Vista

    If you are used to the old style logon screen from Windows 2000 and Windows XP (where you typed in your user name and password), you may be a little shell-shocked to find that you cannot disable the Welcome Screen in Windows Vista, which also means you cannot revert to the older style of logon screen, and the only way to achieve this functionality was to be joined to a domain... until now.

    This guide applies to:

    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows Vista Enterprise
    • Windows Vista Ultimate

    The tool we will be working with today is called the Windows Local Security Policy Editor, or "secpol".

    To launch the Local Security Policy Editor:

    1. Click on Start, and then click on Control Panel.
    2. Click on "System and Maintenance".
    3. Click on "Administrative Tools".
    4. Double click on "Local Security Policy", and if User Account Control prompts you for consent, click on "Continue".

    In the Local Security Policy editor you will see two panes, one on the left with tree-view navigation and one on the right which will have the actual definitions and items to edit.

    On the left hand side, expand (either by clicking on the arrow or double clicking) the "Local Policies" section, and then click on "Security Options".

    On the right hand side, scroll down until you see "Interactive logon: Do not display last user name". Double click on this entry and you will be presented with a dialog box that has two options - "Enabled" and "Disabled", with Disabled being selected as default. Change this setting to "Enabled", and then click on the OK button.

    Now locate the entry "Interactive logon: Do not require CTRL+ALT+DEL" and double click on it. Again, you will see two settings, "Enabled" and "Disabled", although neither will be selected by default. Select the "Disabled" option, and then click on the OK button.

    Close the Local Security Policy editor and log off. You will now see that you are required to press CTRL-ALT-DEL and after doing this you will be prompted with a more "classic" style log on screen where you can type your user name and password.

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