Vista Customizations for Administrators

Make Vista look and perform the way you want it to

If you've ever watched a baseball game, you've probably noticed that the batter starts shuffling the dirt at his feet as soon he steps into the batter's box, scraping and pushing till it feels just right so he can focus on the work at hand: hitting the ball. For the IT administrator who's used to working with Windows XP, moving to Windows Vista might take the same kind of adjustment. Here are 10 ways you can customize Vista for use as an administrative desktop to help you get your job done.

10. Add your picture to the Welcome screen—If you get tired of appearing as a red flower, you might want to personalize the picture Vista uses for the Welcome screen and the Start menu. To customize your picture, open Control Panel, click User Accounts and Family Safety, then click Change your picture followed by Browse for more pictures to navigate to a saved photo.

9. Display file extensions—I'm a Windows Explorer– centric user, so customizing Windows Explorer is my first piece of business with any new OS. I can't work effectively if I can't see file extensions with file names. To show file extensions in Vista, open Windows Explorer and click Folder and Search Options on the Organize menu. Click the View tab and clear the Hide file extensions for known file types check box.

8. Show hidden files—While you've got the Folder and Search Options dialog box open, the next customization you might want to make is to display hidden files. Scroll through the Advanced settings and select Show hidden files and folders.

7. Show system files—The other important Windows Explorer option that you'll probably want to enable for administrative desktops is to show system files. Scroll through the Advanced settings on the Folder and Search Options dialog box and clear the Hide protected operating system files check box.

6. Put the Run command on the Start menu—One casualty in Vista's UI is the Run command. With XP and Windows 2000, the Run command is on the Start menu, but in Vista it's buried under All Programs, Accessories. To put the Run command back on the Start menu, right-click the Start button, choose Properties, then click Customize. Scroll through the list and select Run command, then click OK.

5. Enable File Sharing—Because I synchronize files with my laptop and access my system from other machines on the network, I like to have file sharing enabled. By default, Vista's file sharing is turned off. To enable file sharing, click Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, and open the Network and Sharing Center. In the Sharing and Discovery section, click File sharing, then select Turn on file sharing.

4. Use Open Command Window Here—Open Command Window Here was my favorite PowerToys add-on to XP. With Vista, it's included as a part of the OS, but how to use it isn't exactly obvious. To use Vista's Open Command Window Here function, hold down the Shift key and right-click a folder name in Windows Explorer. This function works only in the right-hand Windows Explorer pane.

3. Show Network Connections on the desktop— Vista's Network Connections folder can be found through the Network and Sharing Center by clicking Manage network connections. To add the Network Connections window directly to the desktop, right-click the desktop and choose New, Shortcut. Enter ncpa.cpl, then click Next. Name the shortcut Network Connections, then click Finish.

2. Show the Computer icon on the desktop—The old My Computer icon on the desktop was a UI feature I found pretty handy in previous versions of Windows. To display the new Computer icon on the Vista desktop, click the Start button, then right-click the Computer option and choose Show on Desktop from the pop-up menu.

1. Enable Aero Glass—After upgrading your system to be Aero Glass– capable, you might be surprised to find that the Aero Glass interface isn't being displayed. To get your upgraded system to display the cool new interface, right-click the desktop and select Personalize. Then click Window Color and Appearance. Select Windows Aero from the Color scheme drop-down menu, then click Apply.

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