There are two legitimate complaints that I hear frequently regarding Vista. I say legitimate because I think a lot of people have bought into the herd mentality that Vista is bad without ever:
A) Trying it out for themselves
B) Giving it a shot for a decent length of time
C) Recalling how bad Windows XP was at first (Wireless networking wasn’t even reliable or mainstream usable until Service Pack 2)
There’s a third complaint about Vista that I have, but I seem to be the only one that ever states it: I think the networking components have become overly complex and obscure. It tries to do more than I want it to do in the vein of trying to provide greater network security.
That third complaint aside, I do not have a problem with Vista. I use it on two computers at home without any issue. One instance is dual-booted with Windows Server 2008 as this allows for the latest Microsoft product without redirecting computer resources (processor time and RAM) for a “pretty” interface. I would say I have a complaint about that as well, the resource hogging Aero-interface, but Apple has proven that there is a market for that sort of thing.
Regarding the two complaints that I hear most frequently, there is something that can be done about them.
Problem #1, heard from everyone, average users and power users alike: UAC (User Account Control) pops up too frequently that it is annoying.
Problem #2, heard mostly from power users: The ‘Up arrow’ in Explorer windows is gone.
Fortunately, these two problems have resolutions available with built-in and third party add-ons.
UAC is designed to make your computer more secure. It pops up a prompt whenever an application needs higher privileges than it has by default, such as writing to the registry or system directories. Even for an administrator, an application is not run with admin privileges but when it tries to escalate to using higher privileges it will prompt the user (for a password if it is not saved). Despite the annoyance, this is a good thing! If people used UAC as it is intended, malware would not have a fighting chance on their computers, but as any person that’s done any customer service or freelance tech work can tell you, malware is winning. This vulnerability earns more blame for Microsoft though it is the fault of the user and with UAC puts decision-making in the hands of the user.
Summary: UAC should be left enabled despite the annoyance.
Further problem: People are annoyed and just get in the (bad) habit of clicking a button to proceed without actually reading what the message said.
Built-in solution: Disable UAC.
I believe it was starting with Vista SP1, Microsoft made it really easy to disable User Account Control. Go to Start, Run… (or the search box at the bottom of the Start Menu) and enter:
This will bring up a window where you should switch to the Tools tab. Scroll down to ‘Disable UAC’ and select it by single-clicking on it. Then click the ‘Launch’ button.
Reboot your computer and UAC should be disabled. You will get an annoying red shield in the System tray alerting you of a security vulnerability since UAC is disabled.
But, we’ve already discussed why we want to keep UAC enabled, so let’s look into…
A better solution through third-party software:
UAC should not be disabled, but maybe we can just make it less frequent so it’s not annoying and we’ll read what it’s warning about. There are two solutions that I know about, Norton UAC Tool and TweakUAC.
I know, I know… Norton! You’re actually recommending a Norton product. Well, I think it actually does the job better than disabling UAC or the TweakUAC addition.
TweakUAC does not require an install, you just run the program when you want it to suppress UAC prompts. You can think of it as a program that automatically clicks whenever the UAC prompt pops up. This is not that great of a solution, but if you know you’re going to be making a bunch of system tweaks with trusted software then this might be the tool for you. You could put this program in the startup folder so it is always running, but at that point you might as well just disable UAC and call it a night.
Norton’s UAC Tool actually handles the UAC prompt a little better. Instead of just automatically clicking every UAC prompt that comes up, it builds a whitelist and a blacklist. This allows it to understand the context of why the UAC prompt is appearing. If you tell the Registry Editor to open by going Start, Run… regedit, it seems pretty apparent that you want the Registry Editor opened, right? Why should you be prompted about this? However, if you double-click a .reg file that is going to import data into the registry, perhaps you should be warned that this might have further consequences than you realize.
Norton will reduce the number of UAC prompts that you see, but it will still give you prompts until it learns from your behavior and understands what messages you don’t want to see each time. The Norton tool also only runs when a UAC prompt occurs, meaning no additional resources are wasted when its not needed. The only caveat, which they are straightforward about, is that Norton UAC collects data from your computer. It does this in order to build its whitelist (“never show prompt when…”) and blacklist (“always show prompt when…”) for behaviors and context of what causes the UAC to kick in. That means when you download and install it, it already has some basic information and will be more helpful for you.
With sound, logical reasons to recommend not disabling the UAC, Norton’s UAC Tool seems to be the best recommendation.
Update: SmartUAC is another option in the third-party toolset.
Explorer’s Up Arrow
Prior to Vista, you had three options in easily navigating through your directories and files in Windows Explorer (Explore or My Computer windows): Back, Forward, and Up to the parent directory. In Vista they have removed the Up arrow in place of their “breadcrumbs” address bar. You can click on any part of the path in the address bar and branch from there. It is a really handy feature that makes navigating quicker, however, it didn’t need to come at the sacrifice of the Up arrow. I used that button more than the other two combined, when it was available.
Microsoft may have gotten rid of the button, but they didn’t rid themselves of the functionality. Instead of the button, there is a handy keyboard shortcut that does the exact same thing: Alt + Up arrow.
Just press the Alt+Up keyboard shortcut to do what the old Up arrow did. You can also use Alt+Left arrow for back and Alt+Right arrow for forward. A little nice to know that it’s still available and with no real drawbacks.
A better solution through third-party software:
QTTabBar adds a lot of functionality to the menu bar of the Explorer window. You can have a lot of different buttons on the menu bar and fully customize it to how you want it. So if you only want the up arrow, that’s all this add-on will provide. But if you want to be able to view Explorer windows with tabs, clone one window over to another tab, copy, paste, cut, or delete files, and much more through Plugins.
To get the up arrow, just download QTTabBar and install it. You’ll need to restart after the installation. Reboot and open up an Explorer window.
You should see some new features, like tabs on your menu bar now. If you don’t want the tabs, just right-click on the bar and deselect QTTabBar. If you want the Up arrow and other buttons, right-click on the bar and select QTTabBarLib.QTButtonBar. This will load the defaults (which does not include the Up Arrow). Right-click on the new buttons and choose ‘Customize…’ This will open up a new window where you can add and remove buttons from the menu. Choose which icons you would like, such as the Up one level, and hit the right button ‘>>’ to add it to the toolbar setup.
When you’re done click the ‘Ok’ button.
There you have it! Solutions for two common complaints about Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows Vista.