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Vista Secrets

Welcome to the Vista Secrets page. If you haven't done so already, please take the time to run our Vista Readiness Test to ensure that your PC, notebook, or media center is ready for the Microsoft Windows Vista Experience. Vista is the latest incarnation of the most widely installed Operating Systems on the market today, Microsoft Windows. The previous version of the Windows OS was Windows XP, which was released in October of 2001. Since that time, Microsoft has been working on a more stable, efficient, and streamlined version of their Operating System ; the release of Windows Vista has been widely anticipated.

Microsoft's primary stated objective with Vista has been to improve the state of security within the Windows Operating System. In addition to the enhanced security and safety within Windows, users will also be impressed by a slick interface, powerful search tools, painless networking setup, and many more multimedia options.

Microsoft Vista is scheduled to be released on January 30th, 2007 for worldwide retail availability. Vista will be released in 4 different main editions: Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Ultimate. Consumers in some portions of the world may be able to purchase Windows Vista Starter. Large global organizations may be interested in Windows Vista Enterprise, which is only available to volume subscription license customers.

Click on any of the following links to be brought directly to the specific section about Microsoft Windows Vista, or just scroll down and read all of the information we have available:

For a list of Vista's supported features broken down by version click here.

Performance

Windows Vista is a sophisticated operating system whose interface has been streamlined to be faster, more intuitive and easier to use. As it has been since Windows 95, the Start Menu is the place where the Windows experience begins. The Start Menu has been improved to allow the user to launch programs and files through the search bar. The integrated desktop search bar has a new feature called Instant Search that will allow you to pull up files or emails in seconds (similar to the Google Desktop). To launch a program, just type a word or a few letters of that word and all matching applications will appear on the Start Menu. Below is an example of the search function where Vista will look for any program, file, or email that matches the word in the search window.

Windows Vista also has an effect called Windows Aero, which provides a glassy see thru effect to the task windows. Below is an example of the Flip 3D effect used to show open task bar windows. User can navigate between the windows using the scroll button on their mouse.

When you click ALT+TAB, you can cycle through thumbnails of the actual tasks you are working on, rather than just visual representations of various file types. With the old method, unless you remembered the file name it was difficult to switch to the correct task. Below is an example of Windows Flip.

Windows Vista can provide a thumbnail view of the task bar when various task windows are moused over. If you have many programs running in the background, this is a great way to save time without maximizing many similarly named windows. Below is an example of Live Taskbar Thumbnails.

Windows Vista has some new diagnostic functions to help solve problems with your computer. It will offer solutions to the problems, if there are any. Below are a few screenshots of Vista's Performance Rating and Problem Solving capabilities.

Windows Vista can help users improve their computer performance. It will give you a performance rating for a multitude of different categories. If you have a low rating or performance issues, Vista will make suggestions to improve your ratings and performance.

Other Performance Enhancements:

Sleep - This new Windows Vista power state allows desktop users to shut down Windows less often. Documents, applications and data are saved to both the hard disk and RAM, ensuring that when it comes time to resume the PC, it will only take 2 or 3 seconds to pick up where you left off. The new Sleep power state also reduces power consumption, which is nice for your electric bill.

Windows SuperFetch - This new technology allows applications and files to load much faster than in previous versions of Windows. SuperFetch will also prioritize your most commonly used applications over any background tasks. SuperFetch learns and remembers which applications you use most and preloads those applications into memory so your computer will operate more efficiently.

Windows ReadyBoost - Allows users to use a removable flash memory device instead of physically opening the box and adding more RAM to the motherboard. The most common instance would be the use of a USB Thumb Drive ; data stored in Flash Memory can be accessed and restored faster than data stored on a hard drive.

Windows ReadyDrive - Mobile PCs running Windows Vista can use a new type of hard disk called a Hybrid Hard Disk, which uses non volatile flash memory. Using a Hybrid Drive will allow the hard disk to boor faster, preserves battery power, and allows a user to resume from a hibernating state in less time than a standard hard drive.

Windows Sidebar & Tools

Rather than using a web browser to retrieve common information, Windows Vista has added the Windows Sidebar and Gadgets features. The gadgets are mini applications used to pull up information that you may need access to on a regular basis. The gadgets can connect to the web to retrieve information to be displayed on your desktop within the Windows Sidebar. Each of the gadgets can be pulled up and customized to the user's liking. Windows Vista comes with a stable of gadgets that are preloaded and users can go online to download new gadgets for other interests from other developers. On a wide screen monitor, Windows Sidebar can always be visible if the browser or application windows aren't maximized.

Below are some examples of the Windows Sidebar and Gadgets. In this picture, a search function, email, a clock, picture viewer, RSS Feed Scroll, and Media Player is shown.

In this picture, a calendar, CPU and RAM monitor, and hard drive usage chart is shown.

In this picture, a currency converter, RSS Feed Viewer, Sticky Notes, timer, and stock alert is also shown.

Enhanced Search Tools

With Windows Vista there is a search box that is integrated as part of the Start Menu. The user can type a word or a portion of a word to launch a program, find an email, or search for a file. The search results are nearly instantaneous, which is a big advantage over older versions of Windows.

With Vista, the user can modify the properties of a file to add a keyword associated with that file. This feature can be pretty handy when searching through photos. Photos that were from a particular event or show certain people can be categorized. When a search is done, Vista will not only search by filename, by date, or by file type, but also can organize photos based on the specific keywords that each file contains.

Windows Vista has a new feature named Search Folders which allows the user to search for files in an innovative way. Users can now save actual searches into a folder for future use. Commonly used searches can just be clicked on and then a new search will be instantly done based on the criteria previously specified. All files that are sourced from these searches will be viewable in each individual search folder.

The screenshot below is an example of the integrated search function within Vista's Start Menu.

This screenshot is an example of the Search Folder function of Vista. The keyword category is a handy way to organize related files.

Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7 has matched many of the capabilities of Mozilla Firefox. One of the biggest changes is the addition of tabbed browsing, which allows you to open many different websites within one session of Internet Explorer. Gone is the hassle of having to open many different task windows for each website you are visiting. One advantage of tabbed browsing is being able to organize similar websites within one session, while being able to start a new session with it's own grouping of similar websites, searches, or topics. Websites can be viewed in a thumbnail format, like below, or with the more traditional tabs.

For Windows Vista users running Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft has developed a new feature called Protected Mode that will help prevent web based attacks. While in Protected Mode, and infected or malicious website cannot install software, hijack your browser, or copy any dangerous files to the Startup folder. Protected Mode limits the privileges of the website's code from being able to have unauthorized access to the users' computer. User Account Protection gives Internet Explorer 7 just enough permissions to browse the web, but not enough to modify the user's settings or files.

Internet Explorer 7 has built in support for RSS web feeds. Users can subscribe to different lists, topics, or website headlines of interest and have news delivered real time to their browser. Instead of seeking the information, an RSS feed will automatically display the desired news topics to the user.

Security

Windows Vista is the most secure version of Windows yet. Users will see an increased level of protection due to the additions of the Windows Security Center, Windows Defender, Vista firewall, and a malicious software removal tool that is delivered through automatic updates. These additions will keep the PC protected from spyware, worms, and viruses and will provide a new understanding of when the PC is unsafe and alert and guide you on methods to improve security.

User Account Control in Windows Vista gives the user the ability to decide if potentially dangerous software is allowed to make changes to your computer. Vista allows you to set up user privileges for multiple accounts to ensure that only someone with Administrator rights can install new software. An example of this type of security is in the screenshot below.

With Windows Vista's Internet Explorer 7.0, a user has an extra layer of security with the Phishing Filter. Phishing is one of the fastest growing threats on the Internet and a form of identity theft. It refers to high-tech scams using phony Web sites with actual brands designed to steal valuable personal information such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers. Phishers use many tactics including creating and sending e-mail messages or links to fraudulent Web sites or that appear to be valid in an attempt to fool you into submitting personal, financial, and password information. Often an e-mail will be sent containing a link taking you to a fraudulent Web site appearing to be valid (like your bank or mortgage company) so that you'll enter your personal information. By using well-known, trusted brand names and logos, phishers are able to convince you to respond to them. The Phishing Filter will automatically scan a website and warn you if the website is a known culprit or is potentially suspicious.

Windows Vista Firewall can help prevent hackers, malicious software, viruses, or spyware from gaining access to your computer through your network or Internet connection.

Automatic Updates and the Windows Security Center will make sure that your computer is always up-to-date with all the latest security patches.

Windows Defender is a free add-on that will protect your computer from pop-up messages, spyware and other unwanted software that may compromise or slow down the performance of your system. Windows Defender offers real time protection, so you will always be prepared for the latest outbreak.

Networking Features

Windows Vista has made it easier to set up a home network. Vista has added a feature called Network Center, which is a more convenient way to access all the information about your network. The information is presented in a new way so you don't necessarily have to be a network engineer to troubleshoot problems. The Network Explorer is presented graphically, where each leg of the connections to the network are represented by icons. Vista even offers the ability to customize the icons for different devices. File sharing is easy because you can browse content on each network device. The screenshot below is of the new network and internet interface within Vista.

All the devices on the network are shown graphically so the user can verify connectivity.

Users can change the settings for each device on the network.

If your internet connection goes down, you can view the Network Map and visually see that the link between the icons is down. Using the Networking Diagnostics feature, the cause of the problem can be found and a suggestion to fix the problem can be made. The problem will either be solved automatically by Vista or Vista will walk you through the process to solve it.

With the Network Setup Wizard, the user can identify unconfigured network devices and add them to the secured network. Network settings can actually be saved to a portable device, like a USB Flash Drive, to help make connecting to the network as easy as possible. Just plug the USB flash drive into a PC, laptop, or network device and the device will read the network data and ready itself to join the network. Windows Vista supports the latest wireless security protocols, including WPA2. Vista can help prevent a user from connecting to a fraudulent wireless network that is set up to steal data from your computer.

Remote Capabilities

Windows Vista has fine tuned Microsoft's Remote Assistance feature. With Remote Assistance, a user can get help from a support professional from Microsoft or even from a random trusted helper. With the user's permission, Remote Assistance enables a trusted helper to share control of the computer and help the user resolve issues (even if the helper is at a remote location). Remote Assistance is a standalone application that has been optimized to use less bandwith and provide faster connectivity and startup. The user and the helper can transfer files between the computers and will have chat capabilities to make communication easier. Remote Assistance in also compatible with Windows XP users and can be implemented through Instant Messenger. For business users the Remote Assistance also offers session logging for both the user and the helper so information can be logged and tracked to lead to a solution.

In the screenshot below, a user can request help from someone or offer to help someone. The "expert" can view the desktop of the "novice", and with the novices permission, can share control of the computer.

Improved Windows Update

The Windows Update feature within Vista has been improved so it won't interfere with the users' work while the updates are in progress. Updates can be set up to automatically downloaded, regardless if the update is classified as important or recommended. In previous versions of Windows, the recommended updates could not be set up to be downloaded automatically ; users would need to manually select and download these updates. All the updates are downloaded in the background and the user can schedule a more convenient time to restart the computer, if a restart is necessary to complete installation. If an update is postponed for a time that the computer is in a standby mode, Vista will wake up the computer to install the updates that were scheduled. Below is a screenshot that shows the friendlier user interface of Windows Update.

Users can schedule updates for a specified time, so not to disrupt their work.

Users can postpone rebooting their computer to complete the installation to a more convenient time.

Vista News

Windows Vista is scheduled to be released to different markets in different stages, some of which have already occurred:

  • Released on November 8, 2006 to manufacturing.
  • Released on November 17, 2006 to MSDN subscribers.
  • Released on November 30, 2006 for volume license customers.
  • Planned release on January 30, 2007 for worldwide retail availability.
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