1 Access My Documents from the Taskbar
Right-click an empty section of the Taskbar and select toolbars, then New Toolbar. Navigate to the My Documents (XP) or Documents (Vista) folder and click the OK or Select Folder button. In its default position to the far right of the Taskbar, the toolbar provides menu access to the entire contents of the folder.

2 Extra speed with Readyboost
Plugging in a USB memory key is one of the easiest ways to speed up Vista. When the Autoplay menu appears, select ‘Speed up my system’, or right-click the drive in Computer and select Properties. Move to the Readyboost tab, tick ‘Use this device’ and use the slider to choose how much space should be given up. Not all USB memory keys are fast enough to provide this boost.

3 Disable Aero Glass
Vista’s Aero Glass transparency effects may look great, but they also drain a computer’s processing power. To speed up a struggling computer, right-click the desktop and select Personalize. Click the link ‘Window Color and Appearance’ at the top of the screen and untick the ‘Enable transparency’ box before clicking OK.

4 Partition a hard disk
Vista makes it possible to divide a hard disk into two or more partitions that Windows sees as separate disks. Click Start, right-click Computer and select the Manage option. Select Disk Management from the left-hand pane, right-click the disk that is to be split and select Shrink Volume. Enter a new size for the partition and click Shrink.

Now right-click the drive space marked as Unallocated and select New Simple Volume. Follow the wizard to create and format the new partition.

5 Restore a deleted Recycle Bin
If you right-click the Recycle Bin, there’s a Delete option – this makes it easy to accidentally remove the bin from your desktop. To get it back, right-click the desktop, select Personalize and then click ‘Change desktop icons’. Tick the box next to the Recycle Bin option and click OK – it will reappear on the desktop.

6 Add Run to Start menu
After moving from Windows XP to Vista, some people miss the Run option from Windows XP’s Start menu. To add a Run link in Vista right-click on Start, select Properties and move to the Start Menu tab before clicking Customize. Scroll down through the options, tick the box labelled ‘Run command’ and click OK.

7 Make it easier to select files
To make it easier to select a number of files or folders, it is possible to add a tick-box feature to all icons. Open a folder and click Organize, then on ‘Folder and Search Options’. Move to the View tab, tick the box labelled ‘Use check boxes to select item’ and click OK.

8 Extend Send To
We’ve explained how to add items to the Send To menu in Windows XP numerous times, but the process is a little different in Windows Vista. Open the Control Panel, then Folder Options, then move to the View tab and select the option labelled ‘Show hidden files and folders’ before clicking OK. Now click Start, Computer, and open the C drive.

Open the folder called users, then the one with your user name, then the folders AppData, Roaming, Microsoft, Windows and SendTo. Add any shortcuts you want in the Send To menu to this folder.

9 Quick Launch keyboard shortcuts
The Quick Launch bar makes it very easy to start the most frequently used programs. As well as clicking the shortcuts, though, it’s possible to start the programs in Quick Launch using the keyboard. Press the Windows key, then the number key relating to the position of the icon you want – for example, to start the program that’s second from the left in the Quick Launch bar, press the Windows key and 2 together.

10 Permanently show menus
When viewing folders in Vista the menu bar is hidden. It can be temporarily restored by pressing the Alt key, but it’s also possible to permanently restore it. With a folder open, click the Organize button and select ‘Folder and Search Options’. Move to the View tab and tick the box labelled ‘Always show menus’ before clicking OK.

11 Trim Start menu searches
Vista’s Start menu can be used to perform searches, but the sheer number of files that are searched can mean dozens of results are produced. To get more control over just what is searched for, right-click the Start button and select Properties. On the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button and untick any options that can safely be ignored. We unticked ‘Search favourites and history’, as we don’t often want to look for these.

Then click OK.

12 Reduce window borders
Vista’s Aero graphics can give program and folder windows a fairly chunky border. When using a program that has several floating windows, such as image-editing software, the wasted space can become annoying. To shrink the borders down to size, right-click the desktop and select Personalize before clicking ‘Window Color and Appearance’.

If the Appearance Setting dialogue box does not appear, click ‘Open classic appearance properties for more color options’. Click the Advanced button, select Border Padding from the dropdown menu, reduce the size setting to less than 4, then click OK twice.

13 Add links to folder Favorites
When viewing folders in Vista the ‘Favorite Links’ panel is displayed to one side. Adding the folders you use most often to this list makes using the computer quicker and easier. Simply drag and drop the folders you use most often onto the ‘Favorite Links’ panel.

14 Use Flip 3D
Flip 3D is one of Vista’s most impressive tricks, but many people don’t even know it exists. With several programs or windows open, hold down the Alt key and push the Tab button a few times – Vista will cycle through the windows in a useful but dull way.

Now, try holding down the Windows key and pushing Tab a few times – Vista will use the impressive-looking Flip 3D system to change between the windows, allowing you to view each one as they change.

15 Make USB disks faster
If you leave your USB hard disk permanently connected, it’s possible to make it faster. Click Start, type Device Manger and click the Device Manager link. Expand the Disk Drives entry, right-click the USB disk icon and select Properties. On the Policies tab tick ‘Optimize for performance’ and click OK.

16 Activate windows without clicking
Normally it’s necessary to click a window to make it active, but it is possible to avoid this by using one of Vista’s Ease of Access features. Click Start, open the Control Panel and then choose the ‘Ease of Access Center’. Click the link labelled ‘Make the mouse easier to use’ and then select the option labelled ‘Activate a window by hovering over it with the mouse’. It’s easy to go back and de-select the option if you want.

17 Keep track of notes
It’s easy to lose notes kept on scraps of paper, so why not keep them handy on the desktop? Right-click the desktop, select New then Text Document. Call it ‘notes’. From now on, to make a note simply double-click the file, press F5 to insert the date and time, type a note then press the Control and S keys together to save.

18 Clever keyboard
Windows Vista has an on-screen keyboard that can be accessed by pressing the Windows key and the R key together, then typing osk.exe and pressing Enter. For a more useful version, right-click the Taskbar, then select Toolbars followed by Tablet PC Input Panel. Click the icon that appears in the Taskbar, then click the keyboard icon in the dock that appears.

Select ‘Dock at Bottom of Screen’ from the Tools menu to dock this keyboard at the bottom of the screen. When the keyboard is not needed click the usual close button, and to bring it back click the small floating panel to the side of the screen.

19 Change Start menu power button
By default, the power button in Vista’s Start menu activates sleep mode rather than switching the computer off. To fix this open the Control Panel, then Power Options, and click the ‘Change plan settings’ link beneath the currently selected power plan. Click ‘Change advanced power settings’ and expand the ‘Power buttons and lid’ entry.

Expand the ‘Start menu power button’ entry, click the menu next to Setting and select Shut down before clicking OK.

20 Preview documents
To save having to open a document to see what it contains, turn on Vista’s file preview option. Open a folder, click the Organize button and select Layout followed by Preview Pane. Select a file, and a preview will be displayed to the right.

21 Disable User Account Control
Vista’s User Account Control (UAC) is a useful security feature, but some people find it incredibly annoying. It can be disabled. Open the Control Panel, then User Accounts, and click the link labelled ‘Turn user account control on or off’ before clicking Continue. Untick the box labelled ‘Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer’ and click OK.

Re-enabling UAC is simple – follow these steps again, then re-tick the box.

22 Scan again for wireless networks
Wireless networks don’t always show up the first time you perform a scan. Vista will re-scan after a while, but there’s no need to wait. Simply press F5 to start another scan immediately.

23 Create XPS documents
Much like PDF files, XPS documents created in Windows Vista will look the same on any computer used to view them. Any document can be converted to XPS format. To do this choose to print the file, then select the XPS Document Writer. XPS files can be opened and viewed in Internet Explorer 7, or using the free XPS viewer program. This can be downloaded.

24 Disable Windows Defender
Windows Vista includes a tool that helps to protect Windows Vista against spyware. If you prefer to use another program to defend against spyware it’s possible to disable Defender. Launch Windows Defender from the Start menu and click Tools, then Options. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and untick the box labelled ‘Use Windows Defender’ before clicking Save.

25 Watch your network
Vista includes a handy tool that gives a quick visual indication of how busy a home network is. Look for the network icon in the notification area at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen – this looks like two computer monitors, one in front of the other. Right-click it, and select ‘Turn on activity animation’ – the icon will now show when the network is busy.

26 Copy file location
Sometimes it’s useful to know where a file is stored. It’s possible to type the location of a file manually, but this can lead to errors. Instead click Start, select Computer and navigate to the file in question. Hold down the Shift key and right-click the file, then select the option to ‘Copy as Path’. It’s now easy to insert the file location into an email or document – choose paste from the menu or press the Control and V keys together.