Ways to make Vista and XP work your way

Had enough of Windows' shenanigans?

Had enough of Windows' shenanigans? I'll show you how to print elegant folder lists, dispatch Balloon Tips and annoying icon wizards, and copy files that won't copy. Plus, I debunk a performance hoax that's making the rounds on the Net.

Disable customise notifications

The Hassle: The Customize option in the Taskbar tab of the Properties menu on my PC is greyed out. How can I hide and restore the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the System Tray.

The Fix: Leave it to Microsoft to make things confusing. Right-click the Taskbar and choose Properties — 'Hide Inactive Icons' is checked, right? Clear that check box, click Apply, and you're in business. And if you ever trash your system tray, grab a copy of the Taskbar Repair Tool: It's a miraculous freebie ($US5 for the Pro version) that fixes dozens (36 to be exact) of taskbar, quick-launch, and system-tray problems.

Battle balloons and icons

The Hassle: I bought a laptop with Windows Vista (I know, silly me). The OS keeps asking to remove desktop icons, and the Balloon Tips are driving me nuts. Have a solution?

The Fix: I agree — Windows' Desktop Cleanup Wizard is ever so annoying. (Hey, Microsoft, I like my old, unused shortcuts!) In XP, you can disable the wizard with a VB script from Kelly Theriot. The process is easier in Vista: Right-click on the Desktop, choose Properties, Desktop, Customise Desktop, and clear the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard Every 60 Days check box. You can ditch Balloon Tips in XP with Doug Knox's VB script; in Vista this script can be a killer, so you'll want to read the instructions on the gHacks page about it.

Print any folder list

The Hassle: My friend asked for a printed list of all my MP3s. I spent an hour and still couldn't figure out how to do it.

The Fix: There's an easy way to do this, and a hard way. Me, I'm lazy (it's the genes), so I use Karen's Directory Printer. The free utility generates folder and subfolder listings in every way imaginable, including (or excluding) the file size, creation date, and attributes. For you purists avoiding extra programs, Microsoft has a weekend project to print folders from your context menu in XP or Vista. Be aware, though, that it involves batch files, folder mods, and Registry hacks.

Beware this speedup hoax

Not everything you read on the Internet is true. I spotted a tweak — a modification of the Quality of Service (QoS) Packet Scheduler's settings — that purportedly gives both XP Professional and Vista a 20 per cent bandwidth boost. I wish. I tried it, as did a few buddies. Though some of us didn't see a thing, others, me included, perceived improved performance. Unfortunately, it was merely the power of suggestion — Microsoft's experts say the tip is bogus, and I believe them. However, if you use Wi-Fi, tuning your router's QoS settings can help with some applications.

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