How to make Windows Vista work more like XP
Apr 21, 2008, 11:05 GMT
Washington - Windows Vista sure does look attractive. But once you get beyond the pretty face, you might find that you miss the utilitarian appeal of Windows XP.
Vista, after all, is never as fast as XP is, given the same hardware. Compatibility is sometimes still an issue, too, even though Vista's first service pack goes some way toward remedying that situation.
Above all, though, Vista still does not seem quite as stable as XP. Windows Explorer (explorer.exe) crashes far too often in Vista, and other odd system hang-ups could leave you yearning for the good old days of XP.
So what can you do if you want to go back to the future and 'upgrade' to XP? You cannot, unfortunately, just pop your Windows XP installation disk into a Vista computer and choose 'upgrade.' The XP installation routine will detect an unsupported operating system and refuse to proceed.
Your first viable option, therefore, is to reinstall XP from scratch. Doing that, however, will mean that you'll need to set aside the time to reinstall all of your applications and restore all of your data files.
If you go this route, be sure that you have a full backup or two of any important files that you've created with your current applications, and be sure that you have the installation disks for all programs you wish to reinstall.
The good news is that just about any program that runs on Vista will also run on Windows XP, so at least you won't have to worry about having hardware or software that works only with Vista.
But you might not have to take this bare metal approach to reverting back to XP. Vista itself offers you several options for making the operating system look and work more like XP. These options might not have much of an impact on compatibility, but they just may get rid of enough of Vista's annoyances for you to consider retaining the operating system.
--- Ditching Aero
Vista's Aero interface gives Microsoft's latest consumer operating system the glitz that makes it visually appealing. Semi-transparent title bars and a more three-dimensional appearance overall are trademarks of Aero. But Aero eats up a lot of system resources - and takes a toll on performance as a result.
Microsoft makes turning off Aero pretty easy. First, right-click on any blank area of your Vista desktop, and select Personalise from the resulting pop-up menu. The Windows Control Panel opens. From there, click the Window Colour and Appearance link. Then click the Enable Transparency check box to remove the check mark.
Before leaving the Window Colour and Appearance dialog box, click the link labelled 'Open classic appearance properties for more colour options.' That link takes you to the Appearance Settings dialog box. In Appearance Settings, you'll find a list of colour schemes from which you can choose.
Three of those colour schemes - Windows Vista Basic, Windows Standard, and Windows Classic - will remove the Aero interface. Specifically, Windows Vista Basic gives you the Vista look without the transparency effects of Aero. Windows Standard revives the Windows 2000 look, and Windows Classic is a throwback to the Windows 95/98 appearance. Switch to any one of these themes, and you should notice that Vista becomes a bit snappier overall.
--- Revamp Explorer
You can tweak more productivity and performance by changing some behaviours of the Vista version of Windows Explorer, which is heavy on the glitz but has arguably taken a step backwards in usability. The first sin of Vista's Windows Explorer is that the menus are no longer visible. Get them back by opening Windows Explorer, pressing Alt-T to pull open the (hidden_ Tools menu, and then selecting Folder Options.
From the resulting Folder Options dialog box, click the View tab, where you'll see a long list of check boxes. Place a check mark inthe second one, labelled 'Always show menus,' and you'll get your Explorer menus back in a flash. While you're there, check the first option as well - labelled 'Always show icons, never thumbnails.' That option tells Vista not to bother with showing thumbnails of images in a directory listing. If you can do without thumbnails, you'll find that Explorer works faster and crashes much less often.
--- Back to Start
Vista's revamped Start menu has some nifty tricks up its sleeve. The integrated Search field, for instance, makes it easy to find programs that are nested deep within the Start menu, and the integrated scroll bar offers a solution to the monitor-hogging fly- out menus that plagued the earlier Start menu.
But if you find Vista's Start menu to be overkill - or long for the simplicity of the earlier version - you're in luck. Right-click the Vista Start menu, and select Properties. The Taskbar and Start Menu dialog box opens. From there, select the StartMenu tab, and then =click the Classic Start menu option button. Click OK, and Vista will revamp your Start menu, giving you back the old-style XP Start menu.
These tricks won't make Vista work exactly like XP does, but they go some way toward giving you back that familiar look and feel - as well as improving the performance of Vista.