Slideshow

20 Best Vista Downloads

  • 2 Systerac Tools for Vista
    Systerac is a Vista performance tool that has everything. Bundled tools include a memory optimiser, a disk doctor, a Registry backup program, a Registry optimiser, a shutdown scheduler, an internet booster and a startup manager. And that’s just the beginning. You’ll find a file shredder and a tool that displays a list of all your hardware too.
    However, we found Systerac too liberal in its use of ‘nag screens’. These pop up whenever you want to use one of the program’s features, urging you to ditch the 14-day trial and buy the full program.
    www.systerac.com
  • So you’re looking for software to get the most out of Windows Vista. Aren’t we all. As yet, there hasn’t been a flood of great downloads designed specifically for Microsoft’s latest OS (operating system). But that didn’t stop us from searching high and low for the best free Vista apps available – and we’ve come up with 20 real keepers.
    They’re arranged in four categories: system tweakers; startup, logon and boot tweakers; Vista component tweakers; and miscellaneous tools. So if you long to make Vista a more effective OS, rev up your browser and start downloading.

  • 19 Feeds Plus
    Fans of the RSS blog reader built into IE (Internet Explorer) 7.0 need this program. It enables you to read all your feeds from a single location, instead of having to read one feed at a time. This is especially useful for people who subscribe to dozens of feeds.
    Rather than wasting precious moments clicking from feed to feed, you’ll find them all in a single location. And because IE 7.0’s feed reader has exceptional filtering, sorting and searching prowess, finding a specific blog item is still easy.
    Another treat is that Feeds Plus will alert you when your favourite feeds have new content. This program works with IE in Windows XP as well as with the version built into Windows Vista.
    www.tinyurl.com/2yd6c7
  • 12 Shortcut Overlay Remover
    People get annoyed by all kinds of seemingly minor things. Case in point: the arrows overlaid on shortcuts in Windows. These little arrows drive some people nuts.
    If you’ve decided that you’d simply rather not have your shortcuts defaced by those bleeping triangles, you can use Vista Shortcut Overlay Remover to eradicate them. This gives you the power to remove shortcut arrows, or reduce their size and then restore them to their original size later (for whatever reason).
    www.tinyurl.com/3xe4ta
  • 18 Window Clippings
    This is just the ticket for capturing screenshots in Vista. It’s simple to use, can save to an array of formats and includes a particularly important feature for capturing screens – the ability to capture shadows.
    To use it, press the Print Screen key, click the window you want to capture and then double-click. You can instruct the program to prompt you each time to tell it where you want to save a file, or you can designate a specific folder to receive all screenshots.
    For basic screen captures, the free version works fine. But if you want to capture a mouse pointer, snag specific areas of your screen, or use a timer for taking screenshots, it will cost you about $US10.
    www.windowclippings.com
  • 5 TweakVista
    As its name implies, Stardock’s TweakVista lets you alter and fine-tune Vista in countless ways. A blessedly simple and well-designed interface makes tweaking easy.
    You can see which programs run at startup and how much RAM each active program is currently using, as well as the Vista security parameters that are in force. A particularly useful feature is the Services module. This enables you to switch various Vista services on or off, depending on how you want to use your computer.
    Another utility in TweakVista’s tool box will customise the way UAC works. For a free program, this one is hard to beat. A full version, priced at around $20, offers benchmarking, analysis of system startup and shutdown, and similar features. But for the basics, the free version suffices.
    www.stardock.com/products/tweakvista
  • 15 Windows Help Program
    In Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced an often-overlooked change that has proved to be a significant annoyance for people who use older Windows programs: Vista won’t read Help files saved in .hlp format. So what do you do if you have a program that uses .hlp files, or if you download any informational files in .hlp format from the internet? You use this program. It’s not an earth-shaking download, certainly, but a highly practical one nevertheless.
    www.tinyurl.com/yvstvw
  • System tweakers


    Want to bend practically every aspect of Vista to your will, from improving system performance to customising the interface? Try out the following system tweakers. With them, you’ll be the master of your own private Vista universe.
  • 8 EasyBCD
    Longtime XP users may remember that changing the way the OS booted in multiboot systems required them merely to do a little digging and then edit a boot.ini file. With Vista, unfortunately, that approach is no longer possible. An almost incomprehensible command line program called BCDEdit rules the roost.
    EasyBCD serves as a front end to BCDEdit, enabling you to change the important settings on your multiboot PC. This free program comes with a diagnostics and troubleshooting tool as well, to help you recover from a multiboot system gone bad. But be warned: you should be familiar with multiboot menus before using this program.
    neosmart.net
  • 20 Vista Battery Saver
    Few things are more frustrating than having your laptop run out of power during an international flight or at your favourite cafe. This program promises to lessen the likelihood of experiencing those frustrations. It automatically deactivates Windows Aero and the Windows Sidebar when your laptop runs on battery power, which – according to the author – will extend battery life.
    Alternatively, you can get Vista Battery Saver to turn off Aero or the Sidebar automatically when your battery level drops below a limit that you specify.
    www.codeplex.com/vistabattery
  • 13 Amnesty Generator
    One of Windows Vista’s niftiest new features is its Sidebar, home to an array of interesting gadgets that perform all kinds of functions, including grabbing blog entries, stock quotes and the local weather, or displaying pictures in specific folders on your PC.
    The web contains thousands of widgets and gadgets but, regrettably, the vast majority you’ll find won’t work in the Sidebar. Mesa Dynamics’ free Amnesty Generator fixes that state of affairs. The program lets you convert almost any online widget or gadget to a Vista-compatible gadget that you can then run in the Sidebar.
    www.tinyurl.com/yvnol5
  • 14 vLite
    Want to put Windows Vista on a diet? This clever freebie will let you remove Windows Vista components that are otherwise untouchable to slim down your bloated OS. It also lets you tweak Vista in various ways, such as turning Aero on even if your hardware says it can’t be run.
    Once you’ve switched off components and tweaked the OS to your heart’s content, vLite helps you create a Vista installation DVD containing your new stripped-down OS. You then install it from there.
    Warning: don’t use this program unless you feel very comfortable with a high degree of techiness and customisation.
    www.vlite.net
  • 16 ISO Recorder
    This one-trick-pony download does its thing exceedingly well. ISO Recorder lets you burn ISO files to CD or DVD. An ISO file is a single, large file that – when burned to a CD or DVD – contains many files, a file system and data and can be used to install an OS.
    For example, Windows Vista betas were made available as ISO files; if you wanted to install the beta, you had to download the ISO file, burn it to DVD and then boot from the DVD to install the unfinished version of Windows Vista. (In some instances, ISO files can be used for other purposes, such as creating music or video, but ISO Recorder won’t create images of audio or video CDs.)
    The program can create ISO files as well as burn them. ISO Recorder integrates itself directly into Windows Explorer. Right-click an ISO file and then follow the instructions to burn it to CD or DVD.
    www.tinyurl.com/qxuvo
  • 4 Vista Manager
    This Vista tweaker from Yamicsoft may be the most powerful one of the bunch. Vista Manager serves as an umbrella, uniting many utilities in a single interface.
    Whether you want to speed up your system, repair it, optimise Internet Explorer, enhance security or adjust the way your network works, you’ll find something here that can do the job. Vista Manager also lets you customise the Desktop, Start menu, Taskbar and your icons. A Registry defragmenter and cleaner is equally useful.
    www.yamicsoft.com/vistamanager
  • Vista component tweaker


    Vista is a big OS, and there are times when you’d like to change just one component of it, such as UAC. For that kind of precision, try one of the next four programs. They’ll even let you build a stripped-down, customised version of Vista.
  • 3 Mz Vista Force
    Here’s a free and very accomplished Vista tweaker. Use it to accelerate performance, boost your browsing speed, clean up your hard disk, clear out bandwidth-wasting startup programs and even fine-tune Windows Media Player and Explorer.
    Many of the settings are exceedingly fine-grained. Using Mz Vista Force you can change the speed at which the Start menu search displays, for example. This application is free and, considering how many tools it brings to the party, it’s an irresistible download.
    www.tinyurl.com/2wzvd9
  • Startup, logon and boot tweakers


    Don’t like your Vista startup or logon logo? Want to change the way your system boots? Then try out the following four programs.
  • 17 Mail Attachment Extractor
    If you use Vista’s Windows Mail program and often need to save files attached to emails, you’ll like the way this program simplifies the task of saving and managing attachments. Among other options, you can get it to extract only pictures and then save those pictures in a specific directory every time. It will also automatically extract document files into a specific directory.
    The program will create a report of what it’s done for you. If you don’t need to manage a large number of attachments, don’t bother with Windows Mail Attachment Extractor for Vista. But if you field a lot of them and want to extract them from a single folder, this program will help.
    www.ope2000.com
  • System tweakers


    Want to bend practically every aspect of Vista to your will, from improving system performance to customising the interface? Try out the following system tweakers. With them, you’ll be the master of your own private Vista universe.
  • 6 Vista Boot Logo Generator
    Tired of seeing the same old boot screen every time you start up? This nifty program lets you replace your boot screen with one that you create yourself from scratch or with a graphic that you find online. You’ll have to create or find the image in two sizes: 1,024x768 pixels and 800x600 pixels. Both must be in .bmp format, at 24bit colour depth. Once you have them (and plenty are available via Google Images), this program deftly replaces your boot screen.
    www.tinyurl.com/35b9mn
  • Miscellaneous tool


    The following downloads don’t fit neatly into any category, but they’re just what the doctor ordered if you want to handle attachments in Windows Vista Mail, capture Vista screens, save battery life on a Vista laptop and more.
  • 10 TweakUAC
    The biggest annoyance that Windows Vista users have to deal with is UAC (User Account Control). This nags at you to enter a password or click ok every time you make certain changes or perform certain actions.
    You can turn off UAC in Vista if you like, but doing so will inevitably leave your system vulnerable. So you might prefer to turn it off and on depending on the situation.
    TweakUAC, from Winability Software, solves the problem neatly. It lets you quickly and easily switch UAC on and off. Better yet, it lets you put UAC into ‘quiet mode’. In essence this turns off UAC for administrators but keeps it active for other users.
    The application is free, and it fixes one pretty infamous Vista annoyance. What more could you ask of it?
    www.tinyurl.com/2xumro
  • 11 Start++
    The Windows Vista search box on the Start menu is just aching to be tweaked – and this is the program to do it. With Start++, you can rev up the search box by adding small applets that automate many different kinds of tasks, such as searching for music, creating a playlist and playing the songs in Windows Media Player.
    Start++ performs simpler tasks as well. Especially useful are the aliases it lets you create to (for example) enable you to search Google by merely typing the letter ‘g’, followed by your search term.
    www.brandontools.com
  • 9 VistaBootPro
    Here’s an even stronger tool for customising multiboot menus, with more options than EasyBCD. You can back up all your boot information to a locale called the BCD Store before you begin making any changes. That way, you’ll be able to restore your system more easily if things go wrong.
    With VistaBootPro, you can change the order of the boot menu that appears when your PC starts, set any OS to be the default, rename any OS list entries and change how long the menu displays before your default OS kicks in. There are options to debug the boot process, to enable or disable the boot GUI mode and to allow or disallow the use of unsigned drivers in the 64bit version of Vista.
    www.vistabootpro.org
  • 7 LogonStudio Vista
    Facing the same boot screen every day isn’t the only repetitive experience that can render your Vista process mundane and joyless. Having to see the same logon screen every time may have the same effect on a sensitive psyche as overexposure to French symbolist poetry.
    Stardock’s LogonStudio Vista gives you the power to triumph over your tedious logon screen. And it’s exceptionally easy to use: choose a graphic that’s already stored on your PC, create a new one or download a prefabricated logon screen from the website associated with this program. Then tell Windows Vista to use the new logon screen and prepare to bask in the joy of the new.
    www.stardock.com/products/logonstudio
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