How do I tweak hidden settings in Windows Vista?
|Published:||Sep 6, 2007|
Windows power users have long relied on TweakUI, a free "Power Toy" program from Microsoft that lets them enable dozens of hidden settings and features that can't be accessed through normal means like the control panel. For Windows Vista, however, Microsoft has opted not to release a new version of TweakUI, which leaves a big hole in the market for tweak-happy Vista users. Fortunately, several parties are working to fill that hole with a variety of Vista-tweaking programs, some free and some not. So let's get started.
Free Vista tweaking programs
The main advantage of a free program is that, you guessed it, it's free. You don't have a to pay a dime, and you get many of the features of their shareware cousins. Here are a couple free Vista-tweaking apps:
Vispa is about as bare-bones as they get, and I only recommend it for power users who want a super-lightweight program to get the job done quickly. It comes in a tiny zip file and requires no installation, but has fewer options than other programs and gives little explanation of what each setting does. Vispa's creator even cautions, "The only recommendation I can give is not applying settings without vague knowledge of what you're doing. Not every setting is desired in every environment. Vispa is no tool for beginners, just a more convenient way of tweaking your operating system."
XdN Tweaker is a step up for more cautious users. It provides a lot more information on what its many settings do. Most of its options come in the form of clearly-labeled buttons prefaced with explanatory text. It's not entirely jargon-free, but fairly user-friendly. I particularly appreciate that the first tab has options to disable and enable various aspects of Vista's much-maligned User Account Control (UAC), and it also has options for Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, plus links to other, built-in but hard-to-find tools, like MSConfig and the Group Policy Editor.
Shareware Vista tweaking programs
I love free apps, but they can have their disadvantages. Commercial programs and shareware often have a bit more curb appeal and user-friendliness, and that's definitely the case with Windows tweaking programs.
From Stardock, makers of the popular Object Desktop suite, TweakVista puts a friendly face on tweaking your system, and includes a built-in function for creating a restore point before you begin, which you'll find handy in the unlikely event you accidentally make an irreparable mistake. TweakVista comes in two versions, the free Trial version and the $19.95 Full version. The full version throws in features that let you benchmark your systems, speed up Vista's startup, and more. Both versions include succinct descriptions of all of the available settings. For a list of differences between the two, check out Stardock's download page.
Totalidea Software, apparently taking their cues from Microsoft, offers TweakVI in not two, but three different versions: Basic, for free, Premium, for $29.99, and Ultimate for $39.99. For a complete overview of the many differences between the three versions, take a look at Totalidea's handy comparison chart. Buying the Premium or Ultimate versions also gives you twelve months of access to a subscription area where you can download additional plugins that add functionality to TweakVI.
Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.