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Windows 7 tricks: 20 top tips and tweaks

Windows 7 tricks: 20 top tips and tweaks

A few pointers for the upgrade

Get a power efficiency report

Have a laptop and want to get more battery life out of it? Windows 7 includes a hidden built-in tool that will examine your laptop's energy use and make recommendations on how to improve it. To use it:

1. Run a command prompt as an administrator. To do this, type cmd in the search box, and when the cmd icon appears, right-click it and choose "Run as administrator."

2. At the command line, type in the following:

powercfg -energy -output \Folder\Energy_Report.html

where \Folder represents the folder where you want the report to be placed.

3. For about a minute, Windows 7 will examine the behavior of your laptop. It will then analyze it and create a report in HTML format in the folder you specified. Double-click the file, and you'll get a report -- follow its recommendations for ways to improve power performance.

Modify UAC

The User Account Control security feature was one of the most reviled additions to Windows Vista, with good reason -- its constant warning messages asking for permission to continue many operations drove users around the bend. UAC has been significantly improved in Windows 7 so that it's not as intrusive as in Vista, but you can still tweak it if you like.

Here's how to turn UAC on or off, and make it less or more intrusive than the default:

1. Go to the Control Panel --> User Accounts and Family Safety.

2. Click User Accounts, then click Change User Account Control settings.

3. From the screen that appears, use the slider to select the level of protection you want. Here are the four levels and what they mean:

Always notify me. Think of this as UAC Classic. It works like Vista's UAC: When you make changes to your system, when software is installed or when a program tries to make a change to your system, an annoying prompt appears.

Default -- Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer. This is, obviously, the default; make a change yourself and UAC leaves you alone. When a program makes a change, a prompt appears and your desktop goes dark, just like it does in Vista. Otherwise, UAC sits there silently.

Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop). This setting is identical to the default setting, with one difference: It won't dim your desktop so that you only see the UAC prompt asking you to take action. This presents a slightly elevated security risk over the default setting, because theoretically a program could allow a malicious program to interfere with the UAC prompt.

Never notify me when: In this one, UAC is completely turned off. This is, of course, an insecure option and not recommended for most users.

After you make the selection, click OK. Depending on the selection you made, you may need to restart your system for it to take effect.

Start Menu tips

Many people overlook the Start Menu, rarely using it except as a jumping off point to run an application or get to the Control Panel. But there's actually plenty you can do with it.

Search the Internet from the Start Menu

The Start Menu's search box is a convenient way to search through your PC -- but you can also have it do double-duty and perform Internet searches as well. To enable this feature:

1. In the Start Menu search box, type GPEDIT.MSC and press Enter to run the Group Policy Editor.

2. Go to User Configuration --> Administrative Templates --> Start Menu and Taskbar.

3. Double-click "Add Search Internet link to Start Menu," and from the screen that appears, select Enabled. Then click OK and close the Group Policy Editor.

4. From now on, when you type a search term in the Search box on the Start Menu, a "Search the Internet" link will appear. Click the link to launch the search in your default browser with your default search engine.

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