The era of Windows Vista is finally here. The result of thousands of programmers and five years of work, Windows Vista is the most important and comprehensive release of Windows since 1995. Microsoft has never before paid so much attention to detail and invested so heavily in security. It has finally realized how important user experience truly is and has delivered a product that makes enormous strides in the right direction. Although Windows Vista makes previous versions of Windows antiquated, there are still many improvements to make. This book picks up where Microsoft stopped and helps you personalize and improve your Windows Vista experience.

Few products in the world have to cater to as many types of customers and satisfy as many needs as Windows Vista. Microsoft spent a lot of time gathering feedback to try to please all users with Windows Vista. Its effort is shown in the big improvements throughout the OS, but you can never make all users happy. Everyone has different preferences and likes different things. I am going to show you how to customize almost every aspect of Windows Vista. By the time you are finished with this book, your Windows Vista will look and feel as if Microsoft designed it just for you.

Performance is another major component of your Windows Vista experience. Windows Vista demands more out of your hardware than ever before. After all, when you add many new features, various types of automation, and a slick 3D user interface, you are going to need something more powerful than a computer that barely runs Windows XP. However, you also do not need to go out and buy a completely new computer. In this book, I show you how to fine-tune the settings and features in Windows Vista to make it run faster on hardware that is not exactly the cutting edge anymore.

Windows XP has had a horrible security track record since it was introduced many years ago. It seems like almost every month a handful of new critical vulnerabilities need to be patched. Above all, Microsoft has stressed security during the development of Windows Vista. Hundreds of new security features protect your computer from all types of threats. This book shows you how to take advantage of the new security features as well as how to tame some of the more annoying features such as User Account Control while still benefiting from the feature's protection.

Are you ready to customize, speed up, and secure your Windows Vista computer? Let's get started!

Whom This Book Is For

This book is intended for all Windows Vista users who are interested in customizing the operating system, improving the performance, and using the latest security features and tools to secure Windows Vista. Previous Windows experience is necessary for this book. Most of the topics in this book are geared toward a more advanced Windows user, but every section is written in a way that even beginner Windows users can understand.

How This Book Is Organized

In this book, you will find 16 chapters spread across three main parts. Each part covers a different theme and each chapter is broken down into sections supporting the chapter's topic. The first two parts are presented in logical operating system event order, such as boot, logon, and interface. The third part is laid out in order of steps.

Part I: Customizing Your Computer

Chapter 1 starts off by customizing the very first thing you see when you turn on your PC: the boot screen. Then I cover tweaking the settings of the logon screen and customizing its look. Chapter 2 shows you how to customize many aspects of the Start menu and the taskbar. Chapter 3 is all about customizing the desktop and the new Windows Sidebar. I even show you how you can make your own Windows Sidebar gadget. Chapter 4 covers customizing the look of the user interface by fine-tuning Aero Glass and completely changing the look of the interface with themes and visual styles. Chapter 5 shows you how you can customize all aspects of the Windows Explorer interface. Chapter 6 is all about customizing and tweaking Internet Explorer 7. Chapter 7 shows you how to customize Windows Media Player 11 as well as how to add a Media Center to your PC and customize it as well.

Part II: Increasing Your System's Performance

Chapter 8 introduces performance monitoring and benchmarking, using applications such as the Performance Diagnostic Console and Event Viewer to discover bottlenecks. Chapter 9 starts off with configuring your BIOS for maximum boot speed and various techniques to speed up the boot time, such as disabling unneeded services and features. Chapter 10 is all about speeding up your logon by removing unneeded startup programs as well as some other tips. Chapter 11 shows you how to speed up Windows Explorer and adjust the search indexer for maximum performance. Chapter 12 helps you optimize the core Windows components, such as using ReadyBoost, fine-tuning the paging file, and setting application priorities. Chapter 13 is all about speeding up your web browser and network.

Part III: Securing Your System

Chapter 14 helps you identify how vulnerable your system is as well as ways to better protect your computer, such as file and drive encryption. Chapter 15 is all about Internet security and protecting yourself with the latest tools, such as the new bidirectional firewall and Windows Defender. Chapter 16 guides you through techniques to protect your privacy by clearing stored personal history information from Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer.