Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Use System Restore to overcome a lost Administrator password

Even though I wear the tech guru pants in our household, my wife insists on maintaining her own Vista system — she’s my toughest customer. Fortunately, she does take my advice when she is unsure of the necessary steps and I was able to get her to use a Standard User account and then to provide the Administrator credentials at the UAC prompts, as a security precaution.

Because I’m always talking about security and passwords, she recently changed the Administrator password in order to keep her system safe. Unfortunately, a few weeks later when she needed to make a change to her system, she realized that she completely forgot the new password. Of course, this snafu was now my problem to fix.

Now, being a very customer oriented tech, I calmly assured her that everything was going to be just fine. While she does have a password reset disk for her user account, we never created one for the Administrator account.

Fortunately, I remembered seeing a Microsoft Help and Support article about being able to use System Restore to gain access to a system on which the Administrator account password was forgotten.

To my surprise, the procedure worked without a hitch and I won the best tech of the year award. Seriously now, since this is a great technique to have in your tech support toolbox and because it will work in both Windows Vista and Windows 7, I thought that I would share it with TechRepublic readers.

In this edition of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you how to use System Restore and a Windows DVD to revive a lost Administrator password.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Google Easter Eggs, Pranks, & Oddities

Everyone who surfs the net knows that the folks at Google are truly innovative and are always coming up with new and exciting technological advances. However, sometimes all that creative energy turns to mischievous endeavors. Don't believe us? Well take a look at this gallery.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Expand the number of Windows 7 installs with bootable VHDs

When you begin experimenting with Microsoft Windows 7, chances are good that you’ll want to have several installations of the new operating system on which to test various configurations, settings, and applications. While you could install Windows 7 on several machines for your test environment, wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly and easily create several installations on the same system?

I recently learned that Microsoft has made available several techniques that you can use to create bootable Windows 7 virtual hard disks (VHDs) that run like a dual boot setup. For example, you can convert a Windows 7 Windows Image Format (WIM) file to a VHD, you can Sysprep an existing Windows 7 VHD, or you can create a VHD using the Windows 7 DVD and the DiskPart command.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you how to create a VHD using the Windows 7 DVD and the DiskPart command. (I’ll cover the other techniques in future editions.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Product Spotlight: IBE Software's HelpNDoc documentation tool

If you are working on a documentation project that requires you to create both an online Help system and printed documentation from a single source, then you need to need to investigate IBE Software’s HelpNDoc Help Authoring environment. In addition to being very easy to use, it is inexpensive and will allow you to create professional looking documentation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More classic Microsoft commercials and videos you may have forgotten

The first installment of “Classic Microsoft Commercials and Videos You May Have Forgotten” was such a hit that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revisit this topic. So without further ado, here are more classic Microsoft commercials and videos you may have forgotten.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking a closer look at UAC prompts

As you know, Windows Vista has a built-in security feature called User Account Control (UAC for short) that is designed to reduce the potential for security breaches. UAC forces all users, even administrators, to request permission via the UAC prompt in order to perform tasks that require administrative privileges. Standard users must be able to provide an Administrator user name and password and Administrators must simply consent to the operation.

While this is all pretty familiar territory to Vista users, that fact that there are actually four types of UAC prompts each with a different color scheme isn't. Sure we've all encountered UAC prompts, but most of us think of them in generic terms. Seriously, who among us has actually taken the time to look at the color scheme of a UAC? We usually just click a button as fast as we can to move past the prompt. However, like the Homeland Security color levels, each of the successive UAC color coding schemes is designed to convey a greater sense of warning.

In this gallery, I'll take a closer look at each type of UAC prompt and point out the different color schemes.

Download the IPConfig Gadget to simplify troubleshooting in Vista

The IPConfig command can be invaluable when troubleshooting TCP/IP connectivity problems. Unfortunately, this handy command is a command-line tool, which means that using it can be a painstaking operation that requires you to type the IPConfig command over and over again with a different switch for each operation.

To alleviate some of that tedious labor, I created the Windows XP IP Configuration Tool several years ago. Recently, I created the Windows Vista IP Configuration Tool for Vista, whose IPConfig command offers five more options than XP and requires working through a UAC prompt.

In the discussion thread for the Vista version, TechRepublic member jvdgijp suggested that I convert the tool, which is an HTML application, into a Vista gadget. Several other members echoed that request, so I got to work and created the IPConfig Gadget.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Temporarily disable User Account Control prompts in Vista

I’ve been receiving a lot of email lately from Microsoft Windows XP users who are buying discounted Windows Vista computers now in order to get the free Windows 7 upgrade. Most of the questions revolve around how best to deal with Windows Vista’s User Account Control (UAC). As you know, going from XP to Vista and encountering UAC prompts for the first time can be very frustrating — especially if you consider yourself an experienced computer user who isn’t likely to fall into the kind of traps that UAC is designed to protect computer users from. As such, many of these users have permanently disabled UAC in order to avoid what they perceive to be a regular onslaught of “Are you sure?” type of prompts.

However, I recently discovered a technique that will allow you to temporarily disable UAC during those times when you know that you will be performing operations that generate a lot of UAC prompts and then re-enable UAC when you are done. That way you will be able to avoid UAC prompts when they are most likely to occur, yet leave the UAC protection in place when it will most likely save you from disaster.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll explain this technique and show you how to use it to your advantage.

10 IE8 Accelerators worth checking out

In the article Go fast on the Web with IE8 Accelerators, I introduced Internet Explorer 8’s handy Accelerators feature and showed you how to get the most out of it. Now as a follow-up, I’m going to point you toward some of the best Accelerators for techies.

Here are 10 IE8 Accelerators you should definitely take a look at.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Go fast on the Web with IE8 Accelerators

I’ve been using Windows 7 Ultimate exclusively on my laptop for close to five months and now find it more and more difficult to go back to my Vista Ultimate desktop, where I do most of my work. My desktop is a very responsive system and I’ve not had many problems with Vista. A glitch here and there, but no show stoppers. However, after using Windows 7, Windows Vista leaves a bit to be desired.

One thing I have really grown to love in Windows 7 is Internet Explorer 8 and the Accelerators feature. While Internet Explorer 8 has been available for some time now, I have resisted putting it on my Vista system for purist motives. The other day, I caved and added Internet Explorer 8 to my main Vista system. Boy, am I ever glad that I did, because I never realized how handy the Accelerators feature was until I began using it more regularly.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll explore Internet Explorer 8’s Accelerators feature and show you how to get the most out of it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

10 things you should know about moving from Windows XP to Windows 7

If you skipped Windows Vista and stuck with Windows XP, chances are good that you are now seriously considering moving to Windows 7 after it’s released on October 22. If so, there is much for you to do. Not only should you begin planning for your operating system migration, but you should begin learning as much as you can about Windows 7.

Here are 10 things you can do to get ready for the switch.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Configure a USB flash drive for Windows 7 installation: Revisited

In my August 18th blog post, Configure a USB flash drive to be a Windows 7 installation platform, I showed you how to use the DiskPart utility to configure a bootable USB flash drive that you can then use to install the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

In the Discussion Thread stemming from that blog post, I was asked several questions that prompted me to revisit this technique.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Evolution of Windows Icons

As the Windows operating system has evolved, so too have many of its icons. As Windows 7 comes on to the scene with new user interface features, I recently began looking back at the changes in the icons that we all click on every day. While I discovered that many icons have changed with each new version of Windows, I also discovered that many stayed the same over several different versions.

In this gallery, I’ll take a look at some of the Windows icons that have evolved over the years.