I know I have already done a Vista Tweaking software post some not too long ago, but I wanted to add one to my sidebar for fast access so I'm re-posting this one for that purpose with the addition of a few new ones I've come across.
Does the "average" Vista user need any of these utilities?
Probably not. However, if there is a particular adjustment to Vista's GUI or operation that you just want to make, and diving into the registry to try to accomplish it doesn't sound very appetizing, consider one of these "guided" approaches. It might be a "bit" safer.
Standard tweaking warning apply: Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Use any and all at your own risk of causing system-wide mayhem, destruction, and mass hysteria!
OK, now on to the fun!
Four Newcomers (to me...)
VistaTweaker (freeware) - Straight-forward application with minimal eye-candy. Seven tabs filled with tweaking options to cover modifications to the System, Windows UI, Internet Explorer, Software, Network, Performance, and Miscellaneous settings. What makes this really nice is that the developer has taken the time to display "tweak-tip" descriptions for every tweak available. This can help you decide if this is what you really want to do or not. No installation required.
Windows Sidebar Styler (freeware) - Allows some easy fine-tuning of the Windows Sidebar and provides extensions to the Windows Sidebar in Vista. Supports custom styles for resizing and customizing how it integrates with other elements. Still being refined but looks pretty handy.
XdN Tweaker (freeware) - Tweaking program that supports Vista (and XP/Server 203). It doesn't have tons of tweaking options, but does focus on ones that most users may want to attend to. No installation required (but .NET is for XP/2003). Address areas with Vista UAC, Control Panel, Media Player, Right-Click context options, Files and Folder tweaks, File Associations, Start Menu, IE7, Outlook Express/Windows Mail, Misc. Tools, and System Settings. Pretty handy little utility.
EasyBCD 1.6 (freeware) - Hard-core NeoSmart tool that is definitely NOT for "average" Vista users. Allows advanced Vista users/tweakers to set up, configure, and tweak the Windows Vista bootloader. Here are direct links to the EasyBCD Screenshots Gallery and Documentation.
The Original List of Six
Stardock's LogonStudio (freeware) - from the developer's description
Stardock LogonStudio allows Windows XP [or Vista] users to edit, change, and apply new logon screens. LogonStudio comes built with a visual editor to make it easy to create your own logons which can then be uploaded to websites to be used by others users.
It's a nice and simple way to update the XP or Vista logon screen. Personalization at the first point!
TweakUAC (freeware) - this utility allows folks running under an Administrator-level profile to easily turn off UAC (User Account Control), turn it back on, or keep it running, but suppress the UAC elevation prompt requests.
Tweak VI from Totalidea (freeware/$) - The basic version is free and additional feature "plugins" can be purchased. It's a nice business model. The Basic version allows you to tweak desktop items, Start menu items, IE, Firefox, hardware settings, system info, virtual desktops, subsystem folders, mousing, and shutdown options.
Premium and Ultimate plugins up the ante with 13 and 26 additional tweaking areas. The plugins are good for a 12-month subscription. Yes, many of the tweaks can be preformed manually for free by the user with a knowledge of the Vista system and/or registry hacks, but if you are a hard-core tweaker and don't want to fuss with those, this might be a great utility to look into. I've had fun just poking around the Basic version's interface on my Vista system.
Vispa (freeware) - This tweak-tool uses a non-install executable and is a bare-bones Vista utility. Run it and you get a long list of check boxes organized by subjects. To apply a setting, activate the checkbox. Pro: simple interface. Con: simple interface. So unless you already know and understand the consequence of your choice, this might not be a utility for Vista noobies. More information and screenshots: Vispa: Customize Windows Vista - CyberNet News
TweakVista Beta (freeware) - Stardock is beta releasing TweakVista. Final release version will have both a free/limited version and a $/full version. This one looks really good! From the developer's beta release description:
TweakVista is a utility that enables users to optimize the performance and behavior of Microsoft Windows Vista. The program has been designed to allow both casual, non-technical users to safely use it as well as contain a host of advanced features for power users to dig into the internals of Windows Vista. The feature-packed utility includes features such as:
- Security Handling. Users can now easily and safely adjust the way Windows handles security prompting including the new UAC (User Account Control)
- Memory Optimization. TweakVista knows which start-up services different types of users will typically use and offers recommendations on what services to disable. Users can easily switch between different profiles (including the default) based on their needs to maximize performance and memory use.
- Resource Control. Tweak Vista has several features for keeping an eye on and flagging programs that use excessive amounts of resources (memory, CPU, or system handles) as well as integrating seamlessly with built in hardware diagnostic reports.
- Start-Up Management. TweakVista not only will display and enable users to control what programs are loading on start-up but will identify in plain English what these programs do. Internet integration in the software allows users to comment on these processes within the program to one another.
- Performance Assessments. TweakVista uses the new Windows Vista assessment features to benchmark nearly every aspect of a user’s PC and allow them to submit their results for comparison with other users of similar or upgraded hardware.
- TweakVista.com integration. TweakVista partners the software development skills of Stardock with the on-going tweak expertise of TweakVista.com to provide an on-going live database of helpful tips and tricks for maximizing the Windows Vista experience.
Additional features are being added during the course of the beta based on user feedback.
MZ Vista Force (freeware) - Requires .Net 2.0 installed to run. The GUI for this application seems a bit heavy on eye-candy...but is an improvement over the XP version's interface. It allows you to make performance adjustments, "hidden" OS settings, optimize/tune your Internet connection values, manage your startup items, manage some Windows services, backup/restore your Vista registry and execute the System Restore Service, and (this is the real value) comes with concise documentation for each tweak element to help you decide if that is a change you want to try. For more screenshots see this post: Tweak and Optimize Windows Vista with Mz Vista Force at Shivaranjan’s Blog.