Vista makes it fun to store and use media files. Learn how to share with PC Advisor

This article appears as part of the April 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents

Windows Vista is already creating a lot of myths. Among other things, forum members have expressed concern about whether buying an upgrade version of the operating system limits you to a single installation on a single PC. They also want to know whether applications that weren't written for Vista will work properly in the new OS and whether Microsoft plans to make us all migrate to Vista, like it or not, by flipping a switch on XP.

Happily, most of these concerns will prove unfounded. We've managed to install and run plenty of XP applications under Vista and, so far at least, have had no traumas with losing documents when upgrading. We do, of course, urge you to perform a complete backup of your files, programs and settings before you begin the upgrade process.

In due course there'll be plenty of applications written to take full advantage of multicore processors and that make particular use of Vista's graphical underlay. You'll have heard plenty about its translucent interface and how slick it is, but we're assured that the reason for it isn't just so Windows can have a superficially pretty look and feel, but is a pointer for things to come. We look forward to seeing what emerges.

Media marvel?

One of the things that's really caught our eye about Vista is the new version of Windows Media Player. Version 11.0 will also run on XP and offers a far better organised library that makes it much easier to jump between content types. Like iTunes, it lets you download and play recorded TV and other video content. It supports more file types and codecs than did WMP 10.0, too. Grab your free copy, click here .

Those making an early leap to Vista and who share a PC with other family members or colleagues may be puzzled by something that had us foxed for a moment: CDs and other content ripped or copied to Media Player 11.0's library don't automatically show up across all libraries. We tried to get round this by manually copying files between accounts, but Vista wasn't having it.

However, there's a simple workaround if you do want anyone who users your Vista PC to be able to enjoy Media Player 11.0's library. Before you insert a CD to be ripped, click on the Rip tab at the top and choose More Options. The default setting is to copy albums to your personal folder, but you can designate the Public folder by clicking the Change button and altering the settings.

Simple sharing

Alternatively, you can make use of the new Share option. This is a neat way of making files available to anyone you wish within your organisation. You need to enter the person's details and then set their access rights accordingly. Vista can email the favoured few to whom you've granted permission with a direct link to the content you want them to be able to get their mitts on.

When you click on Computer from the Vista Start icon you'll see a listing under Other called 'My sharing folders'. To use this function, Vista requires you to sign in to a Windows Live Messenger account. Having done so, however, you can designate your My Music, My Photos, My Videos and other multimedia folders as Shared folders.