Since June 30 has been and gone, unless you're one of the few that can get their hands on XP, you're pretty much stuck with Vista. Here's a round-up of the best tips and tricks that will make Vista a winner.

June 30 has now been and gone marking the fact that consumers can now only get their hands on Windows XP with some difficulty.

Although it is available in some circumstances, Microsoft has relaxed restrictions on new XP laptops, for instance, most of us will see our Windows options reduced to Windows Vista.

However, with a bad reputation that includes slow performance, annoying security features, and lack of support for many existing devices, its no wonder that users aren't jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of using the OS.

Fear not, because we've unearthed a number of ways to tame the quirks and foibles of Vista and make it easier to use.

Speed up Windows Vista

Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista may not give your system much extra oomph, but there are other ways to speed up Windows Vista.

Spending a few minutes (or a few pounds) optimising your Vista PC, can pep it up noticeably.

Make Vista's user account control work for you

Logging on as a user with fewer privileges is one way to avoid enduring the incessant User Account Control interruptions that are irritating to say the least. The less privileged your log-in profile is, the more secure your PC will be.

Activate Vista's Snipping tool

The screen-capture utility built into Windows Vista got dropped from some versions of the OS. But we've put together a straightforward explanation of how to turn the Vista snipping tool on if you have it and how to upgrade to it if you don't.

If you have Windows Vista Basic, you have the wrong edition all the way around. Vista Basic is, in essence, Windows XP with a pretty face, and not even the attractive Aero interface that comes with other Vista editions. Also missing are Vista's Shadow Copies feature, its scheduled backups, and the Snipping tool.

Sorting out all the differences between the other Vista editions isn't easy, although some sites do offer to help you compare features. The comparison charts on Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows are our favourites. But Vista itself has a feature that can help.

Open Control Panel and launch Windows Anytime Upgrade. At the bottom of the window, click Compare versions for details that match your flavour of Vista against those that you can upgrade to.

If you have a version of Vista other than Home Basic, you already have the Snipping Tool screen capture utility: Choose Start, All Programs, Accessories, Snipping Tool.

If you don't see it there, it may not be activated. Go to Control Panel and open Program and Features (you may have to click Programs first). In the task pane on the left, click Turn Windows features on or off. If necessary, click Continue when prompted by User Account Control.

Scroll through the list of features, check the box next to Tablet PC Optional Components, and click ok. Turning on these features gives you not only the Snipping Tool, but also the Tablet PC Input Panel, Windows Journal, and other stylus-related features.

NEXT PAGE: Adding Vista Ultimate features to Vista Home Premium

  1. Tips and tricks that make Vista easier to use
  2. Adding Vista Ultimate features to Vista Home Premium
  3. Solving Vista's defrag problems
  4. More ways to minimise your Vista hardware hassles