Make the counterintuitive intuitive.

8 Steps to Ease Your Transition to Vista

Windows Vista is a beast. No doubt about it. It's very large. A complete install fills up 6-8 GB of hard drive space. While it's appetite for memory will be placated with 512 MB of RAM, it isn't fully satisfied unless it has at least a gigabyte of memory to chew on. The beast is prettier than it's ancestors, but don't let that fool you. This beast must be tamed and if you are going to use it, you must tame it.

For the casual user, Vista is not that radically different on the surface. Internet Explorer is still just a click away and the start menu is, well, a little different, but manageable. The taming of Vista begins the moment you begin to change settings and make modifications. Most simple tasks become difficult because the path to getting what you want out of it is unfamiliar. Most will be frusterated fairly quickly.

Save yourself the frusteration before you begin using Vista and follow these 8 steps right out of the box. Your experience will be much more rewarding than if you enter the beast's cage unprotected.

1. Make sure on your first boot of the operating system that you are connected to a physical (not wireless) connection to your network or the Internet. Don't know why but first boots on a wireless network don't seem to go well when you are trying to connect to the Internet. Once you have confirmed that you can get on the Internet, follow the instructions here to set up your secured wireless connection or here if you are using an unsecured wireless connection. If you need to join an existing domain or workgroup, use these instructions.

2. If you have followed Step 1, you have most likely been introduced to the User Account Control, that really annoying pop-up window that asks if you really want to open the application you just clicked on. Unfortunately, there is no way to configure it to work with some applications and tasks and not others but there is a way to turn it off completely so it does not slow you down (or drive you insane). Follow the instructions here to turn off the User Account Control.

3. So, you have Vista up and running, right? Did you know you probably still need to enter the Activation Key within thirty days of turning it on or it will go into a reduced functionality mode? Check to see if this is going to be a problem for you and input the key if needed using the instructions found here. There is also a great post on how to extend the thirty day grace period to 120 days here.

4. When you are using a new operating system for the first time, it is sometimes a good idea to set up Windows so that the desktop and Start Menu appear the same way that you are familiar with. Fortunately, the way this is done really has not changed much. For example, if you are used to working with a Classic Start Menu, change it to that. Then, when you feel comfortable with the differences in Vista, you can change it to whatever you want. The idea is to not overwhelm yourself with unfamiliar changes all at once.

5. If you are having problems with slow booting and you have a USB flash drive, you can decrease boot times by using ReadyBoost. For my money, though, if you don't really need to shut down or log off, I recommend just putting it in sleep mode, which is a shutdown option. Sleep mode brings your PC back almost instantly upon pushing the power button.

6. If you would like to forego the advice of Step 4 and see all the visual stylings that Vista has to offer, you are going to want to learn about the Windows Experience Index. This little display will let you know if your computer has all the needed requirements to run the Aero theme. What's the Aero theme? Only the greatest theme that non-Mac users have ever seen. Seriously, though, it is pretty neat and if you can run it, I would recommend it. Here are the requirements and here is a cool trick you can do with Aero.

7. By now, you are probably about ready to install additional software. After all, what good is just an operating system, right? Here is a list of programs that can install on Vista. While it is certainly not all-inclusive, it does include most of the Top 20 most popular programs downloaded from download.com.

8. Lastly, take some time and learn about what Vista has to offer. Microsoft has published some pretty good video tutorials you can view online here.

If you are planning an upgrade (as opposed to a clean install) you may be in for a whole different type of beast. In my testing of running upgrades, the results were mixed as some attempts simply failed to upgrade yet would not allow me to revert to the computer's previous state. I would definitely recommend backing up your hard drive before attempting this, but that's a post for another day...