Ultimate List of Windows 7 Tweaks, Tips, Hacks, and Hints (Part 1)


Ultimate List of Windows 7 Tweaks, Tips, Hacks, and Hints (Part 1)

by Jay Valente

WIndows 7 has a ton of new features. This is part 1 of a series of tips, hints, and tricks I’ve found using Microsoft’s newest flavor of Windows.

Problem Steps Recorder

Problem Steps Recorder – This is a small application that lets you record whatever mouse-clicks, key presses, etc., that you do, along with several screen grabs, then packages the whole thing up in a zipped MHTML file.
To run this program:

  • Click Start
  • Type “PSR” without the quotes, and hit enter
  • Click the record button, and take whatever actions are not working currently on your computer
  • When you click “stop”, enter the name of the file

You can now send this to just about anyone, and they’ll see what you saw, along with some diagnostic information.

Native Image Burning

FINALLY, Windows 7 can natively burn ISO images to a CD or DVD. Simply double click and ISO image, choose the drive with the blank disc, and click “Burn”. That’s it.
Create and Mount VHD Files
VHD (or Virtual Hard Disk) file are the native format for Microsoft Virtual PC to store virtual machine data. Windows 7 can now mount these file types directly and even create new VHD’s, so they can be accessed by the host PC.
In order to attach A VHD:

  • Click the “Start” button
  • Type “diskmgmt.msc” without the quotes and press Enter
  • Click “Action”, and select “Attach VHD”
  • Choose the file (VHD) you’d like to mount
  • A drive should appear in “My Computer”. This drive should be able to be written to, read from, and otherwise used just like a normal drive

In order to create a new VHD:

  • Click the “Start” button
  • Type “diskmgmt.msc” without the quotes and press Enter
  • Click “Action”, and select “Create VHD”
  • Either type the location you want the VHD created, or select Browse, and pick a location to create the VHD file
  • Choose the size of the VHD you’d like to create
  • Choose either “Dynamic expanding” or “Fixed Size”. If unsure of which to use, select “Fixed size”.
  • In the Disk Management console, right-click the box that lists the disk number (example Disk 1)
  • Select “Initialize Disk”, and click “OK”
  • Now you can partition and format the volume like a regular disk

In order to detach a VHD

  • Click the “Start” button
  • Type “diskmgmt.msc” without the quotes and press Enter
  • In the Disk Management console, right-click the box that lists the disk number (example Disk 1)
  • Select “Detach VHD”
  • If you wish to delete the VHD once it is detached, then check the “Delete the virtual hard disk file after removing the disk” box, then click “OK”

That’s it!

System Repair Disk

Nothing is more frustrating than realizing your system has been corrupted, and is no longer operable. One thing that can help you get your system back up and running, is a System Repair Disk, and it’s a very simple process. To create a System Repair Disk:

  • Click the “Start” button
  • Select “Maintenance”
  • Select “Create a System repair Disc”

Windows 7 will then create a System Repair Disc. If your system ever takes a turn for the worse, this disk, and the data it contains, can save your bacon.

Super Calculator

The calculator has always been a useful little app, but it’s been super-sized in Windows 7. At first glance, it looks like the same old calculator, but if you click on the “View” option in the toolbar, you’ll see they’ve added several new features, to include:

  • A unit conversion calculator that lets you convert things like angles, area, energy, temperature, pressure, and a bunch more
  • A date calculator that can determine the span between two days (in days, weeks, months and years, or simply in days)
  • A series of worksheets that can be used to calculate Mortgage Rates, Vehicle Lease Rates, and Fuel economy in moth MPG and L/100 KM.

Power Efficiency Calculator

For travel warriors, maximizing your laptop battery is essential. Windows 7 now has an efficiency calculator which has tons of useful information on how to tweak the best performance out of your laptop battery. To generate the report:

  • Click “Start”
  • Select “All Programs”
  • Select “Accessories”
  • Right Click “Command Prompt”, and select “Run as Administrator”
  • At the command prompt, type “powercfg -energy” without the quotes, and hit enter
  • Windows 7 will examine your system for ways to improve power efficiency, and publish the results to an HTML file
  • Simply browse to the location it lists, and double click the file to view your report

Projector View

If you need to quickly connect your system to a projector, just hit the Windows key and the “P” key simultaneously (alternately, you can click “Start” and type “displayswitch.exe” and Enter, but why would you), and pick the display type you wish. You can pick from Computer Only, Duplicate, Extend, and Projector Only.

Calibrate Screen Colors

Computer screens vary greatly so that something that looks great on one screen, might look a little off on another. One thing you can do is to calibrate your monitor or laptop screen to compensate for different video cards, monitors, lighting conditions, etc.
To run the Display Color Calibration Wizard, click the “Start” button, and type “DCCW” without the quotes, and hit Enter. Now just follow the prompts to tweak your monitor to perfection.

Old Style Context Menus

In a previous post (found here) I showed you how to use the context menus, and how to access some of the old commands you used to see when you would right click on a taskbar icon. Well, a shortcut to see those “old” options is to hold down the “Ctrl” and “Shift” keys when you right-click a taskbar icon, and you’ll see those old favorites like Restore, Maximize, Move and others.

Customize the Log-On Screen

This is not a new ability, but in the past, there were some potentially dangerous hacks required to get it working. Now, with Windows 7, it just requires a few small changes:

  • Start the registry editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionAuthenticationLogonUIBackground
  • Double-click the DWORD key called OEMBackground (or create it if it’s not there) and set it to a value of “1”
  • Find a background image that is less than 256KB in size, and that matches the aspect ratio of your current screen so it is not distorted
  • Copy the image to the following folder – %windir%system32oobeinfobackgrounds (you may have to create the infobackgrounds folder if it doesn’t exist)
  • Rename the image file to backgroundDefault.jpg, and reboot
  • You should now have your customized logon page

If you are concerned with messing with the registry, and in the system folders, there are various tools that will handle the changes for you. Logon Changer lets you change the background, while Logon Screen Rotator will allow you to cycle through several pictures on your logon screen.

Stay tuned for more tweaks and updates



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Jay Valente

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