(None of what follows is intended to be of any use to geeks, experts, macboys or linux fans. All I have attempted is to lump together some advice that might help a typical windows user. )
1. BACKUP, backup, backup! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do so. Not only do you get the insurance of never losing critical files, you can also, by making a full system backup, get back to all your painfully installed programs and optimized settings in a heartbeat. (Let’s face it, all hard-drives die one day.) I recommend backing up important files to an external hard drive or USB stick every week, and backing up your whole hard drive onto an external drive every few months. The former can be done manually or via several free programs, for the latter you will probably need to get a program for the purpose. If you are a user of Vista Business or Ultimate, you already have such a program built into the OS.
2. Do the research, read the reviews. But also keep your bias detector on. Notwithstanding the criticisms you may have heard from friends, Windows Vista has some excellent features (search, backup, security, organization and lots more) which make it the best Windows version yet. If your computer has a dual core processor and over 1.5 GHz of RAM, and you are still stuck with XP, upgrade! But don’t fall for Microsoft’s bs about ‘in-place upgrades': always do a clean upgrade when you can.
3. Hack your browsers to become faster! Follow this tip (works with any version of IE or Firefox). And yes, if you are using IE 7, do disable the phishing filter. Warning: In changing the registry value as described in the linked tip, you will be violating internet standards. Proceed at your own risk.
4. Want a one-click DVD ripping software that just works? Try DVDFab. It is shareware (you can use it for free for a month, after which you will need to buy it). But there is no program that matches it in quality of output, configurability or ease of use. Highly recommended! Warning: Ripping copy-protected DVDs is illegal in most jurisdictions. While DVDFab removes copy protection from commercial DVDs, this post in no way encourages or endorses such illegal activity. Proceed at your own risk.
5. Use VLC media player for playing video. Nothing, simply nothing, works better. Anything that plays, can be played on VLC. No silly codec messages, no freezes. Of course, VLC can play music too, but you’d probably prefer a good music organizing program for that. I use Windows Media Player 11 for hearing and organizing my music.
6. If you have Windows Vista, make sure you are using the sidebar to its full potential.
7. Annoyed by the prompts by Vista’s User Account control? Prefer that such messages disappear when your are logged in as an administrator? Follow these steps. They get rid of the annoying prompts, moreover, IE and programs continue to run in standard user mode, keeping your computer secure.
8. This is a simple feature of Windows but many people seem to be unaware of it. When you want to view two program windows simutaneously on your screen, select them both on the taskbar (by selecting one, holding down ‘ctrl’ and selecting the other) and then right-click. You will see options like “show windows side-by-side”.
9. Another Vista tip: use the search feature for opening programs and files. Much faster than navigating the start menu or going to the individual folder.
10. If you mess up anything while using a text editor, or press the wrong key, just right click and select ‘undo’ (or simply press Control+z). This tip works in loads of programs and can be a real time-saver.
11. Do you have stuff on your computer you dont want others to access? If you want to encrypt files, folders, or entire partitions into password-protected entities unviewable (and indeed undiscoverable) by anyone but yourself, use the amazing program called Truecrypt.