Posts Tagged Windows Vista

Disable the restart now prompt


I’m sure you recognize the reminder we all love to hate.  I could easily disable automatic updates altogether so I don’t get the prompt at all, but knowing me, I’d forget to check for months at a time.  I went searching for a better solution mainly because I was playing a game online one day when the prompt came up in the middle of the game, which forced the game to minimize.  There’s nothing like being in the middle of an attack by a horde of zombies (Left 4 dead, ftw!) when the game suddenly minimizes to remind me to restart my computer!  Ahhh!

Permanently stop Windows Update from both restarting your computer automatically and reminding you to restart:

  1. Go to start -> run (for Vista type this in the search bar), type gpedit.msc.
  2. Navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components – > Windows Update.GroupPolicy
  3. Double-click No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations and enable it.
  4. Then to stop that irritating reminder from popping up every 10 minutes, double-click on Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations.  You would think that disabling this would disable the reminder, but it does the same leaving it not configured would do – allows the reminder to popup to interrupt you every 10 minutes.  I don’t quite understand that.  But anyway, after opening the box for this, click on enable and type a 1440 in the box.  This will set it to remind you once a day so you can restart it whenever you want.Re-promptForRestart

I don’t have a Vista box here to test it on, but I’m fairly certain the directions are the same.  If not, leave a comment and I’ll update them.



Free utilities for tweaking Windows part 2

A few other utilities I got from the PC World article linked to in the previous post are RocketDock and Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

Being the multi-tasker that I am, I found this little tool to be pretty handy along with VirtuaWin. I have a few programs in my quicklaunch bar, but I don’t want to overload that so I use RocketDock for a few more shortcuts that I access on a regular basis. I have it set to auto-hide so that it isn’t always a distraction – it’s only there when I need it.


There are different skins for it that you can use and you can go to their website to download icons, more skins, and docklets. I can’t think of a complaint about this, I’ve been pretty happy with it.

Ultimate Windows Tweaker
This is actually an easier way to adjust things that I posted about in my trimming Vista’s fat post. The three sections of the tweaker that I like the most are the personalization, system performance, and additional options.

In the personalization section you can choose which items will show in the start menu, remove some or all icons that show in the taskbar, change the window padding, along with some other features.

The changes I made in the system performance section have made the biggest difference. In there you can change the time the computer waits for services to shut down, the time it waits to end non-responsive applications, and waiting time to kill applications timeout during shutdown. My computer shuts down MUCH faster now.

Finally, the additional options section just has a few things in there that I changed. You can add some useful options to the context menus for files and folders and drives. Also, being able to remove the arrows from creating shortcuts was nice. Definitely not anything that improved performance, but useful changes for me.

There are a lot of other things you can edit with this. I only highlighted the sections that were the most useful to me.

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Free utilities for tweaking Windows Part 1

I decided to come up with a list a programs I use to maintain my Vista laptop.  I got some from this PC World article and others I found on  Instead of making one massive post I’ll break it up into two or three.

First on my list and the most exciting to me is a cool thing called VirtuaWin.

I use Linux all the time at work, the only time I use Windows is when I have to do some maintenance for those in the office who use it. I fell completely in love with the multiple workspaces that you can use in Linux. I have a separate space for email, another for my browser, and another for whatever else I happen to be playing with or troubleshooting. Having multiple workspaces is absolutely necessary for my job, I do way too many things at once to not need that feature.

I got so excited when I heard from a friend of mine about a nifty little program that allows you to have multiple workspaces in Windows. I then read an article somewhere, that I can’t seem to find the link for, about it so I thought I’d give it a try. I was a little worried about how much memory it would suck up and whether it would slow down the start-up and shutdown process of my laptop. I noticed a bit of a slowdown but the benefits outweigh it since it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.

You can have up to 9 workspaces, which I find to be way too many. I have 4 set up but probably only use 3 of them on a regular basis. By default, the hotkey to move between desktops is the windows key + arrow key. There’s an option to make it so that when you’re mouse is against the edge of your screen it switches to another workspace, but I found that to be incredibly irritating so I stuck to the hotkey.  Another thing I like about it is that I finally have a use for the ability of the wheel on my mouse to click.  If I click on the title bar of a window with the mouse wheel it gives the option to move that application to one of the other workspaces – I use that all the time.  You can also add modules from their website to add features, although there aren’t very many.  That’s another plus, they didn’t add a bunch of useless features to the basic installation, if you want extras you can install them yourself.  This is compatible with Vista all the way back to Win98, so if you have a Windows machine this will work for you.


I need a nap, more to come.

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Vista automatic login

I found directions online for how to set automatic login in Vista on a machine that’s also on a domain. Normally to set it to automatically log in you can just check a box in the advanced user account settings window. But that box isn’t there if your machine is on a domain. In order to get it to work you have to edit the registry.  This is more so for my own notes so I don’t have to risk losing this in my bookmarks or something.  But maybe it’ll help others.

Doing anything in the registry can really screw up your computer if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Do this at your own risk.

Automatic login on a non-domained machine:

  1. Type netplwiz into the search bar to open the settings box for user accounts.
  2. Highlight the username you want to automatically log in and uncheck the box, users must enter a user name and password to use this computer.
  3. Type in your user name and password to verify and close everything.

Automatic login on a domained machine:

  1. Start menu -> type regedit in the search bar and hit enter.
  2. Go to this registry key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon
  3. Double-click the DefaultUserName entry, type the user name to log on with, and then click OK.If DefaultUserName registry value name is not found, create the new String Value (REG_SZ) with value name as DefaultUserName.
  4. Double-click the DefaultPassword entry, type the password for the user account under the value data box, and then click OK.If there is no DefaultPassword value, create a new String Value subkey (REG_SZ) with DefaultPassword as the value name.Note that if no DefaultPassword string is specified, Windows automatically changes the value of the AutoAdminLogon registry key from 1 (true) to 0 (false) to turn off the AutoAdminLogon feature.
  5. In Windows Vista, DefaultDomainName has to be specified as well, else Windows will prompt of invalid user name with user name displayed as .\username. To do so, double click on DefaultDomainName, and specify the domain name of the user account. If it’s local user, specify local host name.If the DefaultDomainName does not exist, create a new String Value (REG_SZ) registry key with value name as DefaultDomainName.
  6. Double-click the AutoAdminLogon entry, type 1 in the Value Data box, and then click OK. If there is no AutoAdminLogon entry, create a new String Value entry (REG_SZ) with AutoAdminLogon as the value name.
  7. If it exists, delete the AutoLogonCount key.
  8. Quit Registry Editor.
  9. Restart your computer.




Vista start menu – duplicate programs folder

This is just  quick little post about another annoyance I found in Vista.  I noticed that after going to all programs there was a programs folder that had duplicate shortcuts to everything already in the menu.  I never saw that folder before so I have no idea where it came from.  Trying to delete it completely killed my entire start menu.

To get rid of the duplicate programs folder:

  1. Go into the properties of the start menu (right click on task bar and then properties)
  2. Click the start menu tab then the customize button.
  3. Uncheck the “default programs” box.  I’ve had to do this twice so far, the 2nd time I checked the box since I unchecked it the first time.  Doing the opposite of whatever it is set to seems to fix it for some unknown reason.


Resetting system services in Vista

I wrote a post back in October about a common problem we saw on campus where students wouldn’t be able to get online and were getting an error when they started windows that says “the dependency service or group failed to start.”  Because it was internet related I came up with a stack repair which basically resets some configuration files and registry keys to their original state that are related to your computer knowing how to get online.

It has become one of my most popular posts all of a sudden and couple of the most recent comments said what I suggested didn’t work, which prompted me to do a bit more research to see if there’s anything else to try.  The solution I suggested the first time was only related to internet connection problems, nothing else, so I wouldn’t expect it to work for everybody.

I mentioned this in the previous post, I have a hunch that the cause may be some of Microsoft’s own updates because I heard from my experience and read online that things started going wrong after installing some updates.  If my first post doesn’t help then I would suggest the following things:

Try these steps at your own risk.  I suggest burning all important files to a CD/DVD.  If you are not comfortable working with computers either get someone who is or take it to a store and pay to have them repair it. A system restore should be fine, but anything beyond that may be more than some people should be tweaking with.

  1. Do a system restore (Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Restore) to a date when your computer was known to be working.  If updates screwed something up this may fix the problem.
  2. Run the system file checker.  It’ll check for corrupted system files, which may be causing the problem(s).

    Go the start menu and type cmd in the search bar.  Right-click on it and choose “run as administrator”.

    Type “SFC /Scannow” (without quotation marks) and hit enter.  When that is done restart the computer.

    Note: There is a SPACE between “SFC” and “/Scannow.”  It was also take quite awhile to finish.

  3. As a last resort I found where they have created some files you can download that will restore your version of Vista to the default services setup.   I say this is a last resort because this is not something you want to mess with unless you know what you are doing.

The cause of the problem could really be a variety of things so whatever I list may not work.  It might just be easier to reintall Vista.


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Vista – The dependency service or group failed to start

This was an error that has come up on some students’ computers.  The problem was that it isn’t very specific so it’s insanely difficult to troubleshoot.  But since the main problem along with that error was the internet not working that helped me figure out what to try.

Some people reformatted and that worked, some people did a system restore and that worked, others reinstalled SP1 and that worked.  Based on the research I did today I couldn’t find any solution that worked for more than 1 or 2 people.  I decided to use a stack repair to see if that would do anything.   I hadn’t seen that in any of the forums I read but it was worth a shot since nothing else worked and I’ve used it in the past to fix connection problems.  If it only worked on one of the computers I wouldn’t think much of it but it worked for both computers so here’s what you do:

  1. Go the start menu and type cmd in the search bar.  Right-click on it and choose “run as administrator“.
  2. Now type "netsh winsock reset" without the quotes and hit enter.
  3. Next type, “netsh int ip reset" once again without the quotes and hit enter.
  4. Ignore it if it says that one of the repairs couldn’t be done and now restart the computer.

What this does is reset some configuration files and registry keys to their original state that are related to your computer knowing how to get online.  Various things can corrupt them including viruses/spyware, installing some networking software, and I’ve read some programs that try to remove spyware/viruses can even corrupt them.

I’m not sure what the message saying a repair couldn’t be done was about because they were both able to get online afterward.  I hope this helps some people because the forum posts I saw were pretty hopeless. One pattern I did notice was that a lot of people reporting this issue said that some windows updates had been recently installed.

I think something to look out for which may help you decide whether this will help is opening services.msc (type it in the search bar) and looking at the services that are supposed to automatically start.  On one of the computers I noticed that the DNS Client and DHCP Client both were not running and gave me an error when I tried to manually start them; IPSec Policy Agent, Base Filtering Engine also were not running.  The funny part about that error was that it was something like “A file that should never fail has failed to start.”  Uhh… thanks?

If you end up trying this or finding something else that works please leave a comment, it would be good know.


Didn’t work? See this post for a few more ideas.


Edit: I’m happy to see this is working for people.  I know how frustrating something like this can be.

Update: In response to the comment from Matt, it sounds like the problem your computer is having is far more than just some services failing to start or some winsock & TCP/IP configurations being corrupted.  I would be surprised if running those commands broke anything since all they do is reset some configuration files to their original working state.  A virus could have corrupted a bunch of files on the computer including those mentioned in this post, so it was only one symptom of the problem.  Sorry it didn’t work.