If you’ve bought a PC with Microsoft Windows Vista preinstalled, chances are it isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing Ultimate version. However, it’s possible to get Ultimate’s power from Vista Basic using third-party downloads.
The Aero interface is the first thing most people associate with Vista, but if you have an underpowered PC or are running Basic it’s missing. You can, however, add back some of the visual glamour by installing TopDesk
. As well as bringing Flip Windows Tab task switching through an open windows feature, you get extra window views not available in Vista, such as a Mac-like Exposé overview of all open windows. The window rendering isn’t as sharp as Flip 3D, but it’s speedy and brings a touch of Aero to you on the cheap.
Talking of cheap, the basic free version of LogMeIn
brings the Ultimate and Business ability to access your PC from anywhere. LogMeIn Free uses an SSL-secure gateway, is easy to set up, and works with most firewalls and routers. What’s more, it works from any web-enabled PC or Pocket PC. Unfortunately, if you want file transfer, remote printing and file sharing as well as 256-bit encryption, you’ll need the Pro version.
The features of XP’s Media Center, and then some, are bundled into Vista Home Premium and Ultimate, as is the Movie Maker application. Basic and Business users miss out, though, but can easily add the video-editing features with the Vista-compatible AVS Video Editor
. The trial version has no time limits, but it does dump a logo in the middle of your output. However, once you start to appreciate its abilities – support for most formats, capture from both DV and analogue sources, plus output to DVD, PSPs, iPods and mobile phones – you’ll register soon enough. The 40 effects, 284 transitions and styles, plus the ability to insert more than one audio file help as well.
Only users of Business and Ultimate get backup of the system image and recovery variety. One of the better third-party options to balance the backup equation for Vista users missing out is Genie Backup Manager Home 8
. It brings the two things you need from backup software – ease of use and reliability – to your Vista machine. The step-by-step wizard will get you backing up quickly to LAN, removable media, a remote device via FTP or even an Ajax-based online option. And the Vista-compatible image-based disaster-recovery feature brings peace of mind should things go wrong. There’s a choice between an easy interface, which is little more than backup and restore buttons, and the normal UI, which offers advanced users the option to configure every aspect of backup and recovery.
But one thing any Vista Home user should add, seeing as they don’t get the benefit of the Business-only BitLocker encryption features, is DESlock+. Although it isn’t feasible to add exactly the same levels of system-partition hardware encryption, DESlock+
does a fine job nonetheless. It provides fully transparent encryption for files, folders and email. The encryption keys can be stored on your PC, a CD or external USB stick, and there are four key slots to enable secure email sharing with your closest contacts. You get a 60-day evaluation period, but it works after that with just a nag screen for company, and personal users can register for a free licence. There’s also a Vista Gadget version that lets you drag and drop any file onto it for immediate encryption just by entering a password, which is why DESlock+ gets our recommended award this month.Top Vista Downloads:
1 - TopDeskwww.otakusoftware.com/topdesk/
Overall - 4/6
2 - LogMeInwww.logmein.com
Overall - 4/6
3 - AVS Video Editorwww.avsmedia.com
Overall - 4/6
4 - Genie Backup Manager HOME 8
Overall - 3/6
5 - DESlock+ www.deslock.com
Overall - 5/6