Super UserHidden Features of Windows Vista
[+30] [20] joe
[2009-07-24 19:10:26]
[ windows windows-vista hidden-features ]

What are your favorite hidden features of Windows Vista?

[+60] [2009-07-24 19:12:01] matthews

Hold shift while right clicking on any folder -- you'll get an expanded context menu. In there you'll be able to choose "Open command window here."

(13) wow! why couldn't they just add that in the normal menu? - hasen j
(7) @hasen j probably because 99% of users don't ever care about opening a command window - TM
(5) Well they don't care about 90% of the stuff in the menu anyway. - hasen j
Its a great thing... I need this feature much. - Chathuranga Chandrasekara
More menu items is more complexity, having it in there by default isn't an option. Shiftclick is great, though :3 - Phoshi
(1) I would gladly donate all my rep to you for that wonderful tip! - Martin
(1) @Martin, well, go and upvote all his other answers and questions :P - hasen j
There was a powertoy available for Win2k and XP that did this too, not new to Vista. - Chris S
[+35] [2009-07-30 20:36:06] hyperslug

Quick launch shortcut

Windows Key+1

Windows Key+2

Windows Key+3


for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. item on your quick launch bar.

(3) Extremely useful feature! - alex
[+27] [2009-07-24 20:17:13] TM

The addition of symlinks. I know, these have been around in *nix for a long time, but it's nice to finally get them on windows.

This way, we can change actual locations of folders/files in various apps even if they don't support it natively.

For example, if you use Steam, you might be frustrated that all of your games must be on the same drive. If you are low on space, you make symlinks to another drive for some of your game folders.

There is a guide on using them here [1].


(5) Totally. This is probably my favourite Vista feature, especially when coupled with Dropbox. - Charles Roper
wow this sounds handy as shit, will this work if i am seeding torrents but want to move the download contents from where they are seeding to a new HDD without re-pointing my torrent client to the files location? - Petey B
Using Symlinks with DropBox is definitely an awesome hack. @Petey - you can definitely use it for that, works perfectly. - The How-To Geek
(7) Symlinks (or NTFS Junctions) have been around for a long time already. - Huppie
(7) NTFS junctions have been around for a while. SymLinks have not been around in Windows until Vista/Server 2008. They are distinct mechanisms with different behavior. - Reuben
(1) Wow, that's great - I never knew that. I think this has to be the first new Vista feature I'm impressed with. Of course, MS just HAD to reverse the syntax of the command compared to *nix, so it's "mklink LINK TARGET" as opposed to "ln -s TARGET LINK" - EMP
(1) @evgeny at least they were kind enough to change the executable name. - quack quixote
I think Vista's order is better (atleast personally for me). I always get the order reversed under *nix. - sundar
[+23] [2009-07-24 19:52:28] kpoehls

the snipping tool [1]


(1) Best thing ever! Now I just want more IM clients to support image pasting! - Greg D
not so long ago, my colleague told me about that! just a great little tool! - Sander Versluys
(3) This answer is nice if you already know what the snipping tool is. It's not all that helpful if you don't. - Kyralessa
(2) Kyralessa, the snipping tool allows you to capture a 'snippet' of whats on your screen at the moment. Its sort of like print screen but allows you to select the region to be captured. If you have win 7 just type snipping tool in the start menu search bar it'll come right up. - kpoehls
The only odd thing is that you need to have the "Tablet" optional features turned on to get this tool... - Reuben
@Reuben - Really? I wasn't aware of that. I didn't do anything special to get mine, unless its 'on' by default. - kpoehls
[+21] [2009-07-24 20:13:19] Pauk [ACCEPTED]

Built in Partition Manager!

Since its location was asked for in the comments:

  1. Go to Control Panel / Administrative Tools / Computer Management.
  2. Then go down to Storage / Disk Management. That brings up your drives.
  3. Now you can just select a partition within a drive.
  4. Right click it and you'll have options to Shrink, Extend or Delete it. The former two show a popup detailing what size you'd like.

More info here [1].


This was a pleasant surprise. - TomA
Where? (Additional text added since there's a minimum of 15 characters required for comments...) - Workshop Alex
(6) (For those who don't have Vista, this has been present in Windows for a number of releases now...) - Reuben
@Reuben Which releases? - Pauk
@Workshop Alex you can just add spaces until you hit the 15 character limit. - alex
I've used this a bunch in Windows XP. I couldn't tell you if it was introduced in a particular SP though. - davr
(5) This has been around since at least NT 3.51. It was called Disk Administrator back then. - squillman
This partition manager isn't dependable. I can't even shrink a partition to more than 50% of the available space. - Randell
This has been present for a while, but the ability to shrink or extend partitions is new to Vista. - Mokubai
[+13] [2009-07-30 21:57:20] Factor Mystic

Hold shift, right click on a file- You get an extra Copy as Path menu item.

(1) Nice one:) Never heard about that one! - Antonio Louro
[+10] [2009-08-20 05:15:07] Leon Bambrick

In Windows Explorer, Alt+Up arrow to navigate "up" on folder.

Nicer than the up button in pre-Vista (though I do still miss that button)

(3) love the 'kbd' tag, and glad to have a reason to use it ;-) - Leon Bambrick
(1) I HATE THIS. Why you ask? Because this existed in Windows XP, but the shortcut was backspace instead of alt+up. Now I switch between XP and Vista machines, and they have different hotkeys...quite annoying. Not only that, but some pre-Vista apps running inside Vista still use the old hotkey. - davr
really? I thought XP used backspace to go back to your previous folder; Vista still does that. I agree that alt-up is great, I use it often. - redtuna
@davr "back to previous location" is not the same as "up to the parent directory". - TM
[+7] [2009-08-20 14:10:05] whs

If you want to rename multiple files with the same name at one time, highlight all the files you want to rename, then press F2 and give the new name. The duplicates will be automatically appended with 1,2,3, etc. This is useful e.g. for vacation pictures where you want to name a series of pictures by location or date.

(4) This was already in XP. - e100
[+6] [2009-08-19 09:03:14] The Green Frog

I like the hidden ultra admin account that UAC is disabled in. It is like root of root.

To get it, open the cmd prompt with admin privileges and type "net user administrator /active:yes".

The account is not password protected, so I would not do that if you don't want all users using that account.

To disable, type "net user administrator /active:no".

(13) If you can read this, please never use this. Running as full blown administrator is the worst thing you can do WRT security. - matthews
(1) It's good if you want to do something UAC will not let you do. - D'Arvit
(1) I bet Microsoft programmers added that in because they themselves were forced to use Vista and they couldn't put up with UAC! - EMP
(3) yes because right clicking and saying run as admin is "very" difficult - Matthew Whited
(1) @matthews, never? For admin tasks, administrators need administrator access which is where this would be useful. The hyperbole makes your recommendation flawed. @Whited, IIRC, MSI's don't permit Run as admin. - hyperslug
(1) @hyperslug: Almost never, and make sure you turn it off. Unless there's some really obvious sign that you're running as ultra admin (or whatever it's called), it's going to be really easy to forget to turn it off, and that's when the big security problems start. - David Thornley
[+4] [2009-07-24 20:07:32] DHayes

Outbound firewall

(1) tell me more! ;-) - Sander Versluys
(1)… Has more info on the firewall in Vista - DHayes
[+3] [2009-08-20 14:03:31] whs

I never liked this little black Command Prompt window. Then I discovered that you can make it look a lot nicer and more readable. I made a little video about how to do that:

(1) ...and you can even pick a more easily readable font (that's not provided as an option in vista by default): - Reuben
[+3] [2009-10-02 12:23:42] anonymous

Super fast renaming of files in Explorer. Rename one file and press Tab to finish renaming the earlier file (no need to press Enter) and move the rename field automatically to the next file and so on. Shift+Tab to move upwards in the same way. Works in Windows 7 too.

[+2] [2009-09-29 15:26:53] GvS

Well, not really Vista (this works on XP as well):

Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to start the Task Manager

[+2] [2009-12-20 14:25:41] Regent

If you will hold Ctrl+Shift while activating a program via the Start Menu it will automatically ask you for the elevation. (It is an alternative to right-clicking and selecting "Run as administrator".)

[+2] [2009-09-08 05:43:09] alpha1

Vista Features Heh try windows superfetch for example, it loads programs faster to start with but slows your machine down if its on for hours.

UAC wouldn't be bad if it wasn't so damn annoying.

i do like the 1 big app for setting all file defauls programs in addition to the ability to right click and pick a default

[+2] [2009-07-25 11:44:11] Charles Roper

The Preview Pane [1]

Here's how to make the preview pane compatible with more file-types [2].


It's hardly hidden .. and I usually disable it anyway. It's quite an annoyance. - hasen j
[+1] [2009-09-16 15:51:13] redtuna

One that I use a lot on my tablet computer: altgr+direction arrow to reorient the screen. Yes, in an ideal world the screen orientation would change by itself immediately and correctly - but since clearly that's not where I live, this keyboard shortcut is the next best thing.

I wonder what it is for the people without an altgr key - davr
re-orient the screen? like rotate 90/180/270? - Good Time Tribe
@Good Time Tribe: Yes, that is what redtuna means. Unfortunately, it isn't a feature of the OS, but of the video card driver. It works on many XP computers, but not on all computers of either OS. It doesn't work on mine, for example. :( - Daniel
[+1] [2009-10-18 01:51:38] community_owned

Vista Shadow Copies. More info on my blog.

[0] [2009-07-24 20:26:13] hasen j

Really scary hidden feature:

NTFS allows viruses to hide from you in alternate streams [1]

EDIT: to the nay-sayers and down-voters: this is a hidden "feature" of vista, and it's hidden quite well.


(2) Please only post answers that are actually answers of the given question - TM
(18) Alternate Data Streams have been around for a while... - Qwerty
(1) Hm. Hidden feature, plus its in vista, so i see no reason to downvote it... +1. - RCIX
(3) Alternate streams aren't really hidden. They're harder to find, but if you have anti-malware / anti-virus software worth anything, it should already be scanning them. (They've been around for numerous Windows versions.) - Reuben
(2) Just download streams.exe, put it system32, and run it every once in a while to check and see all your streams. - D'Arvit
(2) As stated, this is not a Vista thing - it's in Vista, but it's been around at least 13 years as it's part of Windows NT - and its there, at least in part, to support Macintosh Resource forks for people who access Windows servers from Macs (at least OLD Macs). - Multiverse IT
And it's useful - forget the viruses; most AV apps can scan ADS. However, many humans can't. If somebody steals my laptop, I'd prefer them to NOT get any of my passwords, and ADS are easier to use than real encryption. Of course, I don't STORE them on my laptop, but you get the point. - Daniel
[-2] [2009-07-25 00:58:49] Cheeso

Pinball. And all the games.

(5) How are the games "hidden"? - DisgruntledGoat
(1) Pinball isn't even in Vista. - SLaks
(1) Because it is hidden! - Randell