Preston Gralla

on Windows Vista
A technology expert and author of more than 35 books, including Windows Vista in a Nutshell

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Preston Gralla on Windows Vista

Preston Gralla is a well-known technology expert who has authored more than 35 books, including Windows Vista in a Nutshell and Big Book of Windows Hacks. A contributing editor for ComputerWorld, Gralla has written about technology for more than 20 years and has appeared in such national publications as CIO Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today. Gralla shares his advice on upgrading to Windows Vista.

Are people generally excited or anxious about the Windows Vista upgrade?

If they’re upgrading by installing a new OS over an existing one, they’re usually excited, because they’ve consciously chosen to upgrade—they think it has benefits compared to their previous operating system. If they’re buying a new PC with a new OS installed—in this case, Vista—they may be excited or anxious. The good thing is, it won’t take long to get over the anxiety. After a short time of using Vista, they’ll get used to it.

What should people consider when deciding whether to upgrade to Windows Vista?

If you have a computer that you want to upgrade to Vista, the biggest issue is: Can your hardware support Vista? You have to have enough RAM, a powerful enough processor and particularly, you have to make sure you have a good graphics processor with enough memory. Microsoft recommends a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of system memory, a 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space and a graphics card with a minimum of 128 MB of memory.

Other than hardware considerations, do you want a nicer interface and more security? Both are good reasons to upgrade. But, again, you have to take a look at whether your hardware can handle it.

What should people DO during their first 30 days of upgrading to Windows Vista to ensure a successful installation?

Check your hardware. As mentioned previously, if you don’t first have the right hardware, you might not be able to install Vista. Secondly, even if you do get it installed, the performance might not be what you want. Good performance on Vista requires more hardware than XP. Before upgrading, or during the first 30 days, if you’re not happy with performance, consider upgrading your hardware with more RAM or a new, faster graphics processor.

If you have a small network—a home network, for example—play around a little bit with understanding how to share files and folders on your different PCs. Also, try turning the new Aero interface on and off to see if you want to use it. If you don’t use it, you’re going to get better performance. But, on the other hand, it’s really very nice and can make you more productive.

Which Windows Vista features do you think new users will find the most useful and/or enjoyable in the first 30 days?

Certainly overall the Aero interface. There’s a lot in there, such as Windows Flip 3D, transparent windows and live thumbnails. The other main thing is security. There’s a lot of extra security built into the operating system—things you don’t see, like Network Access Control and a better Windows firewall. Also, networking is much easier and much better than in XP—that’s another thing people are going to want to take advantage of.

How can people have fun during the Windows Vista upgrade process?

Take advantage of some of the more entertaining features. Use Windows Flip 3D to switch among open windows—press the Windows key plus the Tab key—or experiment with the Windows Media Center or Windows Movie Maker.

Are there features in Windows Vista that are particularly challenging to get used to in the first 30 days?

The biggest thing is User Account Control. It’s a security feature, but it also can be extremely annoying. If you want to make changes to your system, very often you’re going to get a pop-up that’s going to force you to click OK or type in a password. There are ways to turn it off, but I don’t suggest it, because it will make your PC less secure.

There are some differences in the interface—particularly, Windows Explorer looks different than the old one—so you’re going to have to get used to browsing the file system differently.

How much more secure is Windows Vista than XP?

Significantly more secure. As mentioned previously, there are a lot of things you don’t see that make Vista a much more secure operating system. User Account Control, even though it’s annoying, does help keep your system more secure. Also, the new Windows firewall now blocks outgoing as well as inbound threats.

Are there obvious shortcomings in Windows Vista that you can solve with third-party software?

I would recommend a better email client. I happen to use Outlook, but there are a lot of others out there as well. I use Outlook instead of Calendar, too. Certainly, you’re going to need some kind of word processor, because Notepad doesn’t offer much, and you’ll also need a spreadsheet.

Another problem is that [despite improved security in other areas] Vista doesn’t come with anti-virus software, so you definitely need to get it—that’s really important. I don’t recommend getting one of those big suites with anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall——I find that they really tend to slow your system down. My recommendation is to get a regular, single-purpose, anti-virus [program]. I use a free one—free for home use, anyway—called avast!, which is very good. There’s another good free one called AVG.

If people encounter a problem in the first 30 days of upgrading to Windows Vista, where is the best place to go for help or advice?

Books, web sites or a combination of both. I have some books out that are certainly useful. One is called Windows Vista in a Nutshell and another the Big Book of Windows Hacks.

And of course, online—I work as a contributing editor for ComputerWorld. Their web site gives you a good place to find this kind of information. Or there’s always Google, where you can just type in a question.

Can users find Windows Vista help at a local computer store?

Not necessarily. You really don’t know how well-trained and knowledgeable the people are. It’s a bit of a gamble.

How can users keep moving forward with a Windows Vista upgrade beyond the first 30 days?

Within 30 days of starting to use an operating system, you’re going to get into pretty well-worn habits of using the operating system. But most people probably don’t use much of what’s in the Control Panel in the first 30 days, and there’s a lot there. So I’d recommend going to the Control Panel, clicking around and trying some of the new features you haven’t tried before.



What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?

Belief in my family and the people close to me, and my own confidence in myself, because those are islands of stability in a sea of change.

The best thing about change is…

…it’s what makes life worth living, because if you keep doing the same thing over and over every day then life gets pretty dull.

What is the best change you have ever made?

Getting married and having children.

For more information on Preston Gralla, visit


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This was a great article, I am going to look for your books, I just have gotten a laptop with windows vista and I love my computer it is very confusing but I am learning new things everyday. I am going to keep an eye out for Mr. Preston Gralla work.

Big Book of Windows Hacks


Bigger, better, and broader in scope, the Big Book of Windows Hacks gives you everything you need to get the most out of your Windows Vista or XP system, including its related applications and the hardware it runs on or connects to. ...