When I write a column, I almost never feel I have had enough time using the product under review. Even in the rare instance in which deadlines aren’t bearing down, I often realize later on that I’ve missed a fair amount. In the case of Microsoft’s Windows Vista, flaws that I thought would grow less annoying with extended use have actually become more troublesome.

Most of the time I spent testing Vista was with sluggish pre-release versions. I expected things to improve when I ran the finished software on PCs configured for the new Windows version. I now realize that Vista really is slow unless you throw a lot of hardware at it. Microsoft (MSFT) claims it will run with 512 megabytes of memory. I had recommended a minimum of a gigabyte, but 2 GB is more like it if you want snappy performance.

This is especially true if you’re also running resource-hungry Microsoft Office 2007. The most exasperating thing about Vista, though, is the security feature called User Account Control. UAC, satirized in an Apple (AAPL) ad as a security guy who constantly interrupts a conversation, appears as a pop-up asking permission before Windows will do a number of things: change system settings, install programs, or update antivirus software.

UAC may well be necessary to block malicious programs from secretly installing themselves or hijacking your browser settings. But Microsoft has designed it to drive you nuts. A recent experience demonstrates what I mean. I was working away when Windows OneCare, Microsoft’s extra-cost security program, suddenly popped open a window asking me if it should give a program called wercon.exe access to the network.

Stop User Account Control (UAC) screen flicker / flash
Every time I get one of those UAC prompts asking me to authorize an administrative action my LCD screen flashes when the box pops up. This is caused by the switch to the secure desktop, similar to what happens when you hit CTRL + ALT + DELETE. The only difference is that the background is a snapshot of your desktop that gives it the effect that it is just a pop up window. Although if you look carefully you will notice it is static since the clock does not change and anything else that was animated is now static. The secure desktop provides an extra level of security to UAC by making it immune to any application that may try to automate the click on the allow button bypassing the purpose of UAC.

This sounds like a great thing but it is really annoying to me. I hate that screen flicker. Rather than disable UAC, there is a better alternative. Instead, I can just disable the secure desktop switch that causes the flicker. I know this is not as secure but it is better than disabling UAC completely.

Follow the steps below to disable UAC secure desktop:
1. Click on the Start Button and key in secpol.msc and hit Enter.
2. Navigate through Local Policies and Security Options.
3. Scroll to the bottom and right click on “User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation” and select Properties.
4. Set the option to Disabled and hit OK.

Or you can download a handy tool called Tweak UAC, it gives those with administrative rights the option to run UAC in Quiet Mode, so it won’t prompt you as often.

1 Comment

  1. [...] admit: I’ve used Vista once or twice and I didn’t think it was all that bad. I didn’t run into the horrible nannying that others reported. But CNET’s Crave still felt compelled to rank it up (er, down) with products [...]

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