Stories by Rick Broida

How to get Windows 7 features on a Vista or XP system

Vista received well-deserved criticism for bringing few noteworthy new features in its train when it arrived to take over from Windows XP. In contrast, Windows 7 offers plenty of new stuff to like. Fortunately, you can add many of these features to your Vista or XP machine by using downloads and Web services.

Windows 7: five unique features

Though Vista and XP users can enjoy some of the Windows 7's goodies, either directly or by proxy, various highly desirable features are available only in the genuine article. Here are five that will require you to roll a 7.

How to get Windows 7's look and feel on a Vista or XP machine

Much of the excitement about Windows 7 relates to an assortment of user-interface improvements: a little eye candy here, a few window-management tweaks there. Below are some of the highlights, along with the tools you'll need to get them for your current OS.

Get Windows 7 performance on your current PC

Informal speed tests show that Windows 7 boots faster than Vista, and many users have reported that it "feels" faster during everyday operation. (Maybe that's because the User Account Control is more restrained in Windows 7 than in Vista and doesn't pester them so often.) But you can take some practical steps to goose Vista so that it will acquire some of Windows 7's pep.

Search within Web pages faster in Internet Explorer 8

While it's easy for Firefox die-hards like me to turn our noses up at Internet Explorer, the fact is that Microsoft's browser has made a lot of progress. You've no doubt heard about newfangled features like Accelerators and Web Slices (see Preston Gralla's full IE8 review for more details), but IE8 also has plenty of small but worthwhile usability improvements.

Fast-and-easy Linux

Want to resurrect an old PC that's collecting dust? Wish you could insta-boot your laptop or netbook for a quick peek at your e-mail or a Web page? Presto promises exactly that kind of convenience.

Turn any PC into a media center

Your PC already plays music, and your hard drive holds every digital photo you've ever taken. And you probably watch hours of video on Hulu, Veoh, or YouTube.