Friday, January 28, 2011

My 6 first-day tips for Windows 7

After many years spent using Windows XP, the time had come for big change. So yesterday I decided to go for the update of my personal computer to Windows 7 (yes, I wisely skipped Windows Vista...). The installation of Windows 7 Ultimate version, 64 bits, proceded very easily. Most of the hardware got automatically discovered and installed. I can tell I have never faced such ease in any other Windows platform earlier.

After just one day, I discovered, unsurprisingly, that in Seven many things have positively changed since old good slow Windows XP. Nonetheless it took me just one day to see that there were things in Windows XP that I was missing and that I absolutely wanted back for my Windows 7, as well as useful things in Windows 7 that there were present but hidden.

That’s why I decided to jot down a blog post with my quick list of best first-day Windows 7 tips and hacks for people coming from XP that you could apply to your Windows 7 installation to improve its usability and feel less disoriented.

These tips will tell you how to:
  • Activate the so-called Godmode
  • Enable the hidden administrator account
  • Understand the new syntax for Windows Search
  • Learn some useful keyboard shortcuts
  • Force the activation of Aero (even if Microsoft believes your PC can’t handle it)
  • Know how to open Command Prompt in Any Folder

Tip #1: Activate Godmode on Windows 7

GodMode is a folder that brings together a long list of customization settings allowing you to change all your computer settings from one place. To activate it follow this procedure:
  • Create a folder on your desktop (right click – new – folder) and name it "God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • The folder will change its icon to look like a Control Panel
  • Double-click on it and see for yourself the wonderful windows that will open up and give you access to all the possible customization tasks for your PC.
Otherwise, if you want to create it via the command line, use the following commands:
  • mkdir "c:\Godmode Folder
  • cd "c:\Godmode Folder
  • mkdir "God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
Tip #2: Enable the Hidden Administrator Account on Windows 7 

Earlier versions of Windows had the built-in local administrator account active by default. For evident  security reasons, with the advent of Windows Vista and successively of Windows 7, the administrator account stopped showing up. This is a good thing for most users, but sysadmins may want to still have access to it in order to be able to perform the usual admin tasks. Here's the procedure to make it show up:
  • Search for the command prompt from the start menu, right click on it and click on “Run as administrator”.
  • Type this command 'net user administrator /active:yes'
  • A popup messager will say ”The command completed successfully”
  • Log out and you will be able to see the built-in Administrator account in the list of possible accounts to use.
If you want to disable it, just follow the same procedure as above but replace 'net user administrator /Active:yes' with 'net user administrator /active:no'. Log off and you will discover that the admin account has now disappeared from the list.

Tip #3: Understand the new syntax of Windows Search in Windows 7

Windows Search has changed a lot since Windows XP. Now you have to learn and use keywords as prefixes to your search to narrow results down to whatever you want. Major keywords are: content, datecreated, datemodified and size. Start by opening Windows Search by using the shortcut Windows + F. Now test the following searches:
  • Search by File Name: backup*logs.txt will find all text files named backup*logs where the asterisk means any value (no big change here compared to XP)
  • Search by Content: to find a file containing "unix", in the folder search box type: content:unix
  • Search by Date: to search by date you have two possibilities. The first one is to search for a file creation date. The second one is to search for a file modification date. To find a file created on "21st January 2011", type in the folder search box : datecreated:21/1/2011. To find a file created between "21st January 2011" and "23rd January, 2011", type in the folder search box : datecreated:21/1/201 .. 23/1/2011. To find a file modified between "23rd January 2011" and "25th January, 2011", type in the folder search box : datemodified:23/1/2011 .. 25/1/2011. You can of course also use '>' and '<' signs in your syntax like "datemodified:<21/1/2011" for documents modified before the specified date.
  • Search by File Size: to search by size, use the word size: in the search box. Windows 7 will display options as shown below where you can select the option matching you needs. For instance, to find files larger than 30MB use size:>30M. To find files smaller than 11MB use size:<1MB. To find files smaller than 10MB but greater than 150KB use size:<10MB>150KB.
Tip #4: Learn some useful Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts
  • Windows + R – Open ‘Run’ command.
  • Windows + E – Run Windows Explorer. (ok, you knew this one I presume…)
  • Windows + L – Lock the computer.
  • Windows key + Up – Maximizes the current window.
  • Windows key + Down – If current window is maximized, restores it; otherwise minimizes current window.
  • Shift + Click – Starts a new instance of the application.
  • Ctrl + Shift + Click – Starts a new instance of the application with Administrator privileges; by default, a User Account Control prompt will be displayed (unless you have disactivated it).
  • Windows + D – Show the desktop and restore the desktop (equivalent to minimize or restore all windows).
Tip #5: Enable Windows Aero in Windows 7

This tweak will let you activate Aero even if your WEI (Windows Experience Index) is too low (according to Microsoft standards). To do this there are three values to set inside the Windows registry.
  • Click on Start and type regedit at run
  • Navigate to Key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM
  • Add a new DWORD (32 bit) Value named UseMachineCheck.
  • Set its value to 0
  • Repeat this step to create two more DWORD Values, which you will name Animations and Blur
  • Set their value to 0 as well
  • Close Regedit
  • Open a command prompt with administrative privileges (right click, run as administrator)
  • Execute Net Stop uxsms – this command will stop the Desktop Windows Manager Session Manager
  • Execute Net Start uxsms– this command will restart it
  • Once you close the Command Prompt, right click on your desktop and click on Personalize
  • In the Personalization window, click on Window Color and Appearance, select Windows Aero from the Color Scheme menu.
Tip #6: Know how to open Command Prompt in Any Folder

To open the command prompt in any directory without having to ‘cd’ inside very log paths, first browse with Windows Explorer to the desired folder, then press ‘Shift’ and right-click on it. You will get the option ’open command windows here’ in the context menu

I hope this post will be useful for you! Just let me know if you have suggestions for first-day tips on Windows 7 that I could add to my list!


  1. Hi, for the sake of completeness, know that Steven Sinofsky has just shown a few more godmodes for Windows 7. I’ll let you discover what they are for!

    Excellent post!!

  2. @François: Thanx for sharing this! I have found what they are for on:

    Here's the details:

    God Mode {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
    Location Settings {00C6D95F-329C-409a-81D7-C46C66EA7F33}
    Biometric Settings {0142e4d0-fb7a-11dc-ba4a-000ffe7ab428}
    Power Settings {025A5937-A6BE-4686-A844-36FE4BEC8B6D}
    Icons And Notifications {05d7b0f4-2121-4eff-bf6b-ed3f69b894d9}
    Credentials and Logins {1206F5F1-0569-412C-8FEC-3204630DFB70}
    Programs and Features {15eae92e-f17a-4431-9f28-805e482dafd4}
    Default Programs {17cd9488-1228-4b2f-88ce-4298e93e0966}
    All NET Frameworks and COM Libraries {1D2680C9-0E2A-469d-B787-065558BC7D43}
    All Networks For Current Connection {1FA9085F-25A2-489B-85D4-86326EEDCD87}
    Network {208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}
    My Computer {20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
    Printers {2227A280-3AEA-1069-A2DE-08002B30309D}
    Application Connections {241D7C96-F8BF-4F85-B01F-E2B043341A4B}
    Firewall and Security {4026492F-2F69-46B8-B9BF-5654FC07E423}
    Performance {78F3955E-3B90-4184-BD14-5397C15F1EFC}



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