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A few Windows 7 customization tips

This week-end I had to set up Windows 7 on my new computer, since Windows XP is getting abandoned by Microsoft (as far as I know, notably MSIE 9 won’t make it to XP)

Creating an extended partition under Windows 7

Yeah, that was one of the first surprises: the over simplified Windows partitioner wouldn’t let me create an extended partition. It turned out that it can indeed create an extended partition, but it will only offer you to do so if you already have 3 primary partitions. An alternative would be to get a third party partitioning tool: that’s a bit expensive for a one-time partitioning. I finally discovered that Windows 7 features a command line partitioning utility, diskpart, which can create an extended partition. The complete procedure is quite simple:

  • open the run menu (windows key+R), type diskpart, then enter. You might get one of those annoying security popups, click yes.
  • Then select the drive you want to partition (its name is indicated in the GUI Windows partitioning tool, usually it should be disk 0 unless you have several hard drives): select disk 0.
  • Then create the extended partition (it will use all the remaining space): create partition extended

Resuscitating the Quick Launch bar

The Quick Launch bar was one of those really useful features from Windows XP that got stupidly removed from Se7en. It was replaced by the ability to “pin” a program to the taskbar, which doesn’t sound too bad… except that it’s much BIGGER. I think a pinned program icon takes around twice as much space as a program icon in the Quick Launch bar. Additionally, the Quick Launch bar can be partially displayed, with the extra icons getting packed in a one-click reachable menu. This is not possible with the pinned programs (I think the “equivalent” would be to pin them to the Start Menu, which isn’t nearly as practical as the Quick Launch bar in my opinion). So, for those reasons I tried to find a way to get this bar back. I eventually found some detailed tutorials on SevenForums and on How-To Geek. Here is a summary of them:

  • Right-click on the taskbar, then go to Toolbars → New Toolbar…
  • Navigate to C:\Users\Admin\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch and click on Select Folder. The Quick Launch bar appears.
  • Right-click on the Quick Launch and deselect Show Title and Show Text. Still in the same menu, go to View to select the size you want for the icons.
  • Finally, to place the Quick Launch bar on the left, you need to move what’s on its left to the right (moving something to the left extends it while moving something to the right first shrinks it but eventually moves it to the right of the next object): grab the movement line of the taskbar (the dotted line which should be next to the start menu icon) and move it to the right.

That’s it, you now have your good old Quick Launch bar 🙂

NB: There’s a bug that makes the Quick Launch bar vanish (+ reset to default) when automatic logon is enabled (e.g. when there’s no password for the user). A hotfix is available from Microsoft’s customer support, more details here.

Slaying the Gadgets manually

Some gadgets, like All CPU Meters, may fail to uninstall properly. If you want to try and wipe them out manually, you can do so by removing their folder in C:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets (=%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Sidebar\Gadgets). Restarting with the gadget disabled will also be useful to make sure the gadget files are no more in use.

Update (2011-02-19): added Slaying the gadgets.

Posted in Windows Se7en.

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