How to make Windows XP last for the next seven years instead of Windows Vista using programs and softwares

Windows Vista may be shiny and brand new, but as plenty of PC users will tell you, sometimes newer isn't better. Many PCs simply don't have the horsepower to run the new operating system, and even those that have the juice may get bogged down by processor-and RAM-hungry Vista.

If you've got Windows XP, worry not -- you can keep it running on your hardware for years to come. As with an old car, though, if you plan to keep XP around for a while, you're going to have to spend some time maintaining it. Here are a list of softwares using which one can feel the good things of Vista on XP only.

Windows Vista is protected from spyware by Microsoft's Windows Defender -- and the same program is available as a free download for Windows XP users as well. Windows Defender is exactly the same on Vista as it is on XP, so you're not losing anything by not moving to Vista.

It's a good idea to have more than one piece of antispyware on your PC, whether you use Vista or XP. So double up for safety and add Lavasoft AB's Ad-Aware or Spybot Search & Destroy -- or even both -- to your arsenal.

As for a firewall, XP's built-in firewall has one major limitation compared with Vista's -- it doesn't include outbound protection. There's a great deal of debate about whether Vista's firewall includes true outbound protection, but if you want a firewall with true, configurable outbound protection for XP, get the free Comodo Firewall Pro.
Get inbound and outbound protection from Comodo.

As Computerworld online editorial director Scot Finnie points out in Slim is in for Windows desktop firewalls, Comodo Group earns the top firewall rating for security from the independent testing site Matousec and offers a good balance between security and convenience.

Parental controls
Windows Vista includes built-in parental controls that let you filter Web sites and otherwise limit how your children use the computer. You can get similar technology for XP, although you'll have to pay for it. There are quite a few programs and services out there, but two good bets are's Safe Eyes, which costs $50 for use on three computers, and Webroot Software Inc.'s Child Safe, $40 for use on three computers.

Sidebar and Gadgets
One of Windows Vista's niftiest features is the Sidebar and its Gadgets -- little applets capable of gathering, displaying and using live information from the Internet or from your PC. But there are plenty of ways to get the same things for free on Windows XP.

Desktop Sidebar gives XP a full-blown sidebar like Vista's, with numerous built-in gadgets, including a clock, weather gadget, performance monitor, mail checker, media player, stock tracker and more.

Two other good choices from well-known search companies are Google Desktop Gadgets and Yahoo Widgets. To use Yahoo Widgets, you'll first have to download the software. It comes with a variety of widgets, such as a weather checker, CPU monitor, stock checker and so on. But you're not stuck with just those -- there are more than 4,000 widgets available. In fact, you'll have a greater choice of Yahoo Widgets than you'd have it you were using Gadgets for the Vista Sidebar. Yahoo Widgets run in a Sidebar-like application, but can also be placed anywhere on your Windows desktop.

Google's Desktop Gadgets require that you download and use Google Desktop, which may be problematic for some people because Google Desktop is a big piece of software, primarily used for searching your PC. It includes a live indexer that runs all the time, which could possibly slow down your PC. But if you're already a Google Desktop user or want a good searching tool, the Gadgets are a nice bonus. They live in a sidebar that looks and works a lot like Windows Vista's Sidebar. You'll find plenty of Gadgets, including Real Simple Syndication readers, a stock checker, to-do list creator, weather watcher and more -- although not as many as Yahoo Widgets.

Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D replacements
Two of the more useful new features in Windows Vista are Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D. With them, when you switch between windows or applications using Alt-Tab (for Windows Flip), or Windows key-Tab (for Windows Flip 3D), you can see a preview of the windows, making it easier to decide to which window you want to switch. As the name suggests, Windows Flip 3D shows you the open windows in a three-dimensional view, a very nice piece of eye candy.

You can get the same features in Windows XP using a couple of software add-ons. Microsoft's free Alt-Tab Replacement Power Toy is your best choice for the Windows Flip replacement. It's two-dimensional only.
If you must have the 3-D look, you'll have to pay for it. Top Desk is shareware from Otaku Software that gives you the equivalent of Windows Flip 3D on XP. You can try it for free for 14 days. If you want to use it after that, you'll have to fork over $18.

Transparent windows and other interface tweaks
For many people, the niftiest feature of Vista's Aero interface is its transparent windows. You can get the same thing in XP, with AbsoluteWay's TweakWindow. In fact, TweakWindow gives you far more transparency-related features than Windows Vista. You can make entire windows -- not just borders -- transparent, and you have a great deal of control over the degree of transparency.

There are plenty of other extras as well, such as the ability to hide windows, to control transparency on a window-by-window basis, and even turn windows into "ghost" windows that stay on top of other windows, are transparent, and let you click through to other windows beneath them. It's shareware; registration costs $21.
If you want to go the whole hog and replace your entire desktop and interface, you can download and use Stardock Corp.'s WindowBlinds. It lets you make all kinds of changes to XP's user interface, including transparent windows and a lot more. Install the program, and you can apply a skin that makes it look like Vista, such as the Arrow skin. WindowBlinds is shareware, and costs $20 to register.
You can get much the same thing for free with Softpedia's Vista Transformation Pack. It changes the Start button, the Control Panel, system dialogs and more so that XP looks like Vista. The programs aren't exact duplicates, so you get some things with WindowBlinds that you don't get with Vista Transformation Pack, and vice versa. For instance, Vista Tranformation Pack won't give you transparent windows or Vista applets. But you can use the two programs in concert with each other to get all their features.

Be aware that installing the Vista Transformation Pack is not for the weak of heart. Follow the installation instructions extremely carefully -- they'll take some time. And just to be safe, we suggest creating a Restore Point before you begin, because you'll be mucking about with system files.
When you first install the Vista Transformation Pack, it may not look like Vista. To get the Vista look, right-click the Desktop, choose Properties --> Appearance, and from the "Windows and buttons" drop-down list choose Windows Aero. You can also use Vista wallpaper by clicking the Desktop tab and scrolling through the backgrounds. Note that the Vista wallpaper will have odd numbers, such as "img19," instead of names.

Desktop search
Vista's built-in search is vastly improved over XP's and may well be the operating system's biggest productivity booster. You can get the equivalent with any one of a number of free desktop search programs, including Google Desktop, Copernic Desktop Search or Microsoft's own Windows Desktop Search.

Network management
Vista includes plenty of networking improvements over XP, including the superb Network Map that displays every object on a network and provides detailed information about it. You can't get the exact equivalent of this in XP, but you can come close with free Network Magic from Pure Networks Inc.

It includes a Vista-like network map, as well as plenty of other extras, such as wizards that walk you through the process of adding network devices and fixing broken network connections. In fact, in some ways, it goes beyond what Vista does, including creating reports of your network activity and testing bandwidth. There are also for-pay versions of the software, but you don't really need them, unless you want advanced features such as remote access to your network's files.

Start-up screens
Finally, if for some bizarre reason you're a big fan of the Windows Vista boot and log-on screens, you can mimic them in XP with some free tools from Stardock. First, download Logon Studio, which lets you customize your log-on screen. Once you do that, you can apply a Vista-like log-on screen called Vista Reaction. To mimic Vista's boot screen, get BootSkin and use the Real Vista boot screen.

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