Windows Vista bugs, faults and general annoyances

System Requirements:

  • Windows Vista

The Problem:

Poor design decisions and steps backwards in interface design and HCI standards implementation? The release of buggy code before it was ready that I would not have expected from the venerable Microsoft Corporation.

More Info:

I had dropped off of the beta testing radar by the time that Vista nominations on beta place (now Microsoft Connect) were issued, so I waited until RTM to see with my own two eyes just what horrors lay in store within this monster.

Like I always say, if you don’t vote then you do not have the right to grumble about politicians, and with that in mind I now own Vista Business and Ultimate Editions, and have had what I feel to be sufficient time to get to know both mitoticly spawned versions of the same installation disc. So with my consumer rights in place, I feel positioned to record some of the finer points of the Vista experience.

Please note that as of 16th June 2008, I have migrated my main workstation from XP Professional to Vista Ultimate, so now that I have to live with it, I feel completely and utterly vindicated in being able to grumble about it – OK?

Tough if it isn’t.

1. File Copy Dialogue (Basic/Advanced) — 5 January 2008

Vista Copy/Move Dialogue

I guess that this is supposed to be humour. If I start a file copy, generally speaking unless I’m spaced out I know where I’m copying to and where I’m sending from. But in all previous versions of Windows you have been able to see what file is being copied – this is particularly useful if it stops with an obscure error message (which funnily enough this file copy did, telling me that the filename was too long). I just had no idea what the file was, or where in the 27.9 GB of rather small files it had stopped.

Time remaining was never accurate, under Vista this is no different
Items remaining is cute, but not particularly useful to know
Speed, OK it has its moments, but most of the time I would rather the CPU be worrying about other things unless it is over VPN/HTTP/FTP when I might be mildly interested.

Fix: Nielsen’s Heuristics; don’t mess with established UI design because “you can”. Restore current file progress to the window.

2. Lights Activity Animation — 5 January 2008

Tray Lights

I love this tray applet, ever since it appeared in 95 for modems I wanted it for networks, ever since it appeared in 2000 for networks I wanted it for everything. The premise is simple, when there is tx activity the lower light blinks and when there is rx activity the upper one blinks in tune with bursts on the network. If you are sending large files, lights is always jammed on.
I have caught a couple of systems with malware on through happening to notice that LAN lights was being a little hyperactive.

Under 2000/XP if you double clicked it, you would get the connection summary and the activity lights in here would also sync to LAN activity.

Connection Details

No more! If you want to get to the connection summary, you have to wade through the largely no use Network and Sharing Centre (I’ve no objection to it being there for inexperienced users, I think it is good, but like so much in Vista this is yet another thing designed to over complicate, add more clicks and generally slow you down).
Worse, lights (when animation is enabled) has no bearing upon network tx/rx activity, it sporadically winks to let you know that the network is still up and has no relation to the network monitor in task manager.

Fix: Make lights useful again! I can understand why some don’t want the animation, fair game – but I do! So if there is any point in having it consume a handle, please make it count for something.

3. Control Panel (anyone for tea?) — 5 January 2008

Control Panel

Why, oh why, oh why does the control panel take so long to load? Why does it perpetually have to re-enumerate all of the cpl’s? If you have the expanded menu running on the start menu, it seems an eternity if you try and get the menu pull-up.
In XP it was instant, in Vista it’s…

Fix: Restore whatever caching mechanism existed under XP to get the control panel to load in a reasonable time

Update:19/06/2008 : Fixed, the Control Panel is much more responsive under SP1.

4. Silence is golden – if you can get it — 5 January 2008

Mute & Master Volume do not work

This one is localised, but I am going to blame it on Microsoft (reasoning to follow).
You will have to take my word for it, but although all of the sound sources are muted in this image, at the time I was very much hearing sound, with no change what so ever in tone.

I am having rotten luck with sound cards under Vista, my expensive Creative card wont run, and Creative aren’t interested in writing drivers for it. Excellent. The generic Microsoft ones cause the system to trip out and POST every time sound is played.
So I had to commit a carnal sin and enable the on-board AC97′ (don’t say it). These are the drivers that Windows Update offered me, these are the drivers that Microsoft are using to claim “plenty of out of box support” with and these are the drivers with WHQL status.

These are the drivers signed in 2005, with version numbers from 2005. Yes these WHQL drivers from Windows update have to be for something other than Vista; yes these drivers do not work on Vista. The surround sound tester can only get my front left and right speakers on the SPDIF 5.1 surround system – but it is better than crashing and thankfully my external decoder has a remote for volume control.

The gist of the problem is that Microsoft have rendered hardware accelerated sound processors obsolete, with Vista it all has to be performed by the CPU – al la AC97′. There is a good run down of the changes at the link below to IGN.

View: IGN: Sound Off On Vista

Fix: Sort out whatever mess you’ve made of sound hardware in Vista. I personally dislike the new application level sound system, OK some like it – however the fact that drivers that aren’t for Vista are being sent out on WU in an attempt to get added compatibility is poor form. The fact that the Creative generics don’t work is poor form.

Update:28/09/2008: I threw in the towel on this one, eBay called for my Platinum and my Audigy and I succomed to the devil and brought an X-Fi Extreme Music just so that I could hear something.

5. Vista Experience Scores — 5 January 2008

Vista Experience Ratings

I am starting to think that these are meaningless. I had Vista Business on the system, updated the NVidia drivers in the morning, re-benchmarked it and got the scores. The post man delivered a Vista Ultimate CD, so in the afternoon I dumped the partition with Business on and installed Ultimate.

… and got a completely different set of results (lower results) with Ultimate – using the same drivers! The RAM went up by 0.2 to 5.0, the CPU went down 0.3 to 4.2, the hard drive was the same. Aero went from 4.5 to 4.7 and then dropped to 4.6. Games went from 4.4 to 4.8.

What a difference an OS revision and a lot more money makes… apart from my poor CPU (P4 2.8MHz HT 800FSB) which as those who have seen my Vista ratings list is now benchmarking the same as a P4 2.5MHz 400FSB.

Fix: A little consistency between versions

Update: 19/06/2008 : This seems to have settled down now that SP1 has been released, the fact they they were modifying the benchmarking via QFE’s really didn’t help.

6. NVidia Monitor Spanning — 5 January 2008

NVidia Control Panel (The insert is the same settings area under XP)

A step backwards here, and no this isn’t a “you need a newer driver issue”. Just like Creative and EAX under Vista, whatever Microsoft have done to DirectX is impacting NVidia now because you can no longer Horizontal / Vertical Span your screens. You can see the same dialogue under XP in the insert. A statement on the NVidia site states:

There are some Windows XP features that will no longer be available on Windows Vista due to changes in the core operating system. These features are:

  • Horizontal and Vertical desktop span multi-monitor modes (note: Dual View and Clone mode display options are still available)
  • NVKeystone display correction
  • Full screen video mirror
  • Video zoom

Source: NVidia Technical Support

Fix: Add extended multi-monitor support to the kernel

7. Running Media Centre in full screen on multiple monitors — 5 January 2008

Media Centre is trapped in the Window Zone

Guess what, you cannot; I stand corrected, you still cannot. You can have it windowed on non-primary screens, and the best one can hope for currently is to drag it around to be as close to full screen as you can get it. It’s not convenient though, not in the slightest. If you full screen it, you cannot use the other screen (although you can still see it).

You can full screen content in Media Player itself, so why not MC?

Fix: Equal Media Player 11 in multi-monitor full screen support

8. Media cover thumbnails in slideshow view under Media Centre — 5 January 2008

folders.jpg displaying in MCE

Under XP over the years Media Player 8, 9, 10 and 11 have diligently been surfing the net and populating album art for my rather extensive music library.
Under XP, these made or downloaded thumbnails are stored in the file system, however under Vista it seems that media centre / media player now want to embed the graphics into the music file headers.

OK, not something I like to happen, but you might call it progress… but just why does Media Centre images / slideshow insist on displaying those file system thumbnails in all their vastly resized glory when randomly thumbing through the images catalogue?

Fix: A little common sense

9. Helpful error messages — 5 January 2008

Cryptic Errors

Descriptive. What would you guess the problem is? I don’t have write permission to the “CD AutoStart” folder (where exactly is the CD AutoStart folder?)… nope, I have full permission. How about I don’t have permission to copy the file at all? Nope, I have full file rights.

The actual issue is that Vista doesn’t want to copy a particular file inside the CD AutoStart folder, the why is explained in problem 10, but for this problem, the issue is in the terrible error message.

Fix: I thought the days of cryptic errors were behind us

10. Autorun.ini — 5 January 2008

Why can you not copy autorun.ini across volumes? I understand the risk, but I also understand that I have file system copies of some home made software CD that have autorun files, and funnily enough I would like to backup the autorun.ini’s to external file system media.

Fix: How about a warning, or a GPO/Local System Policy instead?

11. ReadyBoost Explorer Window on Local Log-in after an RDP Session — 19 June 2008

I have a sacrificial 2GB pen drive connected to the back of my Dell 2408WFP that I never see nor think about, and ReadyBoost does whatever it does and I don’t think about it – great! Except that whenever I log in over RDP and then go back to the workstation, Windows Explorer has opened up at the root of the ReadyBoot drive and is gleefully showing me the ReadyBoost cache file.

Fix: Prevent external drives from being re-polled during RDP disconnect.

Update: 24/01/2010 : This seems to have been fixed in SP2, and it certainly has been in 7

12. Searching for file extensions (what the hell Microsoft?) — 19 June 2008

OK, I admit, I don’t buy into this whole Windows / Google desktop search war, I so very rarely find myself having to search for content within file unless I am performing an ASCII search inside a binary file or a HEX value in a HEX dump… but that is another story. The whole indexing thing is a bit of a waste of CPU time as far as my PERSONAL PC habits go as a result, but OK, I am sure that it is useful, but I grew up on DOS, and well, that could only search for files so I keep a pretty good memory of what is in my files… but I digress.

I just got myself onto a UNC backup that I created of my entire disk before I migrated from XP Pro to Vista Ultimate and wanted to see all jpg, gif, png and bmp files in a particular sub directory. Easy right?

*.bmp *.jpg *.gif *.png

“No items match your search”

err, wrong answer.

If I am in the folder where there are some bmp files for example, it will return the bmp files, but it will not hit sub folders. It’s completely bloody useless!!!!!!!!!!!

I loved the 95 / 98 file search, as a DOS user that did everything and more, it was great. With Windows 2000, not so great but you could suffer through… and the same for XP once you put the dog to sleep using a registry branded tranquilliser, but this. It is just abysmal.

So I thought that if I headed to the main search Windows doobrit, the one that used to be on the start menu (which fortunately I knew you can get to by hitting F3 on the desktop – not that the start menu is helpful there or anything. Get it into advanced search and try and hit the network share that way… yes you can select a network share, but not using a UNC path. You have to have the share available to use as a mapped network drive or as a visible SMB share. Why is that an issue?

I wasn’t searching a visible SMB share, it was hidden to prevent the network browser service scavenging it onto every workstation on my LAN. So, I’m totally screwed! THANKS MICROSOFT

Just for my own peace of mind, I opened up a public share and told it to search the UNC for *.jpg and *.gif. The request was searching the IIS WWWRoot on this server, this site is made of jpg and gif files:

“No items match your search”

So let me provide a summary here: Microsoft you have a search capability that is incapable of actually looking for files, that doesn’t work over YOUR OWN standard UNC SMB share conventions and exposes a search function to the user to browse for public network shares that doesn’t actually work…. where do you even want me to start here? For the love of swiss cheese!

And why is searching for *.something so slow anyway? It wasn’t this slow under XP to search for system and hidden files!

Fix: I cannot even find the words.

13. Apply current folder view as default on all folders — 19/06/2008

*sigh* I recall bemoaning to the beta program for Whistler about this one, and they did eventually fix it in a Service Pack, so I am appalled to see that it has returned to haunt me in Vista.

I am stuck in my ways, oh yes, no arguments from me. It is my PC, and I want it MY way, not the way o some marketing manager or some adolescent HCI “specialist” who is trying to make Windows neophobe friendly.

I do not want:

  • Folder tree hierarchy in the standard Windows Explorer view
  • Details Pane
  • Huge icons all over everything
  • To see half of the files meta data implanted in the narrow Explorer Window view
  • Thumbnails except where I specifically request thumbnails

I do want:

  • Details view, not list view, not icon view, not thumbnail view, DETAILS view
  • I want my details view to have Name, Date Modified, Type, Size and Date created on all views
  • To see EVERYTHING on MY hard drives and LAN shares
  • To see the status bar
  • To see the manu bar

So why do I keep finding folders on the default thumbnail view? Why, when I set a folder to my desired preference and hit the “Apply to all Folders” button, does My Computer and the recycle bin etc (shell folders) default back to the thumbnail view – why??

Fix: This is a regression bug back to XP RTM and really is very poor form to see it in the rebuilt explorer

14. The un-deletable “magic” file — 19/06/2008

I love Vista. Really I do! OK, you don’t believe me and you can see right through me.

Under XP I liked to have pullout menu’s on the task bar by compressing task bar menus up against the system tray, but the problem was that in order to use them as a menu, you had to have the title active, otherwise it would display the first icon (a la the quick launch).

So I discovered that if you use a blank ANSI code as the folder name for the toolbar, you could get the menu to appear without a title! Great! Except that now I have moved to Vista, it doesn’t really work.

If you:

  1. Create a new folder
  2. Press Alt
  3. Tap 255 on the numeric keypad, you get a blank character that is very much like a space, but isn’t

It will allow you to enter the folder into the file system with – for the sake of argument – a blank folder name. Great! Now try and delete it!


OK, so we’ll rename it and all will be well with the world…


Well, what do you do? You not have a folder that you cannot delete and you cannot rename.

You can rename it through CMD however using the following method which provides some relief (replace alt+255 with the actual action, but DO print the ” into the CMD window:

  1. cd /d “c:\path\”
  2. Ren “alt+255” “new name”

The other way to fix it is to go to a non-Vista Windows installation and do the deletion or rename from there (e.g. XP or 2003).

Additionally, for some reason using this trick to create menu pullouts like this really doesn’t work in Vista, they take seconds to load up, while other folders seem fairly instant.

All of the above worked flawlessly under Windows XP!

Fix: It not do this!

15. Moving Large, Complex Folder Trees — 19/06/2008

When copying back the contents of the 200 GB hard disk that I moved to a server for my format up to Vista, I started to notice some odd problems cropping up in the return file copy from Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. Directories were not being deleted and the copy would error out because of being unable to clear a long directory tree. This caused some long delays in the restoration of my data back to the completely blanked out hard drive (I wanted to use NTFS 6 native volumes).

The system simply could not move or delete these folders, which of course casts the seeds of doubt about the entire copy operation.

A reboot and a toggle of file attributes seems to fix the problem – aside from issues as outlined in point 14 above – but it is highly inconvenient and is just not what you would expect – XP can do it, why not Vista?


A few weeks later I was performing a reverse process and moving data from the local disk to a network drive, I told it to move the 2,000+ files summing around 900 MB, it moved all of the files fine, but left 80% of the folder structure on the local disk (completely empty). This time they deleted quite happily first time, but they were there and they should not have been there!

Fix: Sort out the file system I/O from Windows Explorer because this is just awful to have screwed up a feature as generic as a file move!

16. Zoom in Windows Photo Gallery — 19/06/2008

As the master of words Mr. Fitch just reminded me, two steps forward, one step back.

Why is there no antialiasing on the zoom function in the Windows Photo Gallery? The XP Windows Picture and Fax Viewer had it, so why is it that this has been removed under Vista?

Now, I am all for choice, I am sure that for XP I was heard to remark at why there was no way to disable antialiasing in the viewer in XP, so this is an issue of choice more than anything else – but again progress is missing. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go (kissably so):

Windows Photo Gallery Zoom's with no antialiasing

Both images are taken at the same time, one in a Virtual PC. The image viewers are both at their maximum zoom level, which is higher under Vista, however fragmentation begins immediately when zooming, not just during the higher magnification views.

Oh and requests to be the beau belle which you pay £3 for a kiss from at your village fate can be forwarded…. at a price ^_-

Fix: Vista has a highly visual shell now, it is full of anti-aliasing, please add this back as an option for the viewer

17. Double clicking sleeping network shares or any folder twice — 19/06/2008

If you have a file server – as I do – which has power management enabled and is set to spin the drives down after idle time, it seems that if you open a network drive map and then try and double click a folder there is an expected wait delay, but, if you double click that folder again because of general impatience, for some reason Vista opens up a second explorer window.

Fix: Restore expected behaviour for impatience

18. Password box selection on the login screen — 02/07/2008

Here is the deal. I’ll stagger into my office in the morning, whack the power button and go fetch caffeine. I come back, rattle in my password, hit return count to 5 and hit the Mail button on the keyboard so that by the time I have finished faffing about I can turn the screen on and bare witness to it having booted and that all of my mail has downloaded.

That WAS what I used to do under everything back as far as Windows for Workgroups 3.11. So why can’t I any more?

There is one user on the system in my office, me. It runs detached from the domain and I do have good security in place. Yet for some reason Vista Ultimate boots and deselects the password entry text box meaning that I have to delay caffeine or sit and wait for the hundreds of SPAM mails to process into Outlook 2007 before I can get going – not to mention the injustice of having to turn the primary screen on at this point, and worse having to use the mouse!

Fix: Sorry Microsoft it doesn’t wash with me, whatever the excuse, put it back.

Update: 19/06/2009 : This seems to be related to NVidia drivers, if you are having this problem take the NVidia driver off and it’ll go away.

19. Displaying the size of Vista’s Folder contents in the status bar — 02/07/2008

Here is a folder under Windows 2000, the view is the same under Windows XP, as it was in NT4, 98 and even 95.

Windows 2000 Status Bar

Two objects, 33.6 MB exist here in the recycle bin. Nice and simple! Here is the same thing in Vista

Windows Vista Status Bar

Six items… ok. So how big? Let me get a calculator… 896,446 KB… divided by 1024 that’s 875.44 MB. Why did I just have to work that out?

Yes, I CAN highlight all the files to get it to give me a file total reading, I can get the mouse, move it around, get it stuck on the “whole line select” faff about to try and find some white space and then get everything highlighted… and yes I CAN press Ctrl + A; but why should I need to do this?

Why is everything on the Vista interface about mouse movements and mouse clicks?!

Fix: Put the totals back

20. Disabling CD Burning doesn’t strip it from Windows Explorer — 02/07/2008

Under Windows XP you could disable CD recording from the properties menu on the drive letter. Under Vista this is no longer true and you have to go through GPEdit.msc and dig down to the following policy branch to turn it off:

Local Computer Policy\User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Explorer

CD Burning group policy

Enable the policy and with a log-off or a reboot, the CD burning tab will be missing from the drive properties in Windows Explorer, however the burn button will still be present all over the interface.

Windows Explorer Toolbar

Fix: Remove the button

21. Customer Experience Improvement Program: ‘Disable me if you can’ — 13/07/2008

You log in for the first time to an account on Vista and you will be prompted with the “Do you want to join the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program?” nag… nothing wrong with that particularly.

Customer Experience Program

The problem is that when it loads, the “I don’t want to join the program at this time” radio button is already selected, which may very well be what you want to choose – but try clicking OK… you can’t, it is disabled.

In order to enable it, you have to tick the “Join the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program” and the OK button wakes back up again. If you then re-select “I don’t want to join the program at this time” you can click OK and have the WCEIP disabled. Which is just inconvenient.

Fix: Disable the OK button but don’t pre-select the radio button

22. Compressed Folders (Zip) and password protection — 13/01/2009

I just came to trying to password protect a zip file, only to discover that the built in zip handler in Vista, unlike in 98, Millennium, XP and 2003 no longer supports password creation!

No, I don’t want to install WinZip!

Fix: Stop removing features and put this back!