Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guide to Windows Vista


A Windows Vista feature is simply a set of programs or a particular capability of the operating system that can be enabled or disabled by an administrator. It is important to note that in Windows Vista, when you remove or disable a feature, you are not actually removing files from your hard drive, but rather just deactivating them. Therefore disabling a feature should not be used as a method of freeing up hard drive space. On the other hand, by disabling a feature you may gain an increase in performance due to memory and processor utilization no longer being allocated towards the particular feature.

Now that you understand what a Windows Vista Feature is, you may be wondering why people would need to enable or disable them? When you install Windows Vista, it installs a base set of features. This base set consists of programs and capabilities that Microsoft feels the average user would require or want when running Windows Vista. There are, though, features that come with the base install that some people may not need and by deactivating them you have one less potential program running in the background using up resources. On the other hand, some people may have need of a feature that is not activated by default such as Internet Information Services that would enable them to host a web site on their computer.

This guide will explain how to enable and disable Windows Vista features as well as describe what each feature does, whether it's installed by default, and whether we feel its necessary to enable.

How to enable or disable Windows Vista Features

To access the Vista Features screen you should follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Start button to open your Start Menu. The Start button looks like this: Vista Start Button

  2. When the Start Menu opens click on the Control Panel menu option.

  3. When the Control Panel window opens click on the Uninstall a program option option under the Programs category. This option is shown by the arrow in the image below. If you are using the Classic View of the Control Panel, then you would double-click on the Programs and Features icon instead.

    Vista Control Panel

  4. You will now be presented with the Programs and Features screen, or Uninstall or change a program screen, as shown in the image below.

    Vista Programs and Features Screen

    To access the Windows features screen you need to single-click on the option labeled Turn Windows features on or off as designated by the arrow in the image above.

  5. Windows Vista will now ask for your permission to access the Windows Vista Features. You should click on the Continue button to give this permission.

  6. The Windows Vista Feature List window will now open displaying all the Features available for your version of Vista. An entry can be a single feature or a feature with subfeatures. When enabling features that have subfeatures it is possible to only enable those subfeatures that are required by you. This enables you to finely tune how you want Vista to operate.

    Windows Vista Feature List

    Next to each feature is a box that can have three states. If the checkbox is checked that means that the feature, and all of its subfeatures if it has any, are enabled. If the box is filled with a solid blue color, then that means that some subfeatures of this feature are enabled but not all of them. If the checkbox is empty, then that feature and none of its subfeatures are enabled.

    To enable a feature, simply put a checkmark next to the feature name. To disable a feature simply remove the check from the feature or one of its subfeatures. When you are happy with how you disabled and enabled the features, you should click on the OK button to save these changes.

Now that you know how to access the Windows Vista Feature List and to activate and disable features you can control what programs and capabilities are available to you when using Vista. For a description of each feature, if they are enabled by default, and whether or not you need it, please read the next section of this tutorial.

Windows Vista Feature List

Below is the list of features that are available in Windows Vista. Please note that depending on the version of Windows Vista you may have, some of these features may not be available. This feature list was taken from Vista Ultimate which should have all the available features at this time.

The table below contains a list of all the features and their subfeatures. Each Feature name is a link to a description of the particular feature. These descriptions may contain link to further reference material about the particular feature. Each feature also has a corresponding default status. The key to the default status column is below:

Default Status Key
The feature or subfeature is not enabled by default.
The feature or subfeature is enabled by default.
Some of the subfeatures of a feature are enabled by default.

ActiveX Installer Service
This feature enables standard users to install ActiveX controls. This feature can be controlled via Group Policy so that the an administrator can set what hosts a standard user can install an ActiveX control from. This service was added so that enterprise users are able to install ActiveX controls that are necessary for day-to-day business. The majority of users do not need this feature installed. More information can be found here.

Games that come bundled with Vista. Loosen up and enable them. Some are fun! They include:

Chess Titans
Single-player chess game

A solitaire card game.

A trick-based card game in which the goal is to get rid of your cards while avoiding points.

A puzzle game where you try to bounce balls into a specific hole using walls you create with your mouse cursor.

Mahjong Titans
A solitaire game where you use Mahjong tiles instead of cards.

A puzzle/strategy game.

Purble Palace
A childrens game designed to teach colors, shapes and pattern recognition.

A single-player card game.

Spider Solitaire
A solitaire card game.

Indexing Service
The indexing service is being provided for backwards compatibility for Windows versions prior to Vista. This service indexes the files on your hard drive in order to aid in rapid searching. In the past this service was known to cause slow downs on a computer. It is unnecessary to enable this feature.

Internet Information Services
Installs the services and administration tools for IIS 7.0. Internet Information Server 7.0 allows your computer to act as a Web server and FTP server. This feature should only be enabled if you require this functionality. More information about the various features and what versions of Vista have them can be found here.

FTP Publishing Service
This feature, and its subfeatures, are for enabling the IIS 7.0 FTP Server and FTP server management tools. More information about using the FTP in IIS 7.0 can be found here.

FTP Management Console
Enables the Management console for the Windows FTP Server. This should only be enabled if you need to manage an FTP server on your local machine or a remote machine you have administrative access to.

FTP Server
Enables the Windows FTP server. This feature should only be enabled if you need an FTP server running on your computer.

Web Management Tools
Install Web management console and tools.

IIS 6 Management Compatibility
Allows you to use the IIS 6 management console to manage FTP sites and Web sites using IIS 6 APIs.

IIS 6 Management Console
Enables you to manage IIS 7.0 FTP sites using the IIS 6 administrative interface. To manage FTP sites in IIS 7.0 you must have the IIS 6 Management Console installed. With this console installed you can also manage remote IIS 6.0 installations.

IIS 6 Scripting Tools
Allows you to use configuration scripts to manage an IIS 6 server.

IIS 6 WMI Compatibility
Enables the IIS 6 WMI scripting interface.

IIS Metabase and IIS 6 configuration compatibility
Enables IIS 6.0 metabase calls to interact with the new IIS 7.0 configuration store.

IIS Management Console
Installs the Web server management console that allows you to create, delete, and manage web sites running on a local or remote IIS 7.0 server. This console is only used for managing web sites. To manage FTP sites you must install the IIS 6 Management Console. More info on using the new console can be found here.

IIS Management Scripts and Tools
Enables you to manage an IIS 7.0 server with configuration scripts.

IIS Management Service
Allows a local web server to be managed remotely from another computer using the IIS Management Console.

World Wide Web Services

Application Development Features
Enables support for dynamically created web pages using various languages or coding methods.

.NET Extensibility
Enabling this feature allows IIS 7.0 to host .NET Framework applications.

Enabling this feature allows IIS 7.0 to host Classic ASP applications.

Enabling this feature allows IIS 7.0 to host ASP .NET applications.

Enabling this feature allows IIS 7.0 to host CGI executables.

ISAPI Extensions
Enabling this feature allows ISAPI extensions to handle client requests.

ISAPI Filters
Enabling this feature allows ISAPI filters to modify web server behaviour.

Server-Side Includes
Enabling this feature allows IIS 7.0 to serve .shtm, .shtml, and .stm pages from a web site.

Common HTTP Features
Allows you to enable features that are required by most web sites.

Default Document
Allows you to specify a file that will opened automatically when a browser connects to a site without specifying a particular filename. For example if we specified index.html as our default document and we visited http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/, notice it does not specify a filename, IIS would automatically send back the contents of the index.html as it is the specified default document.

Directory Browsing
Allows you to view the contents of a directory on a web site that does not contain a default document. For example if their was an URL http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/Microsoft/ and there was no file in that the Microsoft directory that matched a specified default document, the server would instead display a listing of all the files in the Microsoft directory.

HTTP Errors
Enabling this feature will allow you to create customized error pages for your sites hosted under IIS 7. This allows for useful error pages like this rather than this. It is important to note that the follow error pages cannot be customized: 400, 403.9, 411, 414, 500, 500.11, 500.14, 500.15, 501, 503, and 505.

HTTP Redirection
This feature allows you to redirect a page to another page based upon rules. Information on configuring HTTP redirection can be found here and here. The available redirect types are:

  • Standard (302) - Tells the Web client to open the page specified in the Location HTTP header.
  • Permanent (301) - Tells the Web client that requested page has moved to a new permanent location.
  • Temporary (307) - The requested resource resides temporarily under a different URI. This error code also protects POST data from being lost during the redirection.

Static Content
The features enables IIS 7.0 to serve static HTML (.htm and .html) and image files.

Health and Diagnostics
This category and its subfeatures are for traffic logging and monitoring of IIS 7.0 web sites and applications.

Custom Logging
Enables you to customize what information is logged for web servers, sites, and applications on this server.

HTTP Logging
Enables logging of HTTP activity on this server.

Logging Tools
Installs tools and utilities that can be used for logging.

ODBC Logging
Allows you to log activity to a database via ODBC.

Request Monitor
Allows you to view the current worker processes in an application pool as well as seeing the current requests executing within a worker process.

Enables IIS to log information about a request that is failing to serve back information. This is useful as it allows you to quickly debug an application on a particular page without having to reproduce the exact error again.

Performance Features

HTTP Compression Dynamic
Enables IIS 7.0 to compress dynamically generated output before sending it to the requesting browser. More information on configuring this can be found here.

Static Content Compression
Enables IIS 7.0 to compress static content such as HTML and images before sending it to the requesting browser.

Features that enhance the security of your applications and web sites. For more information about how to configure the various security features below you can visit here.

Basic Authentication
Basic Authentication allows you to restrict who can access a specific resource on a web server. The visitor will provide a valid username and password that is authenticated against a specific domain. This mode of authentication is considered insecure as all credentials are passed in clear-text (unencrypted).

Client Certificate Mapping Authentication
Client certificate mapping allows users to log into your site automatically if they are using a client certificate.

Digest Authentication
Digest authentication authenticates users against a Windows domain controller. This method should be used when you require a higher level of security than you would get with Basic Authentication and your environment contains firewalls and proxy servers.

IIS Client Certificate Mapping Authentication
IIS client certificate mapping allows you to map certificates to specific clients or groups of clients. Those users who are using the mapped client certificate can automatically log into the site.

IP Security
Internet Protocol security uses the IPsec encryption protocol to encrypt the data travelling between your browser and the server.

Request Filtering
With Request Filtering you can analyzing all HTTP requests and if the request matches a specific criteria perform a particular action, such as denying the request. This functionality used to be part of the UrlScan utility but is now built into IIS 7.0.

URL Authorization
URL authorization enables you to create rules that allow you to permit or deny access to a particular URL depending on the user, groups, computers, domains that are accessing them.

Windows Authentication
Windows authentication enables web visitors to authenticate to the site using NTLM or Kerberos protocols. This type of authentication is best suited for Intranet applications.

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0
The Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.0. Needed to run applications developed using .NET Framework 3.0.

Windows Communication Foundation HTTP Activation
Required for WCF HTTP activations.

Windows Communication Foundation Non-HTTP Activation
Required for WCF non-HTTP activations.

XPS Viewer
Enables you to view XPS documents.

Microsoft Message Queue (MSMQ) Server
Enables your computer to act as a Microsoft Message Queue Server. MSMQ allows applications to send messages to each other with guaranteed delivery. The server holds the message until the recipient application runs and then delivers the message to it. Unless you need this, do not enable it or its subfeatures.

Microsoft Message Queue (MSMQ) Server Core
This features and its subfeatures are the core components of the Microsoft Message Queue Server.

MSMQ Active Directory Domain Services Integration
Active Directory Domain Services Integration feature enables publishing of queue properties to Active Domain Directory Services, out-of-the-box authentication and encryption of messages using certificates registered in Active Directory Domain Services, and routing of messages across Windows sites. This feature becomes operational only when a computer becomes part of a domain.

Allows access to the MSMQ using the HTTP protocol. This feature requires that the Internet Information Server feature is enabled.

MSMQ Triggers
Enables incoming messages to trigger a COM component or executable depending on the filters defined for the particular queue.

Multicasting Support
Allows applications to send messages to a Multicast IP address which will then deliver the message to the queues associated with that address.

Enables MSMQ applications to use the MSMQ DCOM API to connect to a remote MSMQ server.

Print Services
Manages Printers and Printing.

Internet Printing
Enables your computer to print to printers via the HTTP protocol. This allows you to print to a printer anywhere in the world as long as you have HTTP access to it. This should be enabled for printing to print servers on your network. If you are only using printers that are attached locally to your computer, you do not need to enable this feature.

LDP Print Server
Makes your computer act as a Line Printer Daemon and a Remote Line Printer client. This will typically only be used if you want Unix computers to be able to print to your Windows printers.

LPR Port Monitor
Enables your computer to print to printers attached to UNIX machines.

Remote Differential Compression
Transmits files over a network by determining what is different between a local and remote file and only sending those differences. This method allows for the saving of bandwidth and time as only the data that is different between the two files is sent. Should be enabled if you copy data between networked computers. More info here.

Removal Storage Management
Manages and catalogs removable media and operates automated removable media storage devices such as tape changers, libraries, and jukeboxes. Is not needed if you do not backup to removeable media.

RIP Listener
Listens for route updates from routers that use the Routing Information Protocol version 1 (RIPv1). Is not needed for the majority of users.

Services for NFS
Enables your computer to share files using the Network File System protocol. This protocol is typically used when you want to share files with UNIX/LINUX computers. Only enable if you plan to share data between Linux or Unix computers.

Administrative Tools
NFS Management Tools

Client for NFS
Allows this computer to access files on a UNIX based computer using NFS.

Simple TCPIP services(i.e. echo, daytime etc)
Installs the basic TCP/IP services such as echo, daytime, quote, chargen, and discard. These tools are essentially useless and should not be installed. More information about the different Simple TCP/IP Services can be found here.

SNMP feature
Enables Simple Network Management Protocol agents to run on your computer so that network devices can be monitored. This feature is typically not required by the majority of users. Only enable it if you know you need it.

WMI SNMP Provider
Provides WMI access to the SNMP information.

Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications
Otherwise known as SUA, Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications installs a source-compatibility subsystem for compiling and running unix-based applications and scripts in Windows. Once this feature is installed, you can download the SDK by visiting the link found under Start -> All Programs -> Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications. More information about SUA can be found here. This feature should only be enabled if you know you need it.

Tablet PC Optional Components
Adds or removes accessories such as Tablet PC Input Panel, Windows Journal, and the Snipping Tool. Enabling this feature also installs software that enables handwriting recognition. Though this feature is not necessary to install unless you have a Tablet PC, by not installing it you will not have access to the Snipping Tool which is a very handy application. The Snipping Tool allows you to draw a selection of your screen that you would like to take a snippet, or screenshot, of.

Telnet Client
Enabling this will install a program called Telnet that allows you to connect remote Telnet servers. Telnet is a command-line program that can be run by typing telnet ipaddress in the Run field of your Start Menu. Unless you have a need for Telnet, there is no reason to enable this feature. More information about telnet can be found here.

Telnet Server
This feature will install a Telnet Server on your computer which will listen on TCP port 21 and configure the Windows firewall to allow incoming connections on this port. Enabling this feature is NOT recommended. Enabling this feature, and not having it properly configured, could pose a significant security risk as all information, including passwords, are sent in clear text. This means that anyone with a network sniffer can watch exactly what you are doing. It is for this reason that this feature is disabled by default. More information about telnet can be found here. If after reading this you still want to install a Telnet Server, it is recommended that you read this article.

TFTP Client
TFTP is a protocol similar to FTP but has less features and uses the UDP protocol to transmit data. TFTP is most commonly used to backup and restore a network devices firmware or configuration. Enabling this feature will install a TFTP client that you can use to download and upload files to and from a TFTP server. Solarwinds has a free TFTP Server that you can download if you want to use this feature. The Vista TFTP client is a command line program and can be access by typing tftp in a command prompt. Only enable if you need this feature particular feature. If you require a file transfer server of some sort, then use the IIS FTP server instead.

Windows DFS Replication Service
Allows you to replicate files between multiple computer in order to keep them synchronized. Vista's implementation of the DF Replication Service includes numerous enhancments such as Remote Differential Compression (RDC). More info here.

Windows Fax and Scan
This feature allows you to fax documents via a installed fax modem or to use a fax server located on your network. This program also allows you to have a central location where you can manage scanned documents and images. It is important to note that you can scan from other programs such as Photo Gallery.

Windows Meeting Space
Windows Meeting Space allows you to create a meeting and invite remote users to join it. When creating a meeting you have the ability to invite other users, provide documents that other people in the meeting have access to and can modify one at a time, and share your desktop or individual programs running on your computer. In order for this Feature to work you need to enable file replication, People Near Me, and allow it access through your firewall..

Windows Process Activation Service
Installs the Windows Process Activation Service. More info here. More info about the Windows Communication Foundation here.

.NET Environment
Installs the .NET environment for supporting managed code activation.

Configuration APIs
Install managed code configuration APIs.

Process Model
Install Process Model for the Windows Process Activation Service.

Windows Ultimate Extras
As an owner of Windows Ultimate you get access to additional premium content in the form of extra features, games, and applications. This premium content is only available to Windows Ultimate owners. As the new content becomes available it will be accessible via the Start Menu -> All Programs -> Extras .and Upgrades -> Windows Ultimate Extas icon.


Now that you know how to enable and disable features, get out there and start experimenting with your Vista installation. You may find that disabling certain features provides a performance boost, while enabling other features provide applications that make your life easier. Either way, play around and explore the available features. You can always turn them off again.

As always, if you want to learn more about, or discuss with your peers, the various features available in Windows Vista, then feel free to talk about it in of our Windows Vista forums.

This article is published and created for http://www.bleepingcomputer.com, otherwise known as Bleeping Computer, and is covered by all copyright laws. All articles on this website are copyright © 2003-2007 by Bleeping Computer, LLC. All right reserved. Use of these articles is limited to viewing and printing for personal use only. If you would like to use this material or portions of this material for other purposes you must receive explicit permission from Bleeping Computer before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.

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