Taming your pesky Personal computer

Washington, July 15:

Remember the last time you booted your PC and it left you alone to get your work done — without messages or beeps or dialogue boxes asking you to grant permission for this or that? Those days seem to be long gone.

Matters have only gotten worse with the introduction of Windows Vista, which has brought the problem of PC-related work interruptions to a new level. How can you get rid of the beeps and pings and work-stopping messages?

Question: My Windows computer makes a beep or a noise every time I make a little mistake. How can I turn these sounds off without losing my ability to hear my MP3s?

Answer: Good news, the sounds Windows makes for various ‘system events’ — including annoying you with a beep when you make a mistake — are separate from the audio controls that allow you to hear your music. So, all you need to do is to turn off the sounds for system events.

Here’s how. Open the Windows Control Panel, and open the Sounds and Audio Devices section. In Vista, open Hardware and Sound, and then click Sound. From the resulting Sounds dialogue box, click the Sounds tab and use the Sound Scheme drop-down list box to select the No Sounds option. Confirm your choice if asked, and then click OK to exit.

From that point on, Windows should not bother you with beeps when you make an error, but you will still hear music from audio CDs, movies, and MP3 files.

Question: Windows Vista is driving me mad with these dialog boxes that ask me to grant permission each time I install a programme or perform other tasks. How can I prevent this?

Answer: You need to turn off Vista’s User Account Control, otherwise known as UAC. UAC is designed to alert you whenever a program initiates an action that can make changes to your system. These actions can include installing programmes, deleting certain files, or changing installations.

It’s easy to disable UAC if you do not care for these prompts. Open Vista’s Control Panel and type UAC into the search bar at the top of the screen and then select the link labelled Turn User Account Control (UAC) on or off. Follow the instructions for turning UAC off.

Remember, however, that UAC is an important part of the security enhancements provided by Windows Vista, so turning UAC off leaves you vulnerable to malware attacks in the same way that Windows XP did, to some extent. UAC pro-mpts will be most annoying when you first configure a system, since you’ll be installing lots of applications, but once system is fully configured, you should experience relatively few annoyances due to UAC.

Question: How can I get rid of the balloons in the taskbar of XP that tell me when some software or device has done something?

Answer: What you’re referring to are notification balloons common in both XP and Vista. They’re designed to alert you when a change has been or is being made to your system, when downloaded updates are ready to be installed, or when changes have occurred to your system behind the scenes.

As you’ve discovered, however, they can be annoying if they do not contain information that’s useful to you. For instance, if you deliberately turn off the Windows firewall, you probably do not want a notification balloon telling you that the Windows firewall is not active.