I’ve love to say that I hate to whine, when referring to things about Windows Vista that drive me nuts, but clearly, I don’t hate to whine. I apparently love to find excuses to whine about Vista. Every time I give a presentation, should something go wrong, I blame Vista. It becomes sort of a running joke during the presentation. Of course, Vista SP1 fixes all the issues I had with the original release (oh, I wish it was so), but I suppose SP1 is a lot better than the original release.

I can live with Vista’s glacially slow network file copies. (No doubt you’ve seen the screenshot of a network file transfer that advertises that it will complete in 32,320,333,234 minutes? I made up the number, but I’ve certainly seen numbers like it when copying even a vaguely large file across the network.) I can live with the lack of SMTP and Telnet. I can even live with the user interface, which seems to have changed just for the sake of change.

What I cannot live with, however, is the idea that Vista knows more than I do about how I want my folders to appear in Windows Explorer. You know what I mean, if you have used Vista: It decides how a specific folder should appear when you open it. In Windows XP, you could bring up the Folder Options dialog box, go to the View tab, and tell Windows XP to display all folders like the current one. In that way, you could set up one folder the way you liked, and then all the rest would (by default) look like it when they opened up.

Read the text carefully in Vista: It says “You can apply the view (such as Details or Icons) that you are using for this folder to all folders of this type.” (I added the bold text there to indicate where Vista thinks it’s smarter than me.) Every folder has a type associated with it, and you can apparently assign a folder type to every folder, but who on earth is going to do that, unless they only work with ten or fewer folders (that is, not someone who writes code for a living)? The problem is that I never know or care what type has been associated with a folder-I just want every folder to show up in Details view, until I tell it otherwise. No exceptions, no arguing: Just give me a nice list of files, their sizes, their dates of creation, and so on. But no, Vista cannot apparently do this.

So, going against my normal mode of operation (there’s irony here, just go with it), I have complained to everyone who will listen about how much I hate it that Vista thinks it’s smarter than me. And I’ve found articles that supposedly explain how to solve the problem. The unfortunate part is that nothing I tried, until recently, has worked. But thanks to the inquiring mind of my friend Brian Randell (who reads a lot more blogs and newsletters than I do), I found an answer. He forwarded me this article, which included an explanation of how to make this problem go away:


Buried in this article is a description of a few registry changes you can make to fix the problem. I’m brave, I tried it, and amazingly, it worked! To be honest, I think the original author’s description could be trimmed some, and in my experience, it’s actually simpler than he described. So, if I may, I’d like to paraphrase the original article, and let you in on this little secret that will, I hope, keep you from cursing at Windows Vista as much as I have, until recently.

First of all, be aware that the steps I describe will require making changes to the Windows Registry (don’t get me started on the fact that we’re still, after umpteen years, making changes to the Windows Registry), and you must back up your registry before continuing. If you attempt these changes then find that your computer doesn’t work right, I will only respond to your angry e-mail with a response that asks “Did you back up your registry before making the changes?”. So just do it, now: With the RegEdit program running, in the left pane, click the top Computer node. Select File > Export, and supply a name for the backup file. Save this somewhere safe, and should something go wrong during the editing process, you can simply select the Computer node again, and select File > Import, importing the backup file you created.

With a current backup, fixing the Vista view problem is relatively simple-you just need to convince Vista that for all folders, you want to use the Document view (at least, that’s the view I use). Within RegEdit, navigate to the following key:

  Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\

Expand the Shell node, and notice at least three child nodes: Bags, BagsMRU, and MuiCache. You need to leave the MuiCache node alone (that is, don’t delete it), but select the Bags and BagsMRU keys in turn, and for each, press the Delete key to delete the node. Don’t be scared-you don’t need these nodes! They keep track of the layouts you “choose” for each type of folder, but if you want the same layout for each, you must recreate them.

Next, copy this text to a file named Bags.reg (actually, the name is inconsequential; it just needs to have the .reg extension). Make sure that the key names appear all on a single line-that is, in each key, Local Settings shouldn’t contain a line break, and in the final two, All Folders shouldn’t contain a line break. In other words, your text file should have very long lines of text, listing the registry key names:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Once you have created and saved the .reg file, in Windows Explorer, double-click it, causing Windows to load the registry changes. Click Yes when prompted, and then click OK. In RegEdit, press F5 to refresh the view, and verify that the Shell node now contains a Bags child node (but not a BagsMRU node). That’s all it takes to convince Vista that you want all folders to display in Documents view. (Actually, you can select any of the following folder types, in Bags.reg, if you like: NotSpecified, Contacts, Documents, Music, or Pictures. Instead of Documents, select one of the other types, if you’d rather.) Close RegEdit, and you’re done. (The original article also suggests that you set the display preferences for specific folder types, such as music, pictures, and so on. Because I want everything to appear the same, I didn’t do that.)

Thanks to Koroush Ghazi and his “Vista Annoyances Resolved” article (and to Brian for pointing it out to me), I can finally complain a little less about Vista’s user interface mess. Read Koroush’s entire article-you may find other Vista annoyances solved. This fix won’t get me to stop complaining about file copy performance, but at least we’re one step closer to looking for something new to complain about!