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2009.11.10 UAC = Unnecessary Annoying Crap

posted Nov 15, 2009, 5:26 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Nov 15, 2009, 7:25 AM ]
Every PC in the house is upgraded to Vista now.  Actually, most of them came with Vista pre-installed, but I've bought upgrade disks for the rest so we all match.  This happened just in time for Microsoft to finally release Windows 7 aka the Vista Killer.  This is normal for me.  I think I've always waited until the next operating system was out or at least until a service pack or two has been released for a particular operating system before I would try it.

I actually started Vista pretty early.  I bought a notebook computer a while back with Vista installed back when Vista was still the latest, greatest thing ever.  It was, however, Vista Home Basic, which I'm told is the redheaded stepchild of the Vista family.  I used it mostly to watch DVD movies and check my favorite websites when away from home.  I didn't really get too deep into the guts of Vista.  It didn't seem that different from XP to me at the time.

One thing I did find different, and one thing that I disabled as soon as I figured out how, was User Account Control or UAC.  Or, as I like to call it, Unnecessary Annoying Crap.

UAC is supposed to be for my protection.  If a virus or trojan or other malware program tries to install itself or change settings or erase my hard disk, UAC is supposed to stop it or, at the very least, ask me if I wanted the action to continue.  That's what it's supposed to do.  What it actually does is try to stop me from doing what I just told the computer that I want to do.

I mean, seriously, I can click through half a dozen screens and pages and dialog boxes looking for the setting I want to change, starting with "Click here to learn how to change these settings" and ending with "Apply these changes" only to have UAC pop up and say "Are you sure you want to change these settings?"  Why, no.  I didn't want to change those settings.  I guess I looked up the topic in the Help files, clicked to that particular control panel, set all those options, and told Windows to apply the changes all by accident.  Thank you, User Account Control!  Without you, I might have actually changed my desktop wallpaper to something that doesn't make my eyes bleed.  Thank you!

And, of course, just because I changed that particular setting three times in the last five minutes couldn't possibly mean that I really wanted to change it yet again.

I had forgotten all of this because, shortly after getting that first Vista notebook, I turned off UAC.  I told myself at the time it was just temporary.  Once I got all the applications that I used regularly installed, I'd turn it back on.  I'd even create a regular user account and not use that Administrator account for daily activities.  Those were the plans.

Plans like that never work.  It seems that there's always some new program or update that you have to be Administrator to install.  There's even the occasional application that needs Administrator access just to run properly.  UAC stayed off.  Eventually, UAC was forgotten.

Then my youngest brother, T3 (my mother gave us all names starting with the letter T so we'd be easier to remember), bought a new Vista notebook with a better version of Vista installed.  Vista Home Premium probably has a zillion very important advantages over Home Basic, but the one that caught everyone's attention was that Aero thing.  That's how I came to buy a couple of upgrades and install Premium on the family PC.

As I was the one that the family came to when it came time to change settings or to install a new application, I was the only one who dealt with User Account Control on a regular basis.  In fact, I trained the family to come find me any time UAC popped up.  This actually worked pretty well, as UAC was flagging the exact sort of changes that the family really should have been leaving to me.  I should be the one installing new software, deciding which updates to install, installing drivers for new hardware, etc.

Flush with my own success in customizing T3's notebook and installing Vista on the family PC, I decided it was time to take the Vista plunge myself.  I installed Vista Ultimate on my main PC.  I won't bore you with the story of the 12 hour ordeal of swapping hard drives, hacking BIOS settings, and tracking down custom hardware drivers only to realize that Vista had already found and installed drivers itself.  As to that last one, in the end, only my ancient Belkin UPS (when did Belkin stop making UPS products?) needed a driver and its own software.  I installed manufacturer drivers for my video card and tv capture card anyway, just because they were newer.  My old HP printer didn't even have Vista drivers, so I had to use Vista's generic drivers anyway.  I soon had a Device Manager without any little yellow warning signs, which I'm told is the goal of any new Windows installation.

Now that hardware was taken care of, it was time to mess with the software.  This was when the UAC problem reared its ugly little head.  Since I wasn't sure what software worked with Vista, I ended up installing and removing quite a few programs.  I ended up moving quite a few files around.  I ended up using System Restore a few times.  I can't remember ever using System Restore before in my life.  The main thing is that I saw the UAC prompt so many times that I could move the mouse to "Continue" and click on it without even looking at the screen anymore.

Still, out of redneck stubbornness or geek pride or just the fact that I'd paid an unreasonably large sum of money for this operating system and was dead set on using every single solitary feature it provided so I could somehow get my money's worth of satisfaction out of it, I kept User Account Control turned on.  I was going to stick this out and get used to it.

Right about then was when I noticed that I'd just started a particular application for the tenth time and had to type in my name and 16 digit registration code for the tenth time.  It seemed to be forgetting me every time I exited the program.  In fact, it was going back to the factory default settings every time.  This concerned me because this was one of those applications that I use every day.  If I couldn't get this to work with Vista, I was going to have to dust off that old XP disk.

I went to the company website and actually found an article entitled something like "Where does this application store its settings files?"  It seems that in Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, and XP it stores its settings in the same directory where the application resides.  In Vista, however, it stores them in another place entirely because User Account Control won't let it change files in the application directory.  Actually, it tries to store them there, but Vista shifts the files to another place call the Virtual Store.  This is great, except that for some reason Vista wasn't shifting future reading of the settings files to the Virtual Store, so every time the application started again, it was reading the factory default settings from the original installation.

I turned off UAC about that time.  I don't forsee turning it back on anytime soon.