Add ‘business’ features to XP or Vista

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn

Do you want the features of Windows Vista Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate — even though you’re running Windows XP or Vista Home Premium?

I’ll show you how to use free or inexpensive add-ons to get virtually the same high-end features without paying Microsoft’s upgrade fees.

Add just the capabilities you want

If you’re using Windows 2000, XP, or Vista Home Premium, you may not need to shell out the extra bucks for Vista Business — let alone the more-expensive Vista Enterprise or Vista Ultimate. Many of the distinctive features of Vista Business can be found in third-party add-ons for $100 or less. And, in many cases, you can easily get the extra features for free.

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I did a little digging around and found some serious tools for improving the Windows you already have. I haven’t extensively tested these products personally, but instead analyzed reviews from reliable publications and Web sites to bring you a consensus view of the best that’s available.

In part 1 of this story, I’ll show you how to add Vista Business features to Windows XP and Vista Home Premium. Next week, in part 2, I’ll explain how to get attributes of Vista Home Premium and Vista Enterprise that are lacking in Windows XP and Vista Business.

Business features give you superior backups

Vista Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate include features you won’t find in Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, or Windows XP. These include Vista’s “shadow copy” feature, image-based backups, and faxing. Here are some ways to add those features to your own Windows system.

Shadow copy. Vista’s Shadow Copy applet is a file versioning tool that automatically makes backups of older and newer versions of your files while you work. This makes it simple to go back to a previous version of a file.

For a freeware equivalent, try FileHamster, which monitors files and folders you designate, automatically makes backups, and lets you annotate them. It’s available from its makers at the Mogware Web site.

If an installable app doesn’t appeal to you, check out Data Deposit Box, a service that backs up your data online for US $2 per gigabyte per month. The backups, which are encrypted for privacy in transit, are made automatically as you change your files. Multiple versions of files are stored, even if you eventually delete a file from your hard disk. And because your backups are online, you can access them from any computer with Internet access.

Image-based backup. Neither XP nor Vista Home Premium have Vista Ultimate’s tools for making a complete backup image of a disk drive or partition. Fortunately, a number of low-cost tools do just that. Symantec Norton Save & Restore 2.0 is now Vista compatible and handles both drive imaging and file backup. Another option is Acronis True Image 10 Home, which also supports Vista and was given an “A List” rating by PC Pro.

Both products are US $50, but if you buy through an organization such as the User Group Store, you can get the Acronis product discounted to $33 (on CD) or $29 (download).

For those with no budget at all, the freeware program DriveImage XML rates a score of 4.5 out of 5.0 from SnapFiles, an independent download site. But the product does not yet support Vista, if that concerns you.

Faxing. Users of most versions of Windows have long taken faxing capabilities for granted. Unfortunately, this common feature was omitted from Vista Home Premium.

Snappy Fax 2000 is a $30 shareware tool for sending and receiving faxes from your computer. The product includes OCR and other features. The previous release, version 3.75.1.2, earned a perfect 5.0 rating from SnapFiles. Snappy Fax’s Web site says that the latest version (4.0) now supports Windows Vista. A 30-day, free-trial version is available for download.

If you’re using XP or older version of Windows, a cheaper alternative is the $20 shareware product MightyFax from RKS Software. (This download was also rated “Excellent” by SnapFiles). Like Snappy Fax, you can use Mighty Fax’s emulated printer driver to send a fax from any application.

Not every feature of Vista Business can be replicated using free or cheap add-ons. But the examples here are just a start. If you still have Business envy, the odds are good that someone has realized it and made a product for you. Fortunately, most of them have free tryout versions, so you can see if they work for you without a financial risk.

After you read part 2 of this series next week, you’ll have your own little approximation of Windows Vista Ultimate, for next to nothing.

Scott Dunn is associate editor of the Windows Secrets Newsletter. He is also a contributing editor of PC World Magazine, where he has written a monthly column since 1992, and co-author of 101 Windows Tips & Tricks (Peachpit) with Jesse Berst and Charles Bermant.
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