Consumer Reports: Vista on the Cheap

Commercials for Windows Vista promise a revolution in the way your PC works. But Consumer Reports says paying for a Vista upgrade isn't the only way to go. You can actually pick up a lot of the Vista technologies and add them to your XP computer for free.

Take Vista's sidebar--where you can put a clock, weather reports, stock quotes, and other handy information. You can get those same kinds of handy features free as a download from Google. It's called Google Desktop.

What about Vista's promise of better security? It has a pop-up blocker and a phishing filter, and Windows Defender to protect against spyware. You can download that protection free from Microsoft's Web site. Look for Windows Defender and Internet Explorer 7.

Vista also promises a great way to organize your photos, videos, TV shows, and music. Your free option: Download Media Player Version 11 from Microsoft's Web site. It's a somewhat simpler system than Vista, but it's still a nice way to keep your music, video, and photographs organized.

There are several other Vista-like features you can download to your XP computer at no charge. You can get a complete list at

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