Vista glossary

So many terms, so little time! Vista was released in January 2007 with new features, new versions, new abilities -- and new names for those things that were already familiar. Our glossary can help you figure out what's what in Windows Vista in short order.

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64-bit operating system:
An OS that can handle 64-bit instructions, important for users who need to access very large data stores. Offers better performance, reliability and scalability, as well as better disk management. Vista Ultimate includes separate DVDs for 32-bit and 64-bit systems. A 64-bit option can be ordered for the other Vista versions.

access control list (ACL):
A table that tells an operating system which access rights each user has to a particular system object, such as a file directory or individual file.

A set of technologies from Microsoft used for interactive components and dynamic content on Web sites. Works with components called ActiveX controls.

ActiveX control:
A component (self-sufficient program) that can be run anywhere in the ActiveX network. Roughly equivalent to a Java applet.

ad-hoc wireless network:
A temporary network set up to serve a particular purpose, such as collaborative effort. Vista's Network and Sharing Center enables setting up connections through a peer-to-peer network instead of a wireless access point. The user has the option to save the network configuration to reconnect in the future, if desired.

admin approval mode:
The standard permission mode for user account control, default setting for all users logged into an administrative account. Higher administrative privilege levels require permission. The purpose is to ensure that users can't easily make changes that would make their systems unstable or vulnerable to attack.

The new GUI, available in all business-oriented versions of Vista and the premium home product. The name is said to be an acronym for "Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open." Not a component of the Starter or Basic versions of Vista.

Aero Glass:
A display theme for Aero that enables special effects such as transparency and 3-D images and animation.

anti-spyware software:
A type of program designed to prevent and detect unwanted spyware program installations and to remove those programs if installed. Detection may be either rules-based or based on downloaded definition files that identify currently active spyware programs. Windows Defender is the anti-spyware application in Vista.

The former name for Windows Communication Foundation.


A command line interface that users can employ to create and reconfigure the bootloader.

An operating system-level extension to Vista that combines hard disk encryption and special key management techniques. The data and the operating system installation are both protected by two-factor authentication -- specifically, a hardware key used in conjunction with a long passphrase.



desktop search:
An application that can search your computer and devices connected to it for emails and files. The program in Vista, called "instant search" uses contextual information to guide the search and can be accessed from within almost any application.

Desktop Windows Manager (DWM):The component that manages windowing functions for Aero displays.

An application program interface (API) for creating and managing graphic images and multimedia effects in applications such as games or active Web pages that will run in Windows operating systems. The DirectX Software Development Kit (SDK) includes tools that let a developer create or integrate 3-D graphic images, overlays, sprites, and other game elements, including sound.


Encrypting File System (EFS):
A feature of recent Windows operating systems that lets any file or folder be stored in encrypted form and decrypted only by an individual user and an authorized recovery agent. EFS is especially useful for mobile computer users, whose computer (and files) are subject to physical theft, and for storing highly sensitive data.

exceptions list:
A list of programs and system services that are allowed to send unsolicited traffic, rather than being blocked by default, as is the norm in Windows Firewall.


file/registry virtualization:
A component of Vista that gives an application a virtualized copy of a resource it's attempting to modify, so that, for example, a legacy application that does not support some aspect of user Vista user accounts can nevertheless function properly.

Code that takes input data, makes some specific decision about it and possible transformation of it, and passes it on to another program in a kind of pipeline. Filters are often used to protect against spam, spyware and other types of malware and exploits, such as phishing.

firewall profiles:
Separate, context-specific configurations for firewalls to optimize the security requirements of various environments, such as a home-based network, a corporate LAN or a public wireless network.

A window management feature that displays thumbnails of open windows. ALT + TAB allows the user to flip through the thumbnails.

Flip 3D:
An enhancement of the Flip capacity that displays thumbnails of open windows in a three-dimensional view that the user can flip through with a scroll wheel (plus Windows key + TAB).



The application of experience-derived knowledge to a problem and is sometimes used to describe software that screens and filters out messages likely to contain undesirable content. Windows Defender anti-spyware uses a heuristic-based method of determining which messages are likely to contain spyware.


ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol):
A message control and error-reporting protocol between a host server and a gateway to the Internet. ICMP uses Internet Protocol (IP) datagrams, but the messages are processed by the IP software and are not directly apparent to the application user.

The former name for Windows Communication Foundation.

Internet Explorer 7:
The most recent IE. Includes many of the features of competing browsers, such as tabbed browsing, support for cascading style sheets, RSS feeds and the promise of increased security against malware and phishing attacks.

Internet Explorer Protected Mode:
An operational mode for Vista that, through User Account Control, limits the operations that IE can conduct and locations it can write to.

Internet Information Services 7 (IIS 7):
Vista's built-in Web server software. IIS 7 has a modular structure and stores configuration data in XML files rather than in a metabase.

A framework for a set of protocols for security at the network or packet processing layer of network communication, especially useful for implementing virtual private networks and for remote user access to private networks. Security arrangements don't require changes to individual user computers.

The most recent development of Internet Protocol. The biggest change from IPv4 is that IP addresses are lengthened from 32 bits to 128 bits. IPv6 describes rules for three types of addressing: unicast (one host to one other host), anycast (one host to the nearest of multiple hosts), and multicast (one host to multiple hosts).



A secure method for authenticating a request for a service in a computer network. Kerberos lets a user request an encrypted "ticket" from an authentication process that can then be used to request a particular service from a server.


legacy application:
A program that has been inherited from a language, platform or technique earlier than current technology In Vista, this refers to earlier applications that aren't compliant with User Account Control.

Vista's pre-release name.

Longhorn server:
The server operating system counterpart to Vista desktop operating systems.


Microsoft Antigen:
A set of programs that provides protection against viruses, worms, spyware and other forms of malware. Antigen can also filter e-mail to minimize inappropriate content and malicious attachments according to user or administrator preferences.

Microsoft Management Console (MMC):
An interface for system management tasks. MMC displays single or multi-application tools built with modules called snap-ins that are used to conduct administrative tasks.


.Net Framework 3.0:
The latest version of the .NET Framework, which represents both the company's business strategy and its collection of programming support for Web services. There are four components: Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation and Windows CardSpace. .Net 3.0 was called "WinFX" prior to Vista's release.

Network Access Protection (NAP):
A client-based application that monitors Longhorn server networks for computers that do not meet administrator-specified health requirements. If such computers are found, they are isolated from the rest of the network.

Network and Sharing Center:
An interface that allows the user to check connections, see a graphical representation of them and troubleshoot connectivity problems.

Network Diagnostics and Troubleshooting:
A component of the Network and Sharing Center that lets the user detect the causes of connection problems and look for ways to remedy them.

Network Explorer:
Vista's network overview component, which replaces My Network Places.

Network Map:
A graphical representation of connections among networked devices.

Network Projector:
A networked projector or other display device that uses Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) over IP (Internet Protocol) to display a Vista desktop. A Network Projector can be searched for and accessed from within Vista.

Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB):
A security component of the operating system, which employs a specialized chip called a trusted platform module (TPM) for hardware authentication. The TPM stores information specific to the host system, such as encryption keys, digital certificates and passwords. Formerly known as Palladium.

NT LAN Manager (NTLM):
A challenge/response form of authentication that was the default network authentication protocol in Windows NT 4.0. NTLM was developed for trusted computer networks. Kerberos, now the default authentication protocol for Windows, is more secure and a better choice for other situations.

A more secure version of NTLM but still less secure than Kerberos.



Parental Controls:
An applet in the Control Panel designed to enable parents to monitor and manage children's computer use. Parents can set restrictions on computer use, Web surfing, games and programs. Restrictions may limit time or block specific games, programs or Web sites. There is an option for daily reports on activities.

peer-to-peer communications:
A type of transient Internet network that allows a group of computer users with the same networking program to connect with each other and directly access files from one another's hard drives.

People Near Me:
A presence technology in the the Peer-to-Peer Networking platform for Windows Vista that allows people connected to the local subnet to discover each other and connect for collaborative activities, such as gaming.

A scamming practice in which malicious code is installed on a personal computer or server, misdirecting users to fraudulent Web sites without their knowledge or consent.

An e-mail fraud method in which the perpetrator sends out legitimate-looking email in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from recipients.

phishing filter:
A program designed to detect and prevent phishing attacks. Vista's phishing filter monitors activity and Web sites and warns the user if a site is suspect. The filter can also block unsafe sites.

A mode of exploit in which illicit programming takes advantage of legitimate programs and then runs with the same level of privilege.

previous versions tab:
An option in file properties that allows the user to access read-only versions of the files at earlier points in time.

principle of least privilege:
A security mode that limits all users to the lowest permission levels that they can be assigned that won't prevent them from doing their jobs.


Quick Tabs:
A feature for tabbed browsing in Internet Explorer 7 that allows users to view thumbnails of open pages.


A disk caching technology that boosts system performance by accessing capacity from a variety of sources, such as flash memory devices and RAM on other network computers.

real-time protection:
A component of the Defender anti-spyware application that displays alerts any time there is an attempted download or installation of a suspected spyware program.

Remote Assistance (RA):
Vista's remote control component, which allows an administrator to see and control a remote user's computer. May be used to configure the users system or for training or trouble-shooting purposes.

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP):
A protocol designed for secure communications in networks using Microsoft Terminal Services. Noteworthy properties of RDP include encryption, smart card authentication, bandwidth reduction, resource sharing, the ability to use multiple displays and the ability to disconnect temporarily without logging off.

remote control software:
Programming that enables a user to see and interact with a computer in another location.

restricted services:
Services running with restricted privilege levels.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication):
An XML-based vocabulary used to describe Web content so that it is easy to syndicate and share. Vista has built-in support for RSS to integrate Web content and other information across applications and to make it easier for developers to incorporate RSS functionality into applications.


secure desktop:
A locking mechanism that is in effect whenever the UAC window is open, indicated by a darkened interface.

security agents:
Dedicated programs in Windows Defender that monitor specific applications, files or settings for evidence of spyware.

security identifier (SID):
A unique numerical value that identifies an object.

security zones:
Zones of Web sites categorized for various security levels, such as "trusted" or "restricted."

A program managed by the service control manager.

service control manager (SCM):
An administrative component for a database of installed services.

session 0 isolation:
A security mechanism that prevents user accounts and applications from running in session 0 to reserve it for other applications and services.

service isolation:
An option that allows services to isolate themselves from other services.

Simple List Extensions:
RSS feed format extensions to make lists of items more easily accessible.

Programming or a device installed on a computer to secretly gather information about the user and relay it to advertisers or other interested parties.


tabbed browsing:
A feature implemented in recent Web browsers to effectively contain multiple pages or documents in a single window. Includes Quick Tabs, a feature that allows the user to see thumbnail images of tabbed pages. Also called a tabbed document interface (TDI).

Trusted Platform Module (TPM):
A specialized chip that can be installed on the motherboard of a personal computer for the purpose of hardware authentication. The TPM authenticates the computer in question rather than the user. To do so, TPM stores information specific to the host system, such as encryption keys, digital certificates and passwords.


User Account Control:
An administrative feature that offers two modes of user priviledge. In the normal mode, users don't have the administrative level access that has been typical in the past and can't, for example, install unauthorized software or make system changes. In the administrative mode for users, alerts pop up whenever there is an attempt to install a program or make a system change, requiring the user to click either "Cancel" or "Continue."


virtual folders:
Database queries that are, essentially, saved searches in the format of XML files. One type of virtual folder is created by the system. One example of a system-created virtual folder is All Documents, which contains all the documents on that computer at any given time. Users can also create their own virtual folders and save them as they would regular folders. When users specify criteria to search for files in Windows Search Engine, that search is saved as a virtual folder.

The most recent of Microsoft's Windows desktop operating systems, code named Longhorn in development. Vista was released for businesses, the holders of most volume licenses, on November 30, 2006. Bill Gates hosted the worldwide launch of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 in Times Square on January 29, 2007. Vista ships in nine different versions that fall under the main categories of home edition and business edition.

Vista Business:
A version that offers more business-related functions than either Home versions, such as automatic file backup and business networking connectivity but lacks some of the entertainment options of Home Premium, such as the Windows Media Center.

Vista Home Basic:
A bare-bones version of the OS. This version supports standard computing tasks such as word-processing, e-mail and Web surfing but lacks many features of higher-end configurations, such as Aero Glass interface, Encrypting File System, scheduled back-up and recovery, hard drive encryption and Windows Media Center.

Vista Home Premium:
A version that supports more multimedia and entertainment options than the basic package and provides mobile computing capabilities.

Vista Starter:
A 32-bit version of the system that will not be offered retail but only available as an installation on new computers in a limited number of countries.

Vista Ultimate:
A version geared towards SOHO (small office and home office) users that combines all the business and entertainment options of Home Premium and Business versions.


Windows CardSpace:
.Net 3.0 identity management component. End users digital files of user-specific information, like a work phone number, e-mail address or snail mail address and can create multiple profiles for different applications. Formerly known as "InfoCard."

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF):

.Net 3.0 programming model for using managed code to build unified Web services and other distributed systems that can talk to each other. Formerly known as "Indigo."

Windows Defender: the Vista anti-spyware application. There are three scan options: Quick Scan searches only the locations where spyware is most likely to be found; Full System Scan searches all files and running programs; Custom Scan searches user-specified locations. Defender can be scheduled to run at a user-defined time. Alerts warn the user if an installation of suspected spyware is attempted or if changes are made to some system settings.

Windows DVD Maker:
An application that allows users to create their own DVD movies.

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA):
A program that investigates Windows-based computers to be sure that their copy of the Windows operating system (OS) is legitimate. The system checks the OS version, the product key, the license key, the hard disk serial number and other information about the hardware and software in the computer.

Windows Media Center:
A multimedia entertainment application for managing and playing audio and video content. It has digital video recorder (DVR) capacity for computers with television tuner cards. The Media Center is available on the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista.

Windows Meeting Space:
A collaborative network space in which up to 10 work group members can share files and programs. Meeting Space is based on a peer-to-peer model and replaces NetMeeting.

Windows Mobility Center:
An interface for configuring mobile connections, accessible through the control panel in all retail versions of Vista except for Home Basic.

Windows Photo Gallery:
Vista's digital image and video management application. Photo gallery includes an image editing component.

Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows P.E.) 2.0:
A new graphics-based interface for Vista set-up that replaces the text-based interface of earlier versions.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF):
.Net 3.0 development tool for Web applications and rich client applications. Formerly known as "Avalon."

Windows Service Hardening:
A security feature that restricts the activities of services to control the amount of damage in the event that they are compromised.

Windows Workflow Foundation:
.Net 3.0 programming model for building workflow-enabled applications in Windows.

The former name for .Net 3.0.




This was last updated in November 2008

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