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Windows XP performance tweaks

Discussion in 'Windows - General discussion' started by krj15489, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. krj15489

    krj15489 Regular member

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    Since the thread windows XP manual tweaks was edited i thought i would post this. The other guide should be unstickied and replaced with this.

    XP Tweaks

    Index of Contents
    CODE | Title
    [x001] Increasing Internet Bandwidth (a.k.a. Speed)
    [x002] Speeding up Local Hard disk browsing
    [x003] Disable Indexing Services
    [x004] Optimise Display Settings
    [x005] Disable Performance Counters
    [x006] Improve Memory Usage
    [x007] Optimise your Internet connection
    [x008] Optimise Your Pagefile
    [x009] Run BootVis - Improve Boot Times
    [x010] Remove the Desktop Picture
    [x011] Remove Fonts for Speed
    [x012] Remake a Cracked version of Windows XP into a genuine version
    [x013] Automatically end non-responding programs during shutdown
    [x014] Creating a shortcut for Instant Shutdown, Reboot and Logoff
    [x016] Prevent yourself from viewing a changed IE homepage
    [x017] Cleaning the Prefetch Directory
    [x018] Getting rid of the 'Unread Email Messages' message
    [x019] Keeping the Windows XP Core in the RAM
    [x020] Clearing the paging file at shutdown
    [x021] Disabling services that are not needed
    [x022] Deleting a 'locked' file
    [x023] Increasing the Folder Settings Cache
    [x024] Hiding the Last User Logged On
    [x025] Speeding Up the Display of Start Menu Items by turning off the Menu Shadows
    [x026] Rename the Recycle Bin to your liking
    [x027] Prevent baloon tips from being displayed
    [x028] Prevent the arrow being displayed on shortcut icons
    [x029] Getting past the 'Open With...' window bug
    [x030] Repair a damaged .exe file association
    [x031] Turn off the Windows XP Sounds to speed things up
    [x032] Become a Power User to increase security
    [x033] Disable the 'Last Access Date' Timestamp on NTFS drives to improve performance
    [x034] Prevent the Windows XP 'Boot Screen' from being displayed


    Please read each tweak completely before using it on your system.


    [x001] Increasing Internet Bandwidth:
    Windows XP Home and Pro reserves 20% of Internet bandwidth for QoS (Quality of service). This is unnecessary, and can be disabled as follows:
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type gpedit.msc and click OK
    - In the left hand tree view, navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Network -> QoS Packet Scheduler
    - On the right, double click 'Limit reservable bandwidth'
    - Select 'Enabled'
    - Change the 'Bandwidth Limit' value to 0 (zero) and click OK


    [x002] Speeding up Local Hard disk browsing:
    Windows XP searches for network files and printers EACH time you open a folder. This can slow down local browsing, especially on older configurations. This can be turned off :
    - Open Windows Explorer,
    - Go to Tools -> Folder Options
    - Click the 'View' tab
    - Look for a checkbox labelled 'Automatically search for network folders and printers' and make sure it's UNCHECKED.
    - If not, uncheck it and click OK.


    [x003] Disable Indexing Services
    Indexing Services is a small little program that uses large amounts of RAM and can often make a computer endlessly loud and noisy. This system process indexes and updates lists of all the files that are on your computer. It does this so that when you do a search for something on your computer, it will search faster by scanning the index lists. If you don't search your computer often, or even if you do search often, this system service is completely unnecessary. To disable do the following:
    - Go to Start
    - Click Settings
    - Click Control Panel
    - Double-click Add/Remove Programs
    - Click the Add/Remove Window Components
    - Uncheck the Indexing services
    - Click Next
    The above method should work, but for some reason if it dosen't, try this
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'services.msc' (without the quotes)
    - Click OK
    - In the list that appears on the right hand side, look for an entry called 'Indexing Service'
    - Double click it.
    - In the window that appears, under 'Startup type', select 'Disabled' from the drop-down menu.
    - Under 'Service Status', click the button labelled 'Stop'
    - Click 'OK' or 'Apply' below.


    [x004] Optimise Display Settings
    Windows XP can look good but displaying all the visual items can waste system resources. To optimise:
    1. Go to Start
    2. Click Settings
    3. Click Control Panel
    4. Click System
    5. Click Advanced tab
    6. In the Performance tab click Settings
    7. Leave only the following ticked:
    - Show shadows under menus
    - Show shadows under mouse pointer
    - Show translucent selection rectangle
    - Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop
    - Use visual styles on windows and buttons


    [x005] Disable Performance Counters
    Windows XP has a performance monitor utility which monitors several areas of your PC's performance. These utilities take up system resources so disabling is a good idea. To disable:
    1. Download and install the Extensible Performance Counter List
    2. Go to Start -> Run
    3. Type "%Program Files%\Resource Kit\exctrlst.exe" (without quotes), and click OK
    4. Select each counter in turn in the 'Extensible performance counters' window and clear the 'performance counters enabled' checkbox at the bottom button below.
    5. Close the window.
    EDIT: Download link for this: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/detai...AB-793193604BA4
    EDIT 2: Added a few steps to add detail.


    [x006] Improve Memory Usage
    Cacheman Improves the performance of your computer by optimizing the disk cache, memory and a number of other settings.
    Once Installed:
    1. Go to Show Wizard and select All
    2. Run all the wizards by selecting Next or Finished until you are back to the main menu. Use the defaults unless you know exactly what you are doing.
    3.Exit and Save Cacheman
    4.Restart Windows
    EDIT: I personally recommend FreeRAM XP Pro as it auto-balances memory and speed. Found here: http://www.download.com/FreeRAM-XP-Pro/3...j=dl&tag=button


    [x007] Optimise your Internet connection
    There are lots of ways to do this but by far the easiest is to run TCP/IP Optimizer.
    1. Download and install
    2. Click the General Settings tab and select your Connection Speed (Kbps)
    3. Click Network Adapter and choose the interface you use to connect to the Internet
    4. Check Optimal Settings then Apply
    5. Reboot
    EDIT: TCP/IP Optimizer found here: http://www.download.com/SG-TCP-Optimizer...4-10415840.html


    [x008] Optimise Your Pagefile
    If you give your pagefile a fixed size it saves the operating system from needing to resize the page file.
    1. Right click on My Computer and select Properties
    2. Select the Advanced tab
    3. Under Performance choose the Settings button
    4. Select the Advanced tab again and under Virtual Memory select Change
    5. Highlight the drive containing your page file and make the initial Size of the file the same as the Maximum Size of the file.
    Windows XP sizes the page file to about 1.5X the amount of actual physical memory by default. While this is good for systems with smaller amounts of memory (under 512MB) it is unlikely that a typical XP desktop system will ever need 1.5 X 512MB or more of virtual memory. If you have less than 512MB of memory, leave the page file at its default size. If you have 512MB or more, change the ratio to 1:1 page file size to physical memory size.


    [x009] Run BootVis - Improve Boot Times
    BootVis will significantly improve boot times
    1. Download and Run
    2. Select Trace
    3. Select Next Boot and Driver Trace
    4. A Trace Repetitions screen will appear, select OK and Reboot
    5. Upon reboot, BootVis will automatically start, analyze and log your system's boot process. When it's done, in the menu go to Trace and select Optimize System
    6. Reboot.
    7. When your machine has rebooted, wait until you see the Optimizing System box appear. Be patient and wait for the process to complete
    Bootvis can be found here: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/System-Tweak/BootVis.shtml


    [x010] Remove the Desktop Picture
    Your desktop background consumes a fair amount of memory and can slow the loading time of your system. Removing it will improve performance.
    1. Right click on Desktop and select Properties
    2. Select the Desktop tab
    3. In the Background window select None
    4. Click OK


    [x011] Remove Fonts for Speed
    Note: Removing certain system fonts can cause problems with Windows XP and other programs.
    Fonts, especially TrueType fonts, use quite a bit of system resources. For optimal performance, trim your fonts down to just those that you need to use on a daily basis and fonts that applications may require.
    1. Open Control Panel
    2. Open Fonts folder
    3. Move fonts you don't need to a temporary directory just in case you need or want to bring a few of them back. The more fonts you uninstall, the more system resources you will gain.


    [x012] Remake a Cracked version of Windows XP into a genuine version.
    NOTE: This procedure is legal, and will require a legitimate Product Key. This is in no way a 'crack'.
    This is for those of you who have (accidentally?) replaced the WGA or WPA files with cracked versions, and are being warned with a 'not Genuine' balloon, or are unable to use Microsoft Update. Of course you can reinstall windows to get rid of it, but this is a faster, easier and equally effective way of doing it.
    - Download and Run the Windows Product Key Update Tool from the Microsoft site: http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/selfhelp/PKUInstructions.aspx
    - Follow the wizard. It will identify some files as 'not genuine'. Maybe it scans the PID's, I don't know.
    - You will be asked for your Product Key. Enter the product key that is displayed on your COA (Certificate of Authenticity) label which came with Windows XP, or your computer. It will be usually located on the side of your CPU.
    - Connect to the Internet if possible, and continue the wizard. It will replace the cracked files with the original ones, and once that's completed, it will attempt to automatically activate the key with Microsoft. If for some reason it cannot, especially if you aren't connected to the net, it will ask you to manually run the Activation Wizard.
    - Restart if it asks you to, then run the activation wizard. If you don't know how to, go to Start -> Run. Type
    %SYSTEMROOT%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /A
    - Click OK and follow the instructions that appear.

    [x013] Automatically end non-responding programs during shutdown

    Originally posted by TLab404 on "http://v2.tlab404.com/articles/detail.asp?iFaq=278&iType=14":
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This Registry edit can cause your machine to automatically end any task that doesn't respond immediately to a shutdown command. Use this setting at your own risk, and preferably after testing to ensure that there are no adverse affects on your applications. Since this is similar to using the Task Manager to end tasks, the same risk to application data applies.

    Hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
    Name: AutoEndTasks
    Data Type: REG_SZ (STRING VALUE)
    Value: 1

    The default value for this entry is 0 (zero), which means the OS will not automatically end tasks that do not respond immediately to a shutdown command. In other words, the OS will wait the length of the timeout period. Use caution and frequent backups when editing the Registry.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    EDIT: Let me clarify the above topic. The registry can be dangerous, but not always. If you are really unsure how to manually edit the registry, please don't attempt to do so. Instead, copy and paste the following quoted text into notepad, and then save it with the name xxxxx.REG
    (name can be anything, but last three letters have to be .REG [DOT][R][E][G])

    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\]
    "AutoEndTasks"="1"
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The above one will have effect on the currently logged in user only. For all the user accounts on your computer, use this one:
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_Users\.Default\Control Panel\Desktop]
    "AutoEndTasks"="1"
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Then locate the file you saved, and double-click it. Click YES if you are asked for a confirmation, then click OK.
    To reverse this process, after pasting any one of the above quotes in notepad, in the last line, change "1" to "0" (ZERO) , save it and run it.
    BTW: Please save any unsaved work before shutting down your PC with this feature. As mentioned above, enabling this feature will not ask you about a program which is not responding, it will simply close it, causing you to lose any unsaved work.
    EDIT 2: Added the registry entry file for all the users.
    Thanks to Morph416 for suggesting the method for All users


    [x014] Creating a shortcut for Instant Shutdown, Reboot and Logoff
    This can be used INSTEAD of the above feature. It's useful when you won't ALWAYS want to force a shutdown.
    - Right click on an empty area of your desktop, then go to New -> Shortcut.
    - Now in the following box, type one of the following, depending on what you want the shortcut to do:
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Normal Shutdown: shutdown -s -t 00
    FORCE Shutdown: shutdown -f -s -t 00
    Normal Reboot: shutdown -r -t 00
    FORCE Reboot: shutdown -f -r -t 00
    Normal Logoff: logoff -l -t 00
    FORCE Logoff: logoff -f -l -t 00

    Details:
    'shutdown': The command to shutdown or reboot, works only with parameters.
    'logoff': The command to logoff the current user, works only with parameters.
    '-s': Parameter to Shutdown
    '-r': Parameter to Reboot
    '-l': Parameter to Logoff
    '-f': Parameter to force one of the above actions.
    '-t 00': Parameter to perform the action in 00 (Zero) seconds.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    - Click Next
    - Type a name of your choice for the shortcut
    - Click Finish

    Now when you wish to use the shortcut, just double click it like any other icon. Hope you didn't name it 'My Computer'..... ;-)


    [x015] Speeding up the opening of the 'Search...' box
    If you use the Search function of Windows XP, you may have noticed that it takes a longer time to open up in comparison with the older versions of windows. This is because of the useless 'Animated Screen Character' (a puppy in most cases) which takes time to load. Although it may look nice, it does slow down the opening of this window. To disable it,
    - Open the Search box from Start -> Search
    - Click 'Change Preferences' in the left column.
    - Click 'Without an animated screen character' on the top of the green coloured arrow list.
    - Watch the character disappear ;-)
    - In case you miss it later, just enable it again. To do so, go to 'Change Preferences' as before, and this time, click 'With an animated screen character'


    [x016] Prevent yourself from viewing a changed IE homepage
    Some websites modify your registry without your information or permission and set their website as default home page. This method
    simply explains how to prevent you from viewing that page each time you open Internet Explorer. Lets assume that you want to view www.afterdawn.com as your homepage
    - Right-click on the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop and select "Properties"
    - In the "Target" box you will see something like
    "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe"
    - After the last quote symbol, add a space, then enter www.afterdawn.com
    It should look something like this:
    "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" www.afterdawn.com
    - Click OK.
    Now whenever you use the above icon to open IE, the homepage will be shown as www.afterdawn.com


    [x017] Cleaning the Prefetch Directory
    Windows XP has a new feature called the Prefetcher. This keeps a sort of 'cache' of recently used programs so that they start faster the next time they are used. Sometimes it makes sense to clear the prefetcher as it can fill up with the cache of old and obsolete programs. To create a 'program' to clean it, do the following:
    - Open notepad ("Start -> Run -> notepad -> OK" if you did not know)
    - Copy the following quoted text:
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    @echo off
    cd %windir%\prefetch
    del *.*
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    - Save this file with the extension BAT (The filename should be something like filename.bat
    Last 4 letters should be .BAT [DOT]-B-A-T
    - Now run this file. You should be prompted with something like this:
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch\*.*, Are you sure (Y/N)?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Just press the 'Y' key on your keyboard, and then press Enter.
    - If for some reason, you change your mind and donot wish to clear the prefetcher, Hold [Ctrl] and press [C]. If it asks you to terminate the batch file, Press Y and then Enter.


    [x018] Getting rid of the 'Unread Email Messages' message
    If you have associated an email account with your Windows XP account, on the login screen, you will get a message saying 'x Unread Messages' Not only can others read this, but they can also click the message to see your email ID! If you don't want this to happen, do this:
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type regedit and press enter
    - For a single user, navigate to
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\UnreadMail
    - For all users, navigate to
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\UnreadMail
    - Right click on the white area on the right side, and go to New -> DWORD Value.
    - Name it 'MessageExpiryDays' (without the quotes)
    - Double click it, and give it a value of 0
    - You may need to logoff or restart for the changes to take effect.


    [x019] Keeping the Windows XP Core in the RAM
    If you have 512 MB or more of RAM, you can increase system performance by having the Windows XP 'Core' kept in the RAM instead of paged on the hard disk.
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type regedit and press enter
    - On the left hand side tree, navigate to
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\
    - On the list on the right side, look for an entry called 'DisablePagingExecutive'
    - Double click it
    - Press 1 on your keyboard
    - Click OK
    - Exit regedit and reboot the computer


    [x020] Clearing the paging file at shutdown.
    Simply put, the paging file is a slower substitute for RAM. It is used by Windows XP when there is no free RAM available. It can store vital data and maybe a privacy concern for some users. To delete the pagefile at shutdown,
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type regedit and press enter
    - On the left hand side tree, navigate to
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\
    - On the list on the right side, look for an entry called 'ClearPageFileAtShutdown'
    - Double click it, type 1
    - Click OK
    - Exit regedit and reboot the computer
    NOTE: Using this will noticeably slow down your shutdown speed. I don't suggest using it unless privacy is a concern for you.


    [x021] Disabling services that are not needed
    Windows XP has a few 'services' (programs, actually) which you can prevent from starting automatically. This way, you will be freeing up system resources. To disable services,
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'services.msc' (without the quotes)and press enter
    - Look at the description of each service.
    - To stop a service from starting automatically, double click it, then look for 'Startup Type' and make sure it is set to 'Manual'. If not, set it to that, and click OK. This way, that particular service will start only when it is needed be some other program.
    - To DISABLE a service completely, double click it, then look for 'Startup Type' and make sure it is set to 'Disabled'. If not, set it to that, and click OK. This way, that particular service will not start, even if a program requests it. Please note that any program which entirely depends on that service to run may not start. It's safer to use the previous step.
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some common unnecessary services are:

    Alerter - Sends alert messages to specified users that are connected to the server computer.
    Application Management - Allows software to tap directly into the Add/Remove Programs feature via the Windows Installer technology.
    Background Intelligent Transfer Service - The Background Intelligent Transfer service is used by programs (such as Windows AutoUpdate) to download files by using spare bandwidth.
    Clipbook - ClipBook permits you to cut and paste text and graphics over the network.
    Error Reporting Service - Allows applications to send error reports to Microsoft in the event of an application fault.
    Fast User Switching - Windows XP allows users to switch quickly between accounts, without requiring them to log off.
    Help and Support - Allows the XP Built-in Help and Support Center to run.
    IMAPI CD-Burning COM Service - You don't need this if you have other software to create CDs.
    Indexing Service - Indexes contents and properties of files on local and remote computers; provides rapid access to files through flexible querying language.
    IP SEC - Manages IP security policy and starts the ISAKMP/Oakley (IKE) and the IP security driver. If you are not on a domain, you likely don't need this running.
    Messenger - Transmits net send and Alerter service messages between clients and servers. This is how a lot of pop-up windows start appearing on your desktop.
    Net Logon - Supports pass-through authentication of account logon events for computers in a domain. If you are not on a domain, you don't need this running
    Network DDE - Provides network transport and security for Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) for programs running on the same computer or on different computers.
    NT LM Security Support Provider - Provides security to remote procedure call (RPC) programs that use transports other than named pipes.
    Performance Logs and Alerts - Collects performance data from local or remote computers based on preconfigured schedule parameters, then writes the data to a log or triggers an alert. If you don't need to monitor your performance logs, then you don't need this service.
    Portable Media Serial Number - Retrieves the serial number of any portable music player connected to your computer
    QOS RSVP - Provides network signaling and local traffic control setup functionality for QoS-aware programs and control applets.
    Remote Desktop Help Session Manager - Manages and controls Remote Assistance. If you are not using Remote Desktop you don't need this service.
    Remote Registry - Enables remote users to modify registry settings on this computer.
    Routing & Remote Access - Offers routing services to businesses in local area and wide area network environments. Allows dial-in access.
    Secondary Login - Enables starting processes under alternate credentials. This is what allows you to run an application as another user.
    Smart Card - Manages access to smart cards read by this computer.
    Smart Card Helper - Enables support for legacy non-plug and play smart-card readers used by this computer.
    SSDP Discovery Service - Enables discovery of UPnP devices on your home network.
    TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper - Enables support for NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT) service and NetBIOS name resolution. This should not be needed in today's network environment.
    Telnet - Enables a remote user to log on to this computer and run programs, and supports various TCP/IP Telnet clients.
    Uninterruptible Power Supply Service - Manages an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) connected to the computer.
    Universal Plug and Play Device Host - Provides support to host Universal Plug and Play devices
    Upload Manager - Manages synchronous and asynchronous file transfers between clients and servers on the network.
    Volume Shadow Copy Service - Manages and implements Volume Shadow Copies used for backup and other purposes.
    Web Client - Enables Windows-based programs to create, access, and modify non-local files across the Internet.
    Wireless Zero Configuration - Provides automatic configuration for the 802.11 adapters
    WMI Performance Adapter - Provides performance library information from WMI HiPerf providers.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Please read the description of each service before altering it's startup.


    [x022] Deleting a 'locked' file
    Windows can sometimes 'lock' files while using them, to ensure that no other programs alter them during that time. But sometimes the files stay locked forever (literally). So it becomes difficult to use, rename, move, copy or delete these files. There is another manual method to unlock these files, the following one is much easier. We will be using a program called 'Unlocker'
    Download and install it from here:
    http://ccollomb.free.fr/unlocker/
    During installation, on the 'Choose Components' screen, here's what the options mean:

    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Check for Updates: Causes the prog to check for updates on every launch and notify you once of every new update.
    Explorer Extension: Adds an entry to unlock to the context menu in explorer.
    Assistant: Runs an unlocking assistant in the system tray, so that whenever a user tries to alter a locked file, the assistant automatically gives you the option of unlocking it.
    SendTo Shortcut: Adds the 'unlocker' entry to the Send To context menu in Explorer.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    - To delete a locked file or folder, right click it, choose 'Unlocker' or 'Send to' -> 'Unlocker'(depends on what you chose to install), and if unlocker finds any programs locking that file or folder, it will display a list of the programs that are locking that file. Hit the 'Unlock' button and have fun!
    To use the options in the lower left corner of this unlocking window, select an option, and after that choose 'Unlock' or 'Unlock all'


    [x023] Increasing the Folder Settings Cache
    Windows XP stores various settings for individual folders in it's 'cache'. But it stores only 400 folders by default. If you exlpore folders very often, you can increase it in the following way:
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'regedit'(without the quotes)
    - Click OK
    - On the left hand side tree, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell
    - On the list on the right side, look for an entry called 'BagMRU Size'
    - Double click it, make sure the 'Decimal' radio button is selected
    - Now type the number of folders you wish to be cached by XP in 'Value Data', and click OK
    - Again, on the left hand tree, navigate to
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam
    - On the list on the right side, look for an entry called 'BagMRU Size'
    - Double click it, make sure the 'Decimal' radio button is selected
    - Now type the SAME value as you did in the previous step, and click OK


    [x024] Hiding the Last User Logged On
    If you use the standard NT style logon, you must have noticed that the name of the user who had logged in before you is displayed. If you don't like that,
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'gpedit.msc' (without the quotes)
    - Click OK
    - In the left hand tree, navigate to Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Options
    - In the list that appears on the right, scroll down to 'Interactive logon: Do not display last user name'
    - Double click it
    - Click 'Enable', and then OK
    If you'd like to revert this later on, follow the above steps again, and select 'Disable' at the end.


    [x025] Speeding Up the Display of Start Menu Items by turning off the Menu Shadows
    An easy way to speed up the display of the Start Menu Items is to turn off the shadows that appear under it's menus.
    To do it:
    - Right click on an open area of the Desktop
    - Select Properties
    - Click on the Appearance tab
    - Click on the Effects button
    - Uncheck Show shadows under menus
    - Click OK in both the windows
    EDIT: ALthough this tweak will work, it will disable shadows in ALL the menus throughout the OS


    [x026] Rename the Recycle Bin to your liking
    Firstly, you will need to make Windows allow you rename the recycle bin.
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'regedit' (without the quotes) and click OK
    - In the left hand tree, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\
    - Look for {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} and double click it.
    - Click on 'ShellFolder'
    - On the right hand side, double click 'Attributes'
    - Highlight the entire alpha-numeric coded that appears over there and delete it.
    - If you use Windows XP, type '70 01 00 20'
    - If you use any other version of windows, type '50 01 00 20'
    - Click OK
    Now, to rename it, do one of the following
    - Right click on the recycle bin, click rename and key in the name you want to be seen.
    - Select the recycle bin (normally by single ckicking it), and press the 'F2' key. Then type the name you want.
    - Right click on the recycle bin and select explore. In explorer, on the left tree, select the recycle bin and rename it as you rename any other file.
    One of these tricks is bound to work. Note that this only changes the display name of the recycle bin, and does not affect it's functionality in any way.
    Thanks to tEChniiQue for the idea and Google for the in depth method.


    [x027] Prevent balloon tips from being displayed
    Windows XP has a new way of telling you about itself. It's called 'balloon tipping', and it is the yellow popup message box that you see at the bottom right corner of your screen.
    Most of that information is unnecessary, and can be prevented from being displayed. Just copy and paste the following quoted text into notepad, and then save it with the name xxxxx.REG
    (name can be anything, but last three letters have to be .REG [DOT][R][E][G]
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
    "EnableBalloonTips"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
    "FolderContentsInfoTip"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\tips]
    "Show"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
    "StartButtonBalloonTip"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]
    "ShowInfoTip"=dword:00000000

    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer]
    "NoSMBalloonTip"=dword:00000000
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Then locate the file you saved, and double-click it. Click YES if you are asked for a confirmation, then click OK.
    To reverse this process, after pasting the above text, replace all the entries that say 'dword:00000000' with 'dword:00000001' (simply use the 'Replace' function in notepad), then save and use the file as described above.


    [x028] Prevent the arrow from being displayed on shortcut icons
    If you don't like the arrow that is displayed with every shortcut icon, you can remove it in the following way:
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type REGEDIT and click OK
    - On the left hand tree, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Lnkfile
    - Among the icons that appear on the right, look for one called 'IsShortcut'
    - Right click it and select delete.
    - Again, on the left hand tree, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\piffile
    - On the right side, look for 'IsShortcut' and delete it in the similar way you did before.
    To remove the shortcut arrows for online shortcuts as well,
    - On the left hand tree, navigate to the following keys one by one:
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ConferenceLink
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DocShortCut
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\InternetShortcut
    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\WSHFile
    - Delete the 'IsShortcut' entry that appears on the right side of each of the above keys.
    You will need to logoff for the change to take effect.
    Later, if you would like the arrow back on your shortcut icons,
    - Navigate to the six keys displayed above one by one, and on the right hand side, in the empty space, right click, and select New -> String Value.
    - Type the name as 'IsShortcut' (without quotes), and press enter.
    Again, you will need to logoff for the change to take effect.


    [x029] Getting past the 'Open With...' window bug
    Some of you may have noticed a small bug in the 'Open With' window. Say, you recently opened an MP3 file with a player with an executable named 'mp3player.exe'. Windows automatically adds the entry 'mp3player.exe', with the information of it's full path (i.e. folder) to the registry. Now, if you move this executable to some other folder without changing it's name, and then try to add it in the 'Open With...' window, it will refuse to do so. That is because windows has already associated that particular filename and the name of the window of the EXE file together. You could always change the name after moving it, but if you do this frequently, you can delete the existing path information, so that windows will accept the new path. Here's how to do it:
    (in this example, we will assume that that the name of the executable is 'mp3player.exe')
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'regedit', and click OK
    - On the left hand tree, navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\mp3player.exe
    - Right click on it (mp3player.exe), and select 'Delete'
    - If you are asked for a confirmation, select Yes
    - You should be able to add the new path to the 'Open With...' dialog now.
    Note: You will need to do this each time you move the file without changing it's name.


    [x030] Repair a damaged .exe file association
    If you cannot open any EXE file on your computer, there is a chance that the 'association' information in the registry might be damaged. Windows associates every file to open with an executable (EXE). But if the EXE association itself it damaged, you may not be able to open any document on your PC. There is a way to fix this.
    Since this will be too tiresome to do manually, you can automate it. Simply copy and paste the entire following quoted text into notepad, and then save it with the name xxxxx.REG
    (name can be anything, but last three letters have to be .REG [DOT][R][E][G])
    Quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.exe]
    @="exefile"
    "Content Type"="application/x-msdownload"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.exe\PersistentHandler]
    @="{098f2470-bae0-11cd-b579-08002b30bfeb}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile]
    @="Application"
    "EditFlags"=hex:38,07,00,00
    "TileInfo"="prop:FileDescription;Company;FileVersion"
    "InfoTip"="prop:FileDescription;Company;FileVersion;Create;Size"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\DefaultIcon]
    @="%1"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\open]
    "EditFlags"=hex:00,00,00,00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\open\command]
    @="\"%1\" %*"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\runas]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shell\runas\command]
    @="\"%1\" %*"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\DropHandler]
    @="{86C86720-42A0-1069-A2E8-08002B30309D}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers\PEAnalyser]
    @="{09A63660-16F9-11d0-B1DF-004F56001CA7}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers\PifProps]
    @="{86F19A00-42A0-1069-A2E9-08002B30309D}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\exefile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers\ShimLayer Property Page]
    @="{513D916F-2A8E-4F51-AEAB-0CBC76FB1AF8}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile]
    @="Registration Entries"
    "EditFlags"=dword:00100000
    "BrowserFlags"=dword:00000008

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\DefaultIcon]
    @=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,6f,00,74,00,25,\
    00,5c,00,72,00,65,00,67,00,65,00,64,00,69,00,74,00,2e,00,65,00,78,00,65,00,\
    2c,00,31,00,00,00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell]
    @="open"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\edit]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\edit\command]
    @=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,6f,00,74,00,25,\
    00,5c,00,73,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,33,00,32,00,5c,00,4e,00,4f,00,\
    54,00,45,00,50,00,41,00,44,00,2e,00,45,00,58,00,45,00,20,00,25,00,31,00,00,\
    00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\open]
    @="Mer&ge"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\open\command]
    @="regedit.exe \"%1\""

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\print]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\regfile\shell\print\command]
    @=hex(2):25,00,53,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,52,00,6f,00,6f,00,74,00,25,\
    00,5c,00,73,00,79,00,73,00,74,00,65,00,6d,00,33,00,32,00,5c,00,4e,00,4f,00,\
    54,00,45,00,50,00,41,00,44,00,2e,00,45,00,58,00,45,00,20,00,2f,00,70,00,20,\
    00,25,00,31,00,00,00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk]
    @="lnkfile"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellEx]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellEx\{000214EE-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellEx\{000214F9-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellEx\{00021500-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellEx\{BB2E617C-0920-11d1-9A0B-00C04FC2D6C1}]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.lnk\ShellNew]
    "Command"="rundll32.exe appwiz.cpl,NewLinkHere %1"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile]
    @="Shortcut"
    "EditFlags"=dword:00000001
    "IsShortcut"=""
    "NeverShowExt"=""

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\CLSID]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\Offline Files]
    @="{750fdf0e-2a26-11d1-a3ea-080036587f03}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\DropHandler]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\IconHandler]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\lnkfile\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers\ShimLayer Property Page]
    @="{513D916F-2A8E-4F51-AEAB-0CBC76FB1AF8}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}]
    @="Shortcut"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\InProcServer32]
    @="shell32.dll"
    "ThreadingModel"="Apartment"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\PersistentAddinsRegistered]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\PersistentAddinsRegistered\{89BCB740-6119-101A-BCB7-00DD010655AF}]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\PersistentHandler]
    @="{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\ProgID]
    @="lnkfile"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\shellex]

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{00021401-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}\shellex\MayChangeDefaultMenu]
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Then locate the file you saved, and double-click it. Click YES if you are asked for a confirmation, then click OK. Restart your computer if needed.
    In most cases, this trick will solve your problem. But if it won't, you may need to contact your system administrator in order to perform a 'Repair Install' or similar.


    [x031] Turn off the Windows XP Sounds to speed things up
    The sounds that you hear when you navigate, logoff, logon etc. consume some system recources while they are being played, hence they may tend to slow things down. To turn all of them off,
    - Click Start
    - Click Control Panel
    - Make sure that you're in 'Classic View' not 'Category View', otherwise switch to it from the left hand side pane
    - Double click 'Sounds and Audio Devices'
    - Click the 'Sounds' tab at the top
    - Under 'Sound scheme', select 'No Sounds'. If it asks you to save the current scheme before proceeding, click NO, as that's already saved by windows.
    - Click OK or Apply at the bottom
    To enable the sounds again, just select 'Windows Default' under the 'Sound scheme' dropdown box. That will restore the default Windows XP sounds.


    [x032] Become a Power User to increase security
    Working logged onto Windows as a power user, rather than an administrator, can be safer when it comes to system security. To change your current administrator account into a power user account,
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'lusrmgr.msc' (without the quotes)
    - Click OK
    - On the left hand tree, click 'Groups'
    - Now, on the right hand list, double click 'Administrators'.
    - In the new windows that appears, under 'Members, make sure there is an administrative user other than your user name that you can use for full administrative privileges.
    - From the list, select the user account that is going to be a power user, and click 'Remove'
    - Click OK below.
    - Now double click 'Power Users' in the list (where you select 'Administrators' before), click 'Add' below, and type the account's name that you just removed from the Administrators group.
    - Click OK after that
    - Click OK again, in the 'Power Users' main window
    To convert back to an Administrator, in the similar way as above, remove your account name, but this time from the 'Power Users' list, and add it to the 'Administrators' list.
    NOTE: Power users do not always have to log out ans switch to an Administrator account in order to perform tasks that only an administrative user can.
    - Hold down the shift key and right click on a program's EXE (executable) file or shortcut.
    - Click 'Run As', and select 'Run the program as the following user' or 'The following user'.
    - Enter the username and password(if any) of an administrator user account, and click OK.


    [x033] Disable the 'Last Access Date' Timestamp on NTFS drives to improve performance
    Every time a folder on an NTFS drive is accessed, the timestamp of the date of access is updated on that directory and all its subdirectories. On systems with a lot of subdirectories, this can bog down the system considerably by adding this to whatever else the machine happens to be doing. To disable this feature,
    - Click Start
    - Type 'regedit' (without quotes) and click OK
    - On the left hand tree, navigate to this particular key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem
    - On the right hand side, look for an entry called 'NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate'. If it dosen't exist, right click on the empty space in the right side, select New -> DWORD Value, and type the above name.
    - Double click it
    - Under 'Value Data', type '1' (without the quotes), and click OK.
    NOTE: This applies to NTFS drives only. To check as to what you have, in 'My Computer', right click each drive, select 'Properties', and look what it says for 'File System'. If it says NTFS, you are fine with this tweak, otherwise it won't have any effect on your computer.


    [x034] Prevent the Windows XP 'Boot Screen' from being displayed
    When windows starts up, it displays the 'Windows XP' logo for a while (called the Boot Screen). It consumes some recources, and can noticeably slow down the boot process on an older configuration. If you don't want it to appear, you can disable it.
    - Go to Start -> Run
    - Type 'msconfig.exe'(without the quotes)
    - Click OK
    - A window named 'System Configuration Utility' should appear. In it, click on the tab(on the top) labelled 'BOOT.INI'
    - At the bottom right area of the window, under 'Boot Options', select the check box next to '/NOGUIBOOT'
    - Click OK or Apply and exit the window.
    - If you are prompted to restart, do so if you want to. Irrespective of the choice that you make, the boot screen will not appear once you restart your computer.
    credit goes to Morph416.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    And here is another guide with alot more tweaks. the link to the original is at the bottom if you want to see the table of contents.

    PCstats Performance Tips
    Advertisement

    1. Turn off or reduce system restore to save hard drive space

    Windows XP includes a system restore utility which is capable of rolling your computer back to a pre-defined point in time, removing all changes made to the system since that point. This can be an extremely useful feature for rescuing your PC from viruses or faulty software problems, but it also eats up a large amount of hard drive space.

    By default, system restore reserves a whopping 12% of each logical drive for itself. You can considerably reduce the amount of space system restore uses by cutting back on the number of restore points the utility sets for itself, or you can turn the feature off altogether.

    To adjust system restore settings: Right click on 'my computer' and select 'properties.' Choose the 'system restore' tab.

    To disable system restore, simply check the 'turn off system restore on all drives' box. Otherwise, highlight a drive and click 'settings.' Using the slider, you can set how much space on this drive system restore will use for its restore points. Decreasing this number will limit some of your flexibility in restoring your system should it be necessary, but reducing the amount down to about 5% or less should still be safe enough for anyone with a 80GB hard drive. Click ok when you decide on the exact amount, or choose 5% if you are unsure.

    2. Altering page files
    The page files are one or more areas of your hard disks that Windows XP reserves as virtual memory. To put it simply, these reserved areas are used to contain any data that may spill over from your main memory.

    Virtual memory is accessed by Windows just like physical memory, but is many times slower, due to the much slower speed of hard drive data transfer as compared to RAM. Windows XP actually uses the Page files continuously, regardless of the amount of free memory on your system, so optimizing these files can have a positive effect on the performance of your computer.

    To optimize the page file(s), there are a few options you can consider.

    Page File Placement:

    3. Clean out the prefetch folder

    Windows XP uses a system called 'prefetch' to organize and preload some of the data necessary for commonly used applications and files. A folder called prefetch is used to store the information the operating system needs to carry out this operation. After several months of use, the prefetch folder may become quite overloaded with older references to software and files that may no longer be in use.

    It's a good idea to manually empty the older files out of the prefetch folder every few months or so. To do this: Navigate to 'c:\windows\prefetch' and delete all .PF files that are older than a week or two.

    4. Set priority for individual programs

    If you regularly multi-task while you are working at your computer, but some of the applications you use require more horsepower than others to work effectively (for example using Adobe Photoshop along with Word or other less demanding programs), you may want to consider setting a custom priority for the high-demand applications.

    Priority is how the operating system determines how to share the processor time among applications. Most applications default to the 'normal' priority, so by setting your high demand application higher, you can increase its performance when multitasking.

    To do this: Load the program you wish to change the priority for and press CTRL+ALT+DEL to bring up the Task Manager. Select the applications tab and highlight your program. Right click the program and select 'go to process.' Now right click on the highlighted process and choose 'set priority.'

    The higher you set the priority above normal, the more CPU time the program will steal from other applications when you are multitasking.

    5. Cleaning up unwanted startup programs

    Many freeware and commercial software programs have a habit of setting themselves up to run automatically upon Windows startup. This can contribute to the gradual decline in startup speed that most Windows XP systems (and windows PCs in general) experience. Also, having programs that you only use selectively, or not at all, load automatically is a waste of system resources that could be better used for other things.

    To top it off, many internet nasties such as spyware programs, viruses and Trojan horses will install themselves into one of the automatic start locations on your system in order to make sure that they are run on startup. So the point is, take a look at what is currently running every time you load your PC, and disable what you don't need or can't identify.

    To do this: The first place you should go is 'start\programs\startup' which is a directory Windows XP uses to launch application shortcuts on boot-up.

    If you remove the shortcuts from this directory, the applications will not load on startup. This directory can also be a repository for various badness such as spyware and virus software, so if there are files here which are not shortcuts and you don't recognize them, you may wish to consider removing them anyways, as Windows will not place critical files in this directory.

    The next location for removing unnecessary startup files is the handy MSCONFIG utility that has been resurrected from the graveyard of Windows 9x especially for XP.

    Go to 'start\run' and type 'msconfig' to access the utility.

    The 'startup' tab in MSCONFIG provides access to several other applications that are started at boot up and are running in the background. By examining their Filenames and directories, you should be able to get a feeling for what is necessary and what is not. Be aware than several viruses and worms have a habit of disguising themselves with authoritative sounding Windows system file names, such as the Win32.spybot.worm present in the above screenshot as MSCONFIG32.EXE. Leave these for now if you are not sure.

    The other method for removing these programs is through the programs themselves, as many applications, for example MSN messenger, contain the option to remove the software from startup.

    6. Defrag your hard drive

    Defragmentation of a hard drive is the act of re-ordering the data on the drive so that each file can be read continuously from the disk. By default, Windows XP will attempt to store any files it needs to write to the hard drive in consecutive clusters (a cluster is the smallest unit of storage space available on a hard drive) on the drive, so that the file can then be read continuously.

    A hard drive which has been frequently used over a long period of time will have developed many fragmented files, files which are scattered over different clusters on the surface of the disk. This can occur because of many factors, for example uninstall programs that leave files behind, system crashes while in the act of writing to the hard drive, regular deletion of files, etc.

    A file becomes fragmented when the portion of consecutive clusters on the disk that Windows begins to write into is not large enough to hold the whole file. The remainder of the file then needs to be written to a different physical area of the disk. This does not have any effect on the operating system's ability to access the files themselves, but it does slow down disk access times (and by extension, any application that depends on disk access) due to the extra time needed to reposition the read heads of the hard drive to access the rest of the fragmented file.

    Windows XP includes a disk defragmentation utility which you can use to re-arrange the files on the drive and eliminate fragmentation. This can have a significant affect on the speed of your computer. To access this utility, go to 'start\programs\accessories\system tools\disk defragmenter.'

    To begin with, you need to analyze your hard disk(s) to see if defragmentation is needed. Select a drive and hit the 'analyze' button. This could take a little while depending on the amount of data on the drive. Whille the system is analyzing, it is best to leave your computer alone or the process may need to restart.

    Once the analysis is finished, you will have a graphical representation of your disk's level of fragmentation. See the pic below for an example of a highly fragmented drive.

    Windows will also inform you if it recommends defragmenting the drive. You must have 15% of the drive free in order to fully defragment it. Anything less will result in only a partial re-ordering of the files. You may need to delete a few things to obtain this free space.

    To defragment the drive, select it and hit the 'defragment' button. Note that depending on the size of the drive and the level of fragmentation, this can take a long time. It's a good thing to leave overnight, since you should not run anything else while doing the defrag either.

    7. Disable unnecessary services

    Windows XP runs many, many services in the background. A lot of these are not actually necessary to the day-to-day operation of your PC, depending of course, on what you use it for. Creating a guide for which services are useful in which situation would unfortunately take up the entire remainder of this article just for itself, so we're not going to go in depth. The simple fact is different people will need different services enabled.

    To judge for yourself which are necessary, right click on 'My computer' and select 'manage.' From the computer management window, expand 'services and applications' then click 'services' to open up the window listing all available services. The ones labeled 'started' are currently running, and the startup type 'automatic' denotes a service which is started by windows each time the operating system loads.

    By highlighting each service, you can see a description of its properties, and make an informed decision on whether you need it or not. To stop a service from running, right click on it and select 'properties,' then stop it and make the startup type 'disabled.' If the description indicates that services which depend on the service you are currently examining will fail if it is disabled, you can go to the 'dependencies' tab to see which services will be affected.

    Good luck, and use common sense. If you don't understand what it does, leave it and move on to the next tip.

    8. Disable the Disk performance counter(s)

    Windows XP contains a built in performance monitor that is constantly examining various areas of your system. This information can be called up using the performance monitor application found in control panel\administrative tools. Of course, most of us have little interest in this sort of performance statistics monitoring, that being more the territory of systems administrators than individual users.

    The thing is, XP is still monitoring away, and some of its observation tools can use a considerable amount of resources. The disk monitoring is an example of this, and it's a good idea to turn the disk monitors off if you are not planning to use the performance monitor application.

    To do this: Go to the command prompt ('start\run' then type 'cmd') and type 'diskperf -N'

    9. Turn Off Windows Indexing service

    The 'Indexing' feature is used to increase the speed of file searches within XP by creating and updating an index of all files on your system. Unfortunately, it also reduces the performance of your system, since it is constantly working in the background.

    To turn it off: Go to Control Panel\Add/Remove Programs\Windows Components. Then uncheck 'Indexing Service.'

    10. Increasing desktop Graphics Performance

    If you are running Windows XP on an older computer, you may find turning of some of the graphical frills that XP uses to render the desktop will improve the 'snappiness' of your computing experience. To see a list of these effects so that you can experiment with the effectiveness of turning them off:

    Right click on 'my computer' and hit 'properties.' Choose the 'advanced' tab. In the performance section, click the 'settings' button.

    A list of the various graphical effects that can be turned off or on is shown. To turn them all off, you can choose the 'adjust for best performance' button. Play around with these settings and see what you think.

    11. Check and set the DMA mode on your drives

    Windows XP occasionally sets IDE hard drives and CD drives to the PIO transfer mode by default, which is slower than the standard DMA (Direct Memory Access) mode used by modern drives. It's worthwhile to check your drive settings to make sure that they are not being slowed down in this manner. To check your drives:

    Right click 'my computer' and select properties, then the 'hardware tab' then the 'device manager' button.

    Expand 'IDE ATA\ATAPI controllers' highlight 'primary IDE channel' and hit the 'properties' button.

    Go to the 'advanced settings' tab, and ensure that the transfer mode is set to 'DMA if available.'

    Repeat the above steps for the secondary IDE channel.

    12. Smooth out your mouse movement

    Assuming you are using a PS/2 mouse, this tip can help give you smoother and more precise mouse control. Good for gaming and for your nerves in general. Studies have shown that smooth mousing reduces fatigue and stress and generally promotes a healthy cheerful glow (your experience may vary).

    On to the tip: Right click on 'my computer' and select properties. Choose the 'hardware' tab, then the 'device manager' button. From the device manager window, find your PS/2 mouse and select 'properties.' In the 'advanced settings' tab, set the 'sample rate' to 200.

    13. Resize screen fonts on the fly in Internet Explorer.

    Here's a simple useful tip that you can use in Internet Explorer. While viewing a web page, hold down CTRL and use the scroll button on your mouse to increase or decrease the size of the fonts on the page. Some websites really like using the small size 1 fonts, and if you're eyes have a hard time reading such small text, this little trick can make previously headache ridden websites much easier to read through.

    14. Mouse Sonar

    Here's a good little tip for users who have trouble locating their mouse pointer on the screen. Windows XP has a nifty little 'mouse sonar' option available, which will cause your mouse pointer to pop-up a little concentric ring around itself to show you where it is.

    Go to 'start\control panel\mouse' choose the 'pointer options' tab and check the 'show location of pointer when I press the control key' box.

    15. Quick back and forward commands in Internet explorer

    Here's a tip that can speed up your web surfing. When viewing a page in Internet Explorer, hold down SHIFT and use the mouse scroll wheel to quickly go forward or back through the pages you have viewed.

    16. Mount a new hard drive as a folder in your C: drive

    Actually, this tip works for any partition of any NTFS formatted drive (except the partition with the Windows system files on it)… Windows XP, like 2000 before it, allows you to 'mount' drives as folders in a pre-existing logical drive. For example, if you had a computer with a 20GB disk formatted into a single partition and volume (drive c:), you could purchase a second drive, partition and format it from disk manager and then instead of giving it its own drive letter, add it to your c: drive as a directory. Any files added to that directory would of course be stored in the new HD.

    This can come in extremely handy, as certain applications (databases come to mind) can grow extremely large, but may not support storing data on a (logically) separate drive.

    As far as Windows is concerned, a drive mounted as a directory is just a directory, so no extra drive letters are involved. This can also cut down on storage confusion for the average user, and it's easy to do, though it can only be done with NTFS formatted partitions, and obviously the boot partition cannot be used this way, though other partitions can be added to the boot partition.

    Also note that shuffling the partition around in this way has no effect on the data stored in it. You can move an NTFS partition from directory to directory, then give it back a drive letter if you choose, while maintaining complete access to the data inside. No reboot is necessary. One other note: If you have installed software on a partition you plan to mount as a directory, it is best to uninstall and reinstall it, since the move may stop the software from working correctly. Windows will warn you about this if you forget my wise words.To mount a partition as a directory: Open disk manager, the right click on the partition you wish to mount as a directory in the graphical partition window (lower pane). Select 'change drive letter and paths…'

    Remove the current option (if any), then click add.

    Choose the 'mount in the following empty NTFS folder,' browse to the desired volume and add a directory for your drive. Click 'ok.' That's it.

    If you wish to return things back to the way they were, simply repeat the procedure, removing the directory location and choosing a drive letter instead. The data on the drive will be unharmed.

    17. Enable clear type

    Windows XP allows you to enable Microsoft's Clear Type font smoothing method. This blends the colours at the edges of type on screen, causing the letters to appear less jagged. While it is primarily intended to increase text quality for users of laptops and desktop PCs with LCD (flat panel) screens, it is worth experimenting with even if you use a traditional CRT.

    Be advised that certain ClearType settings may appear rather blurry on a CRT monitor. If you use an LCD monitor on a laptop or desktop, you should definitely enable Cleartype as the increase in text quality is considerable.

    To activate ClearType: Go to 'control panel\display' and select the 'appearance' tab.

    Click the 'effects' button. Ensure that the 'use the following method to smooth the edges of screen fonts'

    Once you have enabled cleartype, Microsoft has provided a web location where you can fine-tune your ClearType settings. Here it is the link.

    18. Create a keyboard shortcut to a folder or program

    Shortcuts to programs are very convenient, but only if they are easily accessible. It can be a pain to have to minimize the window you are currently working in just to locate the shortcut you are looking for.

    To make things easier, XP features the ability to link shortcuts to user-defined key combinations, so you can easily activate the one you are looking for without disrupting what you are doing.

    Unfortunately this only works for shortcuts that are placed directly on the desktop, not in other folders, but it's still a useful little tip.

    To do it: Select the folder or program icon that you wish to use. Create a shortcut for it by right clicking on the item and selecting 'create shortcut' from the menu.

    Place your newly created shortcut on the desktop by dragging or cut/pasting. Right click the shortcut and select 'properties.'

    Select the 'shortcut' tab and enter the key combination you wish to use (XP will automatically edit the combination if it is not acceptable. Just entering 'e' for example, will get you an actual key combination of ctrl + alt + e). Click 'ok.'

    Now you can open the specified shortcut without altering your workflow. Good stuff.

    19. Use remote desktop to connect to your PC from anywhere (XP Pro only)

    Windows XP Professional includes Microsoft's remote desktop software, which can be used to access your computer from anywhere you have Internet access. Not only can you access your system, you can actually see and manipulate the desktop environment just as if you were seated in front of the system.

    Let's look at how to do this: In order to use Remote Desktop to connect to your home computer remotely, it must first be enabled. Right click on 'my computer' then select the 'remote' tab, and check the box entitled 'allow computers to connect remotely to this computer.'

    Note: please ensure that all of your user accounts are using proper passwords before you enable this option, otherwise anyone with internet access and a Windows system can theoretically access and control your computer.

    Using the 'select remote users' button, you can select user accounts that have access to the computer remotely. All members of the administrators group (that is, the built in 'administrator' account and any users who were added during the install process) are allowed remote access automatically.

    Now you can install Remote Desktop Web Connection if you wish. This allows client computers to access the remote desktop through Internet explorer, eliminating the need to download and install the (freely available from Microsoft) 'Remote desktop client' program.

    Insert the Windows XP Professional CD and select 'install additional windows components. Highlight 'internet information services (IIS)' and click 'details.' Highlight 'world wide web services' and click 'details.' Now put a check beside 'Remote desktop web connection,' hit 'ok' twice and then 'next' to install.

    Now to connect to the remote desktop from any client computer with Internet Explorer 4 or better installed, simply type 'http://(IP address of your home computer)/tsweb' to bring up the web connect dialog screen.

    For more information on using remote desktop, see PCstats Guide to remote computing here.

    20. WinXP Powertoys

    Microsoft has made several extra tools and utilities for Windows XP available on their website. These 'powertoys' offer extra functionality in certain areas of the Windows XP operating system.

    The downloads include an enhanced calculator, and image resizer, and Microsoft's popular TweakUI program which allows you to change many of the variables of the Windows XP user interface. To see a full list, go here.

    21. Backing up or transferring your email manually with outlook express

    If you would like to ensure that you always have a backup of your Outlook Express mailboxes available, there is an easy way to do it manually. Note that you must have enabled viewing of hidden folders (in Windows Exporer/tools/Folder Options/View Tab/ enable "show hidden files and folders") in order to successfully view your mailboxes.

    Navigate to c:\documents and settings\(your username)\ Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\(some very long and complicated string of numbers and letters)\Microsoft\Outlook Express

    You will see a .DBX file for each of your mailboxes. Transferring these to another hard drive or burning them onto a CD at regular intervals will ensure that you can always restore your email records should you be forced to reinstall Windows.

    To restore your mailboxes in the event of reinstalling Windows, simply copy them back into the same folder once the install is complete, overwriting the existing files. You will now have access to all your email records.

    22. Running legacy software in Windows XP

    Windows 2000 was a step forward for the Windows operating system in many ways, with its enhanced security and stability, but one flaw it possessed that frustrated (and continues to frustrate) many users was its inability to cope well with software written for older operating systems such as DOS and early Windows 95 applications. Apparently Microsoft learned from their mistakes in this area, for Windows XP includes several options designed to make your older software more compatible with the XP version of the Windows NT kernel.

    Essentially, XP can be set to mimic various OS environments for that program only. If you have a program that simply refuses to work on XP, give these methods a try:

    After installing the application, right click on the executable file or the shortcut to it, and select 'properties.'

    Since Page files require intermittent disk access to write and retrieve information, putting them on the same drive as the operating system can compromise the performance of both. Of course, since most systems contain only a single hard drive, this is not usually something that can be changed. If your system contains more than one hard disk, consider placing a page file on the the non-OS disk and removing the one on the OS-disk containing the Windows files.

    To do this: Right click on 'my computer' and select 'properties' then the 'advanced' tab. In the 'performance' section, click 'settings' then select the 'advanced' tab. In the 'virtual memory' section, click 'change.' From here you can choose individual drives and customize the size of the paging files you wish to create. See below for more info.

    Page File Size:

    By default, page files are created with a starting size and a maximum size. These values allow Windows to resize the paging file as system demand grows. It is more efficient to set an identical starting and maximum value so that no resources are wasted resizing the file.

    To do this, choose 'custom size' for each page file and set the initial and maximum sizes to the same number.

    As for what size to set them at, the best bet is to leave them at, or slightly below the default 'maximum' setting the system assigned, with a ceiling of 1GB. This is the amount of space that is reserved for the file, regardless of its current size. If you are creating multiple page files, split the amount between them.

    Choose the 'compatibility' tab. The first section in this window 'compatibility mode,' covers mimicking various operating system environments to try and make your application more comfortable. If you know the app is designed for one of the operating systems contained in the drop-down box, try it out.

    You can also set the program to run in 256 colours and/or 640x480 resolution, which many older software titles require.



    23. Compressing files and folders to save space

    Windows XP includes a built in compression utility which can save you some valuable space on your hard disk by archiving little used files. Working similarly to compression programs such as PKZIP and WINRAR, the built in software reduces the space your files take up on the disk at the penalty of increased disk access time for the compressed files in question. There are several ways of compressing data on your system:

    If you have a pre-existing folder and would like to compress everything in it, right click on the folder, select 'properties' then the 'advanced' button at the bottom. In the 'compress or encrypt attributes' section, check the 'compress contents to save disk space' option.

    If you wish to create a compressed folder for a file or folder separate from the one it is in now, right click on the item you wish to compress and choose 'send to\compressed (zipped) folder.' This will create a new compressed folder in the same location as the original file or folder.

    24. Open explorer window from current command prompt directory

    There is a built in command prompt ('start\run' then type 'cmd') command that will open a Windows Explorer window to your exact current directory location in the DOS-oriented command prompt. Simply type 'Start .' from the prompt to open up explorer in that location. And yes, that is 'start(space).'

    25. Using Quick Edit in the Command Prompt

    The Quick Edit function allows you to cut and paste text to and from the command prompt window, something which you may have become used to not being able to do.

    To activate Quick Edit: Open a command prompt Window ('start\run' and type 'cmd'). Right click on the toolbar at the top and select 'properties.' Put a checkmark in the Quick Edit mode box. When prompted, opt to apply changes to all similar windows.

    Now that Quick Edit is enabled in the command prompt, you can click and drag to highlight text, then press ENTER to copy it to the clipboard. To paste text from the clipboard, simply right click on the command prompt window.

    26. Select 'No to all' when copying files in XP

    Have you ever noticed that Windows XP gives you the 'yes to all' option in its file copy dialog box, useful if you would like to overwrite files in a directory with newer files of the same name from another location, for example, but fails to offer a 'no to all' option for doing the opposite. Kind of annoying if you think about it. What if you have a lengthy file copy operation partially finished, and wish to restart it? If you use the default options, you essentially have to recopy every file, since saying 'no' to each and every duplicate file will take just as long, and cause your mouse finger to fall off.

    Fortunately, there is a way to tell your computer not to copy all duplicated files with a single command:

    To do this, when the file copy dialog box appears asking you whether you wish to overwrite the first file, hold down SHIFT and click 'no.' This will automatically answer no for all following files. Note that it will ask you again for the first folder it encounters, so follow the procedure again to answer no automatically for all folders. This will dramatically speed up the file copying process.

    27. Bypass the recycle bin when deleting a file

    If you do not wish a file or folder you are deleting (or a group of files or folders) to end up in the recycle bin, for security or privacy reasons, there is a simple keyboard shortcut to avoid it.

    To bypass the recycle bin when deleting a file, press and hold the SHIFT key as you press delete or select the delete command from the menu. You will see a request for confirmation, and once you say 'yes' the files will be permanently deleted, and absolutely non-restorable from WindowsXP.

    28. Create a link to shutdown your PC

    To create a useful link desktop link to shutdown or restart your PC, follow these directions:

    Right click on an empty area of your desktop, then select 'new' and 'shortcut' to open the new shortcut wizard.

    When prompted for the location of the shortcut, enter 'SHUTDOWN -s -t 01' to shutdown the system or 'SHUTDOWN -r -t 01' to restart the system.

    Name the shortcut and give it an appropriate icon from the '%SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll' location.

    You now have a quick shortcut to shutdown or restart your system! Perfect for getting out of the office right at 5:00PM on the dot!

    29. Hosting online games through the Windows XP firewall

    If you are using the Windows XP firewall and you wish to host an online game such as Quake 3, or other applications that require users on the Internet to contact your computer directly, you will need to customize your firewall slightly to allow these specific communications through. Fortunately the XP firewall makes these changes fairly easy to do.

    To customize your firewall: Go to 'start\control panel\network connections'. Right click on the network connection that has the firewall enabled and go to 'properties.' Choose the 'settings' button at the bottom. On the 'services' tab, click the 'add' button.

    This window will add the application that you are using to the firewall's list of data that is allowed into your computer.

    You will need to find out the port that your application uses. This information should be available from the documentation or from the software manufacturer's website.

    Input a description for your convenience, then the computer name or IP address of the computer that is hosting the program, then put the port number that the program uses. Note that as long as the program is running on the computer that uses the XP firewall, the internal and external port will be the same.

    Click 'ok' to apply the rule. Your firewall will now allow connections through the port you specified.

    30. Rename multiple files simultaneously

    In windows XP explorer, you can rename multiple files at the same time simply by highlighting all the files you wish to change, right clicking one of them and selecting 'rename.' Once you have done this, all the files will share the same name with a number in brackets differentiating them.



    31. Use the Windows 2000-style secure logon screen

    If you'd like a little more security in your home setup, you may want to consider eliminating the Welcome screen altogether, as this provides anyone trying to log into your computer with your username. The solution for this is to restore the secure logon screen used in Windows 2000, forcing all users to enter both username and password.

    To enable this: Go to start\control panel\user accounts\change the way users log on or off. Clear the 'use the welcome screen' button.

    32. Hiding shared folders with $

    If you would like to share a folder so that users on your network can access it easily, but are worried about displaying the folder for anyone to browse through, there is an easy way to render a shared folder invisible but still accessible.

    From the shared folder dialog: (right click on desired folder\sharing and security\). You can hide a shared folder by simply adding a '$' to the end of the name you give the folder in the 'sharing and security' window. In this way, you can maintain network access to shared folders, while hiding them from prying eyes.

    To browse to a hidden shared folder from another computer, simply click 'start/run' then type \\(name of the computer the share is on)\(sharename$) and press enter.

    33. Using advanced file security settings in Windows XP Home

    Windows XP is based on the same platform as Windows 2000, and shares that operating system's robust file security options, at least when using the NTFS file system. Unfortunately this security system, which enables an administrator to decide exactly which files and programs any given user will have access to, is not actually implemented by default in Windows XP. This is a concession Microsoft made to avoid confusing basic users of XP Pro, and to cripple XP Home.

    The NTFS file security options can be enabled easily enough in XP Pro, but are apparently non-existent in the Home version. Fact is, the tools are there, you just need to look a little bit harder.

    To enable NTFS file security in Windows XP Home: First you need to assure that at least your main hard drive is formatted with the NTFS file system. See tip #61 for instructions on this. Restart your system. Just after the memory and BIOS check screen, but before the Windows splash screen comes up, press F8 a few times.

    When the Windows boot menu appears, select 'safe mode' from the list of options.

    Once Windows has loaded in safe mode, right click the folders and files you would like to change access to. You will notice that the 'security' tab now exists, and thus you are allowed to assign or deny access to individual users for each file, folder and program. Once you are done, restart Windows normally, and your changes will be enforced.



    34. Create a password reset disk

    Here's an important tip… If you are using a password protected user account in Windows XP (and you really, really should be ) you might be nervous about forgetting your password. Well here's a way to put your mind at ease, at least a little bit. Windows XP allows users to create a password reset disk specific to their user account. This disk can be used at the welcome screen to reset your password in the event that you do forget it.

    To create the disk: Go to start\control panel\user accounts. Select the account you are currently logged in as.

    Under the 'related tasks' heading in the top left corner, click 'prevent a forgotten password' to open the forgotten password wizard. Insert a blank floppy disk and follow the instructions to create your password reset disk.

    To use the password reset disk in case of emergency:

    Once you have created a password reset disk for a specific user, the next time the password for that user is entered incorrectly at the welcome screen, a message will pop up asking if you have forgotten your password. At this point you can elect to use your password reset disk. Follow the instructions to reset your password.

    Note: There are a couple of possible problems with the above procedure. For one, if you have used Windows XP's built in encryption feature to encrypt some of your files and folders, but have not yet updated to service pack 1, do not reset your password, as you will lose access to all the encrypted data. Once you have got service pack 1, it is safe to use the disk. Also, you cannot gain access to the reset feature if you have disabled the welcome screen on XP by using tip #31 above.

    Keep your reset disk in a safe location, because anyone else can also use it to reset your password.... muhahaa!

    35. Applying a password to the 'administrator' account in XP Home

    All versions of Windows XP come with a built in administrator account. In the case of XP Home, this account can only be accessed in safe mode. Unfortunately, the administrative account in XP Home has no password by default, meaning anyone who knows how to launch windows in safe mode could potentially see your data.

    To password protect the administrator account in XP Home: Restart your system. Just after the memory and BIOS check screen, but before the Windows splash screen comes up, press F8 a few times. When the Windows boot menu appears, select 'safe mode' from the list of options.

    Once Windows XP has loaded into safe mode, go to 'start\control panel\user accounts' select the administrator account and apply a password to it. Restart normally.

    36. 'Rolling back' a faulty device driver

    Windows XP has the ability to store previous versions of the device driver for certain hardware devices like video cards and sound cards. This enables you to 'roll back' and replace a driver that is having problems with a proven older version. Obviously, this only works if you have previously updated that device with a new driver.

    To 'roll back' a driver: Right click 'my computer' and select properties, then the 'hardware tab' then the 'device manager' button. Locate and highlight the hardware device you wish to roll back the drivers on. Press the 'properties' button.

    Select the 'driver' tab and click the 'roll back driver' button. If you have a stored older driver for the device, you will be asked if you wish to roll it back.

    37. Disable simple file sharing (XP Professional only)

    Windows XP uses a new streamlined method of sharing files, called 'simple file sharing,' by default. This method is similar to the system used with Windows 9x/ME in that it does not check user credentials before allowing access to the share. The only option you can specify is whether remote users have the ability to change the share by adding editing or deleting files.

    If you desire more security for your shares, you can revert to the higher security method of sharing files used in Windows 2000. This allows you to specify whether individual users on your system are allowed to access each share, and whether they can change the shared data or only read and copy it.

    To implement this: Go to 'my computer.' Select 'tools' from the menu and click 'folder options.' Choose the 'view' tab. Find and uncheck the 'use simple file sharing' box. Click 'ok'.

    38. Using the Windows XP firewall

    All versions of Windows XP come with built-in software firewalls. The XP firewall software offers better-than-adequate protection against most common forms of Internet attacks and eavesdropping, so it's a good idea to enable it. The exception to this is if you are using a device that contains a hardware firewall, such as a home router. The firewall is disabled by default in Windows XP, unless you have installed The Service Pack 2 update released in August of 2004.
    To enable and configure the firewall: Go to start\control panel\network connections and right click on your Internet connection, or the network adaptor you use to receive the Internet from another computer and hit 'properties.'Go to the 'advanced' tab and place a checkmark in the 'Internet connection firewall' box and click 'ok.' Your computer is now protected.
    If you have installed Service Pack 2 for Windows XP on your system, the firewall should be enabled by default. To make sure of this, go to 'start/control panel/windows firewall' and ensure that the firewall is set to the 'on (recommended)' position. For more information on how Service Pack 2 changes the functionality of Windows XP, see this article.

    If you aren't yet using WinXP SP2, we have more information on configuring the Windows XP firewall, and firewalls in general right here.

    39. Turn autocomplete off in IE

    By default, Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 will examine what you are typing in the address bar and pop up a list of similar entries you entered recently. It also stores entries you have made on web documents and forms, including usernames and passwords. While this can help speed up your web surfing experience, it can also potentially compromise your privacy if multiple people are using the same user account on your system. Fortunately, autocomplete can be easily disabled through the IE options menu.

    To do this: From Internet Explorer, go to the Tools menu, then select 'options.' Choose the 'content' tab, then click the 'autocomplete' button.

    Disable the various options as you see fit. You can also clear autocomplete's memory cache for web forms and passwords from this window.



    40. Using the Windows XP repair installation process

    Is your XP system is refusing to boot, giving you constant blue screens or other unpleasantness? before you decide to head off to your local computer shop or reinstall Windows yourself, give this tip a try. It may not work, but then again, it might fix everything, as it has for me on a couple of occasions when my operating system became corrupted because of some.... (ahem) software. You will need a valid Windows XP CD for this tip:

    Boot the system from your XP CD. Choose the 'press enter to set up Windows XP now' option.

    Press F8 to skip through the EULA (though if you haven't read it before, you should now. See PCstats' legal article for details as to why). Now press R to begin a repair installation.

    Your system will go through the entire XP install process, but will not attempt to replace any of your existing data. It will simply reinstall the vital system files, fixing any that are corrupted or missing. If this is the problem that is causing your system not to boot, chances are things will be back to normal.

    41. Add, Clear or remove the 'my recent documents' menu

    In Windows XP Professional, the Start menu contains a 'My Recent Documents' folder that holds 15 of your most recently accessed documents. If, for privacy reasons, you would like to remove this feature, or at least clear it, read on:

    Right-click the start button, select 'properties' then 'customize.' Select the 'advanced' tab. At the bottom, in the 'recent documents' section, you have the options to clear the list, or remove it completely.

    If you are using Windows XP Home and you would like to have the 'my recent documents' folder available to you: Right-click the start button, select 'properties' then 'customize.' Select the 'advanced' tab. Now place a checkmark in the 'list my most recently opened documents' check box.

    42. Creating a desktop shortcut for locking your computer

    If you use your computer in an area where others may have access to it, and there are things on your system you would rather have kept confidential, locking your desktop when you leave the computer is an essential task. Here's a recipe for a desktop shortcut that will lock your computer in two easy clicks:

    Right click on an empty area of the desktop and choose 'new' then 'shortcut.' The create shortcut wizard will open; in the first text box, type '%windir%\System32\rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation' and then give your shortcut an appropriate name on the next page, and hit 'finish.'

    You will notice that the shortcut you created has a blank icon. To select a more appropriate one, right click on the shortcut and hit 'properties.' In the 'shortcut' tab, click the 'change icon' button.

    In the 'look for icons in this file' box, type '%SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll' then click 'ok' to see a range of icons for your new shortcut. Choose an appropriate icon. Your desktop locking shortcut is now ready for use. Test it out.



    43. Giving a password to the 'Guest' user account

    Windows XP contains a guest account (turned off by default in XP Pro) that has the rather unique distinction of not having a password. Not only does the account not have a password, you can't even set one. As you can see, if this account is active, it presents a slight security risk. Fortunately, there is an easy way to assign a password to the guest account:

    To apply a Password to the guest account:

    Using an account with administrative privileges, go to the command prompt ('start\run' then type 'cmd') and enter the following command:

    'Net user guest password'

    Now go to 'start\control panel\user accounts' and activate the guest account if it is not already. You will be able to assign and change its password.

    44. Use system restore when you cannot boot your system normally

    If your system has failed to the point where you cannot access the Windows GUI either through booting normally or through safe mode, you may still have the chance to use the System Restore feature if you have it enabled, by running it form the command prompt. To do this:

    Restart your computer and press F8 after the POST screen to bring up the Windows XP boot menu. Choose 'boot in safe mode with command prompt.'

    If your system gets to the command prompt successfully, type '%systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe' and then press enter. Follow the onscreen instructions to restore your computer to a previous saved point.

    Next Section; Customizing Windows XP

    45. Stop Windows messenger from running

    Windows XP was the first of Microsoft's operating systems to include a built in instant messaging application, the Windows Messenger (a variant of Microsoft's popular MSN Messenger service). Unfortunately for those who don't use instant messaging services, the program is extremely difficult to avoid, especially if you use Outlook Express as your mail client.

    By default, Windows Messenger is started each time windows starts, and will attempt to log you in as soon as you connect to the internet, and every time you start Outlook Express. Worse yet, it will reappear when you start Outlook Express even in you have uninstalled it. With a combination of steps, you can disable Windows Messenger, though it is not really possible to actually remove it from the computer.

    Let's look at how to do this: To stop Windows Messenger from reappearing each time you start Outlook Express, open OE then go to 'tools\options' and uncheck the 'automatically log into Windows Messenger' box. Close OE, exit from Messenger and also close any browser windows.

    Now you need to find out if you have Service Pack 1 for Windows XP installed. If you are not sure, right click on 'my computer' and select 'properties.' In the first Window under the system heading, your version of Windows XP will be shown. If you do have service pack 1 installed, simply go to 'start\control panel\add/remove programs' to remove the messenger service.

    If you do not, go to 'start\run' and type 'RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\INF\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove' To remove the program.



    46. Run command prompt utilities successfully from shortcuts

    If you have ever tried to create a shortcut to 'IPCONFIG' or any of the other myriads of useful command prompt utilities included with Windows XP, you have probably noticed that it does not actually work… Or rather, it does, but the command prompt window with your data opens and closes in a flash.

    Here's a tip that will allow you to create working shortcuts on your desktop for any command. We will use the IPCONFIG utility as an example:

    Right click an empty area of the desktop and select 'new.' Choose 'new shortcut' to open the shortcut wizard. In the 'type the location of the item' box, enter 'cmd /k' followed by the program you wish to run. In the case of IPCONFIG, you would enter 'cmd /k ipconfig'.

    Name your shortcut something appropriate and give it an icon from the '%SystemRoot%\system32\SHELL32.dll' location. Now you have a fully working, very convenient desktop shortcut.

    47. Remove the XP desktop theme

    If you just can't get used to the appearance of Windows XP as opposed to the more 'sober' appearance of previous versions of Windows, there is a way to restore that old gray sheen to life, at least cosmetically.

    To change to the 'classic' Windows appearance: Right-click on an empty portion of the desktop (no icons) and select 'properties.' Choose the 'themes' tab, and in the theme drop-down box, choose the 'windows classic' theme. Presto. Read on for more tips on making XP behave like its parents.

    48. Change start menu style

    Along the same theme as the tip above, let's look at how to revert your start menu back to the classic style seen in pre-XP versions of Windows. After using this tip, you will find that the menu scrolls downwards instead of expanding to fill your desktop.

    Right-click the start button and hit 'properties'. Select the 'classic start menu' option to change the menu style. From here you can also hit the customize button to select additional items you wish to have present on the start menu.

    Note that changing the start menu to the classic form also puts the 'my computer, 'my network places' and 'my documents' back on the desktop.

    49. Add my computer and other missing icons to your desktop

    If you've gotten used to working with older versions of Windows, XP's somewhat bare desktop setup can come as a bit of a shock. Where's 'My computer?' That, plus 'my network places' the link to Internet Explorer and most importantly 'my documents' are all missing from the desktop by default.

    Fortunately, rectifying this is extremely easy: Right click on an open area of the desktop and hit 'properties.' Go to the 'desktop' tab, then choose 'customize desktop.' From this Window you can simply put checkmarks beside these common items to add them back to the desktop.



    50. Change the picture in the welcome screen

    If you'd like to replace the picture identifying each user on the XP welcome screen with something more personalized, read on.

    Go to start\control panel\user accounts. Select the user account you wish to change and click 'change my picture.'

    From here, select 'browse for more pictures' and locate the pic you wish to use. XP will automatically size the picture down to fit, but be aware that the welcome pics are rather tiny, so use a shot that has good detail to start with or it will be difficult to see.

    51. Add items to the 'Send To' right click option.

    (You will need to enable the viewing of hidden files and folders to use this tip. See tip #68)

    Windows XP, like previous versions of the operating system, has a handy 'send to' option in the menu that appears when you right click an icon in explorer. By default this contains only a few options, none of which are particularly useful except for creating shortcuts.

    However you can easily add your own destinations to the 'send to' menu. Very useful if you have a folder you use for backing up files, for example, and you want to periodically move different files and folders to that location for storage.

    To add items to the 'send to' command: In explorer, navigate to 'c:\documents and settings\(your user name)\send to'

    Any shortcuts to folders or applications placed in this folder will appear in the 'send to' option when you right click an icon. You could use this to send files to a Zip program, for example. Experiment with it, and I'm sure you'll find a few ways it can help you on a day-to-day basis.

    52. Automatically run programs when starting Windows XP

    If there are applications or commands that you run every single time you start your computer (Email comes to mind) you may want to consider setting things up so that these programs run automatically during the Windows XP startup. This can be done quite easily in XP by creating shortcuts and shuffling them around.

    Here's how: Windows XP has a startup folder located at 'C:\ Documents and Settings\ (your user name)\ Start Menu\ Programs\Startup.' Shortcuts placed into this folder will be run automatically when Windows XP starts up.

    If you already have shortcuts for the programs you desire to use, copy and paste them into the startup folder. Otherwise, go to 'start\programs,' select the program you would like to create a shortcut for, right click it and select 'send to' then 'desktop.' This will create a shortcut on the desktop that you can then use.



    53. Create a screensaver from your pictures

    If you have a collection of photographs on your computer from a digital camera or scanner and you are looking for a more creative way to use them than simply putting them as your desktop background, Windows XP let's you automatically put these into a slideshow that functions as a screensaver.

    Even better, XP will format the pictures automatically to fit the screen, so you don't have to mess around with Photoshop beforehand.

    To create your personal slideshow screensaver: Right-click an empty spot on your desktop, and then hit 'Properties.' Select the 'screen saver' tab. In the screen saver dropdown box, select 'my pictures slideshow.'

    Now click the settings button. From here you can control the speed the pictures will be changed at, and set the directory they will be drawn from. By default it's set to the 'my pictures' folder.

    Now your screen saver will be a random set of pictures taken from your selected folder.

    54. Modify autoplay for different types of CD

    Windows XP includes the ability to perform different actions depending on the type of CD you insert into the drive. For example, you could set your system to always respond to CDs containing MP3 files by opening Windows Media Player.

    To edit the Autoplay properties: Open 'my computer'. Right click on the drive you wish to set and select 'properties.' Choose the autoplay tab. Use the dropdown box to see the various recognized types of CD and choose appropriate actions for them.

    55. Different folder types with XP

    Windows XP gives you the option to customize a folder specifically for a certain type of data, like music files or photographs. These options will change the default way files are shown in the folder (using thumbnail view automatically for a pictures folder for example) and will also change the columns used to display information, adding an 'artist' and 'album name' column into a music folder to give one example. These customizations can make it easier to organize and keep track of your files. To customize a folder:

    Right click on the folder and select 'properties' then choose the 'customize' tab.

    Using the dropdown box at the top, you can select the various folder types available. Experiment until you find one to your liking. If you create a picture folder, you can also choose a picture which will appear on the icon for the folder itself, acting as a preview of the contents. You can also change the icon for your folder from this window.

    56. Using 'my computer' as a toolbar

    If you click and drag your 'my computer' icon to the right side of the taskbar, just left of the light blue area, you will create a my computer taskbar. This opens into a start menu-style cascading menu that will allow you to easily access any file in your system.



    57. Enlarge and resize the quicklaunch bar

    The default size of the quicklaunch bar in Window XP is quite restrictive. It can only display three icons without forcing you to click on an arrow to extend it. Fortunately, it is easy enough to extend the quicklaunch bar by moving it to another location. To do this:

    Right click on a free area of the taskbar and uncheck the 'lock the taskbar' menu item. Now click on the pattern of dots that appears just to the right of the start button, and drag to move the quick launch bar out of the taskbar.

    Drag the quicklaunch bar to one of the edges of the screen and release it so that it forms a bar. Right click the new quicklaunch bar and select 'always on top' and 'auto-hide.' Now you have a convenient quicklaunch bar that hides itself when not needed, and can easily hold all your shortcuts.

    58. Disable desktop cleanup wizard

    The desktop cleanup wizard, run manually, analyzes the shortcuts on your desktop and informs you if any have not been used for more than 60 days. If you OK them, it will then delete these unused shortcuts. The cleanup wizard is also set by default to run every 60 days and delete unused shortcuts from the desktop. This can be inconvenient, for obvious reasons. To turn the automatic cleanup off:

    Go to 'start\control panel\display' and choose the 'desktop' tab. Click the 'customize desktop' button at the bottom. In the 'desktop cleanup' section, clear the 'run desktop cleanup wizard every 60 days' button.

    Next Section: Essential advice for beginners

    59. Stopping desktop ad popups

    Have you been getting those irritating advertising pop-ups on your desktop? You know, the ones that show up in a little grey box, regardless of what you might happen to be doing on your PC, mostly advertising software you can download to stop said pop-up ads from occurring… Is this making your blood boil? Relax, there's an extremely easy way to get rid of them and no, you don't have to buy their software to do it.

    These ads are exploiting a feature of Windows 2000 and XP, the Messenger service. This service allows for text-based communication between computers on a network by using the 'net send \\(computername) message' command from the command prompt (remember start/run, type 'cmd').

    Of course, some bright spark figured they could use this for advertising purposes. Essentially it's the same principal as sending text-based adds to cell-phone users. To stop these pop-ups, all you need to do is stop the 'messenger' service.

    To do this: Right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage.' Expand 'services and applications' and click 'services.'

    Highlight the 'messenger' service, right click it and select 'properties.'

    In the 'general' tab, click the 'stop' button to stop the service, then set the 'startup type' dropdown box to 'disabled.' This will ensure that the messenger service does not load the next time you start your computer. You will no longer get those pop-up messages on your desktop. Enjoy the peace and quiet.

    Note that the 'messenger' service has nothing whatsoever to do with Microsoft's 'MSN Messenger' instant messaging program, so don't worry about affecting it with this tip.



    60. Displaying hidden files and folders

    By default, many of the important system files and folders in Windows XP are hidden, meaning they cannot be seen by navigating with explorer. User created files can also be hidden. A simple option change enables you to see all hidden files and folders with Windows explorer.

    To view hidden files and folders: Open 'my computer' and click on the 'tools' menu item. Select 'folder options,' then the 'view' tab. Under the 'hidden files and folders' selection, choose 'show hidden files and folders.' Press 'ok.'

    61. Convert Your drives to the NTFS file system

    The NTFS file system is the default file system used by Windows NT\2000\XP PRO\Server 2003. Unlike its predecessor, the FAT32 file system seen in Windows 9x/ME, it allows for effective security settings on individual files and folders by using ACLs or Access Control Lists. These are a list of permissions placed on each and every file, listing which users are allowed to access the file and what they are allowed to do with it.

    On top of its security advantage, NTFS drives are also easier to recover data from in the event of an emergency. NTFS drives are also a requirement for several features of Windows XP. As there is no effective performance difference between NTFS and FAT drives, it is recommended that you convert your logical drives to NTFS. This can be done one way only, as NTFS drives cannot be converted back to FAT 32.

    If you are using Windows XP Professional, chances are your drives are already formatted with NTFS, as this is the default. XP Home still defaults to FAT32 however.

    The only situation where it is not advisable to convert a drive would be in situations where multiple operating systems reside on the same computer. If one of these operating systems is unable to read NTFS (such as windows 9x/ME) it will lose access to the drive that has been converted to NTFS. If the converted drive contained that operating system's files, it will no longer be able to boot.

    To convert your drives to NTFS: Right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage'. From the computer management window, expand storage and select 'disk management.'

    Using the 'file system' column of the upper pane of this window, you can easily check what file system each of your logical drives is using. Make a note of this information.

    Now open a command prompt window by going to 'start\run' and typing 'cmd'. To convert a disk to NTFS, type: 'convert (driveletter): /fs:ntfs'.

    So for example, if you were going to convert your C: drive, you would type: 'Convert c: /fs:ntfs' at the prompt.



    62. Formatting a hard drive partition larger than 32 Gigs with FAT32

    A built in, intentional limitation of Windows XP is that it will only create FAT32 (the older file system seen in Windows 9X\ME operating systems) partitions up to 32GB in size. If you have a disk larger than that and you wish to format it with FAT32, your only choice is to create multiple partitions of 32GB or less. There is an option however. You can use a boot disk from an older version of Windows such as Windows 98 or ME to partition the drive into one large FAT32 partition. Windows XP will then be able to use the space.

    You can obtain the necessary boot disk files at www.bootdisk.com

    Download the ME or 98 disk image, then use the FDISK utility to partition the drive and the FORMAT utility to format it with FAT32. See PCstats' hard drive installation article for details on how to complete these tasks.

    63. Finding your IP address and other information with IPCONFIG

    If you find you need to quickly discover your computer's current IP address, or other information related to your networking setup, the easiest way to do this is to go to the command prompt

    Start\run\'cmd'

    And type 'ipconfig /all'

    Among other things, this will give you the name of your computer, your current IP address for all network adaptors, as well as the default gateways and DNS server information.

    64. Update your machine automatically.

    Keeping your machine updated with the latest Microsoft patches and bug fixes can be considered an essential task involved in owning Windows XP. On one hand, it's a pain, and there's something to be said for the school of thought that claims that Microsoft's operating systems are unnecessarily complex and full of security holes and flaws.

    On the other hand, XP's internal complexity makes it externally simpler to use, certainly it's easier than Windows 2000 to get to grips with. Also, the fact is that the world works with Windows, meaning that all those nefarious and non-nefarious hackers out there are targeting Windows simply because of its popularity, not because it is any less inherently secure than alternative operating systems. Microsoft is simply trying to keep up with the work of thousands… But I digress; there is an easier way to update your box.

    To set your copy of Windows XP to update itself automatically: Right click on 'my computer' and select the 'automatic updates' tab.

    To enable automatic updating, choose either of the first two choices in the 'update notification' section. You can either have XP search for and download updates automatically, and only prompt you when you need to install them, or it can prompt before downloading so you can pick the updates you want.

    Once automatic updating is turned on, XP will periodically check for updates over the Internet. If your computer is not connected to the internet, the system will be unable to update automatically.



    65. Logging in as the 'Administrator' account

    Every Windows XP installation comes with an administrator account built in, the password for which you set during the install process. Of course, the administrator account does not actually show up on the welcome screen. If you have disabled the welcome screen you can do it easily enough, but what if you happen to like that friendly screen?

    Never fear, simply press CTRL+ALT+DEL twice and you will be transported to a login prompt that defaults to the administrator user account.

    66. Update your drivers

    Not so much a tip as essential advice. Much like frequently updating windows, this is a good practice for improved system health, and especially performance. If your system contains even somewhat recent hardware, it's likely that the manufacturers are still working on upgrading and stabilizing the software drivers for some components of your computer.

    These new driver sets are generally made available for download at the manufacturer's website and will install over your older drivers. It is recommended that you take an inventory of the parts and brands in your system (if it is a store-assembled PC) or the manufacturer part number of your system itself (from big box retailers like Dell and Compaq) and visit the manufacturer's websites to attain the newest drivers. You may be surprised at the results.

    67. Check your PC for spyware and other nasties

    Your PC could be hosting spyware or adware programs without your knowledge. These small applications, installed knowingly or unknowingly by the user (adware licenses are often buried inside the End User License Agreements of software packages like Kazaa Media Desktop) can pass information on your web surfing habits, among other things, to advertising companies, and enable them to target advertising based on your habits.

    These programs can also consume valuable system resources. While not specific to Windows XP, removing spyware and adware from your system is an excellent step towards better PC health. To check for these programs:

    Download either LavaSoft's Ad-Aware or PepiMK's Spybot Search and Destroy or both. Run these programs and update them via the built in interface, then check your system for spyware and adware programs. For more information on this topic, see PCstats' Guide on spyware and how to deal with it here.

    68. Show the quicklaunch bar

    The quicklaunch bar is a convenient toolbar containing shortcuts to commonly used programs. If you used any flavour of Windows from 98 to 2000, you probably became used to it sitting in the bottom left of the taskbar next to the start button. You also probably missed it when you started using XP, especially since it also means you are missing that essential 'minimize all windows and take me back to the desktop' button.

    Don't fret though, the quicklaunch bar is still here, just not by default. Possibly to make room for the larger start button graphic in XP, Microsoft decided to have the quicklaunch bar present only as an option. Let's look at how to get it back.

    To re-enable the quicklaunch bar: Right click on the time display in the lower right corner of the taskbar and select 'properties.' Now look for the option entitled 'show quick launch.' Enable it. Now that your quick launch bar is back, you can drag and drop shortcuts onto it from the desktop to customize it.



    69. Locking the desktop

    If you are leaving your computer for a while and do not wish to turn it off, but want to assure that no-one else can use the computer while you are away, locking the desktop is the best option.

    By pressing WINDOWSKEY+L, you password protect your system just as if you had logged out or restarted the computer. The advantage is that any programs or processes that were running when you locked the desktop will stay open and running in the background, ready for you to resume work or play.

    70. Using the Windows Scientific calculator feature

    This one's been in Windows for a while, but since few people seem to know about it, it's worth mentioning. The standard Windows calculator can be turned into a full-functioned scientific calculator with just a simple trip to the options menu.

    To enable the scientific calculator, open the calculator application, select the 'view' menu and choose 'scientific.' Presto.

    As I'm out of my depth talking about the functions of scientific calcs, I'll leave the rest for you engineering students and mad scientists to discover.

    71. Accessibility tools

    Windows XP comes with a suite of tools designed to make the Windows environment more accessible for differently-abled users. These tools include a magnification utility and an on-screen keyboard, among other things, and are accessed via a wizard. Any user may find these tools occasionally useful, or at least interesting to play with, so give them a try. Find them at:

    'start\all programs\accessories\accessibility\accessibility wizard.'

    This will run the wizard, which will help you configure your system with the accessibility tools. Alternatively, you can run the individual tools from the 'accessibility' menu under 'programs\accessories.'



    72. Set a new home page in explorer

    You may already know how to do this, but if you don't you'll thank us, especially if you happen to get hijacked by one of the many sites out there that will happily change Internet Explorer's home page if you click on the wrong thing.

    The easiest way to change IE's default page is to go to the web page you wish to use as your home page and then go to tools\internet options and under the 'home page' section, click the 'use current' button to set it. You can also simply type the address of any page you wish to use into the address bar here.

    73. Remove the annoying dog from the search screen

    To get rid of this unwanted canine companion, open the search screen, click the dog and select 'turn off the animated character.'

    74. Change the look of your mouse pointer.

    Windows XP offers several alternative appearance options for the standard mouse pointer. Whether you are using an older screen and are having difficulty tracking the pointer, or if you are simply bored of the default pointer appearance, you should find something you like here:

    Go to 'control panel\mouse' and select the 'pointer' tab.

    Using the drop down box, select a theme that appeals to you, then press 'ok.'

    75. Email attachments are the most common vector for viruses.

    Consider this an essential tip. Yes, there are viruses that can infect your computer if you so much as open the email containing them. However, the vast majority of viruses, and certainly the most damaging ones, are transferred through email attachments.

    Never open an attachment from someone you do not know, regardless of what antivirus software you may be running. If someone you do know sends you an email with an attachment, look at the attached message first, use your virus scanner, then use your common sense; there are many breeds of computer viruses that can mail themselves out to every entry in an infected computer's address book, including themselves in an attachment.

    76. Keyboard shortcuts

    There are many useful keyboard shortcuts available for use in Windows XP. You may want to consider learning some of these, as using the keyboard is still noticeably faster than using the mouse. Save some time and reduce wear and tear on yourself.

    Printing a full list of shortcuts here is sort of impractical, but you can find the official listing, straight from the source, here.



    77. Set monitor refresh rate

    CRT, or Cathode Ray Tube monitors, though differing from televisions in several respects, share one important characteristic. Like TVs, the picture you see is constantly being redrawn on the screen. This refreshing action is the cause of the almost imperceptible flicker seen in the typical computer monitor image.

    Now, the slower the monitor refreshes itself, the more perceptible this flicker is, and the more perceptible the flickering is, the more likely you are to suffer from eyestrain, headaches and general fatigue as a result of it. Windows XP defaults to a refresh rate of just 60Hz, meaning that the screen redraws itself 60 times a second. This is pretty much the lowest acceptable rate, and higher refresh settings can have a considerable positive effect on computer experience.

    Let's look at how to change them.

    Note that refresh settings are limited to a certain degree by the capabilities of your video card, and to a much greater degree by the capabilities of your monitor.

    Every monitor has a maximum refresh rate it is capable of displaying at a given resolution (for example, a typical 17-inch monitor of a few years ago will happily crank out 85Hz or more at a resolution of 800x600, but may only be capable of 60Hz at 1600x1200).

    If this refresh rate is exceeded, the image will be distorted and unusable.

    Older CRT monitors, especially 15-inch or smaller ones, tend not to be capable of a refresh rate much over 60Hz, especially at resolutions greater than 640X480. Also, setting the refresh rate does not have the same effect on LCD or flat panel monitors, as their screens are not redrawn in the same way.

    To change your monitor refresh rate: Right click on an empty space on your desktop (no icons) and select 'properties.' Click the 'settings' tab and choose the 'advanced' button. Now choose the 'adaptor' tab and click the 'show all modes' button.

    This presents you with a list of resolution, colour and refresh rate options that your video card\monitor combination is capable of displaying. You can experiment with these settings by using the 'apply' button. Note that a refresh rate of 75Hz or above is generally recommended, (keep in mind most monitors do not support settings higher than 85Hz).

    After you set the refresh rate, you may feel a little uncomfortable for a short while as your eyes adjust, but rest assured you will grow to appreciate the difference in ease of viewing.



    78. Set power options

    You can easily edit Windows XP's power options to affect such things as how long it takes the monitor to turn off (if ever) when the machine is idle, and whether your Hard drives will spin down after a certain period of idle time to save energy and wear and tear.

    To edit XP's power options:

    Go to 'start\control panel\power options.'

    From here you can choose one of several set power schemes, or change the settings on the three main power saving options, turn off monitor, turn off hard disks and system standby.

    79. Creating shortcuts

    Shortcuts are small files that simply point to the location of another file or folder. They can be created easily in one of two ways.

    Either right click on the file or folder itself and select 'create shortcut' from the resulting menu, then cut and paste the shortcut to where you want it, or right click an empty space in the area you want the new shortcut to be, select 'new' then 'shortcut' from the menu.

    Then once the wizard opens, browse to the file or folder you wish the shortcut to point to.

    80. Create passwords for all your user accounts!

    Short and sweet, you MUST do this if you use the Internet, period. Even if you do not use the Internet, but other people have access to your system, you should still set secure passwords on every user account.

    By default Windows XP does not assign passwords to the accounts you create during the install process, and these accounts all have full administrative privileges to the system. All an outside intruder needs is your username in order to have your system resources laid out in front of them. Create passwords for all user accounts:

    Go to 'start\control panel\user accounts

    Select each user account (besides guest, which is disabled by default) and assign a password to it. Best practice is to use a combination of letters and numbers to foil password cracking software.

    Next Section: Registry tweaks (81)
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    The following tips all deal with editing the Windows Registry. Please make sure to backup your registry as per tip #81 before attempting any of these, in case you type the wrong thing by accident. Making accidental changes to the registry can mess up your Windows installation very easily. Be careful, and have fun!

    81. Backing up and restoring the windows registry

    This is an important tip for preserving your system, and an essential introduction to this section of tips. The Windows registry is the central data store for the Windows operating system. It contains all the information and variables that Windows uses to run itself and the programs you install. Editing the registry gives access to a wealth of options that may not be offered to you through the user interface. It also gives you the means to completely mess up your system in the time it takes to reboot.

    While restoring a computer with registry problems is now a fair bit more possible thanks to the system restore features built into Windows XP, it's still a good idea to make a backup of your registry before making any changes to it.

    To back up the registry, open REGEDIT and ensure that 'my computer' is highlighted, then go to file\export.

    In this window, you need to enter a location to save the exported registry (as a single file) and choose the type of file to create. Also, check the 'all' button at the bottom of the screen to backup the entire registry.

    There are several possible file types, but we will focus on one only, as the .reg file type is the easiest to use. A .reg backup will copy over all changes made to existing portions of the registry when it is restored, while leaving additions to the registry made since the backup untouched.

    Select the .reg file type and click 'save.'

    Restoring the registry from this .reg file is a simple matter of locating the file you created, right clicking it and selecting 'merge.'

    Registry Tweaks: Tip 82
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    82. How to edit the windows registry

    Editing the Windows registry can most easily be accomplished through the REGEDIT program built into Windows. This can be accessed by going to start\run\ and typing 'regedit.'

    Due to the nature of the registry, any changes you make here do not have to be saved. All changes are applied upon restarting the system. This also means that there is no 'cancel' button for undoing accidental changes, so make sure you keep careful note of the values you intend to edit.

    Registry values are stored in keys which appear as folders in the REGEDIT window. Most of the following instructions will have you add or edit values inside these keys.

    When you highlight a key in the left pane, the values stored in it appear in the right pane. To edit a value, right click it and select 'modify.'

    To add a new value, navigate to the key in which you wish to add the value, right clock it and select 'new' then the type of value you wish to create. Generally this will be either a string or DWORD value. Once you have created the value, name it, then right click on it to 'modify' its properties.

    Note that the naming convention for the registry, which we stick to in the following tips, is no spaces, separate words indicated by using capital letters. For example: EnableBalloonTips

    83. Keep Windows operating data in main memory
    Windows XP contains several tweakable memory settings in the registry, one of which is the DisablePagingExecutive registry key. This controls whether the operating system will transfer its essential driver and kernel files to the 'virtual memory' (the page file on the hard disk). It defaults to allowing this.

    Obviously, transferring portions of the system to hard drive memory can considerably slow things down, and it appears that Windows XP does this periodically, whether or not the system is actually low on physical memory (RAM). If you have 256MB of system memory or more, try this registry tweak to force Windows to keep its operating data in main memory:

    Open Regedit.

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management.

    Select the DisablePagingExecutive value to '1'

    84. Disable the DOS 8.3 naming convention to save system resources.

    Windows XP uses two different names for each and every file on your system. One is the name that you see in explorer and in the command prompt, and the other is an MSDOS compatible 8.3 (8 character title followed by a '.' Then three more characters to indicate the type of file) name. If you are intending to run DOS only software, or connect to pre-Windows 95 computers, you will need this second set of names. If not, you are simply wasting resources. To disable the 8.3 naming convention:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem

    Change the value of the NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation key to '1'

    85. Stop the 'last access update' from taking up system resources

    Every time a directory on an NTFS drive is accessed by Windows XP, it updates that directory and every subdirectory with a time stamp to indicate the date of access. In folders with a lot of subdirectories, this can add considerable overhead to whatever your PC happens to be doing. This process can be disabled through the registry:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem.

    Create a new DWORD value called 'NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate' and set the value to '1'


    86. Clear the Page File (virtual memory) when shutting down XP

    As mentioned above, the page file is an area of your hard disk that Windows uses as extra memory space to store files and data that are currently being used. Of course, since Hard drives are magnetic storage devices, and not dynamic like RAM, the data stored in the page file stays there until it is cleared or over-written.

    This data may possibly contain unencrypted passwords or other sensitive information since many third party programs do not bother to encrypt data that is being passed to the memory, even though it may end up on the page file. A simple registry change can force Windows XP to clear the page file each time it shuts down. Note that enabling this will increase the time it takes your system to shutdown.

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

    Modify the ClearPageFileAtShutdown value to '1'

    For customization

    87. Get Rid of XP's annoying balloon tips

    At some points, it seems like Windows XP is feeling lonely or something… every 5 minutes, some desktop-obscuring balloon tip will pop out of nowhere to inform you that you are not using the icons on your desktop, or that you have installed a new program, or that it's sunny outside… Seems like the operating system just needs someone to talk to. If, like me, you get fed up with this, here's a quick registry addition that will stop the madness:

    Open REGEDIT.

    Goto: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

    Add the DWORD value 'EnableBalloonTips' and give it a value of '0'

    This will stop all balloon tips from popping up.

    88. Adding additional Icons to 'my computer'

    The 'my computer' window is one of the most commonly accessed areas in a typical Windows XP installation. Here's a way to add several more commonly used icons to the 'my computer' window to increase its usefulness.

    Open REGEDIT

    Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\

    Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace

    Add a new key for each icon you wish to add to the 'my computer' window. The key should be named as below:

    {D20EA4E1-3957-11D2-A40B-0C5020524153} : Administrative Tools

    {2227A280-3AEA-1069-A2DE-08002B30309D} : Printers and Faxes

    {D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF} : Scheduled Tasks

    {7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E} : Network Connections

    {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E} : Recycle Bin

    {208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D} : My Network Places



    89. Speed up the Start Menu

    The Windows XP start menu has a built in delay time between your pointer landing on a menu and that menu being displayed. Using the registry, you can reduce the time it takes the start menu to unfold its menus:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\

    Edit the MenuShowDelay value. The default is 400, lower values will speed up the start menu. I would not recommend using 0, but experiment to find your favourite setting.

    90. Display message on startup

    If you'd like your computer to display a message when it starts up, there's a simple registry edit that can do the job for you:

    Open REGEDIT.

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/WindowsNT/CurrentVersion/Winlogon

    Edit the key 'legalnoticecaption' with the name you wish to call the Window the message pops up in.

    Edit the key 'legalnoticetext' with the test you want to put in the message window.

    91. Set the default download directory for Internet Explorer

    If you would like to change the default download target for Internet Explorer from 'my documents' to some other location on your system, the following quick registry change will do it.

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer

    Edit the 'download directory' value to the full path of the directory you wish to use.

    92. Change the size of thumbnail pictures

    Windows XP can be set to display directories full of images as thumbnail pictures in an explorer window. With this handy registry edit, you can change the size of these thumbnails to make them easier to see:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

    Create a new DWORD value called 'ThumbnailSize' and give it a value between 32 and 256 with 256 being the largest.



    93. Opening a Command Prompt to a Particular Directory from Explorer

    One of the annoying features of Windows operating systems in general is that the command prompt is not too well integrated with the desktop. This means that any time you drop to the command prompt, you will have to navigate to the directory you need manually, instead of being able to drop into any folder you want from the desktop interface. Since at some point you will likely find yourself in need of the command prompt to perform some function on your CP system, we thought we'd show you a quick registry hack that will enable you to call up a command prompt from any folder.

    Start Regedit.

    Navigate to 'HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT \ Directory \ shell'

    Create a new key called 'Command.'

    Edit the default REG_SZ value for this new key with the text you wish to see when you right click a folder to open the command prompt window. Assign it a name that's appropriate, for example: 'open command prompt in this folder' or something similar.

    Under the new 'command' key, create another key called 'command.'

    Give the default value in this key the value of 'cmd.exe /k "cd %L"'

    After you restart your computer, you will be able to right click on any folder and select your new command to instantly open a command prompt window to that specific folder.

    94. Disable error reporting on program crash

    By default, when a program crashes in Windows XP, A window pop up asking you if you wish to send an error report to Microsoft. This tends to add extra irritation to the already annoying fact of a program crash. To disable this behaviour, a slight registry change is in order:

    Open REGEDIT

    Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PCHealth\ErrorReporting.

    Edit the following value:

    Value Name: DoReport

    Value: 0 to disable the error report prompt.

    95. Automatically close non-responsive programs

    With a small registry tweak, Windows XP can be set to automatically close any program that 'stops responding' (crashes), eliminating the need for you to use the task manager to close down the offending software manually.

    To do this:

    Open REGEDIT and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\ Desktop

    Modify the REG_SZ entry AutoEndTasks with a value of 1



    96. Permanently bypass the recycle bin when deleting files

    If you would like to permanently delete any file without having to remove it from the recycle bin also, this simple registry tweak sets your Windows XP installation to ignore the recycling bin completely. Note that this means any files you delete will be permanently lost (though still accessible to data recovery software).

    Open REGEDIT

    Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

    Create a DWORD value with the following specs:

    Value name: NukeOnDelete

    Value: 1

    If you wish to revert to using the recycle bin, simply enter 0 as the new value.

    97. Show administrator account on welcome screen

    If you wish the built in administrator account to be available from the welcome screen so you can log in as the administrator easily, there's a registry hack to allow this:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\UserList

    Add the DWORD value 'Administrator' with a value of '1'

    98. Enable/Disable Active Window Tracking to Mouse Movements

    This interesting registry edit causes the mouse pointer to make windows active simply by moving over them:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse'

    Modify the ActiveWindowTracking value to '1'

    99. Launch Programs at Login Without Using the Startup Folder

    Windows XP also uses the registry to launch programs at startup, and you can too. This tip enables you to specify programs to be launched automatically upon starting Windows:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run'

    Create a REG_SZ value named after your program, with the value being the path to the executable file (for example, 'C:\myprogram\myprogram.exe').

    100. Force windows XP to reboot upon crashing

    This registry edit will cause your system to reboot itself automatically upon crashing. This can be useful if you have a reason for keeping your system on 24/7:

    Open REGEDIT

    Navigate to 'HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM
    \CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl'

    Edit the 'AutoReboot' value to '1'

    101. Disable admin shares

    Windows XP creates a hidden share for every drive on your computer. C$, D$, etc. These shares are accessible only to user accounts with administrative privileges, meaning any account that you created during the installation of windows XP.

    Essentially, this means that anyone with a valid username and password from your system can get access to anything on your drives remotely. While this is the number one reason why you should always use good passwords on your Windows user accounts, this feature can be disabled with a little registry tinkering.

    To disable the hidden shares:

    Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\lanmanserver\parameters

    Add the Dword value 'AutoShareWks' with a value of '0'

    I do not take credit for these guides, I found these on the internet. More information can be found at tweakxp.com and tweakvista.com. the second guide can be found here
    http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1590
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2007
  2. CKhaleel

    CKhaleel Regular member

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  3. marlino23

    marlino23 Regular member

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    thanks man this helped alot.
     
  4. krj15489

    krj15489 Regular member

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    no problem
     
  5. tripplite

    tripplite Guest

    i think you should mention that this ISN'T available with the HOME edition of xp:)

    nice tut!
    -tripplite
     
  6. krj15489

    krj15489 Regular member

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    thanks for pointing that out. i have tried to change it a few times now and it just says processing message and does nothing.
     
  7. tripplite

    tripplite Guest

    ack-m!!!! probably cause its such a long post.....ef!

    -tripplite
     

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