Tips for Windows XP

Here are some general tips and hints about how to use your XP better.

  • 1-8 Security stuff.
  • 9-29 General tips.


1. Create passwords for all your user accounts!

You must do this if:
- you use the internet
- if other people have access to the computer
If so, you MUST have a password protection!

By default Windows XP does not make passwords to the accounts you create during the install process, and these accounts all have full administration rights to the system. That just can not be!

Go to start -> control panel -> user accounts.
Select each active user account and assign a password to every one of them.
Please, use a combination of letters and numbers. It will atleast slow down password cracking softwares.


2. 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. XP Professional can be harder case, but only if administrators password was given when Windows was installed.

To password protect the administrator account in XP Home:
Restart your system and 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'.
Once Windows XP has loaded into safe mode, go to start -> control panel -> user accounts and select the administrator account and apply a password for it.
Restart the system.


3. Give a password to the 'Guest' user account

Windows XP`s guest account does not have a password. And if the account id active, it is a big security risk.

Se lets put password for it:
Using an account with administrator rights go to the command prompt (start -> run and type 'cmd'), then enter the following command: 'Net user guest password'
Now go to star -> \control panel -> user accounts and activate the guest account (if it is not active already).
You will be able to assign and change its password now.


4. 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 (and do not say you did not give a password for it!).

Administrator account doesn`t show up on the welcome screen (as defeault). If you have disabled the welcome screen you can do it easily.
Simply press CTRL+ALT+DEL twice and you will be transported to a login prompt that defaults to the administrator user account.

Note. Do not try this at your friends computers!
For example: Computer is online and virus will get in, now think what is more dangerous: Let that vius to do something as normal user, or an administrator rights?


5. Show administrator account on welcome screen

Do you want that administrator account is available from the welcome screen?

Open REGEDIT (start -> run and type 'regedit').
Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\UserList.
Add the DWORD value 'Administrator' with a value of '1'.


6. 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.

Press WINDOWSKEY (ÿ)+L and you just password protect your system.
But now any programs or processes that were running when you locked the desktop will stay open and are running in the background, ready for you to resume work or play.


7. 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 change let you see all hidden files and folders in Windows explorer.
Open 'my computer' and click on the 'tools' menu item.
Select 'folder options' and then the 'view' tab.
Under the 'hidden files and folders' selection choose 'show hidden files and folders'.
Press 'ok'.

Note. If you do not know what you are doing = Do not do it.
(I mean if you see a file you do not know what it is, do nothing)


8. 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.

You do not need to do this if you have a good firewall or a home-routerthat contains a hardware firewall.

The firewall is disabled by default in Windows XP, unless you have installed The Service Pack 2.

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' position.

If you aren't using Windows XP Service Pack 2, you should download and install it now.


9. Do a Windows repair install

If you are having serious performance issues with your XP system, or are getting repeated crashes and/or error messages, the ultimate choice is to format your hard drive and re-install Windows XP.
But reason might just be that some system files are corrupted, or hardware configuration has changed significantly after installing Windows XP, then performing a repair install may be the key to fix it.

A repair installation re-writes all Windows XP system files and re-detects all hardware without affecting the registry, or any of user data stored on the hard drive.

Boot the system from your XP CD. You might need to change your boot order from BIOS and select CD-drive as first boot device.
Choose the 'press enter to set up Windows XP now' option.
Press F8 to skip through the EULA (anyone ever actual read this?).
Then 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 (and your files will be safe).

Note. I have hear that some programs need to be re-installed after this, but it is not a big job.


10. 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 some time of use, the 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.
Navigate to 'c:\windows\prefetch' and delete all .PF files that are older than a week.


11. Create a keyboard shortcut to a folder or program

Shortcuts to programs are very convenient, but only if they are easily accessible. 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.

Note. Unfortunately this only works for shortcuts that are placed directly on the desktop.

If you do not already have shortcut you want in your desktop, just select the folder or program icon that you wish to use, and right click it and select 'create shortcut'.
Place your new shortcut on the desktop by dragging it (or use 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). Click 'ok'.
Now you can open the specified shortcut faster.


12. Using ALT+TAB to switch between applications

One of the most useful keyboard shortcuts built into all version of Windows is the ALT+TAB combination. Pressing and holding the ALT button while tapping the TAB button brings up a menu box with icons for all your open programs. By tapping the TAB button you can scroll through these icons.

When you get the one you want, release the keys and that program will be restored as the active window. This is especially handy when using full-screen programs like most games, a s the ALT+TAB combination can drop you back to the desktop when needed without (generally) halting your game.


13. Keyboard shortcuts using the Windows Key (ÿ)

Windows logo key that sits on the bottom of your keyboard actually has useful functions.
Other than opening the start menu :)

So lets see what it can do:
˙ = Open Start Menu
˙ + D = Restore or minimize all open windows
˙ + E = Start Windows Explorer
˙ + F = Start Find Files/Folders dialog box
˙ + L = Lock computer
˙ + M = Minimize all open windows
˙ + R = Start Run dialog box
˙ + F1 = Start Help Menu and Support Center
˙ + Tab = Cycles through all open programs and taskbar buttons. Press ENTER to select
˙ + Ctrl + Tab = Cycle through all open apps/games Taskbar buttons, Tray icons, Start Menu and Quick Launch toolbars (press Right or Left arrows to cycle through Toolbar and Tray items)
˙ + Pause/Break = Open 'my computer' properties window
˙ + Shift + M = Restore all open windows
˙ + Space = Scroll down one page at a time in Internet Explorer
˙ + Back Space = Scroll up one page at a time in Internet Explorer


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

Have you notice that Windows XP gives you 'yes to all' option in its file copy dialog box?
And that is very useful. So why there is no 'no to all' option?

Well, there is.
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. It will ask you again for the second folder it encounters, so follow the procedure again to speed up the process.


15. Bypass the recycle bin when deleting a file

If you do not wish a file(s) or folder(s) you are deleting to end up in the recycle bin, for security or privacy reasons, there is a simple way 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 Windows XP.


16. 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.


17. 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.

Go to start -> control panel -> mouse and select the 'pointer' tab.
Using the drop down box, select a theme that you like, then press 'ok'.
I am sure you will find something you like...


18. 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 Clear Type as the increase in text quality is considerable.

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' box is checked and change the drop down box to 'ClearType'.
Press 'OK'.

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


19. 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.


20. 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.

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.

Note. If you use laptop you might keep delay small. Just to make sure it will not eat your battery when you need it.


21. Get Rid of XP's annoying balloon tips

I just hate when XP is lonely and some tips will pop out of nowhere to inform that I have done something, or it has done something,or that it's sunny outside...

So lets kill that doing a small registry addition:
Open REGEDIT (start -> run and type 'regedit').
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced.
And add the DWORD value 'EnableBalloonTips' and give it a value of '0'.
This will take care of all balloon tips from popping up.


22. Adding additional Icons to 'my computer'

I use 'my computer' often and because of that, it would be nice if there would be more usefull stuff.

Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace.
And add a new key for each icon you wish to add to the 'my computer' window:
{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


23. Disable error reporting on program crash

You must have seen this pop up asking if you wish to send an error report to Microsoft when a program crashes.
I did always answer no, but that was before I found that you can actual disable it...

Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PCHealth\ErrorReporting.
Edit value DoReport and give it to value '0'.
Now the error report prompt has been disabeled.


24. 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 (as defeault) of your most recently accessed documents.

If you would like to remove this feature (or clear it) 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.


25. Change start menu style

Yes, lets put that classic style back.

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. This will also put 'my computer, 'my network places' and 'my documents' back to the desktop.


26. Add 'my computer' and other missing icons to your desktop

Just installed Windoes XP and can not see 'My computer'?

Right click on an open area of the desktop and hit 'properties'.
Go to the 'desktop' tab, then choose 'customize desktop'.
From here you can simply mark these common items to add them back to the desktop.


27. Change the picture in the welcome screen

Do you want to replace the picture identifying each user on the XP welcome screen?

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.


28. Automatically run programs when starting Windows XP

If there are applications or commands that you run every single time you start your computer you may want to set things up so that these programs run automatically during the Windows XP startup.

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' and 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.


29. Disable desktop cleanup wizard

Desktop cleanup wizard will run every 60 days and delete unused shortcuts from the desktop. Or it can be run manually when needed. It will inform you if any shortcut have not been used for more than 60 days.

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.


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