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Welcome to Bo's Windows XP Performance Tips n Tricks

Bo's Requested Conversions

Windows XP SP-2, what you should know!

Your Next Gen OS, Code Named Longhorn

Still using Internet Explorer?
Your kidding right?

Albion | Freeware | Freeware From A-Z | Security | Virus Information | Updated 05/07/05
| Windows XP Tips I | Windows XP Tips II | Windows XP Tips IIIWindows XP Tips IV | Windows XP V | Windows XP VI | Windows XP Tips VII
| Windows XP VIII | Windows XP IX | Windows XP X | Windows XP XI |

Warning!!!
Some of the items listed here require you to edit some system files. Be sure that before you edit any system file that you back it up in case something goes terribly wrong. Before starting your tweaks, make sure that you do a full system scan with your Spyware Scanner/Eradicator and fix any problems found, then reboot. If you do not have one, we strongly urge you to get one. Many can be found on our Featured Freeware Page. Our current favorite has to be Microsoft® Windows AntiSpyware (Beta)

Index

Freeing up System Resources
The Recycle Bin
System Restore
Turn Off Hibernation
Thaw Out From a System Freeze

Performance Tweaks
Disable Administrative Alerts General Performance
Disable Indexing Service & Use a Better Substitute Disable "Last Access Date" Timestamp
Disable Performance Counters Running in Background Disable Windows Themes
Keep Core Windows Operating Data in Main Memory Prefetching
Virtual Memory – Page File Prefetching Specific Applications

Video Card Performance Tweaks
Be sure you know the type of card you have on your system
Disable VSYNC For Frame Rate & Benchmark Boost Visual Effects

Boot & Shutdown Speed Tweaks
These tweaks address some of the larger causes of slow Windows boot up and shutdown times.
Disable the “nVidia Driver Helper” Service Turn Off Terminal Services
Slow Boot Caused By Networking  

Networking Tweaks 
These following tweaks will give you a speed boost over LAN and net connections without resorting to a change of ISPs.
Alleviate CPU Workload Taken Up By The NIC DNS Caching
Disable Internet Connection Sharing Increase Max Number of Simultaneous Connections in IE
Windows Sharing  

User Settings & Security 
The following tweaks address user accounts and data security.
Become a Power User - Not for Win XP Home Versions Get 2000 Security with XP Home - NTFS drives only
Encrypt Files & Folders in XP Pro Hide a Drive
Make Folders Private in XP - Only works on NTFS Drives Set Folder Permissions in 2000 - NTFS drives only

System Settings 
These tweaks deal with various and miscellaneous system settings.
Disable Windows Messenger Put Outlook in the System Tray - Office XP Only
Freeze Folder Settings Reassign Drive Letters

General Windows Annoyances 
Have you come across an annoying problem in Windows that just bothers you so much you want to get rid of it? These tweaks tackle some of the more annoying problems with Windows and take care of them.
AIM Related Problems and Tweaks 
AOL Instant Messenger
Delay When Opening “My Computer”
Cut, Copy & Paste Icons on the Toolbar Driver Signing
Error Reporting IE’s Image Auto-Resize

Right Click Context Menu Items
These tweaks go to address the annoyance of having a lengthy 
list of items on any right-click menu that get installed with various programs.
"Send To" List Items Context Menu Add To Menu These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a folder:
"New" List Items Open with These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a drive (hard drive, CD drive, etc)
These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a file There are two ways to approach editing out context menu items

The Recycle Bin
By default, the recycle bin uses 10% of each drive/partition for a pit stop for deleted data before it gets permanently deleted.

To adjust the amount of space the recycle bin uses, right click on the "Recycle Bin" and click "Properties". On the "Global" tab, set the slider to about 5%. This value will be applied to all drives/partitions. If you wish to configure the drives/partitions independently, check the "Configure drives independently" box, and proceed to go to each drive tab to adjust each slider.

Once finished, hit apply and OK. If you find that files are too large to go to the recycle bin, you will be prompted to either permanently delete, or cancel. If you don't want to permanently delete the file yet, hit cancel and just increase the size of the appropriate recycle bin.


System Restore
By default, XP's System Restore takes up 12% of your hard drive space. 12% of an 80GB hard drive is 9.6GB, and that's 9.6GB you cannot use for data storage. How can this be adjusted? Start out by right clicking "My Computer" and "Properties".

Select the “System Restore” tab. The window in that panel contains all your hard drives and/or partitions.

It is not necessary to have System Restore “Monitoring” every drive/partition. It only needs to be monitoring the drive/partition with the Operating System. You can proceed to turn it off on drives/partitions by hitting “Settings” and checking “Turn off System Restore on this drive.”

On the drive/partition that wish to keep System Restore working, hit “Settings” and drag the slider bar down to 2-4%. This is small enough as to not take up much space, yet large enough to provide a few restore points.


Turn Off Hibernation
Hibernation is a feature that allows your system to shut down quickly and save everything that’s open in the RAM to be stored on the hard drive until the computer is powered on again. XP and 2000 use a file called hiberfil.sys to save everything it needs when they go go into hibernation. If you never use the hibernate function, you can turn it off. When this feature is disabled, the hiberfil.sys file is deleted. This can free up the as much disk space as the amount of ram that you computer has. For example, if you have 1GB of RAM, you could be freeing up to 1GB of hard drive space.

In XP, go to Control Panel | Power Options | Hibernation and uncheck “Enable hibernation”. 
In 2000, go to Control Panel | Power Options | “Hibernate” tab and uncheck “Enable hibernate support”

If you should want to re-enable hibernation, go back in and check “Enable hibernation” in XP or “Enable hibernate support in 2000.

General Performance 
Tweaks The tweaks listed here help improve overall system performance and increase your system’s operating efficiency. Proceed with caution when turning off services in some of the following tweaks. It’s best to turn just one off, let the machine run for a few hours or days to ensure everything is operating properly, then proceed to turn off another one. When turning off services, there are two options: manual and disabled. “Manual” leaves the service off until called upon, while “disabled” disables the service so it does not come on at all. To access this selection, right click on a service and click “Properties”.

All the services normally get loaded upon startup and often control vital system functions, such as memory management, file management and hardware devices.

Sometimes these services are not necessary and can be turned off, thus freeing up some system resources that could be put to better use doing something else. As for general tips to start you off, if you've taken care of spyware (if you haven't, it's highly suggest you do), programs set to load at start up can inhibit performance. You can check to see what's loading down in the system tray. Use XP's msconfig, and this msconfig tool for 2000 to take care of programs loading in the system tray. Be careful what you turn on and off, though. You may inadvertently turn off a program that you may actually need loaded at startup. With that mentioned, on to the rest of the performance tweaks.

Disable Administrative Alerts
Few people use or have even heard of this feature. What it does is use Windows Messenger to send messages between computers pertaining to administrative notifications and alerts. If you already have Windows Messenger disabled, it makes so sense to have this service enabled, for it won't work without Messenger anyway. To disable this service, go to Start | Run and type services.msc. Double click "Alerter" and on the "General" tab, set the startup type to "Disabled". Do the same to the "Messenger" service. "Messenger" is not the Windows Messenger service.


Disable Indexing Service & Use a Better Substitute
In order to search through a hard drive faster, XP keeps a record of all files on the hard drive. It sounds useful, but if you use Windows' search tool infrequently, the indexing service just constantly runs in the background without being taken advantage of and used. Indexing can slow down actions as simple as opening or closing files. To disable this service, go to 
Start | Run and type services.msc. Double click "Indexing Services" and set the startup type to "Disabled". If you want to search, there is a freeware program called Locate that can index 400GB of data in under 2 minutes and can perform instant searches. 
File | Update Databases re-indexes all your drives, in case you miss where the indexing option is located. You should only re-index before a search. This way, system resources are used only when you actually need to perform a search.

In addition, you can use Task Scheduler (a.k.a. Scheduled Tasks) to run the shortcut named "Updtdb32" in place of using the "Update Database" option manually within the program. For example, have the task run daily at a time you are not usually at your computer, such as early in the morning. So, all the files that had been added, moved and changed from the previous day can be indexed. If you have this re-indexing task done daily, it only takes a few seconds each time it is done. You can get to the task scheduler by going to Start | Run. Type %systemroot%Tasks, and hit enter. Double click on "Add Scheduled Task" and the wizard will help take you through the process of setting up a scheduled task. Make sure you hit "Browse" when asked for what application you want to be run. Navigate to the folder where you have the "Updtdb32" shortcut. Other than that, creating the scheduled task should be fairly self-explanatory, thanks to the wizard.


Disable "Last Access Date" Timestamp (NTFS Drives Only)

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 machine happens to be doing. To disable this feature, open up regedit and go to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem. 

Create/modify the DWORD value “NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate” and set the value to 1.


Disable Performance Counters Running in Background

There is a performance monitor located in XP in Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Performance that does not usually see the light of day with most users. What it does is track a number of different areas regarding your system’s performance, such as CPU activity and hard drive access. It runs constantly in the background using up system resources without most people even using it. If you have no use for this and wish to reclaim some system resources, there is a tweak to turn it off.

First, you will need to download and install the Extensible Performance Counter List Utility
Go to C:\Program Files\Resource Kit and run the Exctrlst.exe utility.

Select each line in the “Extensible performance counters” window and clear the “performance counters enabled” button below. This must be done for each counter. When it’s finished, just exit the utility.

The next time you access the performance monitor, there will be no information available or shown.


Disable Remote Registry
Note: This service is disabled by default in Windows XP with Service pack 2 installed
This service allows your registry to be edited from a remote computer. It is most likely the case that this service is not needed, not to mention a possible security risk for people concerned about their system security.

To turn it off, go to Start | Run and type services.msc. Set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” for XP’s “Remote Registry” or 2000’s “Remote Registry Service”.


Disable Windows Themes
If you do not plan on using XP’s fancy blue, olive green or silver themes and aren’t running any skinning utilities that rely on XP’s theme service, then turning it off altogether and running Windows Classic Style would free up a fairly significant amount of memory. To use Windows Classic Style, simply right click on the desktop and click “Properties. Go to the “Appearance” tab and change the “Windows and Buttons” drop down menu to “Windows Classic Style”. Hit Apply and OK.

To shut off the service entirely, go to Start | Run and type services.msc. Double click on “Themes”. On the “General” tab, set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” and click OK.


Keep Core Windows Operating Data in Main Memory

This tweak forces core kernel and essential driver files to stay in the RAM, rather than being shoved into virtual memory on the hard drive. In the conversion over to virtual memory, performance can drop significantly. This transfer over to virtual memory is designed to be put into effect when the system is getting low on physical RAM, however, this occurs periodically even when the system is not low on memory. In those cases, the transfer over to virtual RAM is often not necessary. Only proceed with applying this tweak if you have at least 256MB of RAM in your system.

Open regedit and go to 

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Session Manager\MemoryManagement. 

Double click on DWORD value “DisablePagingExecutive” and set the value to 1.


Prefetching
Prefetching is a process unique to XP, which stores temporary settings that help load frequently accessed files and applications faster. However, after a time, the folder gets clogged up and overloaded, much like the temp directory found in all Windows Operating Systems, and needs to be cleaned out every so often. Go to %systemroot%Prefetch, delete everything in there and reboot. This should be done as often as you normally clean out your temp directories.


Prefetching Specific Applications
Window Media Player has an extra switch included into its shortcut to help load it faster using XP’s prefetch feature. You can try this out on some of your other applications by right clicking on the program’s shortcut and clicking “properties. Add /prefetch:1 to the end of the contents of the “Target” box.

If this switch causes loading errors in programs that you add this to, simply remove the /prefetch:1 switch from the shortcut entry.


Virtual Memory – Page File

Defragging and setting a rigid area for your Page File can sometimes drastically increase memory performance and your system’s ability to multi-task. Unfortunately, Disk Defragmenter doesn’t touch the Page File. There are two ways to defrag it.

One way to defrag the page file is to download and install PageDefrag Utility. The program’s window displays a list of files and how fragmented they have become. To defrag the page file, select “Defragment at next boot” and hit OK. The next time you restart, this program will defrag the listed files.

If you want to go the “tried and tested”, yet time consuming route without using any third-party applications, and have a separate hard drive/partition, this procedure will work every time. First, move the page file to the separate drive/partition. In XP, go to Control Panel | System | “Advanced” tab and under “Performance”, click “Settings”. Go to the “Advanced” tab and under “Virtual Memory”, click “Change”. In 2000, go to Control Panel | System | “Advanced” tab; click “Performance Options” and then “Change”. Select the drive letter that displays the Page File size. Select “No paging file” and hit “Set”. Next, select the separate hard drive/partition. Select “Custom Size” and set the Initial Size and the Maximum equal to 1.5 to 2 times greater than the total of system’s RAM. For example, if your system has 512MB of RAM, set the two values equal to 1024MB. Hit “Set” and OK after you’re done. Reboot when prompted.

Now, defrag the drive/partition your Operating System is on. It’s best if this is done in safe mode and overnight when the computer doesn’t need to be used.

After defragging is completed, go to into “Virtual Memory”, per the directions listed earlier, and select the drive letter that displays the Page File size. Select “No paging file” and hit “Set”. Now select the drive that originally had the paging file. Select “Custom Size” and set the Initial Size and the Maximum equal to what you chose to set them as when you moved it to the other hard drive/partition. Hit “Set” and OK after you’re done and reboot when prompted.



Disable VSYNC For Frame Rate & Benchmark Boost
If you are looking to boost your frame rate in 3D games or benchmark programs and not concerned about image quality loss, try disabling the VSYNC or “wait for vertical synchronization” setting. This setting is found in your video card’s direct 3D and OpenGL settings. When enabled, this setting basically forces the video card to conform and display frames according to the frame rate of the monitor. It has to wait until an entire image frame has been displayed before displaying the next frame. Many newer video cards may be able to render frames considerably faster than the forced cap VSYNIC puts on FPS production. Note, however, that although disabling this feature may not produce any visual quality difference in some games, in other games your card may render images horribly. Either way, if disabling VSYNC produces desirable results, there is no reason not to leave it that way.

On ATi cards: 
In the “Advanced” display settings, go to the “3D” tab and check “use custom settings” for both direct3D and OpenGL. Click the “Custom” button to access the controls for both modes. Turn the “wait for vertical sync” slider all the way to the left.

On nVidia cards: 
In the “Advanced” display settings, go to the tab that identifies your video card model. The VSYNC settings are located in “more direct3D settings” and “OpenGL settings”. Disable the appropriate one.


Visual Effects
Both Windows 2000 and XP have all sorts of fade and other fancy effects turned on as default. All right, so they look pretty, however, they can really bog down systems.

Under XP, in the Control Panel, go to System |“Advanced” tab and under “Performance”, click “Settings”. The two I suggest to uncheck here are “Fade or slide menus into view” and “Fade menu items after clicking”. You can turn off and on any effects you want in order to find a good balance between visual effects and performance Hit Apply and OK after you’re done.

In W2K, Right click on the desktop, click “Properties” and go to the “Effects” tab


Disable the “nVidia Driver Helper” Service
Note: One some machines running Windows XP with SP2, this service may not even be present

This relatively new feature has been included with some of the more recent Detonator driver packages. What does it do? That’s where it gets hazy. There is no solid definition of what it is or what it does, and it is even left off of nVidia’s web site. The only thing that is definite about it is that can slow down boot and shutdown times considerably.

Here’s how to disable it. Go to Start { Run and type services.msc. Set the startup value of the “nVidia Driver Helper” service to “Manual” or “Disabled”.


Slow Boot Caused By Networking
If you are experiencing a long pause after getting to the desktop before you can really do anything, a network feature is probably the culprit.

In XP, go to Control Panel | Networking Connections. In 2000, go to Control Panel | Networking and Dial-up Connections. Right click on your Internet connection and click “Properties”. Uncheck “File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Network” and hit apply and OK. Windows 2000 machines will need to reboot before continuing. Go back into “Properties” and re-check the box, hit apply and OK and reboot if needed. Hopefully, you will notice a boost in speed after booting to your desktop.


Turn Off Terminal Services

If you are experiencing slow shutdowns, one tweak you can try is turning off Ternimal Services. If you do not use remote desktop, fast user switching, remote assistance or the terminal server, then proceed with this tweak.

Go to Start | Run and type services.msc /s. Find "Terminal Services" on the list and double click on it (If it’s not there, it isn’t installed). Change startup type to “disabled” or “manual” and click OK.

NOTE: If you use a dialup, I would set the option to Manual rather than Disabled.


Alleviate CPU Workload Taken Up By The NIC

If your network adapter has an onboard processor, enabling it alleviates some of the network processing workload from the system’s CPU. This option is disabled by default. Note that this tweak should not be attempted if you are on a dial-up connection. It only pertains to ethernet cards and may have adverse effects (and if there are any, it usually results speed loss) on the dial-up connection.

In regedit, go to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters,
and create/modify the DWORD value “DisableTaskOffload” to 0. 1 Disables the NIC processor.


Disable Internet Connection Sharing

If you don’t use Windows’ Internet Connection Sharing service, it can be turned off. This will have no effect on computers running on a LAN off of one Internet connection, as long as the feature has not been configured for use. It is most often the case that it is not used.

To turn it off, go to Start | Run and type services.msc. In XP, set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” for “Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) / Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)”. For 2000, it is the “Internet Connection Sharing” service.


DNS Caching

When you surf the web, Windows stores recently visited addresses in a DNS cache. The cache is accessed before a request is sent out over the net when a web page address is requested. If the address is found in the DNS cache, it saves time by eliminating the need to request an IP address from a DNS server over the net.

There is a stack of IP addresses in the DNS cache that constantly gets bumped down as IP requests are made. Sort of like a waiting list. This tweak will increase the size of the DNS cache, thus greatly increasing the speed at which web pages are accessed, especially if you regularly check certain web pages.

 HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Dnscache\Parameters
and create/modify these DWORD values:

CacheHashTableBucketSize” set with the value of 1;

 “CacheHashTableSize” set with the value of 180;

MaxCacheEntryTtlLimit” set with the value of ff00; and

MaxSOACacheEntryTtlLimit” set with the value of 12d.

The second part of DNS caching involves the caching of unsuccessful results. Namely, a valid URL that is temporary offline or cannot be accessed for some reason. As long as that entry remains in the cache and even if the URL goes live again, because Windows refers to the DNS cache first, it will only see the unsuccessful connection and continue to refer to it until it is bumped from the cache. Sounds bad, but there is a way to avoid this with a registry fix that prevents unsuccessful DNS lookups from being cached. Open regedit and go to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Dnscache\Parameters.

Create/modify the following DWORD values: “NegativeCacheTime” set with the value of 0;

NetFailureCacheTime” set with the value of 0; and

NegativeSOACacheTime” set with the value of 0.

Close regedit and reboot.


Increase Max Number of Simultaneous Connections in IE

IE6 only offers two simultaneous server connections by default, although it may be fine for normal use with low traffic demands, traffic can get bogged down when connecting to web pages with a significant amount of graphical content. By increasing the number of possible server connections, your bandwidth can be used more efficiently and load complex web pages faster. Start out by opening up regedit and going to

 HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings.

Create/modify two DWORD values: “MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server” set with the value of 0000000a, and

MaxConnectionsPerServer” set with the value of 0000000a.

Close regedit and reboot.


Windows Sharing

It’s fairly common nowadays to have more than one computer in the house on LAN so they can each connect to the Internet. It’s also common to share and transfer files between the computers. When you try to access one computer from another, there is often a significant delay while trying to connect. This is because your computer will check the remote computer you are accessing for any scheduled tasks. The more there are on the remote PC, the longer it takes to connect.

To avoid this delay, go into regedit, and go to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\RemoteComputer\NameSpace.

Delete the {D6277990-4C6A-8D87-00AA0060F5BF} key and reboot. The next time you try to access the shared files on a remote computer, you will probably notice your computer gets there faster.


Become a Power User
This does not work in Windows XP Home Versions

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 and type lusrmgr.msc. Click on “Groups” and double click on “Administrators”. Make sure there is an administrative user other than your user name that you can use for full administrative privileges.

Select the user account that is going to be a power user and hit “Remove” and OK. Double click “Power Users” on the side panel, click “Add”, and type the account’s name that you just removed from the Administrators group. Click OK, and OK again.

Power users do not always have to log out in order to perform tasks that only an administrative user can. Hold down the shift key and right click on a program’s *.exe file or shortcut. Click “Run As” and select “Run the program as the following user” or “The following user”. Enter the username and password of an administrator user account and hit OK.


Encrypt Files & Folders in XP Pro

This security feature only works on XP Pro with an NTFS file system. What it does is allow only the user that encrypted the folders/files to access them. Right click on a file/folder, and click “Properties”. On the “General” tab, click “Advanced”. Check the “Encrypt contents and secure data” box and click OK. Specify whether or not to encrypt the subfolders (it is recommended that you do). To undo the encryption, just uncheck the Encrypt box.


Get 2000 Security with XP Home

Although XP Home lacks some security features, you don’t have to be totally left out to dry. You have the ability to use the same security features available in Windows 2000.

First, boot up in safe mode (just hit F8 before getting to the Windows loading screen). You may now follow the instructions in Set Folder Permissions in 2000. Just like with 2000, you can only do this with NTFS drives. Reboot back into normal mode when you have completed setting the permissions. This is the easy way.

There is a way to handle permissions while in normal mode, but it’s a little tricky to handle. Start out by going to
Start | Run and type cmd. At the command prompt, type cacls (calc brings up the calculator; you don’t want that). This gives you the ability to add, remove or modify file permissions on files and folders through the command prompt without having to reboot into safe mode. Type cacls /? for help on different options and variables.


Hide a Drive

If you don’t want other users stumbling over a drive while browsing the computer through Explorer, this tweak may help out. Although this tweak will render the drive invisible in Windows Explorer, it will still be accessible through Windows’ search utility, as well as other third-party file managing applications. Microsoft Office applications will also be able to access the cloaked drive with no problem.

To cloak a drive, open up regedit and go to

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer.

Create/modify the DWORD value “NoDrives” to match a corresponding drive letter you wish to hide. A: 1; B: 2; C: 4; D: 8; E: 16; F: 32; G: 64; H: 128; I: 256; J: 512; etc. To hide multiple drives, just add the values together and enter the sum as the value for the DWORD value “NoDrives”. To hide all the drives, just enter the value 67108863.


Make Folders Private in XP

You can make any folders private to all other users on the system by right clicking on the folder and going to the “Sharing” tab. Check the “Make this folder private” box and hit OK. Note that this only works on NTFS file systems.


Set Folder Permissions in 2000

There is a neat little feature in 2000, however only applicable on NTFS drives. On and partition/drive/folder, right click and click “Properties” and go to the “Security” tab.

The different users will be listed according to user groups. Administrators on top, Creator, Everyone, SYSTEM, Users, and customized groups are inserted according to closest user group. If you only want a specific user access to a certain folder, turn every body’s permissions off except for the user, administrator and SYSTEM. Depending on how much freedom you want to give the user, you can make the folder read-only by unchecking “Full Control”, “Modify, “Read & Execute” and “Write”. If the user wants to open something, they would have to copy and paste the file to an area where they had permission to open files a.k.a. “Read & Execute”.

So, here’s a rundown on what each entry does:

Note that any change made to a folder will also change all the subfolder permissions. Anything left unchecked in the main folder can be checked in the subfolders, but anything left checked in the main folder cannot be unchecked in the subfolders. Folder hierarchies need to be kept in mind when changing these permissions.

Overall, it’s fairly simple to work with. You just need to keep track of where you are within the file structure.


Disable Windows Messenger

To stop Windows Messenger from loading, there is a registry tweak you can try out. If you use MSN Messenger, it can be run without Windows Messenger. If you install MSN Messenger after applying this tweak, the tweak will be reset by the installation and it will need to be done again.

  1. First, if you have it open, close MSN Messenger and make sure it is not open in the system tray.
  2. Open up regedit and go to

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Messenger\Client.

  3. Create/modify these to DWORD values:
  4. If you are experiencing a slow down opening OE as a result of the above tweak, try this:
    1. Open regedit and go to

      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\CLSID.

    2. Find the key

      {FB7199AB-79BF-11d2-8D94-0000F875C541}

      and under it select the folder IniProcServer32. In the right panel of regedit double-click on the “(Default)” entry at the top and completely delete the value data it contains.
    3. Now do the same for the LocalServer32 folder .

Freeze Folder Settings

Every time a user logs off, any changed settings are saved. Window locations, window sizes, and taskbar adjustments are all saved at the exit of each windows session. This tweak allows you to set up everything the way you want it, and no matter how you fiddle with the settings, everything will return to the way you set it up upon the next login.

  1. Start out by adjusting everything the way you want it.
  2. This will be the freeze point.
  3. Next, open up regedit and go to

     HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer.

  4. Create/modify the DWORD value “NoSaveSettings” and set the value equal to 1.
  5. You will have to log off and back on again before the settings take effect.
  6. After that, no matter what you do, after every new login, the folder and taskbar settings will be returned to the frozen state you set earlier.

Put Outlook in the System Tray

If you like to have Microsoft Outlook open all the time and have Office XP installed, you’re in luck. You can remove toolbar icon from the toolbar and send it to the system tray when Outlook is minimized.

  1. First, close Outlook if you have it open.
  2. Next, open up regedit and go to

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Outlook\Preferences.

  3. Create/modify the DWORD value “MinToTray” and set the value equal to 1.

The next time you open Outlook, it will be seen in both the toolbar and the system tray. As soon as it is minimized, it will disappear from the toolbar and only be seen in the system tray. Just double click the icon to restore it.


Reassign Drive Letters

If you want to reassign your drive letters, go to

  1. Start | Run and type diskmgmt.msc.
  2. In the Disk Management window, all your drives will be listed down at the bottom half of the screen.
  3. Right click on a disk and click “Change Drive Letter and Path”.
  4. Click “Edit” or “Change” and select an unused letter from the drop down list.
  5. Click OK, answer the prompts that come up, and finally
  6. hit OK when you are done.

AIM Related Problems and Tweaks

This isn't Windows per say, but there are a few issues that have been complained about a number of times about AIM.

Buddy List Limited to 200 buddies

  1. First, there is a 200-entry limit for the number of users you can have on your buddy list.
  2. There is a very simple registry tweak to increase the limitation number.
  3. Go to this key in the registry:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\America Online\AOL Instant Messenger (TM)\CurrentVersion\Buddy.

  4. Double click the MaxBuddies
    DWORD value. C8 is the default which sets the limit to 200.
  5. Set this value reasonable amount.

Saving Away Messages
There are some people who only have the default away message and don't really care much about it. There are other people that go nuts and have one or multiple sliding lists full of custom away messages. When it comes time to backup files and settings for a reformat, this can be handy if they fall in the second category of people.

  1. Open up regedit and go to

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\America Online\AOL Instant Messenger (TM)\CurrentVersion\Users
  2. Open up the key with your AIM username.
  3. Export the IamGoneList key.
    This is where all your away messages are stored.
  4. To restore them after AIM is installed, simply double click on the .reg file and restore the key.

Cut, Copy & Paste Icons on the Toolbar

One of the consistent features between different Windows Operating Systems was the handy cut, copy and paste icons on the toolbar of Windows explorer during file & folder browsing. By default, these icons do not appear.

  1. Double click on “My Computer”,
  2. right click up on the toolbar and click “Customize”.
  3. A “Customize Toolbar” window should appear and just add/remove icons as you see fit.

Delay When Opening “My Computer”

It is a sure thing that you have sat in front of your monitor more than a few times and waited for “My Computer” to load. There is a simple fix to eliminate the wait time.

  1. Open up “My Computer”,
  2. go to Tools | Folder Options and select the “View” tab.
  3. Uncheck “Automatically search for network folders and printers”
  4. and hit OK.
  5. Now try opening up “My Computer”. Notice a difference?

Driver Signing

It’s a pain to be prompted by Windows warning you about “unsigned drivers” whenever you need to install third party drivers for hardware. No, there’s nothing wrong with installing “unsigned drivers”. They merely lack Microsoft’s stamp of approval. The only thing the prompts are good at is slowing down a driver installation. Here’s the simple fix that gets rid of those annoying prompts.

  1. Right click “My Computer” and
  2. click “Properties”.
  3. Go to the “Hardware” tab
  4. and click on “Driver Signing”.
  5. Select “Ignore” for the action.
  6. Click OK
  7. Click OK
  8. You will never be bothered by those pesky prompts again.

Error Reporting

There are some occasions when a program, or even the entire Operating System experiences a crash, you are greeted with a prompt to send an error report back to Microsoft. I don’t know about everybody else, but most of the time when I get this, it isn’t usually the Operating System’s fault and I would never bother to send a report.

To turn off this prompting,

  1. go to Control Panel | System |“Advanced” tab and click “Error Reporting”.
  2. Select “Disable Error Reporting”, but leave “But notify me when a critical error occurs” checked, for it’s sometimes a good idea to see it and it sometimes can give a clue as to what happened.

IE’s Image Auto-Resize

Whenever IE6 comes across an odd sized image or an image that is larger than the viewable screen, it resizes the image to fit. Many people would much rather view images at their true size, so here’s how to avoid it.

  1. In IE, go to Tools | Internet Options and select the “Advanced” tab.
  2. Scroll down to the “Multimedia Options” and uncheck “Enable Automatic Image Resizing”.

Context Menu Tweaks:

"Send To" List Items
To add/remove things in the right click | Send To menu,

  1. go to this directory: x:\Documents and Settings\username\SendTo.
  2. Feel free to add and remove shortcuts at your leisure within this folder.

"New" List Items
To get rid of things in the right click | New menu,

  1. open up regedit, and go to

    HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.ext and delete the sub-key Shellnew.

    .ext being the actual extension type you wish to remove (ie .psd, .rar, .bmp, etc.).

You can also do this from the run command prompt, but only with Windows XP.

  1. If you wanted to delete "Photoshop image", enter this: reg delete

    HKCR\.psd\Shellnew,

  2. and hit "Y" when prompted if it's the key you wish to delete.

Note that this run command will not work with Microsoft extensions. You will have to go into the registry and navigate to each sub key for the extension (ie, .xls, . ppt, .pub, etc), and delete the Shellnew keys that reside there. Make sure you pay attention for separate programs that use the same extension, such as Wordpad and Microsoft Word. There are separate entries under the .doc extension for each one.

Context Menu
If you right click on any file or folder, you can sometimes see a length list of "Add to…" items or other such junk that gets placed on the menu with the installation of certain programs.

Items that are located in the "Open with…" slide menu are located in

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\OpenWithList

in the registry. Deleting items off this list should only be done if an "Open with…" extension has been wrongly associated with a certain program. Once deleted, you will be free to re-associate it, or just leave it as is. This should not be confused with

Anything found below "Open With…" to the next separator is found in this key in the registry:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers.

In the image example, "The Cleaner", "WinRar", "WinZip" and "Yahoo Email" are the items that can be removed. As a side note, the WinRar and WinZip menus can be useful if you start using them, so it may be suggested that those two entries be left.

Here are other locations for any global entries that only appear after right clicking on certain files or folders:

These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a folder:

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers]

These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a drive (hard drive, CD drive, etc):

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shell] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Drive\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers]

These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a file.
Note that extension specific menu entries are not located here.

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers]

There are two ways to approach editing out context menu items.

  1. The first is if you don't know what it is, leave it alone.
  2. The second is backup the registry entry, try removing the entry and if it doesn't end up being a desirable result, restore the entry you backed up. The good thing about fooling around with these menu item tweaks is that they do not require a reboot to be applied.

Thaw Out From a System Freeze

On those occasions that the system experiences extreme lag and the mouse moves in seemingly slow motion when you try to tell it to do something it doesn’t like, there is an easy way to thaw your way out.

Press the famed three-finger salute (CTRL + ALT + DEL), and click “Task Manager”. In the “Processes” list, end the task named “explorer.exe”. Next, and without exiting the Task Manager, go to File | New Task and type %systemroot%/explorer.exe.

You should now be able to operate the system normally. Note that some programs that run in the system tray may have disappeared after this fix. You can either start them manually by clicking on their respective icons in the programs folder on the start menu, or simply go to Start | Log off. This, however, will close any programs you have open. Log back in, and everything should load up normally like it was a reboot.