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Site Updated 12/04/04

Windows XP Tips & Tricks Part X

Take an in-depth look at XP's Windows File Protection 

Takeaway: Windows File Protection (WFP) and its accompanying utility, the System File Checker, can prevent third-party applications from overwriting system files. Find out how to use and modify the behavior of these features in Windows XP.

When you install an application only to have it crash Windows, there's a good chance the crash occurred because the application overwrote critical Windows system files. The results are unpredictable any time that system files are overwritten. The system may run fine with the modified files, or the system may operate erratically or fail completely. Fortunately, Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003 use a mechanism called Windows File Protection (WFP) to prevent critical system files from being overwritten. In this article, I'll explain what WFP is and how it works. I'll go on to show you how to modify or override WFP's behavior. (Note: Although WFP works almost identically on Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003, this article's information, including the registry entries and SFC syntax, was written specifically for XP.)

How Windows File Protection works WFP is designed to protect the contents of the Windows folder. Rather than preventing any modifications to the entire folder, WFP protects specific file types, such as SYS, EXE, DLL, OCX, FON, and TTF. Registry entries control the file types that WFP protects.

When an application attempts to replace a protected file, WFP checks the replacement file's digital signature to see if Microsoft signed the file and to see if the file is the correct version. If both of these conditions check out, then the replacement is allowed. Normally, the only types of files that are allowed to replace system files are those included with Windows service packs, hot fixes, and operating system upgrades. System files can also be replaced by Windows Update or by the Windows Device Manager/Class Installer.

If the two conditions are not met, the protected file will be replaced by the new file, but will soon be overwritten by the correct version. When this happens, Windows pulls the correct version of the file either from the Windows installation CD or from the computer's DLLCache folder.

Windows File Protection doesn't just protect files against modification—it also protects them against deletion. To see WFP in action, navigate to the \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 folder and rename the CALC.EXE file to CALC.OLD. When you do, you'll see a message indicating that changing the file's extension may make the file unusable. Acknowledge the warning by clicking the Yes button. Now, wait a few minutes and press the F5 key to refresh your view of the file system. It can take some time for the replacement to be made. When the file is eventually replaced, Windows will let you know by making an entry into the Event Logs.

An interesting side note about WFP is that it actually works closely with the Windows installer program. Any time that the Windows Installer needs to install a protected file, it hands the file off to WFP rather than attempting to install the file itself. WFP then makes the judgment call as to whether to allow the installation.

System File Checker While automatic file replacement does save time, there are situations that may require manual intervention. For example, you may not want to wait around for WFP to detect that a protected file has been replaced. Fortunately, there is a tool called the System File Checker (SFC) that you can use to manually control WFP.

SFC is a command line tool that should be run from the Command Prompt window. The syntax looks like this:

SFC     [/SCANNOW]     [/SCANONCE]     [/SCANBOOT]     [/REVERT]     [/PURGECACHE]     

The /SCANNOW switch tells SFC to scan all protected files right now. If an incorrect file version is detected during the scanning process, the incorrect version will be reverted back to the official Microsoft version. Of course, this may sometimes mean that you must have the Windows installation CD or the latest service pack or hot fix available.

The /SCANONCE parameter tells WFP to scan the protected system files the next time that the machine is booted. During the scan, any incorrect files will be replaced with the proper versions. As the parameter's name implies, this type of scan will only happen once. Subsequent system boots will occur normally without SFC running.

The /SCANBOOT parameter is similar to the /SCANONCE option. The difference is that while SCANONCE scans the protected files the next time that Windows boots, the SCANBOOT parameter scans the system files every time that Windows boots. Both of these commands replace incorrect system files as necessary and may require you to provide copies of the correct file versions

The /REVERT switch is used to turn off SFC. For example, suppose that you used the SCANBOOT option to scan all protected files every time that the system boots. As you can imagine, this would really increase the amount of time that it takes the computer to boot up. Eventually, you may get tired of these long boot times and want to disable the SFC. To do so, you'd simply use the SFC /REVERT command, which will prevent SFC from running at boot up.

The /PURGECACHE switch is one to be careful with. Earlier I explained that Windows uses a cache folder to store backup copies of the correct version of the various system files. If you run the SFC /PURGECACHE command, though, the cache will be emptied and the backup files will be erased. This command will also cause Windows to start scanning the various protected files and will rebuild the cache while doing so. Of course, this may mean that you'll have to provide Windows with the Windows installation media or copies of updated system files.

The last SFC command switch is the /CACHESIZE=x switch. There is actually a lot of contradictory information about the default cache size. While researching this article, I found three different Microsoft Knowledgebase articles that specified three different default cache sizes. One article suggested that the default cache size was 50 MB, while another suggested that the size was 300 MB. Still another indicated that the size was unlimited. The default size doesn't really matter, though, because you can use the CACHESIZE switch to change the size of the cache to meet your needs.

To use the CACHESIZE switch, you must enter the command SFC /CACHESIZE=x, where x is the desired number of megabytes that you want to dedicate to the cache. After specifying the new cache size, you must reboot the system and then run the SFC /PURGECACHE command.

Controlling WFP and SFC through the registry 
Earlier, I explained that the registry controlled the general behavior of WFP. There are several different registry keys that you can modify in order to control the behavior of WFP. Some of these keys are directly manipulated every time you run SFC. Others have lower-level functions, such as specifying the location of the file cache or of the installation files.

Modifying the registry can be dangerous. If you make an incorrect modification, it can destroy Windows and/or your applications. Therefore, I strongly recommend creating a full backup before attempting any of the techniques outlined in this section.

To access the SFC registry keys, enter the REGEDIT command at the Run prompt. This will open the Registry Editor. Now, navigate through the registry tree to this key: 

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon

Normally, the WinLogon portion of the registry is used to control various boot options. Since many of the SFC options control whether SFC is run on boot up, however, Microsoft has placed the SFC-related registry keys in this location.

This registry key controls whether SFC is enabled or disabled. There are actually four different options that you can set just by changing the DWORD value. The default DWORD value is 0. This setting enables SFC. Normally you won't want to change this value. However, you can change the value from 0 to 4 to leave SFC enabled but to disable the popups.

You may only disable SFC if you have a kernel debugger hooked up. If you are using a kernel debugger, you can change the registry key's DWORD value to 1, which will disable SFC and then prompt you on all subsequent boots as to whether you want to reenable it.

You can also disable SFC by changing the DWORD value to 2. This option disables SFC at the next boot only. There is no option to reenable SFC, because SFC will automatically be reenabled on the following boot.

Earlier, I showed you the SCANONCE, SCANBOOT, and REVERT options for the SFC. Any time that you use any of these options, SFC is actually modifying the SFCScan registry key. You can modify this key by changing its assigned DWORD value.

The default value is 0. This value indicates that protected files should not be scanned at boot up. This setting is equivalent to running the SFC /REVERT command.

Changing the assigned DWORD value to 1 indicates that protected files should be scanned on every boot. Setting the SFCScan value to 1 is equivalent to running the SFC /SCANBOOT command.

Finally, setting the DWORD value to 2 tells SFC to scan the protected files on the next boot, but not on subsequent boots. This is the equivalent to running the SFC /SCANONCE command.

The SFCQuota registry key is used to control the SFC cache size. As you may recall, earlier when I talked about the SFC /CACHESIZE=x command, I indicated that there was a lot of inconsistent information regarding the default cache size. On my system though, the DWORD value assigned to the SFCQuota registry key was 0xffffffff. According to the Microsoft Knowledge Base, this translates into a 300-MB cache size. The same knowledgebase article indicates that you can cache all protected system files by changing this value to FFFFFFFF.

Earlier, I explained that Windows uses the DLLCACHE folder as the location for storing cached copies of system files. Normally, this folder exists in the \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 folder. However, by modifying the SFCDllCacheDir registry key, you can actually control the cache location.

Cached files will always be placed in the DLLCACHE folder, but by using this registry key, you can control the folder's location. The only catch is that you must specify a location that exists on a local hard drive. In Windows 2000, you could specify a network share as the DLLCACHE location, but this option does not exist in Windows XP.

Yet another registry key related to SFC is the SFCShowProgress key. This registry key allows you to set its DWORD value to either 0 or 1. The default value is 0, which disables the SFC progress bar. Setting the value to 1 causes SFC to display the progress bar.

Source File Location
Earlier, when I was explaining how WFP and SFC worked, I indicated several times that you may have to supply the Windows installation media or copies of valid source files under some conditions. By modifying the registry though, it is actually possible to point Windows to a set of source files rather than having Windows ask you for those files.

This registry key is found in a different part of the registry. To access it you must go to this key:


Once you arrive at this location, you can specify the location of the Windows system files by using either a drive letter and path or a UNC.

The only real gotcha associated with using this command is that you must place the files within a folder called I386. For example, if your Windows system files were in a folder named C:\I386, then you would only specify the C:\ portion of the path within the registry because Windows assumes that the I386 folder will exist. Likewise, if you were to use a UNC share, the I386 folder must exist beneath the share point. For example, if you were to share a folder called FILES, you would want to place the I386 folder inside of the FILES folder. You could then tell Windows to look at \\server_name\FILES for the shared files. Windows would then look for the system files within \\server_name\FILES\I386.

Quickly create multiple folders from the command prompt

It's a snap to create a new folder in Windows Explorer--especially if you use the Make A New Folder command in the File And Folder Tasks section of the Explorer Bar. However, if you need to create multiple folders at one time, such as when you're setting up home directories for new users, this procedure can quickly become very tedious.

Fortunately, the Make Directory command line tool has an undocumented feature that will allow you to create multiple folders in one swell foop, fell swoop. For example, suppose that you need to create folders called One, Two, and Three. To do so with the Make Directory command line tool, open a Command Prompt in the folder in which you need to create these folders and type the command:

MD One Two Three

Add a Safe Mode option to the Boot menu in Windows XP 
Wouldn't it be nice if Safe Mode were available from the Boot menu? In fact, it's relatively easy to add a Safe Mode option to the Boot menu.

When you're experiencing a problem with Windows XP, you may need to boot the system into Safe Mode more than once. However, doing so can be a tiresome process. When the Boot menu appears, you must press [F8], and then you must select Safe Mode from yet another menu.

Wouldn't it be nice if Safe Mode were available from the Boot menu? In fact, it's relatively easy to add a Safe Mode option to the Boot menu.

Follow these steps:

1. Press [Windows][Break] to open the System Properties dialog box.
2. On the Advanced tab, click the Settings button in the Startup And Recovery section.
3. In the System Startup section, click the Edit button.
4. When the Boot.ini file opens in Notepad, locate the line that ends with the /fastdetect switch.
5. Highlight and copy that line, and paste it in the line below.
6. Change the section on the line that reads WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" to WINDOWS="Safe Mode."
7. Add the following to the end of the line:

/safeboot:minimal /sos /bootlog

Create a Run command shortcut

As you know, using the Run dialog box to quickly launch certain applications or utilities can come in handy in a number of situations. For example, suppose you regularly use the Run dialog box to open a command prompt by typing Cmd in the Open text box.

You can access the Run dialog box by clicking the Start button and then clicking Run, or by pressing [Windows]R. However, both of these methods require two steps to open the Run dialog box. Wouldn't it be nice if you could access the Run dialog box with a single click?

You can create a shortcut to the Run command. Simply select the Run command on the Start menu, and drag it to the Quick Launch toolbar. The new shortcut uses the same icon, so it's easy to identify.

However, the shortcut's name will be &Run. . ., which you'll see in a popup when you hover your mouse pointer over the shortcut. These extra characters come from the Start menu command configuration.

In this case, the ampersand character signifies that the R is underlined and acts as the hotkey. The ellipsis signifies that accessing the Run command from the Start menu opens a secondary dialog box.

You can rename the shortcut to something more appropriate, such as Run Command, by right-clicking the shortcut and selecting Rename.

Lost Desktop Icon in Quick Launch Toolbar:

Reader Joey writes: For some unknown reason, all of a sudden I no longer have my Show Desktop Icon in the Quick Launch Toolbar. I really liked this feature. How do I get it back?

Clicking the Show Desktop icon will minimize all of your open windows and (you guessed it) show your desktop. It really comes in handy when you just want to quickly get back to a clean desktop.

To get the button back on your Quick Launch toolbar, check out this article from the Microsoft Knowledge Base. After following the steps, you'll be back in business before you know it.

Besides using the icon, there are also a couple of other simple ways to show the desktop. For starters, try right-clicking on your toolbar. You'll notice an option on the menu that appears called Show the Desktop.

You can also do this without even touching the mouse. All you have to do is use a small key combo (Windows Key + D) and you'll be viewing your sleek desktop in all of its glory.

Keep in mind that, in the case of the Show Desktop icon AND the Windows+D key combo, they’re both toggles - one click or key-push hides the open desktop items and the next will restore them just as they were.

Disable the Prefetcher component when troubleshooting startup problems:

As you may know, Windows XP has a memory management component called the Prefetcher. By design, this component shortens the amount of time that it takes Windows and the most often used applications to start up.

In order to accomplish this feat, the Prefetcher goes to work during the startup routine. However, this component can get in the way when you're troubleshooting startup problems.

If this happens, you may want to disable the Prefetcher. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe).
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\ Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters.
  3. Double-click the EnablePrefetcher value.
  4. In the Edit DWORD Value dialog box, change the Value Data setting from 3 to 0.
  5. Close the Registry Editor, and restart Windows XP for the change to take effect.

When you've finished troubleshooting the startup problem, be sure to go back to the Registry Editor, and change the value of EnablePrefetcher back to 3.

Note: Editing the registry is risky, so be sure you have a verified backup before saving any changes. For more on the system registry please see: Bo's Tweaky clean Windows

There are Many Ways to Power Down the Windows Beast Grasshopper:

Some have written to ask if there is any way to automate the Windows Shutdown Procedures.

In truth, there are a lot for different ways to do it. Here are just a few:

Life's a batch:
The batch file approach:

Windows little known powerdown utility:

If you don’t want to use a third-party utility, you may be able to get by with a lesser known utility in Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The native commandline tool tsshutdn.exe was originally designed for shutting down servers, not work stations. It was introduced in Windows 2000, and retained in Windows XP. See MSKB 320188, “How to Use the TSSHUTDN Command to Shut Down a Terminal Server in Windows 2000 Terminal Services,” and MSKB 243202, “Windows 2000 Terminal Services Session Management Tools.” From a command prompt, type tsshutdn /? for a list of its subcommands and syntax. A command line of C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\TSSHUTDN.EXE 0 /DELAY:0 /POWERDOWN will powerdown most Windows 2000 and Windows XP computers, though some will get an error message 1702.

Want a little more control? Check your power settings in Control Panel:

Customize Your Computer’s Power Switch

Another solution for Windows XP users involves using the power switch on your computer — but only after you’ve set it to shutdown Windows first! If you poweroff your computer without shutting down Windows (and letting your applications save their data and close, if necessary), you invite a whole lot of serious problems! The correct way to do this is: After a fresh reboot of the computer, in the Windows XP Control Panel click Power Options. Click the Advanced tab. In the Power Buttons section, under “When I press the power button on my computer,” select “Shutdown.” (If this is not visible on your Advanced tab, then your computer does not have the hardware capability to do this job correctly, or the capability is disabled in CMOS.) Click Apply. This sets your computer so that when you press the hardware power button it will first do a proper shutdown of Windows, and then poweroff the computer.

Confine the Use of Your Computer to Certain Hours:

Reader Debbie writes: My husband and I do a fair amount of volunteering with our local church. Our children are all in their teens now and we want to restrict when the computer can be used. We don't want it used at all when we are not at home to watch them. Is there a way to configure Windows XP Home Additions to do this? Or is there some freeware product that will do it for us?

As a father of three adult children I can tell you that you have my sympathy. Raising teens is anything but pleasant. The good news is that they come out of it in due time. You have only to survive it. The good news? Eventually they will have children of their own and suddenly you will become very important to them at that point,....try not to gloat.

You can use the Net User command to configure the day and the time of day when a user can log on to a computer. For example, if you want to permit a user named John to log on to a computer between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, you would open the command prompt (or use the run command) and type the following:

Net user John /time:M-F, 08:00-17:00

You can find out more about the Net User command from this knowledge base article

Put More Information in the System Properties General Tab:

Reader Ken Writes: I operate a very small family oriented computer repair and customizing shop out of my home. I show each of my clients exactly what I did and give them my companies information sheet when they come to pick up the machine. Many of them have asked if I could hardwire this information somewhere so that it is always at hand. Thing is, I am not sure how to go about it. I'd really like to have some way to put it in a Windows Properties Style Sheet. Can this even be done, and if so how?

Ooookaaaaaaaay....I too used to do about the same thing that you are now and occasionally still do just to keep myself somewhat up to date on stuff. That being said, doing something like what you describe never occurred to me so I started looking about our test machine to see if and how it might be accomplished. After several sleepless nights (I tend to take problems to bed with me. Man, do I need to get a life) I discovered something very interesting. Applying certain information to an INI file is your solution and nothing could be simpler, yeah right! Okay, Ken, keep in mind that I am not a copywriter lawyer, nor am I a lawyer who handles suits, so this is definitely something you should ask your clients if you can do it for them. I wouldn't just do it off hand, some might take offense at it.

Once you perform the steps outlined below, not only will you have your own company information listed but a support information button will also be available from the System Properties window. Users can click the button to get specific support information about your company, such as the URL they should visit to find support. So here is what you have to do:

Open Notepad and create a text file called oeminfo.ini. If you are running Windows NT/2000, save the file in the c:\WINNT\System32 directory. If you are running Windows XP, save the file in the c:\Windows\System32 directory. Add the following information to the text file you just create:


Manufacturer=Your Company Name 
Model=Model of Computer 
SupportURL=http://supportWeb site 

[Support Information] 
Line1=support information users should know 
Line2=who users should contact for support 
Line3=Phone number users should call 
Line4=fourth line
Line5=and so on and on

The support information will appear when users click the Support Information button. You can create as many lines as you need by incrementing the number for each new line required. 

To take this one step further, you can even have your company logo displayed by creating a 172x172 pixel bitmap image. Name the image oemlogo.bmp and save it in your system directory. Now when you open the System properties applet, your company information should appear.

Copy CD's Without the Read Only Attribute? 
No, but there is a work-a-round:

Ready Geordie writes: Whenever I copy photo files to a CD on my Windows XP PC, their file attribute changes to read only. Then when I copy them from the CD to another PC, they're still read-only files, so they can't be edited. In order to edit them, I have to uncheck the Read Only box on each one. Is there any way to keep them from converting to read-only files?

There are a couple of things that you can do, while still annoying, they will solve the problem to some extent:

Answer 1: 

While I do not know of a way to automatically toggle the read-only attribute of a file (in transit from a read-only source to the hard drive), there is a far more efficient method of changing file attributes than the one-at-a-time method you mention. When copying the files from the CD to another PC, copy them all to a special folder created just for the move. Once the files have been copied, go into the folder, select all the files in the folder (either with the mouse, by holding the CTRL key and pressing A, or by clicking the Edit menu and Select All), then right-click any one of the items and click Properties.

The familiar File Properties dialog box will appear. At the bottom of the dialog, you will find the Read Only property check box. This box, rather than being clear or checked, may be gray. Being gray does not mean that the property is unavailable; sometimes, in the collection you selected, there are files that have different values for the same property, which causes the check box to become confused. Regardless of its state, click the Read Only property check box until it is clear (not checked). Then, click OK in the dialog box. Depending on the number of files affected, it may take Windows a short amount of time to change all those properties!

Also, if there were subfolders in your selection, the value of their Read Only property will be modified as well. And, interestingly enough, so should the content of those subfolders! Although still annoying, this process will at least save you some time.

Answer 2:

This is a common problem, with a few solutions. If you have a CD-ROM that will burn CD-RW (read/write), then the CD will act as a normal disk drive media. This requires that you use CD drives capable of utilizing CD-RW media, and you may need to format the CD before using it for CD-RW.

Another solution is to zip the files first, then put the ZIP files onto the CD. When you unzip the files, the attributes should be as they were originally (presumably read/write). This takes more time and disk space on the originating system but has the advantage of saving space on the CD. This leaves you with more room if you are using multisession recording. (Multisession allows you to write to the CD multiple times, but the CD is still considered read only.)

If you continue to use CD-R media (which is read only after the files are burned onto it), when you copy the files back to a PC, select all of the files at once and change their properties to allow read/write (uncheck the read-only attribute). This will save you a bit of effort, depending on the number of files you are copying at one time.

Another option is to avoid CDs entirely. Use a USB Memory Stick or a CompactFlash drive with a USB cable. They act as standard drives.

Finally, some applications allow you to open a read-only file, and when you first try to save the file, the apps will prompt you to allow changing the file to read/write status.

Access Your IE Favorites From the Desktop

The majority of people probably access their favorite Web sites by opening Internet Explorer and selecting the Favorites menu. You can then find the links to all your all-time favorite Web sites.

Now there are several other ways of accessing your list of favorites and here is yet another one. You can create a window on your desktop that shows your list of favorites that you would normally see in Internet Explorer. The nice thing about this is that you don't even have to open Internet Explorer to access these Web sites.

To view your favorite links on your desktop, click Start, click Run, and type iexplore -channelband. Once you type in the command, an elongated window will appear on your desktop that displays your favorites as they would appear on the Favorites menu in IE. You can close the window by clicking the "x" in the corner. Once you do, Windows will then prompt you as to whether you want the window to reappear next time you restart your computer.

Make the most of My Network Places

When you're browsing through Windows XP's My Network Places on an extremely large network, tracking down the one server you're looking for can be quite a challenge. Of course, you can always maximize the window for My Network Places to get more room to scope out the network.

However, here's a little trick that will give you an even bigger picture of your network: The next time you open My Network Places, press the [F11] key.

This activates a full-screen feature similar to the one found in Internet Explorer. This feature is available in My Network Places because of the tight integration between the Windows XP operating system and Internet Explorer.

To return the screen to normal size, simply press the [F11] key again. Keep in mind that this full-screen feature is also available in Windows Explorer and My Computer.

Create an Auto-Run CD

The application CDs that you buy launch automatically, and your burned CDs can do the same. They can invoke a setup program or display an HTML page that links to the CD's contents. Use Notepad to create a three-line text file based on the lines below, and name it Autorun.inf. Place the file in the CD's root directory.




Replace setup.exe with the program that should launch when the CD is inserted, and replace icon.ico with the file containing the CD's icon. In both cases, be sure to omit the drive letter. If you want to launch a nonexecutable item like an HTML file, precede it with start.exe in the open= line. Note that all file links in the HTML file should be relative ones, omitting the drive letter.

In Windows XP Life's a Batch

Reader Jim writes:

I know how to use DOS commands but in Windows XP Home Edition I have been stumped by the batch command "START". It works just fine if the file is in the Windows folder but if the program or file is in another than the system folders it will not launch. It simply pops up a DOS Box with the name of the program in the title bar. For example, if I try to use this command:
START "C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 7\PSP.EXE"
The DOS Box appears and doesn't start the program. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: As it turns out, the command is doing just what it's supposed to do. Under Windows XP, Start's very first argument is an optional window title, in quotes. When you put the full pathname on the command line in quotes, Start treats it as a window title. For example, suppose you use this command line:

START "C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 7\PSP.EXE"

This will create a Command Prompt window whose title is the specified path. The solution is simple: Insert an empty pair of quotes ahead of the path, thus:

START "" "C:\Program Files\Jasc Software Inc\Paint Shop Pro 7\PSP.EXE"

Your program should start without any problem now.

Windows Messenger Won't Play Nice With Adobe Acrobat Reader

Reader John writes:

I have windows XP and am trying to run Adobe Acrobat 6.0 but every time I try to load it an annoying message pops up that says Windows Messenger is trying to load. I can't get rid of the messenger popup and eventually have to manually turn my computer off. Can you help me with a fix?  (ps: I have scanned the internet for a solution to this problem and found nothing specific that works so far...)

Possible Answer:

I've had about four users with a similar problem. Most, if not all, were on Windows XP with both Standard and Pro versions of Acrobat. Installing the newest version of Windows Journal Viewer took care of it. Here's the link:

 Microsoft Windows Journal Viewer 1.5

Second Possibility:

In order to fix this, a simple reinstallation of Windows Messenger 5.0 usually can correct the problem. To do so, 

  1. Make sure that Windows Messenger is shut down (right-click its icon in the notification area /system tray, and choose Exit), 
  2. Click Start | Run, and type in the following:

    msiexec /x {4A432C6C-1E20-4266-95D1-5782349C6C62}

  3. Click OK
  4. Choose Yes to uninstall the product.

Disabling Remote Registry For Security

The registry on your computer is available to others on the network. This means another user on the network could remotely access your registry if they have the skills to do so. Since the registry is the core of the operating system, you may want to increase security on your computer by removing this capability.

One way you can accomplish this is to disable the Remote Registry service. If you are running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, open the Administrative Tools within the Control Panel and locate the Services applet. Double click Services and locate Remote Registry. Right click the Remote Registry service and click Properties. Change the startup type option to disable. Click OK. Once you restart your computer, the service should no longer be running.

Add Fields to the Details View of Folders

You can add other columns to the Details view of the files contained in Windows XP folders, such as Comments, Description, Category, and many others. To add new columns:

  1. Right–click the column header of the files list, and then click one of the fields listed, or click More.
  2. In the Choose Details dialog box, you can reorganize the order of column headers, specify column widths, and add columns to display details for the files in that folder.

When you click the new column header, the width of the selected column is displayed in pixels in the Choose Details dialog box.

Turn on High Contrast
If your visually impaired, this tip is for you.

Some of our readers are visually impaired. Heck, come to think of it, so am I. Here is a tip for all of my blury eyed friends.

High Contrast is designed for people who have vision impairment. High contrast color schemes can make the screen easier to view for some users by heightening screen contrast with alternative color combinations. Some of the schemes also change font sizes for easier reading. 

To turn on High Contrast:

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Accessibility Options.
  2. On the Display tab, under High Contrast, select the Use High Contrast check box.
  3. To turn off High Contrast, clear the Use High Contrast check box.

If the Use shortcut check box in the Settings for High Contrast dialog box is selected, you can turn High Contrast on or off by pressing the left ALT+left SHIFT+PRINT SCREEN keys (depending on the other settings you have selected in the Accessibility Options dialog box). To open the Settings for High Contrast dialog box, open Accessibility Options, click the Display tab, and then, under High Contrast, click Settings.

If you try to change the visual style for windows and buttons by using the performance options in the System tool, Windows XP may not apply the change. See the KB article: Change in Visual Style Does Not Take Effect If the “Use High Contrast” Accessibility Option Is Set.

Switch to Windows' basic search tool

As you probably know, the Windows XP Search Companion provides users with a lot of bells and whistles designed to make searching for files on hard drives much easier. But sometimes all of these extra features just get in the way.

If you're longing for Windows 2000's basic search tool, it doesn't have to be in vain. The basic search tool is still available in Windows XP, and you can activate it with a quick registry edit.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe).
    Not to sure what the Registry is or how to back up and restore it?
    See: Bo's Tweaky clean Windows
  2. Navigate to

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

  3. Go to Edit | New | String Value.
  4. Name the new value Use Search Asst.
  5. Double-click the new value, type no in the Value Data text box, and click OK.
  6. Close the Registry Editor, and restart the system.

To switch back to the Search Companion, just go back to the Registry Editor, and change the Value Data to yes.

Note: Editing the registry is risky, so be sure you have a verified backup before making any changes.