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Site Updated 06/06/05

Windows XP Tips & Tricks Part XI

Add detailed pop-up descriptions to folder icons in Windows XP

When you hover your mouse pointer over a folder icon, you see a pop-up that contains the folder's size and the names of the first few files or folders it contains. There are cases when this information, along with the folder's name, is helpful in identifying the folder's contents; however, there are other times when you have to open the folder to really see what's in it.

You can add a detailed explanation about the folder's contents to the pop-up by creating a Desktop.ini file, which is a straight text file, and adding a special entry to it. In order for this technique to work, you have to assign an icon to the folder. Here's how:

  1. Right-click the folder and select Properties.
  2. From the Properties dialog box, select the Customize tab, and then click the Change Icon button.
  3. In the Change Icon dialog box, select an icon from the selections and click OK.
  4. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box.
  5. Open the folder, locate the Desktop.ini file, and double-click it.
  6. Add InfoTip= to the end of the Desktop.ini file.
  7. Type your detailed description immediately after the = sign.
  8. Go to File | Save and close Notepad.

You'll see your detailed pop-up description the next time you mouse over that folder.

Note: If you don't see a pop-up when you mouse over a folder, you need to enable a couple of settings. Go to Tools | Folder Options and then select the View tab. Then, in the Advanced Settings list, select the check boxes for Display File Size Information In Folder Tips and Show Pop-Up Description For Folder And Desktop Items. Click OK.

Faster Boot-Up without tons of fonts 

Many of the files that load during the boot-up process are fonts. You probably only use a handful of them. I suggest moving some you never use into another folder. You won't be able to access the fonts in Word or Notepad.

1. Create a New Folder by right clicking on desktop. New>Folder. 2. Open "Fonts" in Control Panel. Switch to Classic View to find them easier. 3. Highlight a group of fonts younever use and move them to the other folder. Repeat if you have tons of fonts. 4. Put the folder into My Documents for easy access. 5. Reboot and see if it starts any faster for you. If not, just copy the fonts back to the original font folder.

Make icons in windows appear quicker 

Everytime you open My Computer to browse folders XP automatically searches for network files and printers. This causes a delay in displaying your icons. You probably see the "default" windows icon and as you scroll it changes to the correct icon. This is how to stop that...

1. Open My Computer 
2. Click on the Tools menu and select Folder Options... 
3. Under Folder Options select the view tab. 
4. Uncheck the very first box that reads "Automatically search for network folders and printers". 
5. Click "Apply" or "OK"

You should see a dramatic increase in speed when Windows displays your icons.

Application and Boot file Defrag

This type of defrag pushes all commonly used programs and boot files to the edge of the hard drive for faster access. Windows XP normally schedules this every three days when it is idle, however you can force it to do this by using the b switch anytime

i.e defrag c: -b

Stuck in Sticky Keys? Try this fix:

A reader asks

I am running Windows XP pro ,I have 512 mb of ram. I have sp2 installed My problem is when I boot up, like yesterday it took almost five hours for scandisk to run before my computer came up. I have not installed anything on my computer or deleted anything. It started doing this the last couple of days. But first there was an icon in my tray bar that when I ran the mouse over, it popped up and said stickey key. Now it doesn't do that , it just takes forever to boot. I usually hit any key before it starts to scan and then it comes right on up.

Possible Fixes:

Windows is scanning at startup because

1) There is a bad sector on your disk and Scan Disk is attempting, without success, to clean it or

2) There is a corrupted file that Scan Disk is unable to clean at startup. It does this because the software is running at Windows Startup and cannot be removed when in the GUI (Windows), it needs to be removed before the system can boot normally. Pressing any key tells Windows to skip the cleaning action for this boot job.

Tell me I don't have a flair for the obvious!

The resolution is to disable sticky keys:

A feature called Sticky Keys may be enabled on your PC. To disable this feature follow these steps: 1. Press SHIFT 5 times consecutively. The StickyKeys box will pop up.

2. Click Settings. Accessibility Options pops up.

3. On the "Keyboard" tab click the "Settings" button in the "StickyKeys" section.

4. Uncheck the items in this window and click OK.

5. Click Apply and OK on Accessibility Options.

6. Reboot the System

If the problem goes away, go no further, we are done. Otherwise, please continue.

There are several ways to go about resolving this issue and one involves putting Windows XP into diagnostic mode which can, for the novice user, become mind numbingly tedious. Lets go for the quick fix and see what happens.

CHECK FOR A VIRUS: First, you should, if you haven't already, run a full virus scan with updated definitions and clean anything found.

CHECK FOR A PARASITE: Second, if you haven't already, run a scan for parasites. We have found none better than Microsoft's AntiSpyware program which is now in beta testing and will be provided free of charge to the general public sometime this spring or early summer according to Bill Gates at his presentation at the RSA security conference last week. On all of our tests it outperformed our trusted scanner Spybot Search and Destroy. Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta also has some very good tools to aid in controlling spyware. You can get free your copy at the below address:

Once you have downloaded and installed the product, update it, which is free over the internet, then do a full deep system scan and fix any problems it finds. Once this is achieved, reboot the system and see if the problem is resolved.


If it isn't a virus, it isn't Spyware, then we can assume it is because a corrupted file. There are a couple of things to try to remove the faulty file and replace it with one that works. One is to use the System Restore to go back to a time before the problem existed and the other is to run SFC (System File checker) to see if it will remove the corrupted file and replace it with a good working one. I would suggest running SFC first and if unsuccessful, do a System Restore.


1. Press the Windows Key plus R to bring up he Run Command Line

2. Type, or copy and paste the following into the Open command line


Note the space between the command SFC and the switch /

3. Have your XP Pro Installation disk handy. If SFC asks for the disk it means that it has found a problem file and can not find an update for it in your DLL Cache folder (A place where all updated files are stored on your system) and must take the original one from your installation CD. If it does ask for the CD make sure that you go to the Windows Update Center after the re-boot to see if a newer file is available.

4. SFC is going to take some time to run. This is normal. If you notice that there is no disk activity you may be under the false impression that the system is locked up. Most likely it isn't. It simply means that SFC is either checking TSR's (Terminal or Stay Resident files = Files loaded into memory) or it is examining the System Registry. Do not press Ctrl+Alt+Del to reboot the system. Instead, turn off the power to your PC, wait 10 seconds and then start it up again and again run SFC.

5. Once the File Checker is finished, restart the system and see if the problem has been resolved. If not, then try a system restore point. Choose a date before you started having this problem.

Taskbar's Quick Launch Bar Disappears after Reboot

After installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 the Quick Launch Bar disappears after every boot. YOU have to manually launch the QLB through Taskbar | Properties | Show Quick Launch. It just refuses to stick.

WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Blasdell's Little Corner of the Web, Bohunky0, nor any of it's affiliates can guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

Please see Bo's Tweaky clean Windows for more on how to use, backup, and restore the System Registry.

There are, regrettably, a few hoops that you'll need to jump through. 
Here is what is needed:

  1. Back up the System Registry before making any changes.
  2. Open the Registry Editor.
  3. Navigate to the following Key:

    change the NoSaveSettings value to "0"
    Or, simply delete the value after backing it up.
  4. Next, navigate to:
    Change this setting also to NoSaveSettings value to "0"
  5. Close Regedit and restart the computer
    Be sure that the Quick Launch Toolbar is ticked via right click on taskbar | toolbars | checkmark or tick quick launch.
  6. Restart the computer a second time!!! 

Windows Explorer Status bar Disappears After Windows XP Service Pack 2 Install

Well, we have discovered another in a series of little annoyances with SP2. The Windows Explorer status bar will not stick no matter what we tried. If you're here, I am wiling to bet that you have experienced this problem as well.

The explanation and fix for this behavior on the Microsoft Knowledgebase is nothing more than a joke and waste of time. But here is the link if you're feeling lucky today.

The Windows Explorer status bar is not visible after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2

Okay, now that you have gotten that out of your system, here is what is necessary to make the status bar stick in Windows Explorer.

WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Blasdell's Little Corner of the Web, Bohunky0, nor any of it's affiliates can guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

For more on the uses and how to backup and recover from a bad Registry Edit, please see Bo's Tweaky Clean Wwindows.

Here is the resolution:

  1. Open Regedit (Windows Key plus R to bring up the run dialog and then type, or copy  and paste Regedit and then click OK)
  2. Locate the following Registry key and sub keys:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main
  3. In the right hand pane, right click and choose New | DWORD
  4. Name the new DWORD 
  5. Once created, double click the new DWORD string and give it a value of (1). Should be:
    StatusBarOther REG_DWORD 0x00000001 (1)
  6. Close the editor
  7. From now on your Windows Explorer status bar will stay and behave itself.

Re-Install Windows XP Without Activation

Microsoft to nix some Net product activation
Starting with software on PCs from the top 20 makers, the company plans to allow Windows activation over the phone only.

Have you ever wanted to reformat the hard disk and reinstall Windows XP on a system but you didn't want to mess around with Microsoft's Product Activation after the reinstall? Fortunately, you don't have to.

As long as you aren't making any hardware alterations, you can back up the activation status files before you reformat the hard drive and then restore them after you reinstall the operating system.

To perform the backup, follow these steps:

1. Use Windows Explorer to open the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
2. Copy the Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak files to a floppy disk or CD.

To perform the restore, follow these steps:

1. Decline the activation request at the end of the installation procedure, and restart Windows XP.
2. During bootup, press [F8] to access the Windows Advanced Options menu.
3. Choose the Safe Mode (SAFEBOOT_OPTION=Minimal) option.
4. Use Windows Explorer to open the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
5. If they exist, rename the new Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak files to and
6. Copy the original Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak files from the floppy disk or CD to the C:\Windows\System32 folder.
7. Restart the system.

Installing The XP Fax Service (XP Pro/Home)
Configure the Fax Service after you have installed it

The Fax service is not installed with XP by default. Therefore, if you want to utilize this feature, you must first install it. The process is very simple.

To install the fax component:

1. Click Start and click Control Panel. 
2. Double click the Add or Remove Programs applet. 
3. Click Add/Remove Windows Components. 
4. From the list of Windows Components, click Fax Services. 
Click Next. If prompted, insert the XP CD. 
5. Click Finish. 
6. Click Close.

Configuring The XP Fax Component (XP Pro/Home)

Once you have the Fax service installed, you must configure it before you can start using it. 

To configure the Fax service:

1. Click Start, point to All Programs, Accessories, Communications, Fax, and click the Fax Console. This launches the Fax Configuration Wizard. Click Next.
2. Type in the information that you want to appear on the fax cover page. Click Next.
3. Select the modem that you want to use for faxing. Click Next.
4. Enable Send is selected by default. Select Enable Receive if you want to receive faxes as well. Click Next.
5. In the TSID box, type in the Transmitting Subscriber Identification. Click Next.
6. In the CSID box, type in the Called Subscriber Identification. Click Next.
7. Select the Print it on option if you want received faxes to be automatically printed. Select the printer where the faxes will be printed. Click Next.
8. Review the summary and click Finish.

Track down non-operating system services

When you're troubleshooting a problem in Windows XP, it can be useful to know which services are running. While most of the services running on a Windows XP system relate to the operating system, this is not the case for all of them.

You can use the Services tool, which you can launch via Control Panel's Administrative Tools, to view the running services. But if you use this tool, you must be able to recognize which services relate to the operating system and which do not.

However, there's a little-known feature in the System Configuration Utility that can quickly identify non-operating system services for you.

Follow these steps:

  1. Press [Windows]R to open the Run dialog box.
  2. In the Open text box, type msconfig, and click OK.
  3. When the System Configuration Utility launches, select the Services tab.
  4. At the bottom of the Services tab, select the Hide All Microsoft Services check box.

The System Configuration Utility will then display only non-Microsoft services that are running. Deselect the check box to return to the full list.

Windows Explorer Loses Menu, Toolbar

This article describes how to make changes for the above problem in the System Registry using the Registry Editor. Please see: Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows for more on the uses of this editor as well as how to backup and restore the System Registry.

WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Blaisdell's Little Corner of the Web, Bohunky0, nor any of it's affiliates can guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

A missing main menu and toolbar can be caused by corruption in the Registry values that control toolbar placement. This is easily fixed by deleting those values—Windows will recreate them as needed. Close all Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer windows before you start. Select Run from the Start menu and enter the command RegEdit. Navigate to the Registry key 

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Toolbar. 

There should be up to three subkeys below the Toolbar key named Explorer, ShellBrowser, and WebBrowser. For each of these subkeys you see, select it, find a value named ITBarLayout in the right-hand pane, right-click that value, and choose Delete. Now close RegEdit and launch Windows Explorer.

Now that the main menu is back, you can easily adjust which toolbars are displayed. Right-click the restored menu bar for a menu of available toolbars; visible toolbars have a check mark. Select any toolbar in this menu to toggle its checked state from on to off or vice versa. Occasionally the check mark state gets out of sync with the actual toolbar. If a toolbar is checked but not visible, click it to remove the check, then right-click the menu and click the same toolbar again. That should set things straight.

Start The System Restore From The Command Prompt 
(XP Pro/Home)

If you run into problems with XP, you can easily restore your system to a previous state. For example, if you install a device driver or other software that does not agree with the rest of your system, you can return your computer to the state it was in before you installed it. This is made possible using the System Restore tool.

If necessary, you can start the System Restore tool from the command prompt. This is useful if you cannot start your computer normally or in Safe Mode. To start the utility using this method, restart your computer and press F8 during startup. From the boot options, select Safe Mode with a command prompt. You can then log on to your computer using an account with administrative privileges.

The last step is to launch the System Restore tool. You can do this by typing the following command at the command prompt.


You can then follow the instructions to restore your computer to a previous state.

Moving Files and Settings to a New PC

Reader Jennifer writes:

I recently purchased a new computer. My older computer contains gigabytes of media files, Word documents, and so on. Is there a simple way in Windows XP to transfer my files and settings so that I'm not daunted by the thought of completely rebuilding everything?...

Congratulations on your new purchase. One of the most obvious solutions to this dilemma is to write your important files to a CD (if you have a burner) and copy them over in this form. Once your files have been transferred, you could just go through your program settings and do your best to copy all of the pertinent information onto the new PC. This is usually easier said than done because there are most likely countless settings stored away on your relic computer. Windows XP comes with a Files and Settings Transfer Wizard that makes the whole process of transferring the stuff that matters to you much simpler.

This article from Microsoft takes you through some of the steps on how the wizard works, and how to make it transfer what you want it to transfer. To get an even more diluted tutorial that only focuses on the pure basics of the wizard, refer to this referenced article.

Specifying Disk Cleanup configuration settings

If you run Windows XP's Disk Cleanup utility regularly in order to keep your hard disk free from clutter, you may have wished that there was a way to save your settings so you wouldn't have to reconfigure the utility each time you run it. Fortunately, there is a method for saving your settings, but the steps for doing so are undocumented. Here's how:

  1. Access the Run dialog box by pressing the Windows Key plus R.
  2. In the Open text box, type the following command: 
    Cleanmgr /d x: /sageset:#

    In this command line, Cleanmgr is Disk Cleanup's executable file name; /d x: is the letter of the drive you want to clean; /sageset is a special configuration command that tells Disk Cleanup to save the settings in the registry; and # is a unique number from 0 to 65,535 that designates a unique configuration settings file. For example, you could create your first configuration settings file for drive C by typing Cleanmgr /d C: /sageset:1 in the Open text box.
  3. When you see the Disk Cleanup Settings dialog box, select the check boxes next to the categories of files that you'd want to remove from your hard disk.
  4. Click OK to save the settings in the registry.
  5. To run Disk Cleanup using the saved settings, type the following command: Cleanmgr /sagerun:#

In this command line, Cleanmgr is Disk Cleanup's executable file name; /sagerun is a special configuration command that tells Disk Cleanup to retrieve the saved settings from the registry; and # is the number you used to designate your configuration settings file.

Remove Windows Messenger

Reader Marlene writes: I'm trying to uninstall Windows messenger from my computer. It isn't listed on the list to uninstall and when I search for the files I get the response that there are no files. How do I get rid of this??
Thanks for your help.

So Marlene, you wish to shoot the messenger eh? Ok, here is how:

I will assume, sense you do not provide this info, that you are using Windows XP. There are a couple of things to consider.

See also:

  1. If you haven't upgraded to Windows XP SP1 yet, and I really can not imagine that, but some have not:
    1. Click Start / Run 
      Then type the following:
      RunDll32 advpack.dll,LaunchINFSection %windir%\INF\msmsgs.inf,BLC.Remove
    2. Press ENTER
    3. Restart Windows
  2. If you have upgraded to either WXP SP1 or SP2
    1.  Enter Control Panel
    2. Click Add / Remove Programs
    3. Click on "Add/Remove Windows Components" on the left
    4. UNcheck "Windows Messenger"
    5. Click "NEXT"
    6. Click "Finish"
    7. Reboot

In some instances Outlook Express wants to use Windows Messenger. Here is how to disable that function after removing Windows Messenger in the instructions above:

How to Remove Windows Messenger from Outlook Express

1) Click on Start, Run (Shortcut = Windows Key plus R)
2) Type REGEDIT and Press Enter or click OK

WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Blaisdell's Little Corner of the Web, Bohunky0, nor any of it's affiliates can guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

For more on the uses of Windows Registry Editor, see Bo's Tweaky clean Windows

3) Click on the Pluses (+) next to the following items

    + Software
        + Microsoft
            + Outlook Express

4) Right click on the Outlook Express folder, click on New, click on DWORD value, and then type Hide Messenger for the name of the new registry key
5) Right-click the Hide Messenger value that you created, click Modify, type 2 in the Value data box, and then click OK.
8) Quit Registry Editor.

What about MSN Messenger ?

MSN Messenger is another chat program from Microsoft that can run simultaneously with Windows Messenger. Follow the instructions below to remove it.

1) Click on Start, Control Panel
2) Double click on Add or Remove Programs
3) Find MSN Messenger in the list and click on it
4) Click on Remove 

Speedy directory navigation at the Command Prompt

If you spend time working at the Command Prompt, you know how frustrating it can be to navigate between different folders using the Change Directory (CD) command. For example, if the folder name contains multiple words, you must remember to enclose the name in quotes. And, if there's even one typo in the folder name, you have to start all over. Fortunately, you can use the Command Prompt history feature to easily correct typos without having to type the entire command from scratch.

However, you can save yourself from ever having to type folder names at the Command Prompt simply by using [Tab]. Here's how:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window. 
  2. Type CD, press the space bar once, and then press [Tab].

As you continue to press [Tab], Windows XP will display the name of every subfolder contained in the current folder. If the folder name contains multiple words, Windows XP automatically encloses the name in quotes. When you see the folder to which you want to navigate, all you have to do is press [Enter].

Viewing real-time network statistics in Task Manager
When it comes to viewing network statistics, there are a number of utilities that you can use, including the Networking tab in Windows Task Manager. Many administrators overlook this tool because the default display doesn't provide much valuable information, and administrators often don't realize that they can alter the display to get more specific details.

By default, the Networking tab's History graph only displays the total number of bytes sent and received on the connection. The only real meaningful statistic in the table is the network utilization percentage. However, you can add two more counters to the graph and a host of valuable statistics to the table. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Taskbar and select Task Manager.
  2. Select the Networking tab.
  3. To add more detailed information to the history graph, go to View and open Network Adapter History. Then, enable the Bytes Sent and Bytes Received options.
  4. To add more detailed statistics to the table, go to View and click Select Columns. In the Select Columns dialog box, you can add or remove any of the 25 available statistics by selecting the adjacent check box and clicking OK.

Change the product key on Windows XP

For most Windows XP installs, you’ll never need to worry about the validity of the product key assigned to your copy of the OS. However, software does tend to get installed without authorization, even in the most carefully managed shops, and so from time to time you may need to reset the XP product key.

For example, perhaps a user installed a pirated copy of XP but now wants to go legal. Maybe you've been hired by an organization that installed 100 pirated copies of XP but now has a legitimate volume-licensing key (VLK). Perhaps an end user purchased an additional retail license for XP but needs to use his original CD to install the software. When situations like these arise, changing XP's product key is often the most practical—or only—solution.

Determining if you have a valid product ID
Hopefully you already know if you're dealing with a pirated copy of XP. But if you're unsure, a quick way to tell is to install Service Pack 1. Shortly after releasing Windows XP, Microsoft realized that most pirated XP installations were using two specific VLKs, the most popular of which begins with "FCKGW.” These VLKs produce product IDs that match either XXXXX-640-0000356-23XXX or XXXXX-640-2001765-23XXX, where X is any number.

If you try to install SP1 and get the following error message:
The Product Key used to install Windows is invalid. Please contact your system administrator or retailer immediately to obtain a valid Product Key…"

You are dealing with a pirated copy of Windows. For more information about obtaining a valid product key, see Microsoft Knowledge Base article 326904.

You can also directly check the OS’sproduct ID by right-clicking on My Computer, clicking Properties, and selecting the General tab. The machine's product ID will be located under the Registered To section. If the ID matches either of the two models commonly associated with VLK fraud, you’ll need to obtain a valid XP product key before proceeding. None of the procedures described below will work without a legitimate product key.

Two methods of changing Windows XP's product key
You can change a Windows XP installation's product key either by editing the registry or by using one of two Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) scripts. The registry editing method is outlined in Knowledge Base articles 321636 and 328874 and works on Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, and Windows XP Corporate Edition. The script method is outlined in article 328874 and is designed to work on Corporate Edition installations that use a VLK and do not require activation. It may work on a Home or Professional installation, but I have not tested this scenario.

The script method is the practical solution for changing the product keys on a large number of machines. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure to backup important data before changing a product ID, since an unexpected problem could render the machine unbootable and necessitate a complete reinstallation of Windows.

The following instructions involve editing your system registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that require the reinstallation of your operating system and possible loss of data. BLCOW does not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.

Editing the registry
Begin by opening the Registry Editor and navigating to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\Current Version\WPAEvents

In the right pane, right-click the ODBETimer binary value and select Modify. Change at least one character of this value to either a number from 0 to 9 or to a letter from A to F, then click OK and close the Registry Editor. This renders the current product key invalid and deactivates Windows.

Now, it’s time to reactivate Windows using your new product key. Click Start | Run and enter the command:
%systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe /a

where %systemroot% is your Windows directory. In many cases, this command will look like:
C:\windows\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a

At this point, Windows will launch the Product Activation Wizard.
Figure A

Select the option to telephone a Microsoft customer service representative to activate Windows, as shown in Figure A, and click Next. Now, select the Change Product Key option and enter your new product key as shown in Figure B. Finally, click Update and close the window. If Windows returns you to the previous screen, just select the Remind Me Later option. When the wizard is finished, reboot the system.
Figure B
When Windows reboots, your next step will depend on which Windows XP version you are using. If you have XP Home or Professional, you’ll be prompted to reactivate your copy of Windows through the normal activation process. If you have XP Corporate, no activation is required and your machine should have a valid product ID. You can verify this by running the %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a command again. When the wizard loads this time, you should see a message indicating that your copy of Windows has already been activated.

Using a WMI script
Although the registry editing process is effective, it can be tedious and impractical if you need to change the product key on more than a few machines. So Microsoft provides two WMI scripts, one for XP machines with SP1 and one for XP machines without SP1.

View the code for the WMI script, ChangeVLKey2600.vbs, designed for use on XP machines without SP1.

View the code for the WMI script, ChangeVLKeySP1.vbs, for XP machines with SP1 already installed.

Copy the appropriate script's code into a text file and save it as either ChangeVLKey2600.vbs or ChangeVLKeySP1.vbs. The scripts can act in conjunction with a valid product key as part of a login script to change the product ID on multiple machines. You can also execute the script from the command line to change the key on a single computer.

For example, if you wanted to change the product key on an XP machine without SP1 and had already saved the script to root directory on the C: drive, you would click Start | Run and enter the following command:\
C:\changevlkey2600.vbs xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Of course, xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx in this scenario is a valid product key.

The script should take only a few seconds to run and won't prompt you for further action unless there's a problem, such as an invalid product key. As with the registry editing method, you can verify that Windows is now using a valid product key by running the command:
%systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a

The Product Activation Wizard will load and should tell you that your copy of Windows has already been activated.

A workaround to XP installs when the product key is missing 

Microsoft’s new Windows Product Activation presents support techs with all sorts of new challenges, including the need to have a valid product key to install, or reinstall, Windows XP on workstations. But what do you do if you can’t find the CD with the original key that matches the machine you’re working on? You can discover the key using ViewKeyXP.

Why you need to know your product key
For years, Microsoft has (quite legitimately) been concerned about piracy issues surrounding its products. In an effort to combat this, it came up with the concept of Windows Product Activation. When you install Windows XP on a workstation, you must enter a 25-digit code from the original Windows XP CD during Setup. Setup takes this information, mixes it with information it derives from the hardware configuration of the workstation, and creates a code that it sends to Microsoft to validate the installation.

This can cause problems for support techs, because each product key can be used only one time. After the key has been activated, it can’t be used on another workstation unless you’re using a Volume-Licensed version of Windows XP. That means each Windows XP workstation in your organization has a different product key.

If you try to reinstall Windows XP and don’t have your original product key or CD, you can’t simply borrow one from another workstation. Normally, you’d have to obtain a new product key, meaning a new purchase of Windows XP. Naturally, you don’t want to do that because you already have a copy of XP—you’re just missing the valid key that goes with your workstation. That’s where ViewKeyXP comes in handy.

When bad software goes good
In reality, ViewKeyXP is a hacker tool used to reveal Windows XP product keys. But just because it can be used maliciously doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for good.

ViewKeyXP performs a reverse hash on the Product ID that you find in the Registered To box when you right-click My Computer and select Properties. Taking this number, ViewKeyXP deciphers and displays your original product key. You can then write this number down and reinstall Windows XP. When prompted, all you have to do is reenter this number and you’re ready to go.

Other Windows software uses product keys, but ViewKeyXP won’t help you find those keys. It works only with Windows XP. However, it will reveal the product key no matter what version of Windows XP you’re running: Home, Professional, or the Corporate Edition.

Obtaining and using ViewKeyXP
You can find ViewKeyXP on the Internet by doing a simple Google Search. Be very careful when you download it. Because it is a hacker tool and not supported by any legitimate organization, don’t be surprised if the version you’ve download has a virus embedded in it. If you choose to download the file, make sure you scan it with an updated virus-scanning program before using it.

In today’s world of setup wizards and multi-megabyte downloads, ViewKeyXP is amazingly simple. The file itself, Viewkeyxp.exe, is small—only 32 KB. There is no installation program. Just run the program, either from the command line or by double-clicking it from the folder you downloaded it to. When you do, your product key will appear as shown in Figure A. (I changed my product key in this image for security reasons.)
Figure A
ViewKeyXP makes it easy to find your original XP Product Key.

It doesn’t get much easier
That’s all there is to it. Write down the number and then you can reinstall Windows XP, or place the key in a database where you won’t lose it. ViewKeyXP is a handy hacker tool to keep in your software utility toolbox.

Update Note:

ViewKeyXP is no longer supported in Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed. For that, you 'l need, Keyfinder [Please see: Retrieve your XP Product Key [CD Key]]

Investigate changes with the System Information tool

Have you ever been in the process of troubleshooting and needed to know what configuration changes the system has recently experienced? Knowing this kind of information can go a long way in helping track down the cause of the problem you're investigating.

Windows XP's System Information tool takes a daily snapshot of your system's configuration, and it records all changes to key elements. In fact, System Information compiles and stores a month's worth of data in its history file. As such, System Information provides a beneficial troubleshooting database.

You can easily investigate System Information's configuration change history. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the System Information tool by typing Msinfo32.exe at the command prompt. (You can also access it by going to Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Information.)
  2. From the View menu, select System History.
  3. Select a category from the System Summary tree on the left.
  4. Select a date from the View Changes Since drop-down list.

When you do so, you'll see a listing that displays the date and time of the change along with detailed information on the exact nature of the change.

If you know what you're looking for, you can use the System Information tool's Find feature to quickly scan through the listing.

Creating quick notes with WordPad scraps

Do you often use Notepad to create quick notes to yourself and then save the file on your desktop? While the process is quite simple, there is an alternative that you might want to investigate. This alternative takes advantage of the fact that WordPad can generate and the Desktop can host special OLE objects called scraps.

The benefit is that creating scraps is as easy as a quick drag-and-drop operation--and there's no need for all the steps involved in naming and saving the file.

Here's how to create quick notes with WordPad scraps:

  1. Launch WordPad.
  2. Create your note.
  3. Select/highlight the text.
  4. Drag the selection and drop it on your desktop.
  5. Close WordPad and click No when prompted to save changes.

Once you drop the selection on your desktop, Windows XP recognizes the selection as an OLE object from WordPad and creates a scrap, complete with a special icon with a default title name of Scrap. To make it easier to recognize, you can rename the scrap. When you want to view your note, just double-click it and WordPad will open the scrap.

Service Pack 2 Will Not Install, Says that Your Version is Not Authorized or Registered

A Reader writes: I have an authorized and registered version of Windows XP on my laptop, but when I go to install Service Pack 2, it will not complete the installation. I sent off for and received the CD from Microsoft but have the same problem. What can I do to install the service pack?

There are dozens of possible reasons; one could be that you have spyware running on your computer. See C|Net's roundup of antispyware apps and get one to clean your machine. Also, read this knowledge base article from Microsoft for more suggestions of what could be wrong.

Disabling Service to Increase Performance

Disabling services to increase machine performance is tricky and can be costly if productivity suffers. I have long wanted to have a page that lists safe disables to services as a simple guide. While researching this however I have come to the conclusion that disabling services is not a one size fits all thing to do. However, a site we have always appreciated called Black Viper does have some good ideas and I see no need to reinvent the wheel. To view this very informative site follow the below link:

Be warned however, fooling around with services is best left to your IT or at the very least it should be done at a time when your network or computer is not going to be desperately needed. The basics of this activity are trial and error.

Faster Boot-Up without tons of fonts

Many of the files that load during the boot-up process are fonts. You probably only use a handful of them. I suggest moving some you never use into another folder. You won't be able to access the fonts in Word or Notepad.

1. Create a New Folder by right clicking on desktop. New>Folder.
2. Open "Fonts" in Control Panel. Switch to Classic View to find them easier.
3. Highlight a group of fonts younever use and move them to the other folder. Repeat if you have tons of fonts.
4. Put the folder into My Documents for easy access.
5. Reboot and see if it starts any faster for you. If not, just copy the fonts back to the original font folder. 

Decrease your Applications startup time

By default, Microsoft includes the /prefetch:1 switch to speed up it's Windows Media Player application start time. This switch can be used for other Windows applications and also many third party programs.

Example 1:

If you have AOL 8.0 installed on the computer. Complete the steps outlined bewlo to add the /prefetch:1 switch to AOL's Target path.

1. Right click on the AOL shortcut and select properties from the menu.
2. In the Target: Field add the /prefetch:1 switch to the very end of the path, like this: 

"C:\Program Files\America Online 8.0\aol.exe" /prefetch:1 

and then click ok.

Now start AOL. It would load at least 50 times faster than ever before.

Example 2:

1, Go to the Start button/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools
2. Right click on System Restore and select properties from the menu that appears. Add the /prefetch:1 to the Target Path entry so it looks like this %ystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe /prefetch:1 and click ok.

Now System Restore will start immediately when executed.

Note: This switch will only work with some programs. Others will return a message saying the program in the target box is invalid. Just remove the switch

Correcting System Hang at Startup

If your system hangs about 2 or 3 minutes at startup, where you can't access the Start button or the Taskbar, it may be due to one specific service (Background Intelligent Transfer) running in the background. Microsoft put out a patch for this but it didn't work for me. There are two methods. The second is a perminant fix the first is a waay to determine if disabling the service makes a difference without rebooting. Here's what you do:

Method 1:

  1. In Control Panel:

Method 2:

  1. Click on Start/Run, type 'msconfig', then click 'OK'.
  2. Go to the 'Services' tab, find the 'Background Intelligent Transfer' service, disable it, apply the changes & reboot.

This problem with the Background Intelligent Transfer Service should have been corrected in Windows update Q 314862, part of Service Pack 1.

Turn off Indexing to speed up XP

Windows XP keeps a record of all files on the hard disk so when you do a search on the hard drive it is faster. There is a downside to this and because the computer has to index all files, it will slow down normal file commands like open, close, etc. If you do not do a whole lot of searches on your hard drive then I suggest turning this feature off:

1. Control Panel
2. Administrative Tools
3. Services
4. Disable Indexing Services

Icons slow to Load or do Not Show at All
Increase the icon speed, the rest of the story:

A reader writes:

hi if i click start then all programs the program icons have changed to small squares not showing the icons how do i change them back thanks

This can generally be contributed to an icon cache that may be corrupted or to small.

If you are using Windows 98, 98 SE or Me:

In Windows 98 delete the ShellIconCache file stored in your C:\Windows folder. Then reboot the system. Windows will notice that there is no icon cache file and attempt to rebuild it using the entries in your system registry file. This will often resolve the issue.

Note: If you can't locate ShellIconCache, you'll need to set your folder options so you can view hidden files. In Windows 95, select Options from the View Menu in Windows Explorer, click Show All Files, and click OK. In Windows 98, select Folder Options from the View Menu, click the View tab, click Show All Files and click OK. In Windows Me, select Folder Options from the Tools Menu, click the View tab, select Show Hidden Files And Folders and click OK

 Windows XP Icon Cache:

Info Works With [ XP Pro ] [  XP Tablet ] [ XP Home ] [ XP Media ]

If you are experiencing icon lag, while browsing thru all your Start icons and programs; or you have a smaller menu delay and your icons take ages to load: No need to give up.

Just refresh the icon cache by deleting the IconCache.db file from your profile directory

(usually /Documents and Settings/Username/Local Settings/Application Data).

It will be automatically recreated after you reboot the system.

To Speed up the Process:

Easy Way to Adjust LargeSystemCache

Normally, I would advise you to adjust the LargeSystemCache by going into the System Registry and apply a tweak to the following keys:

HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

and change the value to either O or 1 to the adjustment the LargeSystemCache.

System Key: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\ Session Manager\Memory Management]
Value Name: LargeSystemCache
Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
Value Data: "0" for Desktops; "1" for Servers

Programs = 0 for the registry tweak equivalent
System Cache = 1 for the registry tweak equivalent

For more on the System Registry, please see Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows

However, in Windows XP, all you have to do is:

1. Right click My Computer
2. Select Properties
3. Click Advanced
4. Choose Performance
5. Click Advanced again
6. Select either Programs or System Cache under Memory Usage.

On NT Server (in this case XP), the Large System Cache option is enabled, but disabled on Workstation. The two different settings effect how the cache manager allocates free memory. If the Large Cache option is on, the manager marks all the free memory, which isn't being used by the system and/or applications, as freely available for disk caching. On the flip-side (with a small cache), the manager instead only sets aside 4MB of memory for disk caching in an attempt to accelerate the launch of applications. Or in a more technical approach, if enabled the system will favor system-cache working sets over process working sets (with a working set basically being the memory used by components of a process).

As I do not know how your system is set up, I would suggest playing around with this until you discover what works best for you.

Increase the icon speed, the rest of the story:
Make icons in windows appear quicker

In Windows XP every time you open My Computer to browse folders XP automatically searches for network files and printers. This causes a delay in displaying your icons. You probably see the "default" windows icon and as you scroll it changes to the correct icon. This is how to stop that...

1. Open My Computer
2. Click on the Tools menu and select Folder Options...
3. Under Folder Options select the view tab.
4. Uncheck the very first box that reads "Automatically search for network folders and printers".
5. Click "Apply" or "OK"

You should see a dramatic increase in speed when Windows displays your icons.

What Version of Windows Am I using?

Many of you have asked the above question. Here is your answer:

If for whatever reason you are unsure of what version of XP you are currently using, you can easily find out. Simply click Start and select the Run command (Windows Key plus R). Type in


and Click OK. The About Windows dialog box will appear displaying the version of XP that is installed along with whom it is registered to and the amount of available physical memory.