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Windows XP Tips & Tricks Part VI

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Site Updated on 08/09/06
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Set priority for individual programs

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

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

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

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

Saving Windows XP Updates & Security Patches to Disk To Load to CD
See also:
Can I remove the Windows hotfix?
And: Free tool for removing some of the $Ntuninstall folders

Reader Jen asks: I have been downloading and install all of the critical updates from Windows Update Center. Recently I had to reformat my hard drive or should I say have someone do it. Now, I have to go back and re-download and install everything. Is there any way to download these items so that I can burn them to a CD in the event I need to re-install them again so that I do not have to re-download and re-install everything?

Bo's answer: Sure Jen. Microsoft's Update Center, to may way of thinking is the greatest invention sense sliced bread. Often we who deal with Microsoft problems do not give them enough credit when they do something right. So I am here right now to say, "Thanks uncle Bill, but gessh, did you have to make it this complicated? I mean come on guy...Jen only wants to download and save the updates".

Okay Jen, now that we have riled on Microsoft, lets get started setting it up. Here is how:

  1. Open the Windows Update page.
  2. Select Windows Update Catalog.
    If it's not there, open Personalize Windows Update, check "Display the link to the Windows
    Update Catalog under See Also," and click the Save Settings button.
  3. The Windows Update Catalog will give you access to all the updates.
  4. Select "Find updates for Microsoft Windows operating systems," then choose Windows XP
    SP1 as the Operating System, a language, and click on Search.
  5. Select Critical Updates and Service Packs.
  6. Add each upgrade you want, then go to the download basket.
  7. Type, or press the browse button to locate a place on your Hard drive to download the updates into.
  8. You will be able to download the upgrades and burn them to a CD.

You'll also notice that Driver Updates and Multi-Language Features are available along the way.

Once you have them on the hard drive, simply burn them to your CD-R media and you will have them the next time you need them. See below to learn other ways to get the service packs and patches and how to install the ones you already have.

The rest of the story:
Or, now that I have them on my computer, how the heck do I install em Bo?

Everything in Microsoft seems to be doubled and even triple layered. Redundancy is something that has been built into Windows products ever sense Windows 2.0. Good god, am I that old? Anyway, here is another appreciate from our, "Same thing only different department".

  1. First click on My Computer
  2. Under the Tools | Folder Options
    1. Select the View Tab
    2. Under hidden files and folder, select the Show Hidden Files and Folders option
    3. Uncheck Hide extensions for known file types
    4. Uncheck, Hide Protected Operating System Files
    5. Click the Apply to all folders button
    6. Click Apply
    7. Click Okay
  3. Close the My Computer Explorer
  4. Open Windows Explorer
    1. By default the files that we want to relocate are stored under protected systems files found at
      Look for the hidden folders that begin with, "$NtUninstall".
    2. Move them to another had drive or simply burn them in place to your CD. these are all of the patches and updates that you have downloaded and installed through the Windows Update Center.
  5. You need to update the registry key at
    HKEY LOCAL MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup.
    Change the ServicePackSourcePath value at that location to reflect the new path.
  6. Look for the folder, $xpsp1hfm$
  7. Under this folder you will find all of the updates that are on your system from the Windows Update Center. Under the $xpsp1hfm$ folder you will see a series of folders with number relating to the number of the patches and updates.
    1. If  you open the folder KB821557 for example, you will see a folder named Update. this is the folder you want to go to under the desired number.
    2. Double click on Update.exe to install that update.
    3. Do this intern for each of the updates in the folders. Some updates may require you to reboot after they have been installed. Pay attention to any onscreen prompts and follow those instruction.

So, are there other ways to install this service pack?

The best thing to do is to download and install the network version of Windows XP SP1a. The Network installation includes all of the Windows XP Service Pack 1a (SP1a) files needed to upgrade Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional. This download is recommended for IT professionals who want to deploy SP1a to multiple computers over a network. ISDN or faster connection is highly recommended.

Typical download times for the Network installation:

32-bit Platforms: 134 MB | 5.5 hours @ 56K | 11 minutes @ T1

* Recommended for multiple-computer installation.
* After Windows XP SP1a has been downloaded to your computer, no Internet connection is required during the installation with this method.
* Anti-virus software programs might interfere with the installation. Microsoft recommends that you disable anti-virus software while installing Windows XP SP1a.
* Can be deployed on your corporate network. Review the Windows XP SP1a Service Pack Installation and Deployment Guide for more information.


* If you use Fast User Switching, make sure all users are logged out and that you are only logged on to the computer as administrator.
* Exchange Messenger users: Be sure to read the release notes on the Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 1a Web site before you install the service pack.

    SP1a Network Installation (32-Bit)
    125.09 MB file
    10 hr 7 min @ 28.8 Kbps

Script Error In HTML Help Files

Question: When using help screen offline, I am constantly getting the dreaded script error message. Don't know if the "tools, internet options" settings concerning script errors apply here or not, but I have verified that "disable script debugging" is checked and "display a notification about every script error" is unchecked. Can you help me out? --- Don

Answer: The Tools | Internet Options is of course, the first place you should look for this type of error.

Fix should work for
Windows 2000,
XP Home Edition and XP Pro.

Try to reinstall Help and Support: Go to C:\Windows\inf\pchealth.inf.  Right click and choose install. Have your W2K CD ready. The folder is hidden by default. Go to Start/Run and type in: control folders. Switch to the View Tab: Show hidden files and folders and uncheck Hide extensions for known file types.

If this fails to give you the desired results:

Here are some things to try:

1) Upgrade the components used to view HTML Help files by applying Microsoft Critical Update 811630.


2) Use MJ's Help Diagnostics to check that the help components are properly installed and registered on your machine.


3) Delete the file hh.dat, which you should find in this directory:

\Documents and Settings\%username%\Application Data\Microsoft\HTML Help

This is a database file that saves such session information as thewindow position and favorites for the HTML Help viewer. If the file
has been corrupted then .chm files may behave erratically. Windows
will automatically re-create the file when you next open any .chm

4) Empty your Temporary Internet Files directory.
5) Try re-registering the hhctrl.ocx file. Here is how:
  1. Click Windows Key+R to open the Run dialog
  2. Type:
    regsvr32 /u hhctrl.ocx
  3. Reboot the system to unregister the file
  4. When the GUI comes back up, open the Run dialog again and this time type
    regsvr32 hhctrl.ocx
  5. You receive a message that the file was registered successfully.
  6. Close all open application and reboot to lock the setting into the system registry.


I tried all of the suggestions with the following results:

RE: the "\Windows\inf\pchealth.inf" file. There is no such file in my Windows directory...I am viewing hidden files.

RE: MS Critical Update 811360...it is "no longer available".

RE: MJ's help diagnostics shows that eveything is normal except HH workshop (Uninstall HH Workshop) not found or not installed correctly, eHelp RoboHelp DLL- HHActiveX.dll not registered or not installed and MS Help 2 Run-time Components "MS Help 2 NOT installed on this PC". I have not tried installing the HHActiveX.dll yet, but suppose I will. What does the other stuff mean, can you tell me?

RE: hh.dat file, tried deleting that, did not help.

RE: Temporary Internet Files-emptied: did not help.

RE:re-registered the hhctrl.ocx file, did not help.

Thank you for taking time to try and help me out.

Please read the entire email before making any changes.After reading the entire email, please be sure that the files references and system keys mentioned are indeed on your system. If they are not, then this is not your problem...DO not make any of the changes listed in that case.

Please see this article to see if it applies to you:
What You Should Know About the Blaster Worm and Its Variants

It must be noted that the RobHelp program is not the same as the Microsoft HTML help. Thus my confusion. RoboHelp is a customizable program used by developers to install their own system help files in their program's assembly language. Are you a programmer and if so, is RoboHelp something that you truly need? Microsoft products are buggy, but RoboHelp is even worse. If you are using RoboHelp, try uninstalling and then re-installing the program Following some of the uninstall instructions listed below..

The System File Checker Utility
Put your W2K installation CD into your CD-ROM drive.

After installing a hotfix and running, Windows Key+R and type sfc / scannow, you may replace some files with older versions because SFC only knows how to retrieve files from the installation media and from Service Packs.

Starting with SP4, hotfixes will register themselves so that SFC will recognize them as valid file sources.

Prior to installing SP4, if you run a SFC command, you must reapply the hotfixes or you may end up with mixed binaries and unpredictable results.

First determine that the HHActiveX.dll is on your system by doing a search. Once you have found the file, you can register the file by doing the following:

  1. Press Windows Key+R to bring up the run dialog
  2.  To register HHActiveX.dll:
    1. Type regsvr32 path\hhactivex.dll, where path is the folder where the DLL is stored, and click OK.
    2. If the DLL is registered successfully, Windows displays the message DllRegisterServer in path\hhactivex.dll succeeded.
  3. Reboot the system.

If re-installing doesn't work then you should consider deleting all reference to RoboHelp:

Microsoft has released a new version of COMCAT.DLL (5.0) that is not compatible with all versions of OLE32.DLL and has an entirely new set of registering functions embedded into the .DLL. See this MSKB article:
PRB: Mismatched Ole32.dll and Comcat.dll

What this means is that any computer that gets the new version of COMCAT.DLL will no longer have the necessary functions for RoboHelp to call. This will affect all applications written specifically for COMCAT.DLL 4.71. RoboHelp ships with COMCAT.DLL version 4.71. All of RoboHelp's registering functions use the functions specified in COMCAT.DLL 4.71.

You will need to replace the 5.0 .DLL with 4.71. However, since 4.71 needs certain versions of OLE32.DLL and other .DLL's, often times you will need to reinstall IE as well to get those.

Steps to follow:
Warning, be certain that you have all necessary files either on the installation disks or on separate disks before attempting this drastic measure. If you do not have them, be sure you know where or how to get them and remove all manual items to the recycle bin so that changes can be un-done. Also, be sure to back up the system registry before making any edits in that. Warning: BLCOW, Bohunky0, nor any of its affiliates makes claims that all items shown are going to work. This is neither implied nor admitted. We can not make assurances that any system registry edit will work correctly in all situations. You, the end user assumes any and all risks for system edits.

1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel.
2. Choose Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.
3. Find RoboHelp in the list and click Add/Remove.
4. Delete ALL RoboHelp directories off the hard drive (back up any projects to another directory). Also back up any "custom" modified templates you have created.
5. Go to Start, Find, Files or Folders, and search for ROBO*.* on your computer. Delete ALL files named robo*.* from the computer (don't delete non-RoboHelp related files - if you aren't sure if it's a RoboHelp file, don't delete it; instead, rename the file and be sure to take note of where these files were located so that you can go back and rename them back to the correct file name   if your system becomes unstable or other items onboard are not functioning correctly)
6. Go into the registry editor (Start menu, select Run, then type "regedit32").
8. Delete COMCAT.DLL version 5 from the C:\Windows\System or C:\WinNT\System32 folder.(This is important. Be sure that the dll file is the 5.0 version. If it is the 4.x version, do not remove it, simply re-register it using the technique shown above and below for registering individual files)
9. Obtain COMCAT.DLL.
10. Reregister COMCAT.DLL 4.71.
11. Copy the .dll file into your C:Windows\System or C:\WinNT\System32 folder.
12. Click the Windows "START" button.
13. Select RUN.
14. In the"Open" dialog, type "REGSVR32 COMCAT.DLL"
15. Click "OK".
16. Reboot your computer.
17. Disable ALL virus software before install.
18. Disable ALL non-essential programs from Task Manager.
19. Make sure you have enough disk space before install and clear all temp directories.
20. If on an NT machine, make sure you have FULL local administrative rights during install. 

Note:  The Administrator cannot install the software. RoboHelp must be installed with full administrative rights by the USER of the software. You can change the user's rights back to normal afterwards. 

21. Install RoboHelp.

If you do not have a copy of RoboHelp, then deleting the references shown above and re-installing your Windows 2000 software in the repair mode may solve the problem. But before that, after removing the items for the RoboHelp system, try checking with your HTML help files again. Without the interference of RoboHelp, the system may function properly.

You may need to re-install MSIE when finished.

Another Can Not Connect To Windows Update Center Question

Question: I cannot download Windows updates, it freezes when the download progress box appears. I re-registered the following: regsvr32 dispex.dll, regsvr32 vbscript.dll, regsvr32 scrrun.dll, those worked fine. When I tried to re-register regsvr32 msscript.ocx it gave me the following error message:
Load Library (.ocx) Failed
Get last error returns 0x00000485

The Problem: After accepting the EULA, the Windows Update - Web Page Dialog window appears but the download never starts. Nothing "moves" on the download progress bar, no matter how long you leave the connection open. How do I fix this?

Answer: Please re-register the following files:
regsvr32 msscript.ocx (see below)
regsvr32 dispex.dll
regsvr32 vbscript.dll
regsvr32 scrrun.dll

1. Click "Start," and then click "Run."
2. Type regsvr32 msscript.ocx in the "Open" box and click "OK."
3. Repeat for dispex.dll,vbscript.dll, and scrrun.dll.

Next, make sure file (open) type .JS is properly associated:
1. In Control Panel, click "Folder Options," and then click "File Types."
2. Locate the .JS extension and click "Advanced."
3. Make sure the "Application to perform action" field contains: C:\WINDOWS\System32\WScript.exe "%1" %* This is for a Windows XP computer. For Windows 2000 substitute the C:\WINDOWS\ with C:\Winnt\. For Windows 98 and Windows Millenium Edition substitute this: C:\WINDOWS\System\ for C:\Windows\system32.

Reader Tony is running Windows 98 and says these didn't help him in his situation. So, for those of you who did not get any relief from this, here is an update, with more to come I am sure:

This may be due to a missing or corrupted cabinet.dll file. To see if it is, or isn't (This is for Windows 98 and Me) reinstall the Windows Installer.

Install the InstMsiW.exe from

Instmsi.exe is the redistributable package for installing or upgrading Windows Installer.

These annoying popup adds are for the birds so blast em!
Be a Spammer Slammer.

George asks: Today I have repeatedly had this annoying pop-up, titled 'Messenger Service,' purportedly from http://www.destroyads.com/ saying that if I buy their stupid software I won't have to worry about their pop-up ads!!! The site is not there, of course; they are slimeball spammers! How do I stop it?"

Well, George, there are several answers to that question:

To disable Messenger Service try the following:

  1. Click Start | Run and type "services.msc" (no quotes) in the 'Open:' line
  2. Click OK.
  3. In the right pane, scroll down to Messenger.
  4. Double-click Messenger and click the General tab.
  5. Under Service Status,
    1. Click the Stop button.
    2. In the Startup Type: drop-down box, select Disable.
    3. Click Apply
    4. Click OK.
      1. (This for XP) You can also get to services by Start | All Programs | Accessories | Administrative Tools, and select Services.
  6. This is not the service which refers to Messenger or MSN.

This is a function of the Windows Messenger service, a program which runs in the background and is - or was - used for administrative notifications (network shutdowns for maintenance, print jobs, and so forth) on a local area network. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals have found it also works across the Internet and use it to send harassing advertisements.

This service is different from the unfortunately-named Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger applications, which are used for instant messaging.

Steve Gibson has a utility which gives you another option. Download Steve Gibson's excellent freeware utility, Shoot The Messenger, which will work on Windows NT/2000/XP, and will allow you to easily (one-click) turn the Messenger service off and on whenever you wish."

The Case of the Disappearing Desktop Items

Kim Writes-I recently bought a new computer with Windows XP Pro on it. Now there are some icons which are not visible on the desktop, like Network Places. How do I get them back. Also, I want to use my desktop as a home page. How do I do that?

Sure Kim, there are two questions here....don't tell me I don't have a flair for the obvious!

Question 1: Disappearing Icons; here is how to get them back:

  1. Right click on any Empty Part of the Desktop
  2. Choose Properties
  3. Switch to the Desktop Tab
  4. Hit the customized button
  5. Select the icons you want to be displayed.

Question 2:

  1. Follow steps 1-4 above
  2. Switch to the Web Tab
  3. Click to select My Current Home Page
    1. If you do not want to have your computer connected to the Internet all of the time click the Properties Button
      1. Select the "Make this page available off line" header on the Web Document tab
      2. On the schedual tab, choose your choice for when you want the desktop page refreshed
      3. On the Download Tab, Choose how you want the links from this homepage determined.

Make a launch file to connect to other documents on a burned CD

Question: I have a CD-ROM containing multiple files - mostly document files, but also a couple of executables (install files for some necessary programs). I want to make it so that when you insert the CD-ROM into your drive, a table-of-contents-style window pops up. In this window, each of the files on the disc are listed, along with a short description. Each filename is also clickable, so that when clicked on, the document is launched in a new window of the appropriate viewer (or the executable file is launched). Meanwhile, this 'table of contents' window should stay open, so that the user can Alt-Tab back to it to open more docs.

"Is this something a novice (i.e., a non-programmer) can accomplish? Is there something freeware or shareware to do this? Is there a better way to do this than what I'm picturing?" - Creg

Answer: Well, there is a trial version of a program but it is pricy. If is called AutoPlay Menu Studio, and you can find a 30-day trial at TUCOWS."

If you have Microsoft Office you can have the Autorun.inf file point to a document on the CD. the document can then be made so with the use of Hyperlinks, you can open any file on the CD.

In Word:

  1. Create a main document and link all of your data files and, yes, even your programs to it. Here is how:
  2. Once finished, save the file as an RTF (Rich Text Format) so that it can be opened in any word processor
  3. Point to the location of the file in your Autorun.inf file. We will call our content file, Test.RTF
    1. [autorun]
    2. You can create an Autorun.inf file in Windows Notepad. Just remember to save it as an INF file.
  4. Test the program by running it and make sure that the files can , in fact be opened.

You can also do the same thing with Power Point, but when you save the file, save it in Park and Go. In this way the program will have a Power Point program so that if the person who uses the CD doesn't have Power Point it will run by itself.

If you do not have word, or a program which utilizes Hyperlinks, head on over to OpenOffice.org and pick up a free production suite which does support Hyperlinks.

Another Windows XP Slooooooooooooow Down question

Question: My pc is running soooooo slow ! ESPECIALLY if I install a few things. It took forever to get my emails today...or even just get to any program. I keep getting a note saying that my memorys to low...therefore a slow moving machine. But this is from a company that wants me to probably buy something...what could be the REAL problem ( if I uninstall it does move a little faster ) Remember this is a newly bought machine. Thanks , Sabrina

Answer: First this is a common theme with many Windows XP users. the problem stems in large part, because of the way in which the pretty faces is established. there are a ton of memory hogs that eat up an enormous amount of memory. Click here to view a few solutions. But first, read the following:

The regular Maintenance Items
Yeah, I know, but I have to ask just the same

Have you done a Disk Cleanup to get rid of all of the junk on the system? No! Here is how:

  1. Click Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Cleanup
  2. Select the files and drive you want to clean with a check mark

Have  you defragmented the system yet?

Here is how:

  1. Click Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Disk Defragmenter
  2. Select the drive to defrag
  3. Click on the Defrayment button

Have you run a Check Disk?

Here is how:

  1. To do a quick check disk without restart do the following:
  2. To do a thorough Check Disk Scan and actually Make repairs, do the following:

Third Party Memory Managers are a NO NO
Kill them where they stand.

If you are running memory managers, kill them, delete them, never use them again. They are the culprits to a large number of memory issues that haunt any Windows machine. In fact, they just plain out and out don't work.

Another problem is the use of start up items. I had one client who complained about her machine taking forever to load, open files, or do most anything. Luckily she was within my 25 mile limit so I made an appointment to visit her and take a look at her system. What I found shocked even me. She had a dozen or so messenger type programs running, several production suite applications being loaded at start up, even though she didn't use them more than 3 hours per day. Four antiviral apps running, most of which had outlived their prescription update options, so that she would have had to buy a prescriptions to them. I was surprised that her machine ran at all, let alone deal with the ton of stuff she had running.

This is rule one:

If you have more than five items in your system tray, not counting the clock, get rid of them.
What should be there?

  1. If you have a third party firewall (If you do not have one I suggest that you get one. The Windows firewall is a bare bones utility at best).
  2. You should have a virus scanner, or two.
    I find that Norton and AVG [AVG is a free antiviral package that is pretty darn good considering the price] live very nicely together.
  3. Perhaps your printer utility, if your machine is so equipped.
  4. Of course the connection icon when connected, unless you have cable or DSL, it isn't going to remain in the tray all of the time, only when connected.
  5. A SPAM filter..always a good idea. It isn't absolutely necessary, but I always allow one luxury item.
  6. The Windows Audio Icon for controlling your speaker levels.

And that, is about it.

The Task Manager
Not just another Windows pretty face, but a valuable diagnostic utility
Another problem is that some startup or even system items will hog or drain the memory algorithms. Take a look at Windows Task Manager (Alt+Ctrl+Del) to determine what items are hogging recourses. When the utility is up, take a look in the Processes tab for items which are using a lot of recourses. These will be found on the MEM Usage Header (See image).

Take notice of the amount of memorary Netscape is using (Netscp.exe) is taking compared to Outlook Express (msimn.exe).

Many of the applications you will see running the Processes tab are vital Windows components. Many more aren't and if they are running on top of all of this other stuff, your machine will come to an abrupt slow down in short order.

The best thing to do is to look for some application that is taking up 100 percent of the CPU Usage (CPU Usage is right next to the MEM usage in TM). When you see something like that, highlight it and then click the End Process button. Ignore the warning and say yes. (See below image)


The item you have selected will shut down. If the computer is acting all right, best to keep on computing for a few minutes to be sure, then simply reboot and the item is restored on startup. But now you know exactly which item is causing the problem. Okay, you really don't, these executables all seem to have some funky name that only makes sense to Bill Gates and his cronies. But at least  you know the name of the item and from that, you can do a search to see where it lives. And then KILL IT! Okay, lets not kill it yet but in the case of Netscape for example, if we didn't know the name of the program which is dependant on Netscp.exe. The folder that it lives in, will give you a clue to the program. For example, Our Netscape program (Netscp.exe, remember?) lives in

C:\Program Files\Netscape\Netscape

by default and is, in fact, the main Netscape Executable file.

Armed with this information, we can do several things:

  1. Start the program and see if it has an option to not start at startup. Usually this is found on a file menu item of Preferences or Options.
  2. We can find it in Start | Run | MSCONFIG | on the startup tab. Unchecking this program will halt Windows from opening it at startup. To permanently halt it, open system registry and look in the RUN keys for the item and then delete it.
  3. Halt the service by:
    1. Clicking on Start | Run | and type: services.msc /s then hit enter
    2. When the services utility opens find the file that you know is hogging and click on it to highlight it.
    3. Right click and choose properties
    4. In the properties select the Disable option. The startup program will no longer start when Windows does.

Of course the next option, which will cost a penny or two, is to upgrade with more RAM. RAM is pretty cheap right now.

Now for the Windows Solutions I discussed earlier. Thought I forgot didn't ya?

  1. Press the Windows Key + Pause/Break
  2. Click on the Advanced Tab
  3. These options control how Windows uses the memory that it has.
    1. Select the visual effects button
      • Click on the Customize Radio button
      • Go down through the list, unchecking those fluff items you do not need.
      • The items which you may want to keep for Windows XP's pretty face are:
        1. Show Translucent Selection Rectangle
        2. Smooth Scroll-list boxes
        3. Use common tasks in folder
        4. Use Drop shadows for icon labels on desktop
        5. Use visual styles on Windows and buttons
    2. Click Apply
    3. Click Okay
    4. Click on the Advanced tab in this section
      1. Under Virtual Memory, click the Change button
      2. Change the amount of memory to equal this formular
        For every 128 MB of Physical RAM multiply by 3 (128 X 3 = 384 MB)
        If you have 256, multiply that by 3 so that it equals 768 MB (256 X 3 = 768)
        And so on.
      3. In the Initial size type in the amount of RAM you want.
        The powers that be tell us that the Initial size (Minimum) should be the same as the Maximum so the OS doesn't have to create and recreate the page file limiters. Personally, I could never detect any advantage in it. But we will go with the propeller heads on this on.
      4. In the Maximum size type in your preference.
      5. This is the amount of virtual memory you ordered Windows XP to use. Virtual memory is that which is using a part of the hard drive. It isn't as fast as Physical RAM but it is needed especially if you are running a lot of multitasking operations. Open spreadsheets, documents, graphics, cad files and all other memory intensive applications.
      6. Once you have completed the task, click set
      7. Click Apply
      8. Click Okay
    5. Reboot and see how the machine acts. You should notice a gain in speed of operation. If you do not notice a change, after using the computer for a couple of days, go back in and change it to allow Windows to handle virtual memory.

We will stop here for now. Personally, I really get the feeling that the problem lies with a startup item. Of course there are a few more things we can attempt, but what I have covered here, will take some time to check out. the Task Manager is the key to troubleshooting a memory problem.

Cannot delete print jobs from the print queue in Windows XP

Question: Samantha asks; I have been having problem with my new printer. I get an error message and then when I set up another print job, the dialog says that I have to clear the print queue before sending any more jobs to the printer.

I have opened the printer's properties dialog and attempted to delete the files in the print queue but they will not delete. How do I stop this from happening? Is there even a fix for it?

Answer: Sure there are fixes Samantha. Once we have cleared the printer queues thought, I think that you should take a look at your printers manual and see if the error messages are covered in the troubleshooting section. In many cases, the fix I am going to give to you will also solve the error messages as well. Two, two, two tips in one.

To remove a print job from Windows XP:

1. Click Start, Printers and Faxes and double-click on the printer driver.
2. In the following screen, go to the printer menu and select Cancel All Documents. This will purge the print queue so as to allow the printer to print or uninstall the driver.
3. If the print jobs are not removed from the queue, click Start, Run, type 

Net Stop Spooler

and press ENTER.
4. Click Start, Shutdown, and select Restart. The documents or the print jobs should be removed.

If you are having a problem deleting the print jobs in the printer spooler, please do the following

1. Restart the PC in safe mode. (To do this, go to Start, Shut Down and select Restart.)
2. While the PC is restarting, press the F8 key at the top of the keyboard. (Note: Do not hold the key down, you may need to press it several times.)
3. When in safe mode, click on Start, My Computer.
4. Double-click on the (C:) drive.
5. Double-click on the Windows folder.
6. Double-click on the System32 folder.
7. Double-click on the Spool folder.
8. Double-click on the Printers folder.
9. Select the contents of this folder (Alt+A) and click Delete. Note: These are the files in the righ-hand pane of the Windows Explorer window.
10. Now reboot your computer and attempt the print jobs again. The problem should now be solved.

Encrypt Your Data to Keep It Safe

You keep your most valuable information on your computer. Unfortunately, crooks know it. You might have sensitive information about your company or clients, or your personal bank statements on a laptop you use at home and work, and you want to keep this information secure. The NTFS file system available in Windows XP offers several security advantages not available in Windows® 95, Windows 98 or Windows Me. One such advantage is the advanced Encrypting File System (EFS) security feature available with the NTFS file system.

With EFS, you can choose to encrypt files and folders. Then, even if someone gains access to the file, for example by stealing your laptop or a disk on which you copied the file, they can't decrypt the file and see your information. EFS includes multiple layers of encryption for security. Each file has a unique file encryption key, which must be used to decrypt the file's data. The key is also encrypted and available only to those who are authorized to see the data. EFS is integrated with the file system making it more difficult to attack, and easier for you to manage. Once you choose to encrypt a file, the actual process of data encryption and decryption is completely transparent and requires nothing on your part.

When you encrypt a single file, you must decide whether to encrypt the folder that contains it. If you choose to encrypt a folder, all files and subfolders that are added to the folder in the future will be encrypted at that time. If you encrypt a folder, you must also choose whether to encrypt all files and subfolders already existing within it.

Encrypting Folders

When you decrypt a folder, you decide whether to decrypt all files and subfolders within it. If you choose to decrypt the folder only, the files and subfolders within it remain encrypted. However, new files and subfolders will not be automatically encrypted.

To encrypt a file or folder

  1. Open Windows Explorer. (Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Windows Explorer.)  
  2. Right–click the file or folder that you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.  
  3. On the General tab, click Advanced.  
  4. Select the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.

Enable encryption

To decrypt a file or folder

  1. Open Windows Explorer.  
  2. Right–click the encrypted file or folder, and then click Properties.  
  3. On the General tab, click Advanced.  
  4. Clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.

Windows wants me to renew my password.
What's up with that?

Question: Another (hopefully simple) Windows XP Pro question. I've searched the Knowledge Base and this site, but don't see the answer. When I installed XP, I listed myself as the Admin, and added another user (my grandson), who sometimes visits and uses my computer. I didn't necessarily want to give him unlimited access to my files while visiting! Now Windows is telling me that it is 'time to renew my password.' I don't want to do that! Is there any way to stop that system requirement, or do I have to choose a new password? I use the computer all by myself 99.9% of the time. Thanks!" ~ George

Answer: Well George, the instructions for Windows 2000 and XP should be similar if not identical... and, of course, you must have Administrator privileges to do this:

  1. Right click "My Computer."
  2. From the popup menu, select "Manage."
  3. Click the + next to "Local Users and Groups" (left side of "Computer Management" window).
  4. Under that, open the "Users" folder (you should now see a list of users in the right-hand side).
  5. Right-click "Administrator" and select "Properties."
  6. Under the "General" tab, check the box next to "Password never expires."
  7. Click OK or Apply your changes, and close the Management window."

This should get rid of that pesky annoyance.

The disappearing cursor

Problem: Any time I run my mouse pointer over a field of text, whether on a Web site, in a Word doc, etc... my cursor disappears until I click the mouse button. Then, it reappears until I move it again. Needless to say, it makes it very difficult when using Word to know where the cursor is until I click the mouse. Any help would be appreciated. (I am running XP Pro.)"

Solution 1: You didn't mention it, but if you are you using some kind of third-party cursor program, dump it.

Solution 2: Go to Start | Control Panel, then double-click on Mouse. In the Pointer Options tab, uncheck "Hide Pointer While Typing." Click OK. This should solve the problem

Speed up menu display

When using the start menu the you will notice a delay between different tiers of the menu hierarchy. For the fastest computer experience possible I recommend changing this value to zero. This will allow the different tiers to appear instantly.

1. Start Regedit.
2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop
3. Select MenuShowDelay from the list on the right.
4. Right on it and select Modify.
5. Change the value to 0.
6. Reboot your computer.

Clean pagefile on shutdown

For added security you could always clear the page file upon shutting down your computer. Please note, this will slightly increase the amount of time it takes to shut down your computer.

Start Regedit. (Start | Run | and type REGEDIT then hit enter or click okay.

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SYSTEM > CurrentControlSet > Control > SessionManager > Memory Management

Select ClearPageFileAtShutdown from the list on the right.

Right-click on it and select Modify.

Change the value to 1 to enable.

Restart your computer.

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Display message on startup

If you would like to display a legal message or any other message in a pop-up window when windows starts read below:

Start regedit.

Navigate to:


Modify the key legalnoticecaption with the name you want for the pop-up.

Modify the key legalnoticetext with the text you want in the pop-up.

Restart your computer.

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Shorten the Checkdisk boot up delay

Start regedit.exe and locate the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\


The default is 10 seconds. Change it to less to decrease the time you have

To cancel checkdisk.

Activated or not?

To check if a version of XP is already activated or not:

Go to Start > Accessories > System Tools > Activate Windows.

Or go to Start > Run and type:

"%SYSTEMROOT%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /A"

It will show the current status of activation.

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Stop sending reports to Microsoft after a crash

A friend of mine doesn't trust the Bill Gates, "Trustworthy computing". He says that Windows XP has spyware from Microsoft. Many have written to ask the same thing. Okay, so here is the answer, "I would tell you, but they're watching me"!

He is not alone in this assessment. If Uncle Bill is making you a little paranoid, you can stop sending those crash reports to Microsoft. Here is how:

Whenever a program crashes, whether it’s a Microsoft application, a component of Windows, or a third-party application, a window appears, prompting you to send a "report" to Microsoft.

Here's how to disable this feature, either completely or selectively:

Open System in the Control Panel (or right-click on the My Computer icon and select Properties.

Choose the Advanced tab, and click Error Reporting.

You can disable error reporting entirely here, or enable it selectively for certain programs. Click Ok when you're done.

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Disable balloon tips

Windows sometimes offers tips and advice to new users by opening a balloon window from the taskbar. The feature can disabled using this tweak.

Open your registry and find the key below. You may need to create the key if it does not already exist.

Create a new DWORD value, or modify the existing value, called EnableBalloonTips and edit the value according to the settings below.

Exit your registry, you may need to restart or log out of Windows for the change to take effect.

(Default)REG_SZ (value not set)

EnableBalloonTipsREG_DWORD0x00000000 (0)



Key: [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\


Value Name: EnableBalloonTips

Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)

Value Data: (0 = disabled, 1 = enabled)

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Rename loads of files at once

You can rename loads of files at once in Windows Explorer. Highlight a set of files in a window, then right click on one and rename it. All the other files will be renamed to that name, with individual numbers in brackets to distinguish them.

The prefetcher
More on the Prefetcher here

Want to clean out the Prefetch folder? Readers Tom & Kim have a simple solution, check it out here.

With Windows XP comes a service called the Prefetcher. This service monitors which programs initialize when Windows boots, then in future, fetches them quickly. The Prefetcher is enabled by default, but you can improve its performance. Simply navigate to

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters

in the registry and find the value EnablePrefetcher. Most likely, it will be set to 3. The recommended setting for the prefetcher is 5. Feel free to play around with it a bit, though, and find out what works best for you.

It is possible to disable the Prefetcher by setting the value to 0, but the only reasons you might want to do this is if you wanted to test a machine in a lab environment. Disabling Prefetch is not advisable.

Update From readers Kim and Tom

NOTE: First, lets consider why and when the Prefetch cache should be cleared:

The prefetch cache  should only be cleared when the system is acting sluggish or not responding properly. This could mean that one or more of the prefetch files in the cache are corrupted or may contain a virus. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the average user to know when or what file is so corrupted. In this case, cleaning the prefetch folder is acceptable and this is the only reason that the folder should be cleansed. Selectively cleaning out the prefetch is far more reliable. I wouldn't clean any file unless it has been three weeks sense it was last accessed. You can determine this in Windows Explorer with details enabled.

Prefetch 101

The Prefetch directory serves a valuable purpose by analyzing files that you use at startup and when you run programs. Contrary to what some well-meaning but technically inaccurate articles suggest, this does not copy the files themselves. It creates an index to the location of those files on the hard disk, including the order in which they're loaded. This allows Windows and Windows programs to start very quickly after the first time you use them.

The Prefetch directory has one additional salutary function when used in conjunction with the built-in defragmenting tool. Every three days, during idle times, this utility rearranges program code, moving it to the outside of the disk to make it more efficient when loading (to force Windows to perform this optimization without having to do a full defragmentation, use the Defrag.exe command with the -b switch. For instance: defrag c: -b).

Defrag Usage:
defrag <volume> [-a] [-f] [-v] [-?]
volume drive letter or mount point (d: or d:\vol\mountpoint)
-a Analyze only
-f Force defragmentation even if free space is low
-v Verbose output
-? Display this help text

For more information on the prefetcheer, see: Windows XP Kernel Improvements Create a More Robust, Powerful, and Scalable OS

Kim & Tom write:

Here is my Windows\Prefetch cleaner - without the 'Are you sure you want to delete prompt'

cd ..
cd windows\prefetch
del *.pf

Batch files 101
For those of you who have never written a batch file before, a little Batch 101:
A batch file is an old hold over from the good ole DOS days when a ton of things could be automated with a batch file. The batch file is just that, a batch of commands in one easy to use script command. Placing the next command on its own line, activates the next in the series of commands or a batch of commands. Hence, batch command or batch file. To create a batch file:

  1. Open any text editor (I suggest Notepad as it is an unformatted unitext utility)
  2. Copy Kim and Tom's script to it
  3. Click File | Save as (Alt+F+A)
  4. Give it a name with the extension BAT rather than TXT. Windows knows that this is a command file and will act on it accordingly.
  5. Once done, double clicking on it will activate the script and the commands will be followed just as if you were at a regular command prompt and inputting the commands one at a time. You will note that Kim and Tom have used the CLS command. This clears the line parameters to input the next command. If you do not use the CLS command before the EXIT command, then the DOS box or DOS Emulation window may remain open.

Another option, for those of you who do not put your Operating System or batch files in the default locations (C:\), is to make the batch file as:

del *.pf*

and name it Prefetch.bat.

Double clicking on PREFETCH.BAT will remove all files in the Windows\Prefetch folder with the extension of PF and as Tom and Kim point out, you won't get the annoying "Are you sure you want to delete" prompt.

While we are on the subject, if you are tired of that old, "Are you sure you want to...blah, blah, blah". Then here is how to get rid of that annoying prompt:

  1. Right click on Recycle Bin
  2. Select Properties from the drop down context menu
  3. Switch to the Global Tab
  4. Uncheck the box marked, "Display delete confirmation dialog".
  5. Click Apply
  6. Click Okay
  7. From now on you can delete a file with out Windows asking you "Are you really sure you want to, etc.". I mean come on, I hit the delete button didn't I? Gesh!

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Shut down faster

By altering a few registry settings, you can dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes for Windows to shut down. To do this, first open up the registry editor and navigate to

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\

Once there, find the value HungAppTimeout and make sure it is set to 5000 (that's the default). Now, in the same folder, look for the value WaitToKillAppTimeout. Set this to 4000 (the default is 20000).

Lastly, navigate to the folder


and change the value WaitToKillServiceTimeout to 4000 as well. Another thing that helps speeding up shutting down is going to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services and then setting the NVidia Driver Help service to Manual.(if you have that card)

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Speeding up share viewing

Basically, when you connect to another computer with Windows XP, it checks for any Scheduled tasks on that computer, a fairly useless task, but one that can add up to 30 seconds of waiting on the other end, not good!

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to disable this process. First, navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Explorer/RemoteComputer/NameSpace in the Registry. Below that, there should be a key called {D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF}. Just delete this, and after a restart, Windows will no longer check for scheduled tasks.

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Memory performance tips

There are several memory tweaks that can be performed with Windows XP - all of them are located in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Management section of the registry.

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Making the View Settings stick in Explorer 

Backup these regkeys (just in case anything goes wrong):    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam\BagMRU] [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam\Bags]   Then delete them and restart windows to take effect.   Now you can change each folder’s setting and it will stick.

Change number of Windows before grouping occurs

Change number of windows that are open before XP will start grouping them on the Taskbar


itemtype = "REG_DWORD" A value of two will force grouping as soon as more than one instance of a program is open.

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XP/2000 Show all Windows Components in Add/Remove

For some reason, Microsoft has removed the ability to specify which Windows components you want to install during interactive Setup, and when you go into Add/Remove Windows Components in the Control Panel, you still don't have the full list of applications and applets you can add and remove. Thankfully, this is easy to fix.

To dramatically expand the list of applications you can remove from Windows XP after installation, navigate to C:\WINDOWS\inf (substituting the correct drive letter for your version of Windows) and open the sysoc.inf file.

IndexSrv_System = setupqry.dll,IndexSrv,setupqry.inf,,7
TerminalServer=TsOc.dll, HydraOc, TsOc.inf,hide,2


To this: msmsgs=msgrocm.dll,OcEntry,msmsgs.inf,,7

Now, after restarting, you should be able to see MSN Messenger in the Add/Remove Programs list. If you want to be able to quickly view and remove all components, simply open the sysoc.inf file and do a global find and replace for the word ",hide" and replace it with a single comma ",".

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Reactivate XP After Install
This should not be done with XP Pro only XP Home version

Avoid XP's Activation After a Reformat
From time to time, it's wise to reformat a machine if it starts acquiring too many quirky problems nobody seems to know how to fix, or if it's been so riddled by spyware, it would take days to clean, and even then, it would never work right again. So, to simply avoid the hassle of the activation process when you do format, follow these steps.

Before you reformat, go into the "C:\Windows\System32" folder, and copy the "wpa.bak" and "wpa.dbl" files to a safe place, such as a CD or Flash Drive.

After you finish reinstalling Windows, but before you reactivate, copy the two files you saved to the desktop. Next, boot up in safe mode by pressing F8 just before the Windows loading screen and selecting "safe mode". Then go into the "C:\Windows\System32" directory and locate the two files there with the same name. If they exist, rename "wpa.dbl" to "wpa.nonactivated" and "wpa.bak" to wpabak.nonactivated.

Now, put the "wpa.bak" and "wpa.dbl" you temporarily placed on desktop into the "C:\Windows\System32" folder. After a reboot, you should be all set to go.

Note that this will only work if you're running the same or very similar hardware as before.

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Create MS-DOS Startup Disk

[XP] Everyone knows Windows XP doesn't support DOS mode: it only emulates it. Yet, that doesn't stop PC users from wanting a bootable MS-DOS Startup Disk, a last resort emergency recovery disk.

  1. Insert a 3.5 floppy disk into the floppy drive.
  2. Left-click on 'Start.'
  3. Left-click on 'My Computer.'
  4. Highlight the "3 1/2 Floppy A:\" drive and right-click on it.
  5. Left-click on 'Format' in the pop-up Window.
  6. Click on the checkbox next to "Create an MS-DOS startup disk" in the "Format options" section at the bottom of the Window. You want to generate a checkmark in the box.
  7. Click on the 'Start' button. Follow the prompts.
  8. Remove the floppy disk and label it "XP MSDOS BOOT DISK."

Please note that the disk only allows the system to boot into an MS-DOS prompt. As is, the disk contains no additional tools on it. You will have to add your own favorite DOS troubleshooting tools to the disk.
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Use XP's Prefetch feature to improve system performance
by  John Sheesley  |  More from John Sheesley  |  Published: 3/17/04

Category: Microsoft Support  |  Audience: Support
Rating:  4.3 (out of 5) Rate it   Comments:  1  |  1 NEW  |  View all

Discover an XP feature that you can adjust to squeeze more performance out of your workstation.


Prefetcher: The Rest of the Story

Computers do what you tell them to do, when you tell them to do it. If you want to start a program, you double-click the icon and the program loads. To help speed up the process, Windows XP tries to predict what you want before you want it. Using its prefetch capabilities, Windows XP tries to load the programs you need before you need them. While this may speed start times, ironically it can also slow down your system. Here's how to work with prefetching to improve system performance.

What's prefetching?
When you come home after a long day of tech support, the ideal dog will fetch your slippers, your newspaper, and a refreshing beverage. However, wouldn't it be more efficient if your dog already had all of those things waiting by your chair when you walked in the door?

Windows XP works that way. As you boot your workstation or access programs on your workstation, XP's prefetcher copies portions of those files to the Prefetch area of your hard drive. When your workstation boots, XP prefetches portions of the files you use most frequently and has any application you've recently run waiting and ready to go.

If you're frequently using the same few applications over and over again, prefetching can greatly increase the apparent speed of a system. Rather than waiting for you to click an icon to start a program, and then loading all of the associated files, libraries, and pointers necessary to run the program, XP has all the components of your programs preloaded. When you click an icon to start the program, most of the hard work is already done.

The drawback to prefetching is that XP will prefetch a program even if you use it only once or twice. XP will retain a copy of a portion of it in the Prefetch folder. From there, it will prefetch the program, taking resources from your workstation even though you may have no intention of ever using the program again. If you have enough unused or little-used items prefetching, over time your system will actually run slower than if you never prefetched at all. This is especially evident on systems with limited resources.

Viewing what XP is prefetching
You can quickly see what Windows XP is prefetching for you. Click Start | My Computer, and double-click the drive that's storing your \WINDOWS directory (normally drive C:). Open the Windows folder and open the Prefetch folder to reveal a list of programs that XP prefetches.

This folder may display items that are months old. You can click the Date Modified column to quickly sort the folder by date and see the most recently cached items. You'll then see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Here are some programs that Windows XP prefetches on my test system.

As you can quickly tell, some of the programs automatically prefetching on my test workstation include:
  • Microsoft Word (WINWORD.EXE-1419152B.pf)
  • Acrobat Reader (ACRORD32.EXE-20C463C1.pf)
  • Microsoft Excel (EXCEL.EXE-0208E84D.pf)
  • Mozilla Firefox (FIREFOX.EXE-28641590.pf)

Don’t be surprised if you check your Prefetch folder and see similar entries but with different numbers after the .EXE. Those numbers are unique and refer to versioning information about the file that's being prefetched.

One common file you may notice is the one highlighted in the figure, Layout.ini. This file contains prefetch information for XP's disk defragmenter. Information in this file is used by the defragmenter to move programs and files on your workstation's hard drive to a more favorable location, speeding up direct read times.

Cleaning out the folder
As you can see, just like the TEMP directory on your system, the Prefetch folder can fill up with lots of unused entries. You can improve system performance by deleting files from this folder.

In doing so, you have two choices: You can selectively delete very old files and files for programs you rarely use, or you can batch-delete all of the entries in the folder. Of the two methods, the mass deletion is probably the most efficient. Windows XP will automatically reprefetch programs when your workstation restarts anyway, so the most frequently used programs will reappear automatically.

To delete all the files, simply select them all in Explorer and press [Delete]. You can also create a batch file that you can run periodically to do the job for you. Just open a command prompt, type copy con killpref.bat, and press [Enter]. Next, type the following commands:
Echo off
del c:\windows\prefetch\*.* /q

Finish by pressing [F6] and then [Enter]. You can then run the killpref.bat file from the command line or Explorer window, or run it as a scheduled task. It will automatically empty your Prefetch folder. When you restart your workstation, it may initially boot a little slower and load programs slowly, but as the prefetching kicks in again, frequently used programs will start quickly again.

The following section of this article discusses making changes to your server's registry. Before performing the techniques, make sure you have a complete backup of your workstation. If you make a mistake when making changes to your workstation's registry, you may cause your server to become unbootable, which would require a reinstallation of Windows to correct. Proceed with extreme caution.

Modifying and disabling Prefetch settings
As with most Windows XP-related things, you can change the way that Prefetch behaves by making a change in the registry. For low-memory systems, you can even completely disable the feature, which ensures that every last byte of RAM goes toward running current programs, not the ones XP guesses you'll need next.

To change the registry settings for prefetching, start the Registry Editor by selecting Run from the Start menu, typing regedit in the Open text box, and clicking OK. When the Registry Editor window opens, navigate through the left pane until you get to this hive:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters

In the right pane, look for the key named EnablePrefetcher. The value of this key represents how prefetch works on your system. Values you can choose from include:
  • 0—Disable
  • 1—Application Launch Prefetch
  • 2—Boot Prefetch
  • 3—Prefetch everything

To change the value, double-click it. You'll then see the Edit DWORD Value screen. Enter the value representing the level of prefetching you want in the Value Data field.

As a general rule, if you're on a low-memory workstation, 128 MB or so, set the value to 0. If your workstation has 512 MB of RAM or more, set it to 3. Otherwise, you can choose the value as best suits your needs and observations.

Windows XP -

A 64 bit upgrade to a 32-bit patch for a 16-bit GUI shell running on top of an 8-bit operating system written for a 4-bit processor by a 2-bit company who cannot stand 1 bit of competition (but it's better than a Mac)!

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Version Dec 7 Copyright © 2001 Larry Blaisdell