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Windows XP Tips & Tricks Part VII

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"Run DLL as App has encountered a problem" error when starting Windows XP System Restore

If you've recently replaced your hard drive and used the drive manufacturer's software to transfer data from the old to the new drive, it's likely that Windows System Restore won't start. This Solution Base article explains how to fix that problem.

When trying to start Windows System Restore, the following error message appears:

"Run a DLL as an App has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

This error may occur if the primary hard drive or boot partition has been changed/upgraded/replaced and software from the hard drive vendor (such as MaxBlast from Maxtor or Data Lifeguard from Western Digital) has been used to move the data from the old to the new drive.

  1. Click Start | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services.
  2. Right-click System Restore Service and click Properties.
  3. From the Startup Type drop-down, select Disabled.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Close the Services and Administrative Tools windows.
  6. Right-click My Computer, click Properties, and click the System Restore tab. The System Restore tab should now display properly; however, the System Restore service will be disabled.
  7. Enable System Restore and click Apply.

Note: All previous restore points will be removed.

Windows XP Product Key
You discover that invalid product keys were supplied for a Windows XP Professional installation, or you receive an invalid product key error when attempting to install a Windows XP Professional service pack

The problem

You discover that invalid product keys were supplied for a Windows XP Professional installation, or you receive an invalid product key error when attempting to install a Windows XP Professional service pack, and you don't wish to reinstall Windows XP Professional to correct the situation.

The cause

Windows Product Activation prevents software deployments that use invalid product keys or pirated product IDs.

Note Editing the registry is risky, so be sure you have a verified backup before making any changes. If you are not sure how to use the system registry, see Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows.

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 information about how to edit the registry, view the "Changing Keys and Values" Help topic in Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) or the "Add and Delete Information in the Registry" and "Edit Registry Data" Help topics in Regedt32.exe. Note that you should back up the registry before you edit it. If you are running Windows NT or Windows 2000, you should also update your Emergency Repair Disk (ERD).

  1. Edit the registry of the illegal machine.
  2. Use Regedit and find:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\Current Version\WPAEvents
  3. 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, and then click OK and close the Registry Editor. This renders the current product key invalid and deactivates Windows.
  4. Reactivate Windows using your new product key.
  5. Click Start | Run and enter the command: %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe /a
  6. Windows will launch the Product Activation Wizard.
  7. Select the option to telephone a Microsoft customer service representative to activate Windows.
  8. Select the Change Product Key option and enter your new product key.
  9. Click Update and close the window.
  10. If Windows returns you to the previous screen, just select the Remind Me Later option. When the wizard is finished, reboot the system.
  11. When Windows reboots, your next step will depend on which Windows XP version you are using. If you have XP Home or Professional, youíll 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.

Future prevention

You can help prevent this problem from occurring again by following these steps:

  1. Only use valid product keys for Windows XP when installing XP in your organization.
  2. Track and inventory product keys to ensure that all keys are valid.
  3. Use a key finder such as Magical JellyBean to ensure that the keys you're using are valid and not copied from the Internet.


So Bo, What the heck does the Defragmenter do anyway?

Reader Bill asks:

Q: I know that I am supposed to defrayment my hard drive occasionally. So what the heck is that tool doing anyway and why do I need it?

A: We get this question a lot so I decided to place it here for your convenience and to keep me from getting typers knotted fingers.

Lets suppose that you have just purchased and installed a new hard drive. Yeah, this is a dream for most of us but it is important to the explanation. Now, you start putting your stuff onto the drive, some stuff you keep, other stuff you delete; fast forward about 2 months. When you put your stuff onto the drive it is stored on that drive sequentially (If you do not have a dictionary handy that means it is stored by 1's, 2's, 3's and so on). After a little time of deleting stuff and adding stuff the files are stored all over the drive. Because when you install a new application or save a new file it takes the slack space on the drive. It fills the holes left by deleted files. With me so far? As times go by there are many instances of slack space being filled by new files and the drive has to hunt all over the drive for those files before it can build the event sequentially and then load it into memory as one piece.

When you defrayment the drive the tool rearranges every file on the drive so that they are stored sequentially as was originally intended. It can even move the programs that you use frequently to a portion of the hard drive that will allow for the quickest possible start time. Moving thousands of files will take a long time, but the regained speed will be worth it. I'll take my hard drive with a side of sequential storage, and no mayo please.

The none geek version: Lets say you have a line of blocks lined up on the table. Take away a few blocks from different places. There are gaps right? Now, if you add new blocks place them into the gaps and then add more to the end. Take away a few of the blocks added and a few that are at the end of your block line. I think your getting the idea. The gaps are filled and emptied all of the time. Because the drive heads are looking for sequentially placed blocks it has to search all over the drive to build the application r file that your looking for. This is hard on the drive and slows the loading of files or applications and the drive will wear out faster. Sorry to burst your bubble but drives will wear out over time. 

Changing Default Folder
Reader Debbie writes:

Q: Windows Explorer always opens a folder that I have no use for. What I would like to do is set it to open a folder of my choice. How do I do that in Windows XP?

A: This question gets asked a lot. Windows automatically opens a specific folder when you run Explorer from the Start menu or the command prompt. This can get really old if you always need to get to a certain directory other than the one that opens. Perhaps you would like it to open to your music folder or collection of program files? If this sounds like something that is up your alley, check out this article from Microsoft's Knowledge Base.

Customize the Windows Explorer Views in Windows XP

The page will give you a list of command-line switches that you can use to change the way Explorer opens when executed from the command prompt, however, the information that you are looking for is found in the section at the bottom. Follow the four steps to change the folder Explorer opens on startup.

Presto, change-o!

There are also some for Internet Explorer in Batch Mode. Find them at:

Internet Explorer Batch-mode Setup Switches

Are There More Details To My Files?

When viewing your files in the My Computer window or the Windows Explorer, you may be wondering how you can view other important details about these files. For example, if you have a group of 10 files and you can't remember which file has been set to Read-Only, you can add this option to the Details View of these windows.

The Details view is not restricted to the default columns, which are Name, Size, Type, and Date Modified. You may want to see if they are Read-Only files or who owns or created the files and folders.

To add new columns, follow the steps below:


  1. Right-click the column header of the files list, and then click one of the fields in the pop-up menu, or click the More option to open the Choose Details dialog box.
  2. In the Choose Details dialog box, you can reorganize the order of column headers, specify column widths, and add columns to display additional details for the files in that folder. When you click the new column header, the width of the selected column is displayed in pixels in the Choose Details dialog box.

    Click here to enlarge!

  3. To close the Choose Details dialog box, click OK. Your window will now update to display the fields that you have selected.


The next time you are searching for the owner of several files, try configuring your Explorer window to save you time and effort of opening the Properties page for each individual file.

From FAT32 to NTFS

We have covered this before but it needs repeating from the emails we have been getting.

Windows XP supports both FAT32 and NTFS. Since the NTFS file system has many more features and benefits than FAT32 - such as increased stability and a higher level of security - it makes much more sense to format your partitions with NTFS. When you installed the operating system, you may have opted to (or mistakenly) use FAT32. Not a huge problem, since there is a one-time conversion from FAT32 to NTFS. And you can do so without losing any of your data!

There are two ways you can convert a volume to NTFS. One method is to use the Computer Management console. Or, you can do so from the command prompt window using the convert command. For example, if you have a volume "d" on your computer and you want to convert it to NTFS, simply open the command prompt and type the following command:

Convert d: /fs:ntfs

After you press Enter, you'll be asked to confirm your actions by pressing Y. Now if your drive is currently in use (prime example: you are trying to convert your system volume), you can opt to have the conversion take place the next time the computer is restarted. Just to reiterate, this is a one time conversion which means there isn't any going back from NTFS to FAT32 unless you format the volume or find a third party utility that can perform this task.

A Faster Way to Encrypt Your Files

If your drives are formatted with NTFS, you have the option of using encryption. Windows XP uses the Encrypting File System (EFS) which lets you encrypt your folders and files for increased security. Normally to encrypt a folder or file, you would have to do so from the folder or file's properties window and access the advanced attributes. Wouldn't it be great though if you could just encrypt or decrypt a file or folder using the shortcut menu?

Well here's a nifty little tip that does just that... it adds the encrypt and decrypt options to the shortcut menu for a folder or file. Of course, a word of caution: the following steps do require you to modify the registry, so proceed carefully:

Click Start, point to run, and type regedit. Within the Registry Editor, navigate to the following subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Click the Edit menu, point to New, and select Dword value. Type in EncryptionContextMenu. Configure the value as 1. You should now be able to encrypt or decrypt any of your folders and files using the shortcut menu.

Removing Orphaned Programs From The Add/Remove Programs List

Reader Diana writes:

I have uninstalled several programs from my Windows XP machine but they still appear in the Add/Remove section of Control Panel. Have they been uninstalled and if so why do they not disapear from the list and ow do I get rid of them if they are really gone?

Most programs that are compatible with Windows will include an uninstall program as well. Once you uninstall a program, it should be removed from the list of installed programs. However, on occasion, as you may have already discovered, a program that is uninstalled is not removed from the programs list. In such cases, you can manually remove it by editing the registry. Not sure how to use the system registry? Check out Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows. Navigate to the following system key:


Under the list of installed programs, delete the sub key for the program you want to remove from the programs list.

Installing Fonts in Windows XP
In Windows, any version, installing fonts is a snap

We've gotten several emails on, "How do I install fonts On Windows XP". So, let see how it is done and nothing could be easier.

Once you've downloaded a new font, how do you install it in Windows so that other applications can use it? Easy! First, open control panel, and then double-click the Fonts icon. If you don't see the Fonts icon when you first open Control Panel, you may have to click on Appearance and Themes first. Then look up in the top left under "See Also."

Once the Fonts window opens up, there are two ways to install your new font. One way is just to drag and drop the font file into the Fonts window. For instance if the font file is sitting on your desktop, just click down and hold with the left mouse button, drag the file over the Fonts window, and release the left mouse button.

The other way is to click on the File menu in the upper left part of the Fonts window, and choose "Install New Font..." From there you can browse to the drive and folder where the font is currently, click on the file and then click OK. The file will automatically be copied to the Fonts folder.

Once a new font is loaded into the Fonts folder, it is available for any Windows program to use.

Microsoft Keyboard Commands

Invariably we receive a few emails every week asking what are the keyboard commands for Microsoft products. Now then, I do not mind answering questions but when they come up as much as this does, it is time to place it on the web for our readers satisfaction. I suggest that you print this list out so that you have a hard copy handy until you know what to do without even thinking. Not thinking is our second most favorite thing to do.

Windows System Key Combinations

Windows Program Key Combinations

Mouse Click/Keyboard Modifier Combinations for Shell Objects

General Keyboard-Only Commands

Shell Objects and General Folder/Windows Explorer Shortcuts

For a selected object:

To Copy a File

Press and hold down the CTRL key while you drag the file to another folder.

To Create a Shortcut

Press and hold down CTRL+SHIFT while you drag a file to the desktop or a folder.

General Folder/Shortcut Control

Windows Explorer Tree Control

Properties Control

Accessibility Shortcuts

Microsoft Natural Keyboard Keys

Microsoft Natural Keyboard with IntelliType Software Installed

Dialog Box Keyboard Commands

Windows XP Shortcut Commands:

General Keyboard Shortcuts

Dialog Box Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft Natural Keyboard Shortcuts

Accessibility Keyboard Shortcuts

Windows Explorer Keyboard Shortcuts

Shortcut Keys for Character Map

After you double-click a character on the grid of characters, you can move through the grid by using the keyboard shortcuts:

Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Main Window Keyboard Shortcuts

MMC Console Window Keyboard Shortcuts

Remote Desktop Connection Navigation

Microsoft Internet Explorer Navigation


Speed Windows XP Searches

When you use the Search function in Windows XP, it includes any compressed or zipped folders in the search. If you have a lot of folders on your computer that are compressed, this can slow down the search. If you rarely use this function, performance may not be a concern to you. However, there is a way that you can configure Windows XP to not include your compressed folders when performing searches. Personally, I have so many folders on my computer that are in a compressed format (could be an occupational hazard). Once I disabled Windows XP search from looking in my compressed folders, I did notice an increase in search performance. So on that note, if you're interested in speeding things up, here is what you have to do. Simply open the run command from the Start Menu and type the following command:

Regsvr32 c:\Windows\System32\zipfldr.dll /u

Conversely, you can undo this and again include compressed folders in your searches using the above command without the /u switch.

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 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, itís 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.

Select the option to telephone a Microsoft customer service representative to activate Windows and click Next. Now, select the Change Product Key option and enter your new product key. 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.

When Windows reboots, your next step will depend on which Windows XP version you are using. If you have XP Home or Professional, youíll 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.

Click here to view the code for the WMI script, ChangeVLKey2600.vbs, designed for use on XP machines without SP1. Click here to 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.

Disable Microsoft Messenger Service in Windows XP
Popups are more than annoying, they are downright distracting. You can put an end to this one.

Microsoft Messenger Service is one of those benefits and/or curse. While many are finding that the Messenger is a useful tool others are constantly annoyed by the continuing popups that comes with the Messenger Service Relay.

We have been fielding a ton of questions about MMS and it is time to let our hair down, at least what is left of it, and share some ways to keep the good, do away with the bad.

Messenger pops up an add which tells the user that, "I get pop-up messages inviting me to view pornographic pictures on some Web site.Ē Our reader attempted to get rid of the problem by uninstalling MSN Messenger, but this had no effect.

In reality the intended purpose of the service was to allow admins to send instant messages to their users instead of using e-mail. It's a useful tool for alerting users about network outages due to maintenance or other issues. One way to eliminate the pop-up messages, this is an example of a good thing being subverted by a bad thing. One way to halt this is to block port 135.

In disabling Messenger Service; the caveat is that this prevents alerts from being sent to networked computers, but for home users, there's no reason not to turn it off. Because anyone can use the service to display messages or ads on your computer while you're online, the argument for blocking the port suggests that disabling the service altogether is compelling. The service is enabled by default, so you need to take steps on your own to get rid of it if you don't want spammers to be able to display messages directly on your computer. An additional annoyance of such messages is that they remain on top of other windows and will remain there until you close them yourself.

Disabling the Messenger Service
If you don't want your computer to receive pop-up messages via the Messenger Service, you can follow these instructions to disable it on WinXP:

  1. Go to Start | Control Panel | Performance and Maintenance | Administrative Tools.
  2. Double-click Services.
  3. In the Services panel, select Messenger.
  4. Right-click and select Stop to turn off Messenger.
  5. Right-click and select Properties. (You can also simply double-click Messenger).
  6. From the Startup Type drop-down list, select Disabled as shown in figure below.
  7. Click OK.

On Windows NT and Windows 2000, the process for disabling Messenger is similar. Access Services in Administrative Tools and select Disable or Manual as the startup setting in the Properties.

If you're receiving unwanted ads on your computer in pop-up messages, you can take these steps to turn off the service that allows your computer to receive them. However, in a corporate network environment this may not be an issue or an available option

Eliminate XP's Desktop Cleanup Wizard

Windows XP is populated by a whole slew of wizards. Some are helpful, most are not. The desktop cleanup wizard ranks with the later and not with the former. Basically al it soes is to look at the timestamp of the last used program shortcut used and makes a determineation on rather or not that program is one which deserves a spot on your desktop.

As these are only shortcuts to the real program, not much changes if the desktop shortcut icon is removed from the desktop. Personally, I do not wish to be reminded rather or not I have used a particular program in the last 60 days or so. If it is on my desktop, it is there because I want quick access to it.

Banishing the wizard
Right-click on an empty area on the desktop and select the Properties command. When the Display Properties dialog box appears, click the Desktop tab. Then on the Desktop tab, click the Customize Desktop button. You'll then see the Desktop Items screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Turn off the Desktop Cleanup Wizard on the Desktop Items screen.

To disable the Desktop Cleanup Wizard, remove the checkmark from the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard Every 60 Days checkbox. As you can see, you don't have the option of changing the frequency of the wizard. You either run it every 60 days or you donít run it at all. You do have the option of running the wizard immediately by clicking Clean Desktop Now.

Click OK to save your changes. Finally click OK in the Display Properties dialog box to close it, and you've said goodbye to the Desktop Cleanup Wizard.








Use Group Policy editor to remove annoying XP pop-up text on Start menus

Windows XP is often too chatty. I find the number of pop-up messages and text balloons that intrude upon precious desktop space overwhelming at times. Not all the messages are necessarily relevant, and others are self-explanatory to a fault. A case in point: the "Where Have All My Programs Gone" (Nice song title but annoying in XP) pop-up that appears in the Start menu. A quick way to rid your users of a few especially annoying pop-up messages (including the one mentioned above) is to use the Group Policy editor. We will show you how simple it is to rid the desktop of unnecessary pop-ups.

It starts with Start
Click on Start | Run and type MMC. For first timers a blank MMC console will appear. If the Group Policy snap-in is not displayed, then a few steps are required to add it. They are:
  1. Choose the menu items File| Add/Remove Snap-In.
  2. Click on the Add button to bring up the Standalone Snap-in dialog box.
  3. Scroll down until you see Group Policy, highlight it, and click the Add button.
  4. A Select Group Policy Object dialog box will appear with Local Computer selected as the default. Select this option by clicking the Finish button.
  5. Click the Close button on the Standalone dialog box and the OK button on the Add/Remove Snap-in dialog box. 

Making changes
To make the pop-ups go away, simply expand the Local Computer policy node. Below the main node you'll see a Computer Configuration node and a User Configuration node. Expanding the User Configuration node will display three subnodes; Software Settings, Windows Settings, and Administrative Templates. For this project, expand the Administrative Templates subnode and select the Start Menu and Taskbar item, as shown below

Now it is just a simple procedure to disable the pop-ups. Scroll down the right pane of the console until you see the Remove Balloon Tips On Start Menu Items setting. Double-click it and in the resulting dialog box select the Enabled radio button, as shown below:

Click the Apply button and you are finished.

It's a start
Windows XP is heavily reliant on pop-up messages to notify users of certain functions that are taking place, describe applications, and so on. Therefore, you will never get rid of all of the pop-ups. While not every pop-up button will be eliminated by this tip, you can at least be assured a few of the more inane ones will no longer appear.

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