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Site Updated 05/28/05
Windows XP Tips & Tricks Part IX
Explore To The Folder Of Your Choice
If you use the Windows Explorer shortcut on your Start Menu, you probably notice that it always opens in the same window. For example, if you use Windows ME, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, Explorer always opens to the My Documents folder.
If you find Explorer always opening to the My Documents folder to be an annoyance, you can configure it to open to the folder of your choice. You can do so by editing the properties of the Explorer shortcut.
Open Windows Explorer and locate your Start Menu folder (if you are using Windows XP, this will be in the c:\documentsandsettings directory under your profile). Right click the shortcut to Windows Explorer and click Properties. From the Shortcut tab, change the target so it reads as follows:
%systemroot%\explorer.exe /n, /e, x:\folder
where x:\folder is the path to the folder that you want Explorer to open in. Click OK. Now when you launch Windows Explorer from the Start Menu, it will open in the folder that you specified.
Tweak Windows Boot Time
Natalie writes: My Windows XP machine is taking much longer to boot than it used to. I’ve already disabled a bunch of programs from starting up, which has saved some time, but I still feel like it can be improved even more. Any ideas?
Answer: A long boot time can be extremely
aggravating. We just want to turn on our computers and jump into our normal
routine of staring blankly at the monitor. Disabling some of the startup
programs is a good measure to take, but there’s another tool you can use to
speed things up even more. Then of course there are the Registry Tweaks.
Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows for more on those.
Microsoft released a tool some time ago called BootVis. The purpose of this tool was to analyze your system startup time, and improve it. This page has some information on how the program works. As the page says, Microsoft removed this tool from their site, but you can still find it in different nooks and crannies on the Web. The guide has the older version available for download, and you can find a newer version here. Individuals have had varying success with this program. You may notice a slight or vast improvement in your boot time. As always, be very careful using these types of tweaks.
Set up an automatic logon to Windows XP
In versions of Microsoft Windows prior to XP, you could set up your PC to automatically log on and load the desktop, bypassing the normal logon/welcome screen. In Windows XP, if there is only one user account, it is relatively simple to set up the system to automatically log on. However, if there is more than one user account, designating that all of the accounts can automatically log on is much more obscure.
After a visit to the Windows Update Center:
After downloading fixes from Microsoft Windows Update page or via Automatic Updates, you may notice Welcome Screen appearing at startup [previously it used to go to Desktop directly]. This is caused by the .NET Framework Update from Microsoft. It creates an additional user account called ASP.NET, which you can see in the Control Panel User Accounts applet. This is the reason you are seeing the Welcome Screen at startup. But, don't need to remove this update or don't delete this account. You can still configure Windows XP to automatically login using these methods:
To get access to a user account control panel that will allow you to set up accounts for automatic logon in Windows XP, you must use the command line and an obscure control application. At the command prompt, enter: To enter a command line prompt simply press Windows Key + R to open the run command and type in, or copy and paste, the command line below and click OK.
From this control panel, you can uncheck the Users Must Enter A Name And Password To Use This Computer setting. When you click the Apply or OK button, you will be asked to supply a password (you can leave it blank). After clicking OK on that screen, you will have set your PC to log on automatically.
Common Mistakes to be
avoided while using this method
For Windows XP Home, don't try to auto-login as Administrator. This is because Windows XP Home Edition does not allow logging in as Administrator from Normal mode. Once you uncheck the option "Users must enter a user name" and click OK/Apply, Administrator account name will be displayed in the text box. Type-in a different user name and password in order to auto-login to that account.
Take care while entering the password. Typing an incorrect password makes XP freeze at startup (during authentication) due to incorrect password and then displays the Welcome Screen after a few seconds.
Additional Recourses from the Microsoft Knowledgebase Archives:
TweakUI or the System Registry:
An easier way to perform this operation is with Windows XP's Power Toy Tweak UI.
Tweak UI is another one of those Microsoft Programming Team's little known extras that should have been included in the release of Windows but, of course, wasn't. Microsoft says on their website that these programs are not supported, wink. wink, and that you should use it at your own risk, nudge, nudge. Okay then, go get a copy and check it out for yourself.
You can use Tweak UI by opening it and double clicking "Logon" then
click on "Autologon" and checking the box labeled "Log on
automatically..." and set the Users name then click the "Set
Password" and enter the password.
TweakUI v2.00 for Windows XP/XP MCE [564 KB]. http://download.microsoft.com/download/whistler/Install/2/WXP/EN-US/TweakUiPowertoySetup.exe
TweakUI v2.10 for Windows XP SP1/XP MCE/2003
[147 KB]. http://download.microsoft.com/download/f/c/a/fca6767b-9ed9-45a6-b352-839afb2a2679/TweakUiPowertoySetup.exe
or in the system registry:
Not to sure how to use the System Registry? See Bo's Tweaky Clean Windows.
a shortcut to search Active Directory
As you probably know, you can easily locate computers, printers, and users in Active Directory using Windows XP's standard Search tool. But searching for shared folders is a very convoluted procedure.
You must begin your search by opening My Network Places, locating an Active Directory object, and clicking Find. Once the Find User, Contacts, And Groups dialog box opens, you can select Shared Folders from the Find drop-down list.
However, there's an easier way to access the Find User, Contacts, And Groups dialog box. To do so, you can create a specially configured shortcut on your desktop.
Follow these steps:
Now, anytime you want to search Active Directory for a shared folder, just double-click your new shortcut
Hide "Run DLL as App has encountered a problem" error when starting Windows XP System Restore
Reader Mark writes: I recently installed a new hard drive using Maxtor's Max Blast. Now whenever I attempt to run System Restore I get a App has encountered a problem when I attempt to start System Restore. Is there a fix for this?.
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." Your sorry?
The reason for the error::
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.
Here is a fix:
Note: All previous restore points will be removed.
MSKB: How to
troubleshoot the System Restore tool in Windows XP
MSKB: How to turn on and turn off System Restore in Windows XP
the print spool folder To Improve Pperformance
on Networked Computers
If you've set up a Windows XP system to act as a print server on your network, you can improve the print server's responsiveness. All you need to do is move the print spool folder from its default location on the main hard drive to a second hard drive.
The performance gain comes from separating the management of the potentially huge spool file from the same drive on which the Windows system files exist.
Of course, this means you need to install a second hard drive in the system. If you have any older hard drives lying around, this would be a great place to use one of them.
After installing a second hard drive, moving the print spool folder is easy. Follow these steps:
Networking your printer
Reader Rita writes: I have a home network, and would like to share my printer with all of the other computers on the network. How do I do this in Windows XP?
Setting up your own home network is a very reasonable thing to do if you have multiple computers. The ability to share files and Internet access with all of your computers is a wonderful thing. As you can imagine, adding a printer to the network is the next logical step. Being able to print from anywhere in the house is very helpful. If you desire a little hand holding through this process, check out this page:
Your Printer Over a Home Network Using Windows XP
By Jerry Honeycutt, Windows XP Expert Zone Community Columnist
The writer takes a nice and simple beginning to end approach to this matter. By following the instructions, you’ll be printing over the network in just a couple of minutes!
Back up those Windows XP updates
Reader John asks: I have a slow 56 K modem and have installed a new hard drive. I want to be able to put the Windows XP updates onto disk so that I don't have to re-download them every time I format a drive or, in the case, get a newer one. Is there any way to do that?
Sure John, but you will need to take some steps at the Windows Update Center first:
This way, Windows patches will be downloaded as executable files which can be backed up to a CD, hard drive… in case you need them afterward. However, note that the patches won’t be applied automatically, so you’ll have to run the downloaded file to apply a patch. As for the updates you’ve already downloaded the default way, you cannot back up these onto a CD or external drive. But you needn’t worry about old patches because Windows XP SP2 will soon be released. Get SP2 and after that start downloading patches the way I’ve described.
shortcut icons in an alternative place
Out of site, out of mind
Have you ever wanted the ability to place shortcut icons somewhere other than the Start menu or the desktop? For example, suppose you're troubleshooting a problem with a user's computer, and you've installed some diagnostics tools that you don't want the user messing around with.
Windows XP comes with an updated version of the Windows 3.x Program Manager, which you can use to store and access shortcuts to any application that you don't want to appear as a shortcut on the Start menu or desktop.
To access Program Manager, follow these steps:
When you see the Program Manager interface, start by creating a program group. Follow these steps:
You can now add shortcuts to the new program group. Follow these steps:
Find a memory leak that is Ballooning the Windows pagefile
A bloated pagefile could be the cause of memory and performance problems on a Windows PC. See what can cause this problem and how to fix it.
There are times when the Windows pagefile will grow out of control. While the pagefile typically grows and fluctuates as the Windows system needs to move data from RAM to virtual memory, the pagefile doesn't usually become a problem unless a program has a memory leak. Then the program in question will hog too much RAM and cause the pagefile to become bloated. This can eventually lead to a variety of system performance issues.
Here is one solution:
In order to mitigate this problem, you need to pinpoint the offending program and shut it down.
The way to see what's happening with the pagefile is to utilize the Windows Performance Monitor. In Windows XP, the easiest way to access this tool is to go to Start | Run and type perfmon and click OK. Once Performance Monitor opens, click the + button. From the Performance Object drop-down list, select Memory. Select the All Counters radio button and then click the Add button and the Close button. Monitor this for a few hours. You can tweak the counters to remove some that don’t seem necessary and you can leave it on in the background while you're looking for the program with the memory leak.
One way to find the specific offending program is to use the Task Manager. You can open the Task Manager with the keyboard combination [Ctrl][Shift][Esc]. Go to the Processes tab and look at the Mem Usage column to see if you have any memory hogs. You can also click View | Select Columns and add counters such as Page Faults, Page Faults Delta, and Virtual Memory Size to the Task Manager to help you in your search.
Another way to find programs with memory leaks is to go back into the Performance Monitor and click the + button to add counters. This time you can select Process as the Performance Object and use the options there to monitor variables for suspicious processes.
Once you think you've nailed down the program that's causing the problem, you can uninstall it, delete the executable, and/or disable it in the Windows Registry. (Perform registry edits with great caution!)
If the pagefile
gets fragmented your system's performance will decrease. System Internals
has released PageDefrag, a free utility that shows fragmentation in the
pagefile and then offers the option of defragmentation at boot time.
The utility can be downloaded from HERE MSKBA
How can I write ISO files to CD?
I have been getting a considerable number of emails lately concerning a desire to write a bootable CD. Well, folks, the ISO is where it all starts.
ISO files are actually images of complete CDs compiles as one whole image, just like Ghost does for hard disks and partitions. ISO images can be loaded into several different CD recording software packages to create CDs. Nero, for example, has a special section for writing CD image files or ISO's.
ISO Recorder is a Windows XP freeware utility that uses native Windows XP functions to write images to a CD. You can download this utility from the author’s Web page. When the program is installed, it is automatically associated with the ISO file extension in Windows Explorer.
For more information about this utility, visit the author’s Web page at http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm
Steps to create a CD if you have installed ISO Recorder Power Toy:
Download the ISO CD image to a folder on your computer.
Insert a blank CD in your CD-RW drive.
Start Windows Explorer.
Locate the ISO file, right-click the file name, and then click Copy image to CD to open the ISO Recorder Wizard.
Follow the steps in the wizard to write the image to the CD.
Another alternate method:
You can also right-click your CD-R drive and choose Copy Image to CD.
In the new window browse to the ISO file and click Next.
Small useful tip:
"Small and maybe valuable tip for the ‘How can I write ISO files to CD?’ tip. This power tool works only on files with ISO extension. There’re some ISO files with IMG extension (notably MSDN’s distribution files). Change the extension to .ISO and this power tool will work as advertised.
There maybe other file formats that are ISO format and are called something else…"
You can use Nero Burning ROM to record a CD from an ISO file. You must purchase this program from Ahead Software. For more information about this program, visit the Ahead Software Web site at: http://www.ahead.de
Steps to create a CD if you have installed Nero - Burning ROM:
Download the ISO CD image to a folder on your computer.
Insert a blank CD in your CD-RW drive.
Start Nero Burning.
Follow the wizard steps to select Data CD creation.
When the wizard closes, click Burn Image on the File menu.
In the Open dialog box, select the ISO file, and then click Open.
In the wizard, click Burn to write the image to the CD.
You can use EasyCD Creator to create a CD from an ISO file. You must purchase this program from Roxio. When the program is installed, it is automatically associated with the ISO file extension in Windows Explorer. For more information about this program, visit the Roxio Web site at: http://www.roxio.com
Steps to create a CD if you have installed EasyCD Creator:
Download the ISO CD image to a folder on your computer.
Insert a blank CD in your CD-RW drive.
Start Windows Explorer.
Locate the ISO file, right-click the file name, and then click Open to start EasyCD.
In the Write Method section of the CD Creation Setup dialog box, click Disk at Once for optimum recording performance.
Click OK to write the image to the CD.
You can use CDBurn.exe that is included in the Windows Server 2003 Support Tools (read Download Windows 2003 Reskit Tools for more info).
ISO CD-ROM Burner Tool (CDBurn) is a command-line tool that allows the user to write (burn) data images from image files located on the hard drive to compact disc (CD) recordable (CD-R) and CD rewritable (CD-RW) media. The data image can be any kind of data, even raw data. This tool can also be used to erase CD-RW media.
Example: Burn a CD From an Image File When a Drive Letter is Assigned to the CD Burner. Type the following at the command line:
cdburn.exe d: c:\dotnet_usa_3678.IDS_x86fre_srv.iso
Press ENTER. Output similar to the following is displayed:
Number of blocks in ISO image is 3d1d6
| 25.6% done
/ 45.2% done
/ 55.3% done
- 68.9% done
\ 89.3% done
- 100.0% done
Synchronizing Cache: burn successful!
Notes: The drive letter assigned to the burner in this example is D and the image file being written is located at c:\dotnet_usa_3678.IDS_x86fre_srv.iso
The default burn speed for this tool is 4x. The maximum burn speed is limited by the maximum speed of the burner. Use the speed parameter to set the burn speed. The max parameter sets the burn speed of the CD burner to maximum.
Add Safe Mode to the Boot menu
Safe Mode is generally used during times when you need to troubleshoot a Windows problem. To access it, you have to press F8 during startup. If you’re not paying attention and don’t press the key at the right moment, you’ll be restarting in some instances, several times. Trekkers might call this a Parabolic Loop and it can get real old, real fast. So here is a way you can save yourself having to press F8 during startup to access Safe Mode. Instead, you can add it as an option to your Windows XP Boot Menu. "Live long and prosper".
Cannot Install Movie Maker 2
Reader Sabrina writes: BO. THE NEWER VERSION (Movie Maker 2.0) WILL NOT INSTALL. It says its installed but when I open the program its the same old version.
Answer: It has taken me a little time to figure this out, but I think I have found a solution to your problem. By the way, this is the first question of this type I have received so it was head scratching time, which may explain the bald spot. Here is what you need to do:To work around this problem, follow these steps:
C:\Program Files\Movie Maker
If you need to download a fresh copy of MM2, you can find it at:
Find a lost Windows product key
In order to install or reinstall Microsoft Windows you must have access to a Product Key for that version of the operating system. The product key can typically be found on a yellow sticker on the CD case of the installation CD, or on a small Microsoft sticker on the outside of the PC's case (if the OS came preinstalled on the machine). If you no longer have access to the product key then you will effectively "lose" a Windows license if you ever have to reinstall the operating system.
There are several methods you can use to uncover a lost product key for a version of Windows that you currently have installed.
For older versions of Windows you can extract the product key from the Windows Registry. Click Start | Run and then type regedit and click OK.
For Windows 95 and Windows 98, browse to this key:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ProductID
For Windows NT 4.0, browse to this key:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProductID
Alternatively, there are also some free scripts and freeware software programs that can help you:
Whichever method you use, make sure you write down the product key and put it in a safe place for future reference.
Can I remove the Windows hotfix?
See also: Saving Windows XP Updates & Security Patches to Disk To Load to CD
And: Free tool for removing some of the $Ntuninstall folders
Reader Robert asks:
First let me thank you for your words of encouragement and we hope that you continue to find useful content on BLCOW.
As for the hotfixes? The jury is still out on this unfortunately. One would think that once a service pack is installed that the uninstall information which appears in your add/remove section could be gotten rid of. It only makes sense, but do you really think that the goings on at Redmond truly make sense?
Here is the problem with removing them from the add/remove section of control panel or from the hard drive to be more specific. The system registry has recorded these items in many locations of that system file, some are ClassID's which are very cryptic at best. If the uninstall information is removed there is a chance that the system is still going to be looking for them at the next bootup. . Removing them can cause several errors (The obligatory error or floating point errors may ensue) and even some which may prevent some of the systems key services from functioning. Such is the proprietary functions of Windows...but it's still better than a Mac!
This also applies to the section in your Windows folder that heads this title: "$NtUninstallKB810217$" and excreta. You will see a great host of these directories starting with a "$" and ending with the same "$". These contain *.INF" files which are important to the uninstall information and is what the registry is going to insist on looking for. If they're gone, a great number of headaches may occur. If you can not see these files or folders in your Windows folder, then you will need to select the show hidden and system files options in Windows Explorer's "Tools | Folder Options" or in Control Panel's "Folder Options".
When any security update or other critical update is released, you get it without having to lift a finger. Along with each hotfix that Windows automatically installs, you get a couple of bonuses—an Add/Remove Programs entry for that hotfix and a folder containing the files required to uninstall it. Upgrading to Windows XP SP2 clears out the Add/Remove Programs entries, but leaves the folders behind. You may have 60 or 70 of these, subfolders of C:\Windows with names like $NtUninstallKB810217$. Quite a few readers have asked whether they can safely discard these.
Microsoft's official position is that with modern large hard drives it shouldn't really be necessary to remove the uninstall folders. But they admit that there's little reason to retain uninstall data for hotfixes predating the current service pack. If you're squeezed for space, you can delete any of those $NtUninstallKBxxxxxx$ folders whose date/ time stamps clearly show them to be older than the latest service pack you've installed.
The uninstall data for Windows XP SP2 itself resides in a folder named C:\WINDOWS\$NtServicePackUninstall$, and the storage cost for this folder can be considerable—400MB or more. Microsoft does not recommend deleting the folder. By doing so you'll give up the possibility of uninstalling SP2. But if you're 100 percent happy with SP2 and desperate for space, you can delete the folder and all its contents without affecting ongoing use of your computer. If after doing so you attempt to launch the SP2 uninstall routine from Add/Remove Programs, Windows will point out that the data is not available and offer to remove the item from the Add/Remove Programs list.
Best advise? I'd let em be,. the resultant problems just aren't worth the trouble.
Free tool for removing some of the $Ntuninstall folders
The files contained within the NtUninstall folder tells your computer how to uninstall the
Windows update that you have downloaded and installed. Each folder has a specific name ending in the name of a particular Windows update.
These can also be viewed in the Control Panels add/remove section. If you were to go to add/remove programs and select a Windows update to uninstall, the information on how to run this process would come from the corresponding $Ntuninstall folder.
Some of these files are also related to what Microsoft refers to as "hotfixes" and they can be removed if you aren't planning on rolling back from a hotfix, though it's not entirely obvious which update is which.
Fortunately, a smart programmer named Doug Knox. has prepared a utility that will assist in removing those files if you so desire. It has the surprisingly intuitive name of XP Remove Hotfix Backup. The utility won't remove all the files in your NtUninstall folder, but it will let you easily remove the ones related to hotfixes. However, with the free version you will need to update to the Pro version otherwise, all of files in the entire hotfix $Ntuninstall are removed The tool also allows you to see what the associated Microsoft Knowledgebase article accompanies the hotfix.
To summarize, you can delete these folders, just as long as you are sure as you don't want to uninstall that particular Windows update. Your best bet would be to keep them, but if your are desperate for hard disk space wait for a week or two to insure that the updates you have installed are running fine, and then you can delete the corresponding NtUnistall folder safely.