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60 power tips for Windows XP

Here are 60 tips to help you get more from Windows XP taken from the Windows XP official magazine website:

1: Use stable drivers
Drivers are the cause of most system crashes, so open System Properties and click the Hardware tab. Click on Driver Signing and set Windows XP to block the installation of unsigned drivers.

2: Replace your missing Windows XP files
Error messages warning you of missing .dll files or flaky programs indicate that some core parts of Windows XP are missing, so open the Run dialogue box and type ?sfc /scannow?. A utility scans your system for missing system files and replaces them. You may be prompted to insert your original Windows XP installation CD, so keep it close to hand.

3: Check for unsigned system files
Open the Run dialogue box and type ?sigverif?. Then click on Start in the utility that opens and your hard drive is scanned for questionable system files. Now check the files the scan brings up.

4. Clean out unwanted .dll files
Open RegEdit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Explorer and create a new DWORD value called AlwaysUnloadDll, setting its value as 1.

5. Manage your folders
The same amount of RAM is allocated to each desktop folder. Avoid problems by opening Explorer, click Tools > Folder Options > View, and enable ?Launch folder windows in a separate process?.

6. Files that freeze
Right-clicking on a file and selecting Rename can disassociate it from whatever program or process is hanging on to it. Call the file something else, without a file extension, then try to delete it.

7. Close the process
Or try closing the program that?s holding on to the file. Press [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [Del] to open the Task Manager and look under the Processes tab. Find the one that?s causing the trouble, select it and click on the End Process button.

8. Go outside Windows Explorer
Open the Command Prompt and change to the directory and folder the file is in. Type ?DEL?, leave a space and then the name of the file to delete. Press [Enter], re-open the Task Manager, click on File > New Task and enter ?explorer.exe?.

9. Solve stuttering sound
If your PC?s soundcard is sometimes crackling or playing up, it?s often due to a conflict with the audio processor on your motherboard. Restart your PC and enter the BIOS, then browse through the settings until you find an option for onboard audio, and disable it. Restart your PC and things should sound sweeter.

10. Have all S-ATA drives
The Windows XP CD doesn?t have drivers to recognise all S-ATA drives, so if you?re planning to fit a primary drive and install the OS on it, make sure you?ve got a floppy disk with the drivers on it. Press [F6] during the initialisation to load the third-party drivers.

11. Find out the facts
It?s worth regularly turning to the internet for help and advice. The best place to start is JamersPad.

12. Use Safe Mode
A lot of problems can be solved by restarting Windows XP in Safe Mode. It loads only the minimum of drivers and services, so you can repair dodgy ones without having them flare up in the first place. Access this by pressing [F8] before Windows starts to load.

13. Turn back time
What if Windows crashes before it gets to the desktop? Hit [F8] just before Windows starts loading and select ?Last Known Good Configuration?. This starts Windows using a system checkpoint stored in the registry to undo whatever trouble was happening.

14. Repair Windows XP
When your system gets too wobbly, you can make it repair itself by inserting your original Windows XP CD and restarting, booting from the CD. When you get to the licence agreement, press [F8] and then [R] to perform an in-place repair, leaving your saved files in place and untouched. Run Windows Update when you finish.

15. Fix shutdown problems
If Windows XP can?t shut down due to programs refusing to close, open RegEdit and find HKEY_ USERS\DEFAUL\Control Panel\Desktop. Amend the value of AutoEndTasks to 1 to force Windows to terminate stubborn applications and stop the system hanging.

16. Boot up faster
The files that Windows XP uses to start itself up, which are called Prefetch files, can easily be optimised by defragmenting them. Rather than relying on the Disk Defragmenter utility, however, you need to open the Run dialogue box and enter ?defrag c: -b?.

17. Preview media files
Open Explorer, click Tools > Folder Options > File Types. Select the type, then Advanced. Click New and enter ?Preview? under Action type. In Application, type ?C:\Windows\System32\mplay32.exe?.

18. Make your soundcard sound amazing
Open your soundcard?s advanced volume controls and mute any channels that you?re not using, such as MIDI synth, mic in and the auxiliary channel, to make more efficient use of system resources.

19. Disable file indexing
Keeping the list of files updated for the Search utility slows things down. Go to My Computer, right-click on your hard drive, select Properties. Deselect the indexing service under the General tab.

20. Log on to Windows faster
Autoexec.bat is obsolete, so use RegEdit to find HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon. Create or edit the ParseAutoexec DWORD and set it to 0. Restart.

21. Hibernate for rapid restarts
You can speed up the time it takes your PC to start by not shutting it down completely. Set it to hibernate ? your PC?s current state is restored next time. Enable Hibernation from the ?Power Options Properties? and then click on Start > Turn Off Computer. Hold down [Shift] to change Stand By to Hibernate.

22. Go faster
You can make the Start menu respond more quickly by opening RegEdit and heading to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Modify MenuShowDelay so that its value is 100 rather than 400.

23. Document tracking
Turn off My Recent Documents. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curre ntVersion\Policies\Explorer in RegEdit and create a new DWORD value called NoRecent DocsHistory with a value of 1.

24. Pin your favourite programs
You can attach your most commonly used programs to the top of the Start menu by right-clicking on any shortcut in the Start menu and selecting the ?Pin to Start Menu? option. The shortcut stays there until you remove it.

25. Test beta software safely for free
By using Microsoft Virtual PC 2004, you can create a safe environment in which to test software. Find out more about Virtual PC 2004 by visiting Windows Virtual PC: Home Page and download the program for free.

26. Get more from your monitor
Adjust your monitor?s refresh rate for a more comfortable viewing experience. Simply right-click on the desktop and select Properties. Click the Settings tab and then the Advanced button.

27. Go back to basics
Windows XP visuals are easy on the eye but not always easy on your system. Turn them off to free up resources: click on System Properties > Advanced and then on Settings under Performance.

28. Keep the noise down
The startup chime slows down the startup process. Open Control Panel then Sounds and Audio Devices. Click on Sounds and under Program events set ?Start Windows and Exit Windows? to None.

29. Automatically log-on to Windows
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/WindowsNT/CurrentVersion/ Winlogon. Change or add DefaultUserName (your username), DefaultPassword (your password), AutoAdminLogon (1) and DefaultDomainName (the domain you log on to).

30. Keep core Windows files in RAM
Parts of Windows XP are kept in the pagefile on your hard drive and this can slow performance. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\Session Manager\MemoryManagement. Modify DisablePagingExecutive DWORD value to 1.

31. Make USB memory devices read-only
Stop people copying your files on to an external drive or USB key by navigating to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Contro l\StorageDevicePolicies in RegEdit. Create a DWORD value called WriteProtect and set it to 1. To turn it off, set it to 0.

32. Find out where that virus is hiding
If you?ve got a worm or virus that your anti-virus software says it?s removed but it reappears, it can be hiding in System Restore files, dormant. Open System Properties, go to System Restore and turn it off. Scan with anti-virus software and turn System Restore on.

33. Protect your Guest account
The Guest account needs to be protected with a password, even if turned off and you don?t use it, as it?s a way in for hackers. Open the Command Prompt and enter ?Net user guest <password>? and replace the password with a tough password of your own creation.

34. Encrypt your temp files
Windows XP Professional users benefit from in-built encryption to stop people opening files. But you should also encrypt Windows? Temp files as programs often save versions of documents there.

35. Save electricity to save money
Click Start > Control Panel > Power Options and adjust the settings to prevent your computer using more electricity than necessary. You could also turn your monitor off when not in use.

36. Hide your wireless network
Enter your router?s control panel to find an option to change your Wi-Fi network?s SSID from the manufacturer?s default and to hide it from view by deselecting the ?Allow broadcast of SSID? option.

37. Get rid of Spyware
Microsoft Windows Defender can block pop-up adverts, scan and remove spyware and adware from your PC, and even prevent it from infiltrating your system in the first place. You can download it from Windows Defender: Home Page for free.

38. Build a firewall
Windows XP already comes with a built-in firewall but even that may not be enough to block all the malicious software out on the internet, so download and install Zone Labs? ZoneAlarm, a fantastic free firewall, from Internet security - Firewall - Antivirus - Antispyware - ZoneAlarm Internet Security Software.

39. Free anti-virus
You can even get free anti-virus programs online and Avast! 4 Home is one of the best, offering all the usual email scanning, as well as advanced features such as IM scanning. Download it from www.tinyurl.com8z9h5.

40. Scan your downloads
Whenever you download a file ? whether it?s a program, trial software, digital audio files or zipped folders of images ? manually scan it with your anti-virus software before doing anything else. Even compressed files should be scanned before you unzip them.

41. Check your security
How can you test your security software and know that it?s doing all it should? You might not find out until it?s too late. So use the Symantec Security Check at www. ? an essential service that checks your system for holes.

42. Generate passwords
Check out Security Guide for Windows - Random Password Generator, with its random password generator that builds passwords to your own specification. You can set password lengths, whether to include mixed case letters, as well as make multiple passwords at once.

43. Re-schedule updates
Go to Control Panel, double-click on Automatic Updates and pick a different time from the drop-down menu. If you don?t use your PC every day, set it to check for updates on a day that it will be used.

44. Don't be an Administrator
Use the Administrator user account only for housekeeping tasks and lock it down with a tough user password. For everyday computing, such as surfing the internet or working with Microsoft Office, for instance, use a Limited account, instead. That way, if you?re unfortunate enough to be hit by a virus or Trojan, it?s less likely to cause trouble.

45. Beef up your security passwords
You can force people using your PC to adopt alphanumeric passwords ? passwords featuring both numbers and letters ? by opening RegEdit and heading towards HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\ Policies\Network. Open or create the DWORD value AlphanumPwds and set its value to 1.

46. Remove pesky notification icons
Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar and select Properties; under the Taskbar tab and in Notification Area, click Customise. In the list, select the notifications so you can alter their behaviour. You can also use Software Explorer in Windows Defender to manage start-up programs.

47. Customise the command prompt
Why not refresh things by clicking on the icon in the top-left of the Command Prompt window and select Properties? You can now change the colours of the text and the background of the window.

48. Load websites from the taskbar
Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar and select Toolbars > Address. Now type a URL into the dialogue box and hit [Enter] to open your browser and have it load the page automatically.

49. Benchmark your system
To get a good indication of how your PC?s graphics hardware performs, and how it compares to others, benchmark it with Futuremark?s 3DMark06 (Futuremark).

50. Move the taskbar
You can easily situate the Taskbar on any other of the three sides of your screen. Right-click on it, make sure it?s not locked, then drag it and drop it to whatever side of the desktop you want.

51. Cascade pictures
Open RegEdit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curre ntVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Create a new string value called cascade MyPictures with a value of YES. Then just restart your PC.

52. Cascade documents
Do the same to My Documents. Open RegEdit and browse to the same folder and create a new value called CascadeMyDocuments. Right-click on it, select Modify and set the value to YES.

53. Tweak the Control Panel
The most useful way of using this registry hack is providing rapid access to the utilities in the Control Panel. It?s in the same location in the registry but the string value is called CascadeControlPanel. Set the value to YES again.

54. Hide icon names
Inactivate NumLock on your keyboard and select Desktop Icon. Hold down [Alt] and click on the icon text to rename it. Keeping [Alt] held down, type ?0160? and let go of [Alt]. For the second and third icons you need to type 0160 a second and third time.

55. Fix discoloured toolbars
If you?re getting white backgrounds behind text in your toolbars, open RegEdit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\ Desktop.Select UserPreferencesMask and modify it, changing the third pair of digits from 05 to 07. Click on OK and restart.

56. Single-click to open items
You only need to click once on items such as links and graphics on the internet to open them. You can extend this to the entire Windows XP desktop by opening Windows Explorer and clicking on Tools. Under General you can select the single-click option.

57. Alter icon spacing
Open Display Properties > Appearance. Click on Advanced and, under Item, select ?Icon Spacing (Vertical) and (Horizontal)?. Set the spacing with the Size drop-down menu and click on OK. This enables you to reduce the amount of space an icon takes up.

58. Customise toolbars
You can right-click on a toolbar and unlock it by removing the tick from ?Lock The Toolbars?. Right-click again and click on Customise to add and remove icons. You can slide the toolbar components around to expand or reduce them as you want. You can then rightclick again and re-select ?Lock The Toolbars? to set the alterations.

59. Add items to the right-click Send To menu
In Windows Explorer, click on Tools > Folder Options > View. Select ?Show hidden files and folders?. Browse to C:\Documents and Settings to see a folder with your name on it. Open it to find a folder called Send To. Drag and drop shortcuts to programs and folders in here.

60. Customise with TweakUI
One of Microsoft?s most popular PowerToys, Tweak UI enables you to alter the mouse settings, Windows Explorer and even the Taskbar itself.


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