20 things you didn’t know about Windows XP


My Pic 1
You’ve read the reviews and digested the key feature enhancements
and operational changes. Now it’s time to delve a bit deeper and
uncover some of Windows XP’s secrets.

1. It boasts how long it can stay up. Whereas previous versions
of Windows were coy about how long they went between boots, XP is
positively proud of its stamina. Go to the Command Prompt in the
Accessories menu from the All Programs start button option, and
then type ‘systeminfo’ . The computer will produce a lot of
useful info, including the uptime. If you want to keep these,
type ‘systeminfo > info.txt’. This creates a file called info.txt
you can look at later with Notepad. (Professional Edition only).

2. You can delete files immediately, without having them move to
the Recycle Bin first. Go to the Start menu, select Run… and
type ‘ gpedit.msc’; then select User Configuration,
Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Explorer
and find the Do not move deleted files to the Recycle Bin
setting. Set it. Poking around in gpedit will reveal a great many
interface and system options, but take care — some may stop your
computer behaving as you wish. (Professional Edition only).

3. You can lock your XP workstation with two clicks of the mouse.
Create a new shortcut on your desktop using a right mouse click,
and enter ‘ rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWork Station’ in the
location field. Give the shortcut a name you like. That’s it —
just double click on it and your computer will be locked. And if
that’s not easy enough, Windows key + L will do the same.

4. XP hides some system software you might want to remove, such
as Windows Messenger, but you can tickle it and make it disgorge
everything. Using Notepad or Edit, edit the text file
/windows/inf/ sysoc.inf, search for the word ‘hide’ and remove
it. You can then go to the Add or Remove Programs in the Control
Panel, select Add/Remove Windows Components and there will be
your prey, exposed and vulnerable.

5. For those skilled in the art of DOS batch files, XP has a
number of interesting new commands. These include ‘eventcreate’
and ‘eventtriggers’ for creating and watching system events,
‘typeperf’ for monitoring performance of various subsystems, and
‘schtasks’ for handling scheduled tasks. As usual, typing the
command name followed by /? will give a list of options —
they’re all far too baroque to go into here.

6. XP has IP version 6 support — the next generation of IP.
Unfortunately this is more than your ISP has, so you can only
experiment with this on your LAN. Type ‘ipv6 install’ into Run…
(it’s OK, it won’t ruin your existing network setup) and then
‘ipv6 /?’ at the command line to find out more. If you don’t know
what IPv6 is, don’t worry and don’t bother.

7. You can at last get rid of tasks on the computer from the
command line by using ‘taskkill /pid’ and the task number, or
just ‘tskill’ and the process number. Find that out by typing
‘tasklist’, which will also tell you a lot about what’s going on
in your system.

8. XP will treat Zip files like folders, which is nice if you’ve
got a fast machine. On slower machines, you can make XP leave zip
files well alone by typing ‘regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll’ at the
command line. If you change your mind later, you can put things
back as they were by typing ‘regsvr32 zipfldr.dll’ .

9. XP has ClearType — Microsoft’s anti-aliasing font display
technology — but doesn’t have it enabled by default. It’s well
worth trying, especially if you were there for DOS and all those
years of staring at a screen have given you the eyes of an
astigmatic bat. To enable ClearType, right click on the desktop,
select Properties, Appearance, Effects, select ClearType from the
second drop-down menu and enable the selection. Expect best
results on laptop displays. If you want to use ClearType on the
Welcome login screen as well, set the registry entry HKEY_USERS/.
DEFAULT/Control Panel/Desktop/ FontSmoothingTyp e to 2.

10. You can use Remote Assistance to help a friend who’s using
network address translation (NAT) on a home network, but not
automatically. Get your pal to email you a Remote Assistance
invitation and edit the file. Under the RCTICKET attribute will
be a NAT IP address, like < > .
Replace this with your chum’s real IP address — they can find
this out by going to http://www.whatismyip. com
<http://www.whatismyip.com/ > — and get them to make sure that
they’ve got port 3389 open on their firewall and forwarded to the
errant computer.

11. You can run a program as a different user without logging out
and back in again. Right click the icon, select Run As… and
enter the user name and password you want to use. This only
applies for that run. The trick is particularly useful if you
need to have administrative permissions to install a program,
which many require. Note that you can have some fun by running
programs multiple times on the same system as different users,
but this can have unforeseen effects.

12. Windows XP can be very insistent about you checking for auto
updates, registering a Passport, using Windows Messenger and so
on. After a while, the nagging goes away, but if you feel you
might slip the bonds of sanity before that point, run Regedit, go
to HKEY_CURRENT_ USER/Software/ Microsoft/ Windows/Current
Version/Explorer/ Advanced and create a DWORD value called
EnableBalloonTips with a value of 0.

13. You can start up without needing to enter a user name or
password. Select Run… from the start menu and type ‘control
userpasswords2′ , which will open the user accounts application.
On the Users tab, clear the box for Users Must Enter A User Name
And Password To Use This Computer, and click on OK. An
Automatically Log On dialog box will appear; enter the user name
and password for the account you want to use.

14. Internet Explorer 6 will automatically delete temporary
files, but only if you tell it to. Start the browser, select
Tools / Internet Options… and Advanced, go down to the Security
area and check the box to Empty Temporary Internet Files folder
when browser is closed.

15. XP comes with a free Network Activity Light, just in case you
can’t see the LEDs twinkle on your network card. Right click on
My Network Places on the desktop, then select Properties. Right
click on the description for your LAN or dial-up connection,
select Properties, then check the Show icon in notification area
when connected box. You’ll now see a tiny network icon on the
right of your task bar that glimmers nicely during network

16. The Start Menu can be leisurely when it decides to appear,
but you can speed things along by changing the registry entry
HKEY_CURRENT_ USER/Control Panel/Desktop/ MenuShowDelay from the
default 400 to something a little snappier. Like 0.

17. 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. Also, in a
folder you can arrange icons in alphabetised groups by View,
Arrange Icon By… Show In Groups.

18. Windows Media Player will display the cover art for albums as
it plays the tracks — if it found the picture on the Internet
when you copied the tracks from the CD. If it didn’t, or if you
have lots of pre-WMP music files, you can put your own copy of
the cover art in the same directory as the tracks. Just call it
folder.jpg and Windows Media Player will pick it up and display

19. Windows key + Break brings up the System Properties dialogue
box; Windows key + D brings up the desktop; Windows key + Tab
moves through the taskbar buttons .

20. To change drive letters (useful if you have two drives and
have partitioned the boot drive, but the secondary drive shows up
as “D”)
Go to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer
Management, Disk Management, then right-click the partition whose
name you want to change (click in the white area just below the
word “Volume”) and select “change drive letter and paths.”
From here you can add, remove or change drive letters and paths
to the partition.

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