Windows XP Tips


Turn off CD Auto Play

ClearType Font Smoothing PowerToy

Use this Microsoft utility to turn on ClearType and use the tuner to create a slight alteration in font thickness and smoothing.

Compatibility Mode

For running old programs on XP or Vista you may need to try running them in Compatibility Mode. Locate the programs' .exe file and right-click, Properties. Click the Compatibility tab and select Windows 95 from the drop-down list.


Customizing Your Menu

XP or Classic

You can easily change the look back to the Windows Classic Start menu by following these steps:

The Classic Start menu also adds the My Documents, My Computer, My Network Places, and Internet Explorer icons to your desktop.

Or Both!

Speed it Up!

The default speed of the Start Menu is pretty slow, but you can fix that by editing a Registry Key. Start - Run - type regedit.  Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop \ MenuShowDelay

By default, the value is 400. Change this to a smaller value, such as 0, to speed it up.

If this doesn't work for some reason, then you might try the following: Navigate to Display Properties then Appearance then Effects and turn off the options Use the following transition effects for menus and tooltips and  Show shadows under menus.

Desktop & Display Settings

Familiar Icons You Want to Put Back on the Desktop

To restore the My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, or Internet Explorer icons to your Desktop, right-click anywhere on the Desktop and select Properties. Click the Customize Desktop button under the Desktop tab. Place a check mark next to the icons you want to restore.

ClearType  (you'll see a difference) 

Microsoft ClearType technology can be enabled in Windows XP to smooth all fonts at all sizes, making the whole system so much easier to read. To turn on ClearType:

1. Click Start, then Control Panel, and then click Appearance and Themes.
2. Click the Display icon, then the Appearance tab, and then Effects.
3. Click the Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts check box and select ClearType from the list.
4. Click OK, and then click OK again.

Show The Desktop

If you don't have the Quicklaunch toolbar on as part of your Taskbar, you can still get to the Desktop easily by right-clicking on the Taskbar and selecting Show The Desktop.

Restore Show Desktop Icon to Quick Launch on Taskbar

If the Show Desktop icon is deleted from Quick Launch, the procedure below will recreate the file.
Open Notepad and enter the following text:

Save the new file as Show Desktop.scf then drag and drop the icon on the Quick Launch bar or whatever location you want the shortcut to appear.

Make Yourself an Icon

Change a favorite bitmap picture into an icon by renaming it with an .ico extension rather than .bmp. Now to apply it to a program, right-click on a program icon and choose Properties, then the shortcut tab.  Chick the Change Icon button and browse to locate your newly named ico file.  Click to select it, OK and enjoy. This works best with smaller bmps.



DirectX is a set of tools built into Microsoft's operating system that are employed when using audio, video controls.  What version do you have?  Start - Run, type "dxdiag"  How do you get the latest version?  Often the programs you install include the newest version.  You can update your current version by downloading it from Microsoft at Downloads.   The current version as of Jan. 2004 is version 9.0b

Folders & Files

Folder Pictures (Thumbnail View)

When in Thumbnail view Windows XP automatically generates a picture for some folders to make it easier to identify what's in them.  Try your hand at doing this yourself.  Right-click a folder and choose Properties. Click on the Customize tab at the top.  Use the Choose Picture button to browse your computer for any picture you like.  

Hold down the Shift key when switching to Thumbnail view to hide the file names.

Need better thumbnails? You may find that the default thumbnail size and quality in Windows isn’t quite to your liking.

Open the Registry Editor. Start - Run - "regedit." Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.  SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION
\EXPLORER. If this is your first time here for this function, you’ll need to create two new DWORD Values called ThumbnailSize and ThumbnailQuality. Right-click Explorer and then select New, DWORD value. Give the entry its name, then right-click it and select Modify. In the Base area, select Decimal and then enter a value in the Value Data text box. ThumbnailSize can vary from 32 to 256, while ThumbnailQuality can range from 50 to 100. My preference is 125.

Folder Icon (Other Views)  

Use the Change Icon button to change the look of the folder icon (little yellow manilla folder) to something different.  

Music Folders

Windows XP will try to generate an album cover picture for your music folders but you can do it manually.  When you download the album cover art from the Web ( or, just save the images as folder.jpg each time and place them in the appropriate folder. Then, Windows XP will automatically use that image as the thumbnail for that folder and, best of all, will use that image in Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) if you choose to display album cover art instead of a visualization.

Renaming Files

If you have numerous files to rename, select a group of photos, then rename the FIRST one and the rest will follow.

Printing Contents of Folders (DOS)

Go to the command prompt, Start - Run - cmd  Navigate to the folder you want. Type in:

dir /B >filename.txt

Shared Folder Displayed in My Computer

Microsoft saw fit to provide links to all of the Shared Documents folders on your system, right at the top of the My Computer window. If you can't find a reason to have them there:

Simply fire up the Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ My Computer \ NameSpace \ DelegateFolders

You'll see a sub-key named {59031a47-3f72-44a7-89c5-5595fe6b30ee}. If you delete this, all of the Shared Documents folders (which are normally under the group called "Other Files Stored on This Computer") will be gone. You do not need to reboot your system to see the change.

Rename Multiply Files at One Time

You can rename multiple files all at once.  Select a group of files. Right-click on the first file.  Type in a name for the first file and the rest will follow.  This might be especially handy for picture files imported from a camera.


Using a Pic as Your Wallpaper

You can easily make any photo or image the background wallpaper on your desktop with these steps.

  1. Use Windows Explorer or My Computer to find the picture you want for wallpaper.
  2. Right-click on the photo file, and then click Preview to open it in Image Viewer.
  3. Right-click again on the image, and select Set as Wallpaper.

Hint: If you have the My Pictures folder set for Thumbnail view, you can bypass Previewing the picture and click Set as Wallpaper directly.

Your Pics as a Screensaver

For a great way to put your digital photos to work, try creating a slide show presentation for use as a screen saver. Here's how:

1. Right-click an empty spot on your desktop and then click Properties.
2. Click the Screen Saver tab.
3. In the Screen saver list, click My Pictures Slideshow.
4. Click Settings to make any adjustments, such as how often the pictures should change, what size they should be, and whether you'll use transition effects between pictures, and then click OK.

Now your screen saver is a random display of the pictures taken from your My Pictures folder.

Windows Hotkeys

   Start Menu
E Explorer
F Find
M Minimize
D Desktop
R Run
L Logoff
System Properties
X Close related windows 
O Open

On-Screen Keyboard

An on-screen keyboard is built into Windows XP. It can be useful if you have mobility impairments, if you are using a tablet PC, or if your keyboard breaks down unexpectedly. To access the on-screen keyboard, go to Start, then click Run, and then type osk. Now the keyboard opens on your computer screen, featuring three typing modes you can use to type data:

- Clicking mode, where you click the on-screen keys.
- Scanning mode, where you press a hot key or use a switch-input device to type highlighted characters.
- Hovering mode, where you use a mouse or joystick to point to a key, which is then typed.


XP places the Scandisk utility (Error-Checking) and the Defrag in the properties dialog box of your harddrive.  Go to My Computer and right-click on your harddrive and choose Properties. Select the Tools tab at the top. 

Want to make a shortcut? 

Access Denied

Trying to delete a file with no success?  If your system is FAT then go to Folder Options in the Control Panel and click on the View tab. Uncheck the Hide/protect operating systems files.

If your system is NTFS then right-click on the System Volume Information folder and choose Properties then Security and then add your user name to the list of users that are allowed access.


Disable Messenger Service

·        Click Start > Run and type "services.msc" (no quotes) in the Open: line and click OK

·        In the right pane, scroll down to Messenger.

·        Double click Messenger and click the General tab.

·        Under Service Status: click the Stop button.

·        In the Startup Type: drop down box, select Disable.

·        Click Apply and OK.


Registry Hack to Disable Messenger



Create a new key by selecting Edit from the main menu. Now select New, then Key. Name this new key: Messenger

Select the newly created Messenger Key and create another new Key; this time name it Client

Right-click the new Client Key, select New, then DWORD

Name the DWORD PreventRun and give it a date value of 1

Restart Windows



Double-click on the titlebar (top) of a Window to maximize or restore it quickly. 

Drag and Drop to the Command Line

Tired of typing in long file/directory paths on a command line? Simply mouse click (either button) and drag the file or directory name from Windows Explorer to the command line. The entire path from the root to the file/directory you selected will be pasted on the command line.

Shutdown Icon

Want to shutdown with just one click.  Create an icon just for that purpose.  In Win9x/Me, right-click the desktop, choose New, Shortcut.  In the Item location box, type:

C:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindows



For Windows XP users: Right-click the desktop, New, Shortcut

Target %windir%\system32\shutdown.exe -s -t 5

Next and give the shortcut a descriptive name such as Shutdown and click Finish.

To add a nice touch, after you create you shortcut- Right-click on it and choose Properties. You'll want to change the icon.



 Windows Sound Scheme

Windows XP ships with a really nice new sound scheme, but it's not loaded by default for some reason. One of the first things you might want to do is get that new sound scheme loaded. Open up Control Panel and choose Sounds and Audio Devices. Use the drop down arrow to select the Windows Sound Scheme.  If you have your own ideas, click on a Program Event listed, then choose the sound you want to use by clicking the browse button.  You may want to just use the drop-down arrow and choose None if your machine is making you nuts with sounds.


Need to convert your MP3's into Windows Media Audio (WMA)? You need Microsoft Plus! MP3 Audio Converter automatically scans for MP3 files on your computer and converts them with a click of a button.

Know your rights

Windows XP comes bundled with Windows Media Player 8.0. While Media Player plays just about any digital media file format--it supports 35, including MP3, it records music only in the Windows Media Audio, or WMA, format. The reason? Content protection.
When recording, or ripping, music from CDs, Media Player allows you to make protected recordings so that no one will be able to copy the recording from one computer to another. You can turn copy protection on or off on the Copy Music tab by checking or unchecking the box that says Protect Content.

Guard Your Identity

In Windows Media Player, click Tools > Options and go to the Player tab. Notice the option that says "Allow Internet sites to uniquely identify your player?" Turn it off.

Media Player and MP3's

The relationship between Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) and the MP3 audio format is widely misunderstood. Basically, MPXP is able to playback MP3 files out of the box, but encoding (or "ripping") CD audio into MP3 format will require an MP3 plug-in. During the Windows XP beta, Microsoft supplied a sample MP3 plug-in for testing purposes, but it was limited to 56 Kbps rips, which is pretty useless, leading some to report that Microsoft was purposefully hobbling MP3 to make its Windows Media Audio (WMA) format look better. This is not the case.

To enable MP3 encoding in Windows XP, you'll need to to purchase one of three MP3 Creation Add-on packs for Windows XP. For more information, please visit the Microsoft Web site.

My Music Folder

The My Music folder offers a couple of unique tasks, including the option to buy music off the INternet and to play all the songs in the folder.  Choose Play All. 

Burn a CD using Media Player

You want your songs in the Media Library to burn a CD.  Your songs must be in MP3, WAV or WMA format.  Create a playlist, Media Library, File - New - Playlist and give it a name. Find the songs you want to record and right-click on them to Add To Playlist. After you've added all of the tracks, click Copy To CD or Device and use the drop-down menu to select the playlist your created. Make sure you have a blank CD inserted and click Copy Music.

Rip a song from a CD - Insert the CD and choose Copy From CD and put checks in the checkboxes to select the tracks you want to copy. Click the Copy Music button to add the tracks to the Media Library in compressed WMA format. To change the settings choose Tools, Options and choose the Copy Music tab. 


Change Out Your Pointer Scheme  $

Tired of seeing your pointer as an arrow or an hourglass all the time? Windows XP offers a number of alternative pointer schemes, such as Dinosaur, Ocean and Sports. Open the Control Panel, double-click Mouse, and select the Pointers tab. (If you start in Category view, select Appearance and Themes, then click Mouse Pointers under "See Also.") Next to Schemes, click the down arrow and select a scheme to preview its pointers. Click OK to apply the scheme to your desktop. Simple as that.

Password Recovery
Use a thumbdrive to create a "Password Recovery Disk" A CD will not work. Connect the USB drive before you start. Control Panel - User Accounts

To use the password reset disk, attempt to sign on with any password and Windows will prompt you for Use Your Password Reset Disk. A wizard then guides you through setting a new password.

Another option is to sign into Safe Mode (F8 while booting). Sign in as Administrator. Control Panel, User Accounts, select the account you're having trouble logging in to. Choose Change The Password and e3nter a new password twice.

Recovery Console

If safe mode and other startup options do not work, you can consider using the Recovery Console. This method is recommended only if you are an advanced user who can use basic commands to identify and locate problem drivers and files.

Insert you're XP CD in the drive. Start - RUN - type in the following where X is the letter of your CD ROM drive.

X:\i386\winnt32 /cmdcons

The Recovery Console will now appear on your boot menu selection screen at startup.

Removing the Recovery Console

Hidden folders must be displayed.  (Folder Options in the Control Panel). Now you can delete the Cmdcons folder and the Cmldr file which were created when Recovery Console was installed.  Now you must modify the boot.ini file by right-clicking on it and choosing properties. Remove the Read only property. Then right-click and Open with Notepad. Remove the entry for the Recovery Console. It looks similar to this: C:\cmdcons\bootsect.dat="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons.  Save the file and close it.

Sharing & Networking

In Windows 2000, getting to the Sharing options for a folder was simple: Just right-click, choose Properties, and you'd see a Sharing tab. In Windows XP, this feature is missing by default, but you can make the system display the Sharing tab if desired. Simply open up Folder Options (My Computer, then Tools, Folder Options) and navigate to the View tab. In the Advanced Settings section, scroll down to the bottom and uncheck Use simple file sharing (Recommended), a Mickey Mouse feature if there ever was one. Now share your folders on the LAN as you would in Windows 2000.

Startup Stuff

Skip the Welcome Screen

If you have been updating your computer with Microsoft Windows Update an account called ASP.NET Machine Account may have been added. This account has limited permissions which is why it helps keep your machine secure when .net commands are run. Rather than delete it in an effort to avoid the Welcome Screen, try this.

Start - Run - control userpasswords2

When the user accounts window opens, uncheck the box Users must enter a username and password to use this computer and apply the setting. Notice carefully the name of the user you want to be automatically logged on and when prompted for that information type it in exactly the same.


Messenger won't go away!

If you're not a big fan of Windows Messenger, you can use the  "Add/Remove optional features of Windows XP" above to remove it, or simply delete the following Registry Key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft \Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\MSMSGS

Missing Administrator account

Once you have created regular user accounts, the default Administrator account vanishes from the Welcome screen, which you see when the computer starts up. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete twice at the Welcome screen to retrieve the standard logon dialog. You can log on as Administrator from here. To switch among accounts, just click the Log Off button on the Start menu. You'll then see the Log Off Windows dialog box. Click the Switch User button, and you'll be taken to the Welcome screen where you can select and log on to other accounts.

Turn of Services

Services are programs that run when the computer starts up and continue to run as they aid the operating system in functionality.  There are many services that load and are not needed which take up memory space and CPU time.  Disabling these services will free up system resources which will speed up your overall computer experience.  I  recommend that you sort through the list and read the descriptions to decide if you need that service depending on what you want to do with your computer.  Remember, you can always turn the service back on if you find that you need it in the future. Below is the procedure to turn off a service.

Start - Run - services.msc

Right-click and properties   Startup Type Disabled

Use this hyperlink to visit Microsoft's website listing which provides a description of each service.

System Setup

Remove Entries for Add/Remove List

Open the Registry and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall
Find the folder for the application you want to remove from the list and delete it.

Policy Editor

One of the most full featured Windows XP configuration tools available is hidden right there in your system, but most people don't even know it exists. It's called the Local Group Policy Editor, or gpedit for short. To invoke this editor, select Start and then Run, then type the following:
After you hit ENTER, you'll be greeted by gpedit, which lets you modify virtually every feature in Windows XP without having to resort to regedit.


Convert from FAT to NTFS using a command line. To access the command line, click Start, Run, type command. Type convert x: /fs:ntfs (where x is the proper drive letter). Note that once you convert to NTFS, you cannot return to FAT without reformatting your hard

Taskbar & Menu

Group and Ungroup Similar Taskbar Items

Just open three or four Internet Explorer windows and you won't see them all in a row on your Taskbar, as you did in previous versions of Windows. By default, Windows XP groups similar items on one button. For example, if you have 3 Internet Explorer windows open, you'll see an Explorer item with the number 3 on it. Click it to see a pop-up list of those windows, then select the one you want.
If you would like, Windows XP will display all open windows separately on the Taskbar. Right click a blank area of the Taskbar and select Properties. Under Taskbar Properties, deselect Group Similar Taskbar Buttons, then click OK.

Lock Your Taskbar

Windows XP now features locking a locking taskbar and toolbars. Right-click. Remove the checkmark in front of Lock that Taskbar. Now you can right-click and choose Properties to make changes and customizations.  When your done, right-click and lock to maintain your choices. 

Quick Launch

Is your Quick Launch toolbar missing from the taskbar? To display your familiar Quick Launch toolbar, right-click an empty area on the taskbar, click Toolbars, and then click Quick Launch.

Missing Show Desktop Icon

Create a file in Notepad name "Show Desktop.scf".  Include the quotes so that Notepad will not affix the .txt on the file.  Save it in the Windows\System folder.  The following is the text that you put in the file:
Create a shortcut to the file in C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch. Rename it Desktop.

Start Menu

By default, Windows XP displays the last five programs you used on the Start menu. To make the Start menu display only the applications you want, rather than the default determined by Microsoft, right-click the Start button and select Properties.  Use the Customize button. Here you'll find a list of your most frequently used programs. (XP keeps track of what you use and what you don't, then updates this list dynamically.) Don't want your boss to know that Pinball, Solitaire, and Quake all make your list? Click Clear List, and set the counter to zero.

Start Menu Speed

The default speed of the Start Menu is pretty slow, but you can fix that by editing a Registry Key. Fire up the Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop \ MenuShowDelay

By default, the value is 400. Change this to a smaller value, such as 0, to speed it up.

If this doesn't work for some reason, then you might try the following: Navigate to Display Properties then Appearance then Effects and turn off the option titled Show menu shadow. You will get much better overall performance.

Pin Your Programs to the Start Menu

This tip only works if you are using the default Start menu rather than the Classic (Right-click Start - Properties).  Locate any shortcut, icon or exe file and right-click on it.  Choose "Pin to Start Menu.   I wanted to move an entire folder to the Start Menu and found that I could just drag it there. 

Disable Balloon Tips

Start - Run - Regedit

Current Version

Right-click the open space in the right side of the Registry Editor window, New, DWORD
Name it EnableBalloonTips and press Enter.  Done

Keeping Time with the Internet

If you want to keep your system clock current, you can configure WinXP to synchronize its time with an Internet time server. To configure an Internet time server, double-click the clock on the Taskbar (you’ll need to be logged into an administrator account for this) and click the Internet Time tab. Make sure Automatically Synchronize With An Internet Time Server is checked and select a time server from the drop-down menu. You can update the time by clicking the Update Now button

User Accounts

Fast Switching

WinXP provides a couple of ways to quickly gain administrator permissions without closing applications and logging out of your current user account. The Fast User Switching feature lets you log on as a different user without logging out of limited accounts, and the Run As option lets you run a program using the permissions for a different user.

To enable Fast User Switching, open User Accounts from the Control Panel and click Change The Way Users Log On Or Off. Be sure to select Use The Welcome Screen along with Use Fast User Switching.

To perform a fast switch, click Start and click Log Off. Click the green Switch User button to return to the Welcome screen and choose the account you want to use.

To run an application with administrator permissions, right-click its icon and select Run As. Select The Following User, choose the name of the administrator account you wish to use, and enter the password (to use this option, the administrator account must have a password). Some items, such as Control Panel items, hide the Run As option unless you press SHIFT as you right-click them.

Missing Administrator Account

Once you have created regular user accounts, the default Administrator account vanishes from the Welcome screen, which you see when the computer starts up. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete twice at the Welcome screen to retrieve the standard logon dialog.

Display Administrator Account on Welcome Screen

By default, the Administrator account is not displayed on the Welcome Screen. To log in to the Administrator account, press Ctrl+Alt+Del, release the Del key, and press it again, while still holding down the Ctrl+Alt keys. This will change the Welcome Screen login to the Windows 2000 style log in, where you can now type Administrator and the password for the Admin account.

You could also add the Administrator to the Welcome Screen:

  1. Start the Registry Editor
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows NT \ CurrentVersion \ Winlogon \ SpecialAccounts \ UserList \
  3. Right-click an empty space in the right pane and select New > DWORD Value
  4. Name the new value Administrator
  5. Double-click this new value, and enter 1 as it's Value data
  6. Close the registry editor


Select a Picture for Your Account

You can select a picture to identify your account which peeks out at you from the top of the Start menu.  There are a slew of 48x48-pixel bitmap images to choose from within XP. They're housed in C:\Documents And Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\Default Pictures. But why limit yourself? You can also copy any graphic you want into this folder or browse for another from your hard drive. Usable file types are BMP, GIF, JPEG, or PNG. However, always use a square picture, to limit the white space on the side. Your image can be any size but will be displayed as 48x48-pixel image, so a close-up works best.

Login Changes

Head to the Control Panel then User Accounts.  Choose Change and Account. Click on your user account. Click Change My Picture.

Configure the system so that you do not need to press CTRL+ALT+DEL at all during logon (assuming you're not using the Welcome screen, in which case this key combo is not required). Here's how:

- Open Control Panel then User Accounts.
- Navigate to the Advanced tab.
- Uncheck the Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete checkbox under Secure Logon.

  Change the Welcome Screen Message


In the key LegalNoticeCaption enter the Title you want to give the window.

In the key LegalNoticeText enter whatever message you want to display at logon.

Close regedit. Reboot