20 things you didn't know about Windows XP

20 things you didn't know about Windows XP


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,LockWorkStation' 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/FontSmoothingType 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 192.168.1.10 . Replace this with your
chum's real IP address -- they can find this out by
going to 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 traffic.

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 it.

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. The next release of Windows XP, codenamed
Longhorn, is due out late next year or early 2006 and
won't be much to write home about. The next big
release is codenamed Blackcomb and will be out in
2003/2007.