Windows XP Secrets

Although Microsoft’s help files and tutorials pack in lots of information, there is also plenty of wisdom they don’t disclose. WINDOWS MIDDLE EAST shares some XP secrets. Go ahead and lift the hood... you’ll be surprised what you can do.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  February 1, 2005

1: Secrets of Space|~|Win-XP---SPACECLEANUP.jpg|~|Disk Clean-up is one of XP's most under-rated and rarely used utilities|~|Fancy freeing up a few gigabytes with just a few mouse clicks? Here are some dieting secrets... If you have a localised language version of Windows XP then delete the LANG folder in your Windows system directory. This will free up to 100MB straight away. Then try using XP’s zip compression utility. There are two ways to take advantage of this feature. First, to compress a file or folder: 1. Right-click on the file 2. Highlight ‘Send To’ 3. Click on ‘Compressed (zipped) Folder’ 4. A compressed folder will be created containing the same name as the file you compressed. It will be displayed as a zipper icon. Alternatively you can drag- and-drop files to a compressed folder: 1. Right-click on any empty space on the desktop 2. Highlight ‘New’ 3. Choose ‘Compressed (zipped) Folder’. 4. Type a name for your compressed folder and press the Enter key. While in Windows Explorer, you only need to click and drag a file to your newly created compressed folder to store that file. Next up in our diet we delete two system files - Pagefile.sys and Hiberfil.sys, which eat up to a gigabyte or more of space, depending upon your system’s settings. Paging file is space reserved on the hard drive for Windows to use as virtual memory. However, you can change the size and/or location of the paging file: 1. Right-click My Computer 2. Choose ‘Advanced’ 3. Click the Performance settings button then the Advanced tab. Here you will see as the third option 'Virtual memory'. Click on the 'Change' button. You can click on the hard drive you want to use for the paging file in the Drive List box. You can also set a custom size of the file, allow Windows to manage the file, or use no paging file at all. Click the 'OK' button on all open windows. When you are back to your desktop, reboot your computer for the new settings to take effect. Hiberfil.sys is the hibernation file. By default, this is stored on the same drive as the paging file, and it is around the same size as the amount of RAM memory in your PC. This is due to Windows writing the contents of RAM to the hibernation file before entering hibernation mode. RAM does not store information when it's powered down. To get rid of the hibernation file, all you need do is turn off Hibernation mode, like this: 1. Right-click any empty space on your desktop. 2. Click 'Properties' in the pop-up window. 3. Click on 'Screen Saver' 4. At the bottom of the window under ‘Monitor power’, click on the 'Power' button. 5. At the bottom of this window, where it reads ‘System hibernates:’ click the chevron (the down-arrow) at the right of the listing box. 6. Select ‘Never’ from the drop-down list. 7. Click the 'OK' button, then click OK just one more time. To recover more space we next turn to one of Windows XP's most under-rated and rarely used utilities (see pic). Right click on your hard-disk (C:/D: in My Computer) and click ‘Disk Clean-up’. XP will then scan your hard disk and recommend cleaning up a whole list of files. Tick on all the options given for maximum hard disk reclamation. This will clean up all your temporary files, compress old files, and clean your dirty hard disk. Next click on the ‘More Options’ tab and go for 'Clean Up' Windows components. Next up are the programs you have installed on your PC. Barring core applications, most users end up with expired shareware, game demos and other software paraphernalia that simply isn’t used and is therefore just hogging space. Head into Add or Remove Programs (in Control Panel), click on each of your installed programs and XP will tell you if an app is used frequently, occasionally or rarely. The simple rule is if it’s rarely used, you can dump it. The third option, System Restore, is found in System Properties, and can free more disk space by removing all but the most recent restore point. ||**||2: Secrets of Surgery |~|Win-XP---surgerysecrets.jpg|~|From themes and skins to Windows Blinds, sites such as can help you completely alter XP's look and feel|~|Changing wallpapers and screen savers is all fine and dandy., but Microsoft has much more than that to offer, though such help doesn’t come with the standard XP installation. PowerToys (conveniently included on this month’s Windows Middle East CD) are an array of additional programs that add fun and functionality to Windows experience. For instance, Tweak UI gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more. Third party websites such as and Microsoft’s Plus! Super Pack for Win XP offer an exhaustive listing, and these do more than just perform an XP nip and tuck (see pic). From themes and skins to Windows Blinds, you could completely alter its look and feel. ||**||3: Secrets of Speed|~|Win-XP---speed.jpg|~|To kill the numerous applications that start at boot-up, click Start/Run and type MSCONFIG|~|In a few months, after installing XP and other applications your PC can literally c...r..a..w...l while booting up scores of applications when you start-up. The best way to kill these is to click on Start/Run and type MSCONFIG before clicking OK. On the first tab click on ‘Selective start-up’, which lets you specifify to Windows XP only what it can load. Otherwise, in the normal start-up process it will load all available device drivers and services. Then in the fifth tab, ‘Services’, feel free to untick the various background services. XP loads these by default, subsequently slowing the start-up time. Except where marked ‘Essential’, most services can be offloaded. When stopping programs from running at start-up, it’s best to stop them one at a time rather than in groups, as it’s important to make sure you're not causing any system problems by stopping them. So stop one, then restart your PC. If it runs fine, stop another and restart. Alternatively, run ‘services.msc’ for a full and detailed description. Each time you uncheck a box and restart your PC, you'll get a warning that you've used the System Configuration Utility to disable a program from starting automatically. If you don’t want to see that warning, disable it by checking the box. After you’ve used the system configuration utility to identify programs that run on start-up, you may want to try disabling them from within the programs themselves. Run any program that starts automatically, and see if you can find a setting that allows you to prevent it from running on start-up. To do this clean out your Scheduled Tasks folder. Go to C:\Windows\Tasks, and delete the shortcuts of any programs that you don’t want to run automatically on a schedule basis. It can sometimes be difficult to understand what programs are listed on the Startup tab. as often you'll see a phrase or collection of letters, which is the name of the running file. Constantly whirring in the background of XP are services and processes that help the OS run or that provide support to applications. Many of these services launch automatically at start-up. While you need many of these, some are not required and they can slow down your system when working away behind the scenes. You can disable such services at start-up by using the system configuration utility, similar to the way in which we talked you through halting programs from running at start-up, except that you use the Services tab instead of the Startup tab. However, the system configuration utility doesn’t necessarily list every service that launches on start-up. A better way of disabling services at start-up is via the Services computer-management console. Run this by typing ‘services.msc’ at the command prompt (see pic). The console includes a description of all services so that you can know ahead of time whether a particular service is one you want to turn off or not. It also lets you pause a service so that you can test your machiine and see whether that service is needed. Some services that you might want to stop from running at start-up include: Portable Media Serial Number, which retrieves the serial number of a portable music player attached to your PC; indexing services; task scheduler; UPS services; automatic updates; telnet, wireless zero configuration service, SMTP services (if you use only webmail) Windows Messenger, if you use a different instant messenger. Now that you have ramped up your start-up speed making sure that your system shuts down in a few seconds is equally important. All you need do is right-click on an empty Desktop spot, select ‘New Shortcut’, type ‘shutdown.exe -s -t 1’. In short here you are running the DOS command and taming Windows XP to shutdown the local computer and setting the timer to one second. ||**||4: Secrets of Security|~|Win-XP---security-essential.jpg|~|Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) tackles security niggles with improved firewall support, pop-up blockers and other enhancements|~|The much delayed and much needed Service Pack 2 (SP2), released on XP’s third anniversary this year, tackles security niggles with improved firewall support, pop-up blockers and more enhancements (see pic). Instead of downloading the gargantuan 476MB file, instead order a free CD-ROM from We also suggest pointing your browser to to download the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) 1.2. This free tool, when used in conjunction with SP2, helps iron out any remaining chinks in XP’s armour. Finally we recommend free software tools such as SandraLite 2005, which gives you a whole load of information on XP. If you have any newly discovered XP secrets you’d like to share with our tip-hungry Windows readers, just drop us an e-mail. The address is WANT MORE? WEB downloads/powertoys BOOKS Windows XP Inside Out Ed Bott and Carl Siechert Price $44.99 Windows XP Secrets Curt Simmons John Wiley Publishers Price $39.99 Windows XP Hacks Preston Gralla O'Reilly Media Price $17.95 Windows XP Annoyances for Geeks, Second Edition David A. Karp O'Reilly Media Price $34.95 ||**||

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