BOOT CAMP 233 (09/07/02)
WINDOWS XP TIPS, Part 1
Windows XP hasn’t been the instant runaway success that
Microsoft probably hoped for; for most PC owners the benefits of upgrading to
XP are not as significant as they were with previous Windows upgrades.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for having XP installed on a fast new
multimedia PC, it is definitely more reliable and it has been generally well
received so it is starting to have an impact. That means it’s time for some
Boot Camp Top Tips that will hopefully make XP a little more responsive and
easier to live with. Here’s this week’s batch. By the way, these tips should
work on both the Home and Professional versions.
We’ll begin with some of XP’s irritating little ways, and
how to switch them off or get rid of them. Shortly after you have started using
your new XP computer you will receive messages telling you that your password
will expire, usually in 14 days. If you are happy with your passwords and do not
want to change them go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘control
userpasswords2’ (without the quotes of course) and on the dialogue box that
appears select the Advanced tab then the Advanced button. Double click the
Users folder and right click the user name whose setting your want to change
and select Properties then check the box ‘Password never expires’.
You half expect the Tellytubbies to come waddling over the
rolling green desktop and where would Windows XP be without little balloons
appearing every five minutes, telling you about something or other it has just
done? Some find the cutesy design theme quite endearing; others would like to
have a few words with the designers but the good news is that almost everything
can be changed, and the dreaded ‘Balloon Tips’ can be banished forever using XP
version of our old friend Tweak UI (see Jargon Filter). As regular readers will
know Tweak UI is part of a suite of tools called Power Toys, which are
unsupported by Microsoft but don’t let that worry you, they’re usually very
safe to use. PowerToys are free and can be downloaded from: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/
and the Tweak UI utility is only around 500kB. After it’s installed you’ll find
it on the Programs menu, double-click the Taskbar option and in the Setting
Window deselect ‘Enable Balloon Tips’ then OK.
While you are at it
have a look through some of the many other useful things Tweak UI can do,
including an auto log-on facility, which is useful if you are the only user.
Windows XP is very stable but it’s certainly not immune to
crashes and when it does you are presented with an offer to report the error to
Microsoft. It’s well meant and should, in theory, help Microsoft to identify
bugs and glitches a lot faster, but it can become very annoying when you are
trying to install a piece of hardware or software and the message keeps popping
up. To switch it off go to Control Panel and click System, select the Advanced
tab then the Error Reporting button at the bottom and check the item ‘Disable
Error Reporting’ and click OK.
Generally speaking automatic updates are quite a good idea
and it means you PC will always have the most up to date security patches and
bug-fixes but a lot of people don’t like the way that Windows automatically
decides for itself when to search and download updates and for those with
slower dial-up connections it can be inconvenient. To switch off automatic
updates completely, or tell Windows to ask permission before accessing the
Internet go to System in Control Panel, select the Automatic Update tab, change
the Notification Settings as appropriate then click OK.
Microsoft are keen for us all to start using MSN Messenger
(.NET Messenger) for chatting and video telephony but a lot of people still
prefer the much friendlier NetMeeting program. The good news is that it is
included with XP but it has been buried away; to get it up and running all you
have do it go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘conf’.
For some reason best known to Microsoft Windows Explorer in
XP opens on My Documents, which can be incredibly frustrating if you’re trying
to access the contents of your C: drive. Fortunately there is a solution, the
first step is to create a desktop shortcut to Windows Explorer, so go to Start
> Programs > Accessories and right click on the Explorer icon and select
Send To > Desktop (Create Shortcut). Return to the desktop and right-click
on the new Windows Explorer icon and select Properties. In the Target line,
after explorer.exe, add the following ‘/e,c:\’, so it should now read …
(Note the space between .exe and /e, there’s a comma after
the /e and it’s a backslash, not forward slash after c:). You might also want
to put a copy of this shortcut onto the Quick Launch toolbar, under the Start
button, to do that hold down the Ctrl key (to make a copy) then drag and drop
the new Windows Explorer icon.
You probably know that you are using Windows XP and may not
want to be reminded every time you boot up, in which case why not disable the
XP opening screen? This is easy, just go to Run on the Start menu and type
‘msconfig’ then select the Boot.Ini tab. Check the item ‘/NOGUIBOOT’, click OK
and when prompted restart your PC. This time it will go straight from the
opening white progress bar or a blank screen to the XP desktop. You may get a
warning message from the System Configuration Utility telling you the PC is in
Selective Startup Mode, this is not a problem though and you can safely tick
the ‘Do not show this message…’ check box.
Next week – more Windows XP tips
Program or files designed to fix a problem in Windows that
makes your PC vulnerable to virus attack or allows unauthorised access to your
UI stands for user interface, and the ‘tools’ in Tweak UI
can be used to make changes to the way Windows looks and behaves that would
otherwise involve tinkering around with the Registry.
Two-way video phone connection over the Internet using
inexpensive ‘web cam’s
Here’s yet another Google tip, this time for anyone who has
spent ages trying to find something on the massive Microsoft web site. Google
has developed a search engine specifically for searching Microsoft.com, using
the usual fast and friendly Google interface. The address is http://www.google.com/microsoft.html,
and don’t forget to add it to your Favourites menu.