Top 10 Windows XP Tips

This column features a collection of the most useful tips that we have come across since Windows XP was first released. We hope that you find something here that will allow you to improve your computing experiences. Be aware that many of these tips will require you to be logged in with an Administrator account.

The right time, all the time. Windows XP makes it easy to main­tain the correct time with its built-in syn­chronisation feature. To enable it, simply double-click the time on the taskbar and select the Internet Time tab. Check ‘Auto­matically synchronise with an Internet time server’, then click the Update Now button.

Prevent Messenger from auto running. A common complaint from users is that Windows Messenger automatically loads up whether you want it to or not. Preventing this from happening is very straightforward: open Messenger by double-clicking the icon in the System tray. Select Options from the Tools menu. Under the General tab uncheck the ‘Run Messenger when Windows starts’ option.

Reduce the amount of Temporary Inter­net files. This is a fairly simple tip, and it doesn’t involve any manual deletion of files from Windows Explorer. Within Internet Explorer, open Internet Options from the Tools menu. Under the Temporary Internet files section there is a button labelled Delete Files and another labelled Settings. Delete Files will remove temporary files that are currently being stored on your hard disk, while Settings will allow you to set the amount of disk space that the Temporary Internet files folder should occupy.

Open Microsoft Internet Explorer maximised. Getting Internet Explorer to always open in a maximised state is a hit-and-miss affair. One technique that normally seems to work is to run Internet Explorer, then while holding down ++ use the mouse to size the window as you want it (i.e., click the Maximise button in the top-right corner). While still holding down ++, click the Close button. The next time that Internet Explorer is loaded the window will be maximised.

Ungroup similar taskbar items. Grouping similar taskbar items may reduce clutter but it can make it difficult to find what you are after. To disable Windows XP’s grouping feature, right-click a blank area of the Taskbar and select Properties. Uncheck the ‘Group Similar Taskbar Buttons’ option, then click OK.

Automatically log into Windows. This is a handy one when there is only one user account being used. Select Run from the Start menu and enter CONTROL USERPASSWORDS2. Uncheck the ‘Users must enter a username and password’ option and click Apply.

Speed up the Start menu. There are two ways to increase the speed of the Start menu. The first is to simply turn off the menu shadow: select Display from the Control Panel and click on the Appearance tab. Click the Effects button and uncheck the ‘Show shadows under menus’ option (see FIGURE 1).

The second way is to manually increase the speed at which the Start menu shoots out by editing the Registry. (If you are not comfortable with editing the Registry, then do not attempt this.) Start the Registry Editor by selecting Run from the Start menu and entering REGEDIT. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop, right-click the MenuShowDelay option from the list and select Modify. The default value of 400 can be reduced to as low as 0.

Disable error reporting. If you would rather not send a report to Microsoft every time a program crashes, here is how you can disable the error reporting feature. Select System from the Control Panel then click the Advanced tab. Click on the Error Reporting button at the bottom and in the window that appears select the Disable error reporting option (see FIGURE 2).

Resurrecting the Show Desktop icon when deleted. If the Show Desktop icon is accidentally deleted from the Quick Launch toolbar there is an easy way to restore it. Open Notepad and enter the following text:


Save the new file as Show Desktop.scf in the Winnt\System32 folder. Then drag and drop the icon onto the Quick Launch bar or the location where you want the shortcut to appear.

Make use of the Windows key. Finally, here are some very handy keyboard shortcuts that make use of the seldom-used Windows key. Learn some of these and make routine tasks that little bit easier.

Windows + D: minimise or restore all windows
Windows + E: display Windows Explorer
Windows + L: lock the computer
Windows + R: display Run dialogue box

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