Windows 9x - Discover hidden tools

In addition to the items listed on those menus, more than a dozen other installed applications don't show up on any menu. Some of them are diagnostic tools you may never use, but others are nifty for common tasks such as browsing through files or checking system information. You can launch some of these utilities from within other applications such as Microsoft Office, but why open one app just to launch another? Here's how to make utilities appear on a handy menu, plus a list of useful tools.

Create a menu. First, set up your new menu: right-click the Start button and choose Open or Explore. To create a Tools menu that's most accessible, right-click an empty area of the Start Menu folder and choose New-Folder. Type a name for your menu, such as Tools, and press . If you don't think you'll need the items in this menu very often, create the folder deeper within the Start Menu hierarchy, in the Start Menu\Programs folder, for example. Next, double-click My Computer, navigate to the Windows folder (or in some cases the Windows\System folder), and find the .exe file for the application you want to add to your menu (we list a few of these utilities below). Using the right mouse button, drag the .exe files to your new Tools folder and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here.

Some useful tools. Microsoft Office 2000 comes with a number of utilities, but only a couple seem worthy enough to have their own menu item. One of them is System Information (C:\ProgramFiles\CommonFiles\MicrosoftShared\Msinfo\msinfo32.exe). Windows 98 users already have a version of this utility they can launch from the Start menu (see below), but the Office version is great for Windows 95 users. In addition to providing helpful system information, it includes a Tools-Windows menu that lets you launch other utilities, some of which already appear on the Start menu. (To locate the others, follow the instructions below.) Another handy tool is Clip Art Gallery (C:\Program Files\Common Files\MicrosoftShared\Artgalry\cag.exe), which lets you browse multimedia files.

Windows 98 provides the largest collection of hidden tools for your new menu. You can launch most of them by choosing Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-System Information and then selecting from that program's Tools menu. If you're wondering what all these utilities do or you just want convenient access to the help facility for each tool, right-click in an empty area of your new menu folder and choose New-Shortcut, type c:\windows\help\msinfo32.chm for the command line (your path may differ), and click Next. Then type a name for the shortcut (such as Tools Help), and click Finish.

The only utility this help file doesn't include is the DirectX Diagnostic Tool. For help here, you can use the same process to make a shortcut to its help file, but use c:\windows\help\dxdiag.chm or c:\windows\help\ for the command line.

Windows 2000 has fewer hidden non-administrative tools than Windows 98 and no all-in-one help file. Fortunately, most of the available tools have their own Help buttons or on-screen explanations.

All versions of Windows have a few hidden tools in common: the Registry Editor (regedit.exe in the Windows folder) is a tool for advanced users to modify specific Windows settings. The System Configuration Editor (sysedit.exe in the Windows\System folder) is an editor for modifying config.sys, autoexec.bat, win.ini, system.ini, and other settings files. Task Manager is a floating task-switching utility with several customisation options (taskman.exe in the Windows folder, or taskmgr.exe in Windows 2000's Windows\System32 or Windows NT's WINNT\System32 folder).

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Scott Dunn

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