Awesome Windows XP Tips

Enhance your—and your users'—productivity

As Windows XP becomes more prevalent throughout the enterprise, taking advantage of its features and enhanced capabilities can help both you and your users be more productive. Here are my 10 favorite XP productivity tips.

10. Display the Administrator Logon dialog box—One of the first things you'll notice about XP is that it doesn't provide an easy way to log on to the system as Administrator. To display a Windows 2000—style logon screen, press Ctrl+Alt+Del twice.

9. Use the Windows Classic Start menu and desktop—Many users who are new to XP lose productivity until they learn to navigate XP's UI. To give users the familiar Win2K-style Start menu (and add the My Documents, My Computer, My Network Places, and Microsoft Internet Explorer—IE—icons to the desktop), right-click Start, select Properties from the pop-up menu, then click the Classic Start menu option. To make the XP desktop more like the Win2K desktop, right-click the desktop, select Properties, click the Appearance tab, then select the Windows Classic option from the Windows and buttons drop-down list.

8. Create an MS-DOS boot disk—One convenient XP feature that Win2K doesn't offer is the ability to create an MS-DOS boot disk. Insert a 3.5" disk in the disk drive, open My Computer, and right-click the floppy-disk icon. Select Format from the pop-up menu, then select Create an MS-DOS startup disk.

7. Bypass activation on reinstallation—Windows Product Activation (WPA) is XP's most annoying feature. However, you can easily avoid the need to reactivate the system if you later need to reinstall XP. After the initial activation, simply copy the wpa.dbl file in the system32 directory, then restore the file after you reinstall XP.

6. Enable ClearType—ClearType enhances text displayed on LCD monitors, but ClearType isn't always enabled by default. To configure your laptop or LCD monitor—equipped system to use ClearType, right-click the desktop, choose Properties, then click the Appearance tab. Click Effects, select Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts, then select the ClearType option from the drop-down list.

5. Identify startup options with Msconfig—One handy feature that XP inherited from Windows 9x is the msconfig.exe utility. You can run msconfig.exe to display all your system's startup programs, boot options, and services.

4. Uninstall Windows Messenger—A great tool if you use it but a big annoyance if you don't, Windows Messenger always appears at start-up and XP doesn't give you an easy way to get rid of it. You can uninstall Windows Messenger by opening the sysoc.inf file in the \windows\inf folder and finding the line


Delete the word hide from the line, then save the file. An option to remove Windows Messenger will then be available in the Control Panel Add/Remove Windows Components applet.

3. Configure alternative IP address support—If you regularly move your laptop between a network that requires a fixed IP address and one that uses DHCP, you can configure an alternative fixed IP address, gateway, and DNS server address. In the Network and Dial-Up Connections folder, right-click Local Area Connection, select Properties, then select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click Properties. If your system is configured to use DHCP, an Alternate Configuration tab will now be available.

2. Back up to a CD-ROM—A major limitation of XP's Ntbackup utility is its inability to select a CD-RW drive as a backup destination. To work around this hurdle, open Ntbackup, select the files to back up, then select C:\documents and settings\username\local settings\application data\microsoft\cd burning\backup.bkf as the backup destination. When the backup finishes, XP will prompt you to write the files to the CD-ROM.

1. Use Remote Assistance over Network Address Translation (NAT)—Remote Assistance is a great XP feature, but it doesn't work well across a NAT connection without a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)—enabled router. To use Remote Assistance across a NAT link, have the remote user send you an assistance request. Open the request's RAInvitation.msrcincident file and find the RCTICKET= line. The nonroutable IP address appears in this line with the port address 3389 appended to it (e.g., Change the IP address to the user's public IP address (the user can find this address at If port 3389 is open and the client router is configured to pass port 3389 traffic to the private IP address, you should be able to connect to the user's system.

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