No SP3 News; Cleaning up Your Windows 2000 Desktop

No SP3 News
Although Microsoft missed its planned February release of Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3), the only official word I've heard about a revised release date is "sometime during the first half of this year." As of 4 weeks ago, the Win2K post-SP2 hotfix list contained 663 publicly acknowledged bug fixes. After checking the list for the most recent entries—a challenge because the items aren't sorted by publication date—I see that the support folks haven't updated the list since February 21. With no new Win2K concerns, today I share some tips and techniques for cleaning up the desktop. If you have more substantial information about SP3 availability, please pass it my direction.

Cleaning Up the Desktop
If you don't configure systems for a living but do install systems for a test lab, a small network, or home systems, here are some tips you can use to eliminate desktop clutter. Win2K defines the system environment in two parts: computer-specific controls and user-specific controls. The computer settings define the OS environment and components, and user settings define the desktop's look and feel. On a local system, Win2K stores computer settings in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE registry subkey and user settings in the HKEY_USERS\<profile>\SOFTWARE registry subkey. The following four tips for eliminating the Recycle Bin, removing Microsoft Outlook Express and the Internet Connection Wizard (ICW), and disabling the Configure Your Server Wizard require you to modify the local registry. If you want to implement these controls in Group Policy, you'll need to create a custom template that deletes or changes registry subkeys or value entries for each desired behavior.

When you fine-tune the desktop by manually editing the registry, you can modify the default user profile, which defines the desktop for all users who don't already have a profile (i.e., users who log on after you modify the profile), or you can modify settings for an individual account by changing the individual user's profile. You change the default environment by editing the HKEY_USERS\.Default subkey, and you change a specific user's desktop by modifying the ntuser.dat profile for that individual. To guarantee that the system saves your changes, modify a user's profile only when the user isn't logged on.

To ensure you can undo changes, always create a backup copy of the registry subkey or value entry you plan to delete. You can create a backup copy in binary registry-ready format or in a text file. To back up a subkey by using regedt32, highlight the subkey, go to the registry menu, and select Save Key to create a binary version or Save Subtree As to create a text file of the subkey contents.

Recycle Bin
Recycle Bin is a computer-specific control. Start a registry editor and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Namespace subkey. Each subkey below Namespace is a Class ID, an internal number that defines the product and version for the system object or file. Highlight each subkey and look at the contents of the Removal Message in the right pane. When you locate Recycle Bin, create a backup copy of the subkey, then delete the subkey.

You can use this technique to remove other desktop icons that appear below the Namespace subkey. As long as you don't unregister the Class ID, you can restore the icons by importing or manually recreating the subkeys and value entries from the backup copy. Microsoft's documentation recommends you log off and log back on to refresh the desktop, but in my case, the Recycle Bin icon disappeared immediately after I removed its Namespace subkey.

Internet Connection Wizard
ICW is a user-specific control. ICW introduces a security risk and, as such, is often an undesirable feature on user desktops. To modify the default profile, locate the HKEY_USERS\.Default\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Runonce subkey or load the ntuser.dat profile from the Default user profile directory. Delete the Runonce value entry SetupICWDesktop in the right pane, and exit the registry editor. To remove ICW from a specific user's desktop, make the same modification to that individual's profile.

Outlook Express
Outlook Express is a computer-specific control. To disable creation of the Outlook Express icon for all future profiles, start a registry editor and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Active Setup\Installed Components subkey. Below Installed Components, locate \{44BBA840-CC51-11CF-AAFA-00AA00B6015C\}\Stubpath, create a backup copy, and delete the subkey.

Configure Your Server Wizard
Configure Your Server Wizard is a user-specific setting. I find the wizard annoying because it introduces several unnecessary screens when I know exactly what I want to do. To disable the wizard in all future profiles, start a registry editor and navigate to the HKEY_USERS\.Default\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Setup\Welcome subkey. Locate the value entry srvwiz in the right pane, and change its value to zero; this change should take effect immediately.

My Documents
You can easily remove the My Documents icon from your desktop when you’re logged on. Open Windows Explorer, click Tools, Folder Options, then click the View tab. Scroll down and clear the "Show My Documents on the Desktop" option. You can implement this control in Group Policy by enabling the Remove My Documents icon control in User Configuration, Administrative Templates, Desktop.

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