December 2006 Reader Challenge and November Winners

The December 2006 Challenge:

This is another challenge that came from a reader who uses the WINDOWS CLIENT UPDATE Reader Challenge in his IT department as a form of playing "Trivial IT Pursuit." Thanks to Jose Canera, of New York, for this contribution. The in-house development team at his company works in a small lab environment, and at the beginning of a development project many things go wrong, causing the workers' computers to hang. Mr. Canera decided that everyone was losing a lot of time each day waiting for Windows to tell users that a process was hung, or to complete the "End Process" function in Task Manager. He also realized that if a process hangs during shutdown, it takes a while for Windows to stop the process and proceed with shutdown. He distributed instructions to everyone in the lab about how to speed up the process of ending a process. What did he tell his colleagues to do to speed up the shutdown of a hung task?


Windows has a built-in delay before forcing a task to end, and the delay interval is set in the registry. The delay is called “WaitToKill.” By default, the delay is set at 20,000 milliseconds (20 seconds) but you can shorten it by changing the following registry keys (you must restart Windows to put the changes into effect): For applications, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Change the value of the data item named WaitToKillAppTimeout to a smaller number (2000 milliseconds, which is 2 seconds, is a good choice). Also change the value of the data item named HungAppTimeout to match the number you used in the WaitToKillAppTimeout item. For services, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control and look for the data item named WaitToKillServiceTimeout. Change the default to the same number you used for the delay for applications. You can use any number you wish, but I’ve found that changing the delay to anything smaller than 2 seconds can cause problems with “false positives” when a task isn’t really hung, it’s just a bit slow to respond.

November 2006 Reader Challenge Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our November 2006 Reader Challenge. First prize, a copy of "Windows XP Hacks," goes to Sean P. O'Brien, of Pennsylvania (actually from my own home, Philadelphia, where I assume he's joining me in mourning the performance of my beloved Iggles). Second prize, a copy of "Windows XP Cookbook," goes to Xidan Zhou, of Florida. There was a typo in the answers that appeared on our Web site, and the answer to Question 3 was posted as "A" but it should have been "B." My apologies to those of you who were confused and feared your answers would be eliminated. The typo was entirely my fault.

December 2006 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by December 14, 2006. You MUST include your full name, and street mailing address (no P.O. Boxes). Without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win, so your answer is eliminated, even if it’s correct). I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. I’m a sucker for humor and originality, and a cleverly written correct answer gets an extra chance. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for an e-mail receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at on December 15, 2006.

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