Top 10 XP Registry Hacks

Customize your new OS to make it faster and more secure

After working with Windows XP for several months, I've discovered some handy registry modifications that have improved my XP experience. In a few cases, a registry hack has saved my sanity. As always, be sure to back up your registry before you make any changes, and use care when implementing modifications. One wrong move can render your computer inoperable. If a stated value isn't present in your registry in the indicated location, you'll need to create the value to implement the desired change. All values are of type REG_DWORD, unless noted otherwise.

10. Improve XP's response time. To reduce delays in specific situations, navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop subkey. To set a lower threshold at which the system prompts you to manually end a hung task, change the HungAppTimeout value, of type REG_SZ, from the default 5000 to 1000. Be careful when you adjust this setting: If you use a program that runs slowly on XP, the OS might falsely determine that it has hung. In such a case, you can increase the HungAppTimeout value by increments of 1000 until the false "hung" detections stop.

To accelerate the display of your submenus on the Start menu, set the MenuShowDelay value (of type REG_SZ) from the default 400 to 50. Setting this value too low (e.g., to 0) causes your cursor to bring up menus too quickly and hinder your path to the Start menu option that you want. If you set the value to 50, you can move your cursor over menu options without accessing pop-up menus that obscure your target.

Like Windows 2000, XP suffers from a little-documented browse delay. When you browse to a Windows 9x computer name (\\computername), your XP computer checks for Scheduled Tasks on computers to which it's connecting. This search can cause as much as a 30-second delay. If you browse to the share name (\\computername\share), this delay won't occur. To eliminate the search for Scheduled Tasks and increase your browse speed, delete the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RemoteComputer\NameSpace\\{D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF\} subkey, which is of type REG_SZ.

9. Get rid of Windows Messenger at startup. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE \Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run subkey and delete the MSMSGS value.

8. Dispense with balloon pop-ups. Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced subkey and set the EnableBalloonTips hexadecimal value to 0.

7. Don't hide files. Several values within the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current- Version\Explorer\Advanced subkey affect hidden files and folders. To show hidden files and folders, set the Hidden value to 1. To show file extensions, set the HideFileExt value to 0. To show protected OS files, set the ShowSuperHidden value to 1.

6. Show the Map Network Drive button. Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced subkey and set the MapNetDrvBtn value to 1. The Map Network Drive button will appear on your Windows Explorer and My Computer toolbars.

5. Clean up the Start menu. Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer subkey. To disable all user-specific folders except My Documents, set the NoStartMenuMyMusic, NoSMMyPictures, NoFavoritesMenu, and NoRecentDocsMenu values to 0. If you also want to disable MyDocuments, set the NoSMMyDocs value to 0.

4. Prevent users from changing the paths of user folders. Navigate to the HKEY_ CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer subkey. To lock the paths to My Pictures, My Music, Favorites, and My Documents, respectively, set the following four values to 0: DisableMyPicturesDirChange, DisableMyMusicDirChange, DisableFavoritesDirChange, and DisablePersonalDirChange.

3. Clear the pagefile at shutdown. This modification helps keep your data secure. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management subkey and set the ClearPageFileAtShutdown value to 1.

2. Run programs in a separate memory space. I like to run some older DOS applications in a separate memory space. To add a Run in Separate Memory Space check box to the Run dialog box, navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer subkey and set the MemCheckBoxInRunDlg value to 1.

1. Enable XP's Registry Favorites option. This little trick will simplify your work in the registry. You can bookmark locations within the regedit utility so that you don't need to repeatedly navigate to a desired subkey. To set a regedit Favorite, run regedit, navigate to the desired key (e.g., HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows), and highlight the subkey (e.g., CurrentVersion) that you want to bookmark. Click Favorites, select Add to Favorites, name the subkey, and click OK. I recommend that you use a naming scheme that helps you identify a key's location, such as "HKLM...CurrentVersion" or "HKLM\S\MS\Win\CV."

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