A Windows 2000 Post-Installation Checklist

After I install Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) or Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), I like to make several minor configuration changes before I do anything else. For example, it really bugs me when I can’t see hidden files in Windows Explorer. (In case you didn’t notice, Windows Explorer has moved to Start, Programs, Accessories.) I’m sure you have your own list of changes you like to make. This week, I’ll share some of the default settings that I change on my Win2K computers. My list changes a bit, depending on whether I’m working on my computer or a customer’s. I don’t necessarily make these changes in the order I’ve listed them.

Uncheck Personalized Menus
Win2K hides menu items that you haven’t used recently with a feature known as Intelligent Menus. You can still access these hidden items by clicking the down arrow at the bottom of the menu. You can disable the feature by turning Personalized Menus off. Go to Start, Settings, Taskbar and Start Menu and clear the Use Personalized Menus option on the General tab. I also check Display Logoff and Expand Control Panel on the Advanced tab, as Screen 1 shows. If you want to disable Personalized Menus in Internet Explorer (IE), go to Tools, Internet Options, Advanced and clear the Enable Personalized Menus option, as Screen 2 shows. While there, I also check the Do not save encrypted pages to disk and Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed options.

Show the Network Adapter Card Icon on the Taskbar
To show the network adapter card icon on the taskbar, go to Start, Settings, Network and Dial-up Connections. Right-click the network adapter card icon, select Properties, and check the Show icon in taskbar when connected on the General tab. I also like to rename my network adapter cards because my computer has two, and I find it easier to identify them by name.

Configure Windows Explorer
I prefer the Windows classic view to the newer Web view for folders. To specify the view, click Tools, Folder Options in Windows Explorer. On the General tab, I check Use Windows classic folders. On the View tab, I change the first six settings under the advanced settings to the exact opposite of the default settings, as Screen 3 shows.

Disable Unwanted Services
I disable services that I don’t use. To do so, right-click My Computer and select Manage. From the Computer Management console, go to Services and Applications, Services and disable any services you don’t need.

Create Shortcuts on the Desktop
I like to keep several shortcuts to tools on my desktop. The easiest way to put shortcuts on the desktop is to go to Start, Programs, Administrative Tools and right-click the tool. Select Send To from the context menu and click Desktop (create shortcut).

Redirect the My Documents Folder
I like to point My Documents to a location of my choosing (e.g., D:\Data) that’s usually different from the default location. If I've connected my computer to the network, I can point My Documents to my home folder on the network. To change the path, right-click the My Documents folder on the desktop and select Move from the Target tab. When you select File, Open from an application such as Word or Excel, you’ll automatically find yourself in the new folder location.

Configure Event Viewer Log File Size
The default size for the Win2K Event Viewer logs is only 512KB. I like to set these to a much higher value— typically 10240KB&$151;so that I don’t have to worry about event log wrapping. The maximum size that Win2K allows is 194240KB (about 190MB). If I have enabled auditing, I make sure to set the Security log to clear manually so I don’t miss any logged information. You need to carefully evaluate your requirements and make the appropriate choices for your Event Viewer log size.

Create a Backup Administrator Account
It’s a good idea to create a second account with administrator privileges in case you forget the administrator password. You can also rename the built-in administrator account and create an ordinary user account called Administrator. This tactic isn’t a great security measure by any means, but it discourages some casual hackers.

Tighten File and Folder Permissions
The default NTFS permissions are full control for the Everyone group. I remove the Everyone group and give the Administrators group full control for the partitions where I keep my data. The permissions you’ll want to set will depend on your security requirements and system configuration. For some folders, you can give Authenticated Users access instead of the Everyone group. Be careful when you modify default permissions, especially if you are configuring Win2K Server.

Set the OS Menu Display Time to 5 Seconds
At startup, your computer displays the OS menu for 30 seconds by default. I like to change this to 5 seconds. To change this setting in Win2K, open the Control Panel’s System applet and select Startup and Recovery on the Advanced tab. Under Display list of operating systems for X seconds, change the time to your liking.

Set the Paging File to the Same Initial and Maximum Size
To optimize my paging file, I set the initial and maximum file size to be the same value. Screen 4 shows that my system recommended a size of 192MB, but I decided to set the initial and maximum size to 225MB. To configure this option in Win2K, open the Control Panel’s System applet and click Performance Options on the Advanced tab. Under Virtual Memory, click Change to see the options in Screen 4.

Snap Mouse to the Default Button
I like to configure my mouse to automatically snap to a window’s default option, which makes mouse clicking a breeze. To configure this option, open the Control Panel’s Mouse applet and click the Motion tab. Under Snap to default, check Move pointer to the default button in dialog boxes.

Custom Command Window
Even in the GUI world of Win2K, you have to love the command prompt. Whether you want to ping another machine or run a utility, you’ll have to use the command prompt sooner or later. However, the default command window’s usefulness is limited. I launch the command window by typing CMD at Start, Run, so I configure its properties on the Layout tab. On a desktop configured to display at 800 x 600 resolution, I configure the Screen Buffer Size, Window Size, and Window Position as shown in Screen 5. You need to clear the Let system position window box or your window won’t always appear where you want it to. I also like to specify the window colors on the Colors tab.

Enable NumLock
The numeric pad is handy for entering numbers. In Win2K, you can enable NumLock so you can use the numeric pad. In the Registry, go to HKEY_USERS on Local Machine\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Keyboard. In the right pane, double-click the value InitialKeyboardIndicators and change the string value to 2 ( the default is 0), as Screen 6 shows. You can also make this change under HKEY_CURRENT_USER, but changing the value for the default profile under HKEY_USERS ensures that NumLock is on for everyone who logs on to your computer.

I hope you find these settings useful. I’d like to hear about how you customize your Win2K desktop. I doubt anyone out there prefers the default OS settings, for personal desktops or servers. Send me your favorite desktop tweaks at [email protected], and I’ll share them with readers in a future column.

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