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Removing the Explorer Nag Screens in Windows 2000

By default, Windows 2000 tries to hide the complexity of the system from users while also providing a level of protection for itself from those same users. It does this in a variety of ways, including:

  • System File Protection (SFP): A new feature in Windows 2000 that protects all SYS, DLL, EXE and OCX (and selected TTF and FON) files that ship on the Windows 2000 CD. This means that poorly-written application programs cannot, by default, overwrite newer key system files. System File Protection is a key component in Microsoft's attempt to end "DLL hell."
  • Hiding system files: The default My Computer/Explorer view hides system files from the user, somewhat eliminating their ability to mistakenly delete them.
  • "Super hidden" files: Some files in Windows 2000, such as the swap file, are marked with a new security designation, "super hidden" (as opposed to the normal "hidden" attribute). Again, this done to protect the user from himself.
  • Explorer nag screens: This isn't an official Microsoft term, but rather my own name for the obnoxious Web view you get when you attempt to view the contents of winnt, Program Files, or winnt\system32 in Explorer or My Computer.

Why the nag screens?
Microsoft knows that most of the users of its operating systems are "normal" people, not computer savants that like to tweak every last feature on the system. But for the power users and administrators out there, some of Microsoft's safeguards are downright annoying. Take the Explorer nag screens, for example (Figure 1). Please. This little HTML roadblock appears whenever you try to access one of the following folders:

C:\Program Files

Though this "feature" offers less than a minimum of security, it's a major stumbling block when you're racing around the system, trying to get at a specific folder or file. And, of course, you can click "Show files" (Figure 2) to turn on the normal Explorer view for that folder.

It's not quick enough.  Any self-respecting power user will want to get rid of this feature.

Removing the nag screens
Removing the nag screens is simple enough:

  1. Access Folder Options (My Computer -> Tools -> Folder Options) and make sure that hidden files and folders are being displayed (View tab -> Advanced settings) (Figure 3).
  2. Navigate to each of the three folders listed above in any order and find the files desktop.ini and folder.htt (Figure 4).
  3. Delete those files.

Now, when you navigate into these folders, you won't have to deal with those annoying nag screens.

Other things you can do to get your system back
In Microsoft's overly zealous attempt to protect the system from its own users, it has created a number of small defenses against user stupidity.  But we're all power users here, right?  I recommend the following actions to get your system back: 

  1. Remove the Explorer nag screens as explained above.
  2. Add/Remove all of your Windows components as described in this Technology Showcase.
  3. Turn on Administrative Tools. By default, Microsoft has hidden these essential and powerful tools from Professional users. You can turn them on by accessing your Start Menu properties (Right-click taskbar -> Properties -> Advanced tab -> Display Administrative Tools in the Start Menu Settings box) and enabling the feature. Then open your Programs group to see all the new tools.
  4. Display hidden files using Folder Options (My Computer -> Tools -> Folder Options -> View tab). Be sure to spend some time in this applet, tweaking the system to your heart's content.
  5. Download the Windows NT version of TweakUI, the ultimate tweaking tool for Windows 2000 (and yes, this version is better than the one that comes with Windows 98 because it includes CMD command line tweaking as well).
  6. Turn off Personalized Menus if it bugs you (Right-click taskbar -> Properties).

In short, you don't have to accept the defaults Microsoft gives up. The system is yours to modify: Take it back.

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