Skip navigation

Windows XP Tips - Courtesy of Microsoft

As the dust from the holiday season settles, many people find themselves exploring the possibilities of their new Windows XP systems. While we certainly expect folks to be taking full advantage of this product already, some tips and tricks directly from the software designers should be very useful. Whether allowing people to do things they didn't know were possible or making everyday tasks that much more simple and quick, we believe some useful tips and tricks will be appreciated.

Please note that some of these tips may require you to use a Registry Editor (regedit.exe) or, under the Windows XP Professional only, the Local Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc), which could render your system unusable. Thus, none of these tips are supported in any way: Use them at your own risk. Also note that most of these tips will require you to be logged on with Administrative rights.

For more tips, check out my own set of Windows Tips 'n' Tricks and Microsoft's set of Office XP Tips!

Speed Up Those Searches   New!
Windows can create an index of the files on your computer to speed up searching. To create this index, open Search, then choose Change preferences and then With Indexing Service (for faster local searches).

"Go" Places Quicker on the Internet
Many common Internet searches can be performed quickly using the "go" shortcut. For example, if you open Search in Internet Explorer and type go yellow pages, the page will jump to a form where you can lookup a business phone number. Likewise, typing go email automatically brings up a form for searching for a person's email. You can even type go yellow pages Acme Corp to automatically search for the phone number of a company called Acme Corp. And you can type go amzn to look up the value of a stock quote (in this case Amazon's).

Quick Search Tips
Here are a couple of quick search tips:

- Using capitalization can result in better performance when using Search Companion. For instance, Mary Smith may produce better results than mary smith.

- If you didn't find what you wanted on the first search engine, choose Automatically send your search to other search engines to submit your search to other engines that are appropriate for your query.

- If you like having an animated character, but want to use a different one, choose Change Preferences, then With a different character to choose the helper you like.

Use the On-Screen Keyboard
An on-screen keyboard is built into Windows XP. It can be useful if you have mobility impairments, if you are using a tablet PC, or if your keyboard breaks down unexpectedly. To access the on-screen keyboard, go to Start, then click Run, and then type osk. Now the keyboard opens on your computer screen, featuring three typing modes you can use to type data:

- Clicking mode, where you click the on-screen keys.
- Scanning mode, where you press a hot key or use a switch-input device to type highlighted characters.
- Hovering mode, where you use a mouse or joystick to point to a key, which is then typed.

To make a shortcut icon on your desktop to the on-screen keyboard:
1. Right-click the desktop and choose New, then Shortcut.
2. Type osk, click Next.
3. Type a name for the shortcut, and then click Finish.

Use CTRL+ALT+DEL Without Pushing All the Buttons
For some people, pushing CTRL, ALT and Delete (CTRL+ALT+DEL) at the same time can be an inconvenience, if not a complete impossibility. With Windows XP, there are two ways to get around this.

First option: Configure the system so that you do not need to press CTRL+ALT+DEL at all during logon (assuming you're not using the Welcome screen, in which case this key combo is not required). Here's how:

- Open Control Panel then User Accounts.
- Navigate to the Advanced tab.
- Uncheck the Require users to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete checkbox under Secure Logon.

Second option: Configure XP's accessibility options so that "sticky keys" will be activated at the secure desktop: That way, you may "press" ALT, CTRL, and DEL sequentially rather than simultaneously. You can turn that on via the Accessibility control panel. (Control Panel then Accessibility Options):

- Bring up the Accessibility Control panel and navigate to the Keyboard tab.
- Check Use Sticky keys
- Navigate to the General Tab.
- Check Apply all settings to logon desktop.

Turn on ClearType Font-Rendering Technology
Get that extra text clarity you've always wanted. The incredible Microsoft ClearType technology can be enabled in Windows XP to smooth all fonts at all sizes, making the whole system so much easier to read. To turn on ClearType:

1. Click Start, then Control Panel, and then click Appearance and Themes.
2. Click the Display icon, then the Appearance tab, and then Effects.
3. Click the Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts check box and select ClearType from the list.
4. Click OK, and then click OK again.

Remove Interference in Movie Files
If you have any AVI files that you saved in Windows 9x, they might have interference when opened in Windows XP. Fortunately, thereis an easy fix to get rid of the interference:

1. Open Windows Movie Maker.
2. Click View and then Options.
3. Uncheck Automatically create clips.

Now, import the movie file that has interference and drag it onto the timeline. Then save the movie. During the re-rendering, the interference will be removed.

Working with Album Art in Windows Media Player
Set your own Album Art for your media folders and Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP). If you don't like the album art or have a folder of downloaded music that you want to add art to, you can simply select any graphic from your browser, save it inside the folder you want, and call it Folder.jpg. Now when you play any music that resides in that folder, the Media Player will automatically pick it up and display that as album art.

Managing Multiple Photos or Other Files
If you have numerous files to rename, select a group of photos, then rename the FIRST one and the rest will follow.

Turn Off File Names in Thumbnail View
Find that you need more space for thumbnails and would like to turn the file names off? Hold down shift when you open a folder or when you switch into thumbnail view. This will turn of the file names, giving more space for the thumbnails. Doing it again turns them back on.

Try Grouping Files for Effortless Manageability
In any My Computer window, select View, then Arrange Icons by, then Type. Then, select View, Arrange Icons by, and then Show in Groups. If you prefer Details view, you can right-click on the column header in and choose the columns you want displayed. And you can drag and drop the column headers to reorder them.

Add a Map Drive Button to the Toolbar
Do you want to quickly map a network drive, but can't find the toolbar button? If you map drives often, use one of these options to add a Map Drive button to the folder toolbar in My Computer.

Option One (Long Term Fix)
1. Open My Computer, right-click the toolbar, then unlock the toolbars, if necessary.
2. Right-click the toolbar again and click Customize.
3. Under Available toolbar buttons, locate Map Drive, and drag it
into the position you want on the right under Current toolbar buttons.
4. Click Close, click OK, and then click OK again.
You now have a drive mapping buttons on your My Computer toolbar, so you can map drives from any folder window. To unmap drives, follow the above procedure, selecting Disconnect under Available toolbar buttons.

Option Two (Quick Fix)
Right-click My Computer and choose Map Network Drive. If you place your My Computer icon directly on the desktop, you can make this move in only two clicks! Otherwise, you can right-click the My Computer icon in the Start Menu.

Fax Tips
Here are some useful tips for working with Fax and Image Viewer:

- Typing CTRL-I in the picture viewer will bring up the property sheet for the image (doesn't work in slide show).
- Typing DEL in the picture viewer will delete.
- Holding down the CTRL key in the picture viewer enables "panning" (hand cursor)

Changing Thumbnail Options
You can change the size of the Thumbnails view in My Computer by opening up the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigating to the following location:

Current user only:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer

All users:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer

Add a new DWORD value called ThumbnailSize and give it a hexidecimal value that is between 32 and 256, inclusive (that is, the lowest possible value is 32 and the highest is 256): A value of 32 will give you the smallest possible thumbnails, and 256 will give you the biggest. Experiment a bit to find your sweet spot.

Use the Windows Classic Look
Are you more comfortable performing a task with the familiar Windows Classic user interface than you are with Windows XP's new interface? You can quickly switch the user interface to the familiar Windows Classic appearance on your computer if it helps you remember a task in your operating system or program. Then, you can go back to the original Windows look with a couple of clicks. Here's how.

1. Right-click on a blank area of the desktop, then click Properties.
2. Click the Appearance tab.
3. On the Windows and Buttons menu, select Windows Classic, then Click OK.

Change the Start Menu Style
Does the new Windows XP Start menu take up too much space on your desktop? You can easily change the look back to the Windows Classic Start menu by following these steps:

1. Right-click the Start button, and then click Properties.
2. Click the Classic Start menu choice.
3. Click the Customize button to select items to display on the Start menu.
Also: By default, selecting the Classic Start menu also adds the My Documents, My Computer, My Network Places, and Internet Explorer icons to your desktop. If you don't want this, right-click a blank area of the Desktop, choose Properties, and then navigate to the Desktop page. Click Customize Desktop to determine which icons are shown on the desktop.

Add Fields to the Details View of Folders
You can add other columns to the Details view of the files contained in Windows XP folders, such as Comments, Description, Category, and many others. To add new columns:

1. Right-click the column header of the files list, and then click one of the fields listed, or click More.
2. In the Choose Details dialog box, you can reorganize the order of column headers, specify column widths, and add columns to display details for the files in that folder.

When you click the new column header, the width of the selected column is displayed in pixels in the Choose Details dialog box.

Using a Folder Type as a Template
Every Windows XP folder provides a list of hyperlinked tasks appropriate to that type of folder next to the folder contents. For example, the Pictures folder type contains task links for ordering prints online and for printing pictures. If you want to use a folder type as a template for a selected folder, follow these steps:

1. Right-click a newly created folder, and then click Properties.
2. Click the Customize tab.
3. In the Use this folder type as a template list, click the template type you want to apply, and then click OK.

Now, when you open the new folder, it will contain a hyperlinked task list common to the type of folder you selected as the template.

Create a Personal Screen Saver
For a great way to put your digital photos to work, try creating a slide show presentation for use as a screen saver. Here's how:

1. Right-click an empty spot on your desktop and then click Properties.
2. Click the Screen Saver tab.
3. In the Screen saver list, click My Pictures Slideshow.
4. Click Settings to make any adjustments, such as how often the pictures should change, what size they should be, and whether you'll use transition effects between pictures, and then click OK.

Now your screen saver is a random display of the pictures taken from your My Pictures folder.

Keep Your Favorite Programs Near the Top of the Start Menu
Do you have a favorite application that you frequently use? If so, you can elevate its priority on the Start menu by putting it at the top of the list. This ensures that the program will remain on the Start menu and cannot be bumped by other programs, even if you use the others more frequently.

Right-click the link to your favorite program on the Start menu and select Pin to Start Menu.
Your program will be moved permanently to the top part of the list, just below your browser and e-mail programs.

Advanced Customizations
To get rid of the Search Companion and go back to the old way of searching, open up the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to the following location:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ CabinetState

Then, add a new String Value called Use Search Asst and set the Data Value to No.

To turn off the low disk space notification, which cannot be done through the XP GUI, open up the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to the following location:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ Explorer

Add a Dword Value called NoLowDiskSpaceChecks and set the Data Value to 1 to turn it off.

Note that this change requires a log off or reboot to work.

To configure your Places bar (Professional Edition only) in XP's common dialogs, and make it easier to open files from common locations, you need to edit a local policy. Here's how.

1. Run the Local Group Policy Editor (Start, then Run, then gpedit.msc)
2. Open the following policy:

User Configuration \ Administrative Templates\ Windows Components \ Windows Explorer \ Common Open File Dialog \ Items Displayed in Places Bar

To make your Taskbar do forced-window-clustering: Any application that has "n" windows open will automatically cluster, regardless of how full your taskbar is. To set this, open up the Registry Editor (regedit.exe) and create a REG_DWORD with the name TaskbarGroupSize in the following location of the Registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced

Now, set this new key to 2 or the number of windows for each application you want to have on the screen before they are clustered together on the taskbar. You must either kill explorer and re-launch it, or logoff and log back in before this will take affect.

Get Rid of Unwanted Balloon Tips
Open up the Registry Editor and expand the tree to display the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced

Then, created a new DWORD value named EnableBalloonTips and set it to 0x00000000.

Use the Address Bar to Launch Programs or Web Page
Windows XP enhanced the functionality of the Address bar to make it easier to launch your favorite programs. You can add the Address bar to the taskbar on the bottom of your desktop. Then you can launch programs simply by entering their names in the Address bar. For example, to launch Calculator, simply enter calc in the Address bar. Anything you would normally enter in the Run box on the Start menu can be entered in the Address bar. The Address bar also lets you quickly go to any Web page you specify.

To add the Address bar to the taskbar:

1. Right-click an empty area on the taskbar.
2. Point to Toolbars, and then click Address.

Open the Address bar by double-clicking it.

Manually Put Your Computer into Hibernation
Hibernation is a cool feature in Windows XP that is 'hidden' in the Shut Down dialog box. If you have enabled hibernation on your computer, you can manually place it into hibernation. But first, it must be enabled. To enable hibernation support on your computer, you must be logged on as an administrator or a member of the Administrators or Power Users group. If your computer is connected to a network, network policy settings may prevent this procedure. Here's how you do it:

1. Click Start, click Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance, and then click Power Options.
2. Click the Hibernate tab, and then select the Enable hibernate support check box. If the Hibernate tab is not available, your hardware does not support this feature.
3. Click OK to close the Power Options dialog box.

Note: When you put your computer into hibernation, everything in computer memory is saved on your hard disk. When you turn the computer back on, all programs and documents that were open when you turned the computer off are restored on the desktop.

Here's a shortcut to hibernate:

- hold down shift key in the shutdown dialog, then hit ENTER
- or just hit H
- or make your power button do hibernate through the Power Options dialog

Display the Quick Launch Toolbar
Is your Quick Launch toolbar missing from the taskbar? To display the familiar Quick Launch toolbar, right-click an empty area on the taskbar, click Toolbars, and then click Quick Launch. Easy as that your Quick Launch bar appears. To add items to your Quick Launch toolbar, click the icon for the program you want to add, and drag it to the Quick Launch portion of the taskbar.

Don't Ignore the Windows Logo Key
The Windows logo key, located in the bottom row of most computer keyboards is a little-used treasure. Don't ignore it. It is the shortcut anchor for the following commands:

Windows: Display the Start menu
Windows + D: Minimize or restore all windows
Windows + E: Display Windows Explorer
Windows + F: Display Search for files
Windows + Ctrl + F: Display Search for computer
Windows + F1: Display Help and Support Center
Windows + R: Display Run dialog box
Windows + break: Display System Properties dialog box
Windows + shift + M: Undo minimize all windows
Windows + tab: move through taskbar buttons
Windows + L: Lock the workstation (or switch to the Logon screen w/Fast User Switching enabled)
Windows + U: Open Utility Manager

Fast User Switching
If you have multiple users logged on to your machine, you can bypass the Welcome screen to switch users by going to the User tab in Task Manager, right click on a user and choose Connect.

Place a "Run" icon on your desktop
Simply open the Start Menu and drag the Run option on to your desktop. You may want to rename it to get rid of the ampersand. Now you will be able to double-click the "Run" icon on your desktop to go directly to the Run dialog.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.