You may have the hottest hardware under the sun, but it's nothing if your system isn't running smoothly. After all, it's the little things that make life bearable, and given the undeniable nature of software to be annoying, you'll want to set it up exactly how you like.
To that end, we've taken a dive into the highly chlorinated pool of most commonly used software, and come out itching with some handy hints to make life a little easier. So come, wade with us, the water's fine...
Note that a number of these tips require administrator access to your machine, and you may not (and most likely should not) be able to do them at work!
Windows XP SP3Note for the sake of this article, the Classic View is used for Control Panel.
001. Turn off personalized menus
Microsoft's Personalized Menus was an interesting idea — hide the commands you don't use often to create a more streamlined interface. Unfortunately all it did was annoy users as they couldn't find the menu entry they wanted. To turn them off if you're using the Classic Start menu:
- Right-click on the Start button and click on Properties
- Click Customize
- Scroll to the bottom of the Advanced Start menu options box and untick Use Personalized Menus and click OK
- Right-click on a toolbar and choose Customize
- Click the Options tab
- Check Always show full menus
- Click the Close button
002. Stop Security Center from whinging
Security Center, which was introduced with Service Pack 2 and is still very much present in Service Pack 3, likes to tell you all the time that your system is insecure, especially if you've got Automatic Updates turned off, or a firewall or antivirus running that it doesn't recognise. To silence its complaints:
- Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Security Center
- On the left-hand side of the application click the link that says Change the way Security Center alerts me
- Uncheck the item(s) causing you grief — either Firewall, Automatic Updates, Virus Protection — then click OK
No, we're not as insecure as you think we are.
003. Customise your Start menu
There's a number of options you can choose to make the Start menu a bit friendlier. For example, for faster access to Control Panel applications and your network details, you can expand their entries in the Start menu.
- Right-click on an empty space on the task bar, and then click on Properties
- Click on the Start Menu tab. Click the active Customize button
- If you're using the Classic Start Menu, select Expand Control Panel and Expand Network Connections
- If you're using the standard Start Menu, in the Control Panel section select Display as a menu. Network Connections sadly doesn't obey the same behaviour here, but you can do the next best thing and set it to link to the right place — under the Network Connections section, select Link to Network Connections folder
- Click OK, then OK again to effect the changes
There's plenty of other options here, so feel free to prod around.
An expanded Control Panel and Network Connections option should speed up your navigation.
004. Install TweakUI, enable tab completion
No Windows XP user should be without TweakUI. Amongst its bundle of tweaks, it can set the autocomplete function properly for Command Prompt — meaning that you only have to type the first letter of the file or directory you want, then hit TAB and Command Prompt will fill in the rest. If it brings up the wrong answer, simply hit TAB again to cycle to the next, or press SHIFT + TAB to go backwards if you've gone too far.
- Download TweakUI and install it
- Run the program, then go to the Command Prompt section and set Filename completion and Directory completion to TAB, then click OK
Tab completion makes Command Prompt work bearable.
005. Use proper search
By default, Windows XP hides a bunch of files from the search engine. It also uses a plasticine-looking dog called the "Search Companion" that you'll want to get rid of post haste.
- Open Windows Explorer, and hit F3 to open the search panel
- Click the Change preferences link, and then the Without an animated screen character link
- Click Change preferences again, then click Change files and folders search behavior link and select the Advanced option, then click OK
- Expand the newly seen More advanced options section by clicking on it, and make sure Search system folders, Search hidden files and folders and Search subfolders is selected to get the best possible search results
How the search engine should be.
006. No to all
When moving files, Windows XP will give four options: Yes, Yes to All, No and Cancel. Sometimes though, you want a No to All — to enable this, just hold down SHIFT while clicking No.
Where's the "No to All"?