This guide is broken down into sections based on the major areas of Windows XP. Unlike the first XP guide, this time I haven't put all the registry tweaks into a Registry section for example. Instead, if you want to tweak a particular area of Windows XP, such as Internet Explorer, you'll find all the tweaks for it (including relevant registry tweaks) in the Internet Explorer section.
For each tweak, the title should give a clear description of what it does, then the major tool used for applying the tweak is noted, and the tweak instructions are then provided (often step-by-step). Read through the entire tweak first before deciding to implement it, because if you just jump straight into it you might get halfway and realise you don't want to (or can't) go through with it, at which point it may be difficult to go back without using something like System Restore. Registry editing for example has no "Undo"...if you delete a registry entry the only way to get it back is by using the backup methods mentioned above.
Also keep in mind that I'm not recommending you run ALL the tweaks in this guide on your system. Just pick the ones you like and give them a try. I have tested all of these tweaks and they all work as described, but if they don't work for you, let me know.
There are several common WinXP tools which will be used repeatedly throughout this guide. To access them quickly, do the following:
Regedit - The Registry Editor can be accessed by going to Start>Run and typing "Regedit" without quotes.
Windows Explorer - Access it by pressing the Windows Key and E together; or by right-clicking the Start button and selecting Explore; or by going to Start>Run and typing "Explorer" without quotes.
Internet Explorer 6 - Access it via the desktop icon or Start Menu shortcut, or go to Start>Run and type "Iexplore" without quotes. Make sure you have the latest version which is Internet Explorer 6 with IE6 SP1 and all Critical Updates. You should update to the latest version using Windows Update.
Windows Update - Access it by using one of the many Windows Update icons spread throughout Windows, or by going into Internet Explorer>Tools>Windows Update, or by clicking on this link and adding it to your Favorites.
Task Manager - Access it by pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL.
Control Panel - Access it by clicking on Start and selecting Control Panel; or by going to Start>Run and typing "Control" without quotes.
MS DOS/Command Prompt - Access it by going to Start>Run and typing "Cmd" without quotes. To close the prompt box, type "Exit" without quotes and press Enter.
These tools are built into all versions of Windows XP. If you can't access them using the above methods then it's quite likely you have a bad install of WinXP. Run the System File Checker first (see System section), and if that fails reinstall XP (see Installation Issues section).
The following are a range of tweaks which relate to the Windows desktop, which is the area where your icons are displayed.
Remove text from desktop icons
Right click on the icon whose title you want to remove and select Rename. Instead of entering any characters in the text box, hold down the ALT key and type 255 (ALT + 2 + 5 + 5). Note you need to use the NUMPAD numbers for this to work (i.e. the numbers to the right of your arrow keys, not the ones at the top of the keyboard). When you release the ALT key the title will be blank, and you can press ENTER to accept this (blank titles are usually denied under Windows, but not this way). For every other icon for which you wish to remove the title, do the same as above, but for each subsequent icon you'll have to add a '255' to the end of the string you enter. That is, to blank a second icon name, you'll need to hold down ALT and type 255 then 255 again, then release ALT. For a third, you'll have to type ALT 255 255 255, and so on.
Remove the box around desktop icon titles
Tools: System Properties
If you followed my first XP Guide, you would have removed most fancy visual effects for maximum performance. However, if you've applied the 'Remove text from desktop icons' tweak above, and you still see a faint box where the text was (and you're fussy about things like that), you can remove that box by doing the following:
1. Go to Control Panel>System>Advanced and click the Settings button under Performance.
2. Put a tick against the Visual Effects tab and tick 'Use drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop'. Click OK.
3. Check your desktop. The boxes should be gone, regardless of whether you removed the text or not. If they're still there, right click on the desktop, look under Arrange Icons By and make sure there's no tick against 'Lock Web Items on Desktop'.
This effect is a virtually insignificant drain on performance, so re-enabling it won't do any major harm if you want a cleaner looking desktop, particularly if you've removed icon text labels. However hardcore performance nuts should leave it off as suggested in my first XP Guide.
Create desktop icons for Shutdown or Restart
Tool: Create Shortcut Wizard
Instead of clicking Start>Turn Off Computer and selecting Shutdown or Restart, you can create desktop icons which automatically shutdown or restart your PC with just a double-click. This tweak makes use of the Shutdown.exe command to create a new shortcut as follows:
1. Right click on an empty area on your desktop.
2. Select New>Shortcut.
3. In the first box of the Create Shortcut Wizard, type "Shutdown -s -t 00" (without quotes). Click Next.
4. Call the shortcut something like "Shutdown PC" (without quotes) and click Finish.
5. To add the finishing touch, right click on this new icon, select Properties, click the Change Icon button and select an appropriate icon.
Follow the same steps as for the Shutdown Icon, but substitute the following steps in place of the corresponding ones above:
3. In the first box of the Create Shortcut Wizard, type "Shutdown -r -t 00" (without quotes). Click Next.
4. Call the shortcut something like "Restart PC" without quotes and click Finish.
Note that double-clicking on these icons will shutdown or restart the PC straight away without any warning. If you want a countdown before a shutdown or restart, substitute a time in seconds in place of the '00' entries in the shortcut properties above (e.g. Shutdown -s -t 10 gives 10 seconds warning before shutting down). Also note that once the shutdown or restart process begins via an icon, it can't be aborted. If you want more command line switches which can be used with the shutdown command, open a command prompt and type "shutdown" (without quotes) to see the full list of switches.
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