Create Desktop icon to lock the computer
Tool: Create Shortcut Wizard
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 "Rundll32.exe User32.dll,LockWorkStation" (without quotes). Note there is no space between the comma and LockWorkStation, which is also one word. Click Next.
4. Call the shortcut something like "Lock PC" (without quotes) and click Finish.
5. To add the finishing touch, right click on the new icon, select Properties, click the Change Icon button and select an appropriate icon.
Now whenever you click this icon your PC will instantly be locked, and can only be accessed by the user entering a correct password in the Login box. Note you can also lock the computer at any time by press WINDOWS + L. Also note that if you have an account with no password, locking the desktop is a little pointless as anyone can login by just leaving the password field blank and clicking OK to log back in.
Save desktop icon positions
Tool: Two files from the MS Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit (26KB). Download them from here.
This is one of my favorite tweaks because I'm a real neatness freak about my desktop icons. Basically this tweak allows you to save the positions of your desktop icons, so you can restore the icons to their saved positions at any time in the future. To give you this added functionality in XP, do the following:
1. Download the file Layout.zip from the link under Tools above, and extract the contents to an empty directory.
2. Copy Layout.dll to the \Windows\System32 directory on the hard drive which contains Windows XP.
3. Double click on the Layout.reg file to automatically make the appropriate changes to your registry.
4. Now go to your desktop and arrange the icons as you'd like them to be saved.
5. Once done, right click on the Recycle Bin and select 'Save Desktop Icon Layout'. The positions of all the icons are now saved. You can move the icons around freely, however whenever you want them restored to their original saved positions, right click on Recycle Bin again and select 'Restore Desktop Icon Layout'. Bingo!
This is particularly handy if you're installing new graphics card drivers for example and your desktop icons get messed up, or you change resolutions and they get bumped around, or if you accidentally move an icon while trying to double click on it.
Change desktop icon size
Shell Icon Size=32 The value of this entry determines the size in pixels both for the height and width of desktop icons. The smaller the value, the smaller the desktop icon. Default value is 32, which is a 32 x 32 pixel icon. Create the entry as a new String if it doesn't exist, and reboot Windows (or use the Explorer trick under Before We Begin) to implement the new icon size.
Set spacing between desktop icons
Tool: Display Properties
To adjust the spaces between your desktop icons, you can manually move them. However if you've chosen automatic spacings (Right click on desktop and select Arrange Icons by>Auto Arrange) then you can adjust the vertical and horizontal spaces placed between each icon by right clicking on the desktop and choosing Properties to bring up the Display Properties box. Next select the Appearance tab, then the Advanced button. Under items select Icon Spacing (Horizontal) and Icon Spacing (Vertical) and edit the values to determine how many pixels are placed between the icons. The defaults are 43 pixels between icons. Smaller values squeeze them together, higher values spread them apart.
Remove 'Shortcut to...' from new shortcuts
Link=00 00 00 00 If this entry doesn't exist, create it as a new Binary value, and set it equal to 00 00 00 00 to remove the 'Shortcut to...' prefix in front of new shortcuts. Reboot Windows (or use the Explorer trick under Before We Begin) to implement the change.
Create a custom popup menu on the taskbar
Tool: Explorer, Taskbar
To put your favorite shortcuts all under one easy-to-access popup menu on the taskbar, do the following:
1. Open Explorer and create a new folder wherever you like.
2. Put shortcuts to all your favorite programs/pictures/documents/songs in this folder.
3. Right-click on an empty area of your Taskbar, and choose Toolbars>New Toolbar.
4. In the New Toolbar dialog box, browse to where you created your new folder with all the shortcuts, highlight the folder and click OK.
You will now have a new item on your Taskbar with the name of the folder you created earlier. Click on the double arrows just above its name and you'll get a popup menu of all the programs you can now quickly access. If you want to remove this folder from the Taskbar, right click on an empty area of the Taskbar and select Toolbars, and untick the folder's name from the list.
Windows XP Themes
Tool: Display Properties, Various Utilities and Guides.
One of the biggest benefits of Windows XP over other Windows versions is that you can customize the Graphical User Interface (GUI) or "skin" as much as you want. By default XP comes with 2 main skins or "Visual Styles" as Microsoft calls them - Windows Classic Style and Windows XP Style. You can choose either of these by going to Control Panel>Display Properties>Appearance and selecting either under the Windows and Buttons section. Note that you must have Themes enabled. Do this by going to Control Panel>System>Advanced, click the Settings button under Performance and on the Visual Effects tab make sure there's a tick next to 'Use visual styles on windows and buttons'.
Microsoft has not made it easy to modify or install any styles beyond those it provides. You'll need special tools and some detailed information on how to download and install new themes, or to create your own. Rather than getting into those details here, I'll refer you to these websites which cover just that and much more, including a huge range of pre-made themes you can download and install:
These are the best sites for Windows XP customization. For an excellent guide which takes you through the steps required to change your Windows Bootup screen, Login screen and GUI, try this recent WinXP Customizing Guide.
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