Operating System Tweaks – Windows 2000/XP

Posted August 2, 2004 12:00 pm by with 11 comments

Who doesn’t want a system that’s better, stronger and faster without having to shell out six million dollars? These Windows 2000 and XP Operating System tweaks will make your system feel like the Six Million Dollar Man without spending a dime. Optimizations take advantage of the dozens of options and features available in the Operating System. Although for a good many users, the default settings are fine, there is sometimes that extra “oomph” you’d like to squeeze out of your system. Before you start making alterations, make sure you are logged on as a Power User or Administrator to try out some of these tweaks. Included are primarily performance optimizations and general annoyance fixes for the two Operating Systems to help fine-tune your Windows experience. Some tweaks work on both Operating Systems; some only on one of them. Make sure that when there are conditions that need to be met for the tweak to work, that your system does in fact fulfill those conditions. Otherwise, who knows what may happen. That being the case, it’s prudent to backup your system settings before embarking on your tweaking adventure.

Prep the Engines

Before you begin, there are a few things that need to be addressed if you want to make the most of your system. First, get rid of spyware. It can be a major cause of bog downs. See the spyware section for more in-depth look at it and how to take care of it. The second thing is to get rid of any “maintenance suites”, such as Norton System Works and System Mechanic. These packages are chock full of utilities, that although may look pretty and go to act like a “swiss army knife” utility, but they really put a drain on system resources by including way more than what you really need. Uninstalling any “maintenance suites” you may have would drastically boost performance. In place of it, what could be your new suite could be composed of these programs:

Before progressing any further, the first thing that needs to be done is a registry backup. In the event that something goes wrong, you will have something to fall back on. Scrambling to find a fix to repair something that may have gone awry can be extremely difficult. To perform the backup, go to Start > Run and type regedit. Go to File > Export, and make sure under “Export Range” the “All” option is selected and that the file format is *.reg. Name the file and save it in a safe place.

Registry Editing

All it takes to restore the registry is going back into regedit and going to File > Import. Make sure this is done in safe mode, for there are some entries that will not be able to be restored in while in normal mode because some of the keys that may need to be restored will be open.

For both Operating Systems, the system Registry Editor, a.k.a. regedit, will be accessed frequently, and you may be asked to create new keys or DWORD values. This is done by right clicking in the whitespace in the right hand panel. Select “New” and then the appropriate item as directed. To modify any existing values, simply double click on the appropriate icon.

Now, there are a few things with XP that should be done before proceeding. Go to Start > Control Panel. On the side pane, select “Switch to Classic View”. This will make things easier later on than having to fumble through XP’s Control Panel. The second thing you may want to do is stick the “My Computer” icon on the desktop. Go to Start and right click on “My Computer”. Select “Show on Desktop. This also works for “My Documents” and “My Network Places”, should you want them.

The other safety net to fall back on in XP is System Restore. Before you start any changes, it would be best if you set a restore point. Kick off by going to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore and select “Create Restore Point” and hit “Next”. Name the restore point and hit “Create”.

To go back to the restore point you created, open up System Restore again, select “Restore my system to an earlier time” and hit “Next”. Go to the date on the calendar that you created the restore point. Make sure you close any programs you have open. Proceed to follow through with all the “Next” buttons that appear. Note that with some Windows updates, there have been changes made to core Operating System components that make restoring impossible. The best way to work around this is to create a restore point just after you install a set Windows updates.

The final safety net that you may want to consider using is a feature that has been available since Windows 9x systems: hardware profiles. What this feature does is allow Operating Systems to have multiple separate hardware configurations, which is normally useful on laptops that dock at different locations.

If you have not used this feature before, the only profile that should be on the list is “profile 1 (current)”. That is the profile and contains the current settings of the Windows session you are working in. Select the profile and click “Copy” to duplicate it. Name the new profile. Next, highlight the new profile, click “Properties” and check the “Always include the profile as an option” box. Once you’re done, reboot. Upon startup, you will be prompted to select a hardware profile. Select the one you have just created. The changes made in this profile will only take place in this profile. If you run into trouble, you can always start back up with the default profile, recopy it and delete the one that was botched.

At this point, you should be all set to begin tweaking your system to your heart’s content.

Spyware

Spyware is something that has been becoming increasingly common on systems. It has become a more common problem than virus infections. Spyware infests your system, compromises privacy and security, and goes on to bog down system performance and Internet bandwidth. These malicious programs get lodged in your system and run in the background taking up valuable system resources and can render the speediest 3.2GHz system helpless, making it act like an old 266MHz machine on a good day.

The first thing to do on a system before any actual performance tweaks is to run spyware scans. Scanning with both Lavasoft’s Adaware and Spybot Search and Destroy. What one doesn’t catch, the other does. Using both programs can make the system squeaky clean once again. If you run across any problems in trying to remove certain pieces of spyware, try running both programs from within safe mode.

So, what exactly is it? “Spyware” is a fairly loose term to describe any software installed on your system that sends information from your computer to another destination on the Internet without your knowledge or explicit consent. Information sent could be data collected on browsing habits, such as URLs, IP addresses and cookies. Any data on the hard drive also could be sent. Key loggers and system recorders can also go as far as to record anything you type or do on your computer, thus collecting keystrokes, passwords, and other possibly sensitive information. Spyware seriously compromises system security and your privacy. Most of the time, spyware is installed using tricky methods to gain your consent. It is sometimes bundled with other software packages, such as KaZaa Media Desktop or the first version of RealOne Player (following versions have been cleaned up somewhat). Other sly methods include clicking on ads, or agreeing to install some obscure plug-in when visiting web sites. Basically, spyware is software that is not helpful to you, the user, in any way. Adware, browser hijackers, malware, and scumware/thiefware all loosely fit under the spyware category, however there is a difference between all of these and ad-supported software.

Ad-supported software merely displays ads to help pay for the freeware/shareware product. Opera and Eudora are two examples of ad-supported software. Ad-supported software crosses the line when it starts to collect data on user habits, which may or may not help the company, but it surely does not help you in the moments it is using system resources to send information. Browser hijackers are the next level in spyware annoyances, for they take over your browser and display advertisements often not suitable for all ages. Malware is anything that acts destructively toward your system, such as a trojan, worm or virus. Scumware/theifware is more or less actual theft where sneaky pieces of software try to underhandedly divert advertising revenue from other websites to themselves, usually with “contextual advertising”. This however, is not as common as the other forms of spyware.

Is spam spyware? No, however it is still a problem and a big annoyance. Spam mainly sends advertisements, but can also be carriers for spyware and malware if it happens to have an attachment and/or is an HTML message. All this sounds scary, no? Now for the million-dollar question, do you have to meekly submit and accept all of this junk? No. The spyware removal tools mentioned earlier do an excellent job. Software firewalls, such as Kerio Personal Firewall and Sygate Personal Firewall help to block spyware traffic from entering/exiting your system. Last but not least, good AntiVirus software, such as Grisoft’s AVG. Upon the completion of these scans, you may want to make a clean registry backup and system restore point. Now that a large portion and the most common problem of performance hogging has been taken care of, on to some of the Windows tweaks themselves!

Tweaking Software

Microsoft recently released a small tweaking package for Windows 2000, 2003 Server, and XP called “Tweak UI”. Basically, it allows the user to configure various interface settings without having to spend time digging through the registry. It can be downloaded here for XP, and here for 2000. There are a few tweaks included in this article that can now be adjusted via this tweak tool, so in addition to instructions for the tweak using the registry, instructions on how the tweak can be applied using the Tweak UI tool will also be noted.

Some of the more complex tweaks that do not involve the UI (User Interface) have downloadable *.reg files included with the instructions so that you can apply the tweaks directly to your registry without having to actually delve into fray and make the necessary adjustments by hand. All you have to do is download them, run them, and click “Yes” when prompted.

Space Saving Tweaks

These tweaks will go to save space on your hard drive.

Recycle Bin

By default, the recycle bin uses 10% of each drive/partition for a pit stop for deleted data before it gets permanently deleted.

To adjust the amount of space the recycle bin uses, right click on the “Recycle Bin” and click “Properties”. On the “Global” tab, set the slider to about 5%. This value will be applied to all drives/partitions. If you wish to configure the drives/partitions independently, check the “Configure drives independently” box, and proceed to go to each drive tab to adjust each slider.

Once finished, hit apply and OK. If you find that files are too large to go to the recycle bin, you will be prompted to either permanently delete, or cancel. If you don’t want to permanently delete the file yet, hit cancel and just increase the size of the appropriate recycle bin.

System Restore

Taking a look at system restore earlier in the article leads to this space saving tweak. By default, XP’s System Restore takes up 12% of your hard drive space. 12% of an 80GB hard drive is 9.6GB, and that’s 9.6GB you cannot use for data storage. How can this be adjusted? Start out by right clicking “My Computer” and “Properties”.

Select the “System Restore” tab. The window in that panel contains all your hard drives and/or partitions.

It is not necessary to have System Restore “Monitoring” every drive/partition. It only needs to be monitoring the drive/partition with the Operating System. You can proceed to turn it off on drives/partitions by hitting “Settings” and checking “Turn off System Restore on this drive.”

On the drive/partition that wish to keep System Restore working, hit “Settings” and drag the slider bar down to 2-4%. This is small enough as to not take up much space, yet large enough to provide a few restore points.

Turn Off Hibernation

Hibernation is a feature that allows your system to shut down quickly and save everything that’s open in the RAM to be stored on the hard drive until the computer is powered on again. XP and 2000 use a file called hiberfil.sys to save everything it needs when they go go into hibernation. If you never use the hibernate function, you can turn it off. When this feature is disabled, the hiberfil.sys file is deleted. This can free up the as much disk space as the amount of ram that you computer has. For example, if you have 1GB of RAM, you could be freeing up to 1GB of hard drive space.

In XP, go to Control Panel > Power Options > Hibernation and uncheck “Enable hibernation”. In 2000, go to Control Panel > Power Options > “Hibernate” tab and uncheck “Enable hibernate support”

If you should want to re-enable hibernation, go back in and check “Enable hibernation” in XP or “Enable hibernate support in 2000.

General Performance Tweaks

The tweaks listed here help improve overall system performance and increase your system’s operating efficiency. Proceed with caution when turning off services in some of the following tweaks. It’s best to turn just one off, let the machine run for a few hours or days to ensure everything is operating properly, then proceed to turn off another one. When turning off services, there are two options: manual and disabled. “Manual” leaves the service off until called upon, while “disabled” disables the service so it does not come on at all. To access this selection, right click on a service and click “Properties”.

All the services normally get loaded upon startup and often control vital system functions, such as memory management, file management and hardware devices.

Sometimes these services are not necessary and can be turned off, thus freeing up some system resources that could be put to better use doing something else. As for general tips to start you off, if you’ve taken care of spyware (if you haven’t, it’s highly suggest you do), programs set to load at start up can inhibit performance. You can check to see what’s loading down in the system tray. Use XP’s msconfig, and this msconfig tool for 2000 to take care of programs loading in the system tray. Be careful what you turn on and off, though. You may inadvertently turn off a program that you may actually need loaded at startup. With that mentioned, on to the rest of the performance tweaks.

Disable Administrative Alerts

Few people use or have even heard of this feature. What it does is use Windows Messenger to send messages between computers pertaining to administrative notifications and alerts. If you already have Windows Messenger disabled, it makes so sense to have this service enabled, for it won’t work without Messenger anyway. To disable this service, go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Double click “Alerter” and on the “General” tab, set the startup type to “Disabled”. Do the same to the “Messenger” service. “Messenger” is not the Windows Messenger service.

Also, to make sure it never runs at startup, open up regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Policies/Microsoft/Messenger/Client and change the dword values “PreventRun” and “PreventAutoRun” to 1 (if they do not appear, simply create them). You can also use this downloadable registry file to apply this tweak.

Disable Indexing Service & Use a Better Substitute

In order to search through a hard drive faster, XP keeps a record of all files on the hard drive. It sounds useful, but if you use Windows’ search tool infrequently, the indexing service just constantly runs in the background without being taken advantage of and used. Indexing can slow down actions as simple as opening or closing files. To disable this service, go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Double click “Indexing Services” and set the startup type to “Disabled”. If you want to search, there is a freeware program called Locate that can index 400GB of data in under 2 minutes and can perform instant searches. File > Update Databases re-indexes all your drives, in case you miss where the indexing option is located. You should only re-index before a search. This way, system resources are used only when you actually need to perform a search.

In addition, you can use Task Scheduler (a.k.a. Scheduled Tasks) to run the shortcut named “Updtdb32″ in place of using the “Update Database” option manually within the program. For example, have the task run daily at a time you are not usually at your computer, such as early in the morning. So, all the files that had been added, moved and changed from the previous day can be indexed. If you have this re-indexing task done daily, it only takes a few seconds each time it is done. You can get to the task scheduler by going to Start > Run. Type %systemroot%\Tasks, and hit enter. Double click on “Add Scheduled Task” and the wizard will help take you through the process of setting up a scheduled task. Make sure you hit “Browse” when asked for what application you want to be run. Navigate to the folder where you have the “Updtdb32″ shortcut. Other than that, creating the scheduled task should be fairly self-explanatory, thanks to the wizard.

Disable “Last Access Date” Timestamp

Every time a folder on an NTFS drive is accessed, the timestamp of the date of access is updated on that directory and all its subdirectories. On systems with a lot of subdirectories, this can bog down the system considerably by adding this to whatever else machine happens to be doing.

To disable this feature, open up regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/FileSystem. Create/modify the DWORD value “NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate” and set the value to 1. You can also use this downloadable registry file to apply this tweak.

Disable Performance Counters Running in Background

There is a performance monitor located in XP in Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Performance that does not usually see the light of day with most users. What it does is track a number of different areas regarding your system’s performance, such as CPU activity and hard drive access. It runs constantly in the background using up system resources without most people even using it. If you have no use for this and wish to reclaim some system resources, there is a tweak to turn it off.

First, you will need to download and install the Extensible Performance Counter List Utility. Go to C:Program FilesResource Kit and run the Exctrlst.exe utility.

Select each line in the “Extensible performance counters” window and clear the “performance counters enabled” button below. This must be done for each counter. When it’s finished, just exit the utility.

The next time you access the performance monitor, there will be no information available or shown.

Disable Remote Registry

This service allows your registry to be edited from a remote computer. It is most likely the case that this service is not needed, not to mention a possible security risk for people concerned about their system security.

To turn it off, go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” for XP’s “Remote Registry” or 2000’s “Remote Registry Service”.

Disable Windows Themes

If you do not plan on using XP’s fancy blue, olive green or silver themes and aren’t running any skinning utilities that rely on XP’s theme service, then turning it off altogether and running Windows Classic Style would free up a fairly significant amount of memory. To use Windows Classic Style, simply right click on the desktop and click “Properties. Go to the “Appearance” tab and change the “Windows and Buttons” drop down menu to “Windows Classic Style”. Hit Apply and OK.

To shut off the service entirely, go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Double click on “Themes”. On the “General” tab, set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” and click OK.

Keep Core Windows Operating Data in Main Memory

This tweak forces core kernel and essential driver files to stay in the RAM, rather than being shoved into virtual memory on the hard drive. In the conversion over to virtual memory, performance can drop significantly. This transfer over to virtual memory is designed to be put into effect when the system is getting low on physical RAM, however, this occurs periodically even when the system is not low on memory. In those cases, the transfer over to virtual RAM is often not necessary. Only proceed with applying this tweak if you have at least 256MB of RAM in your system.

Open regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/ControlSet001/Control/Session Manager/Memory Management. Double click on DWORD value “DisablePagingExecutive” and set the value to 1.

Open Folders in Separate Processes

This tweak helps avoid software crashes and lockups by keeping explorer processes separated from the program and O/S kernel processes. Note, however, that it may contribute to occasional lock ups or freezes in the explorer.exe process. This tweak is only for systems with 512MB or more. Open “My Computer” and go to Tools > Folder Options > View and check the box for “Launch folder windows in a separate process”. Reboot if prompted.

Prefetching

Prefetching is a process unique to XP, which stores temporary settings that help load frequently accessed files and applications faster. However, after a time, the folder gets clogged up and overloaded, much like the temp directory found in all Windows Operating Systems, and needs to be cleaned out every so often. Go to %systemroot%\Prefetch, delete everything in there and reboot. This should be done as often as you normally clean out your temp directories.

Prefetching Specific Applications

Window Media Player has an extra switch included into its shortcut to help load it faster using XP’s prefetch feature. You can try this out on some of your other applications by right clicking on the program’s shortcut and clicking “properties. Add /prefetch:1 to the end of the contents of the “Target” box.

If this switch causes loading errors in programs that you add this to, simply remove the /prefetch:1 switch from the shortcut entry.

Virtual Memory – Page File

Defragging and setting a rigid area for your Page File can sometimes drastically increase memory performance and your system’s ability to multi-task. Unfortunately, Disk Defragmenter doesn’t touch the Page File. There are two ways to defrag it.

One way to defrag the page file is to download and install PageDefrag Utility. The program’s window displays a list of files and how fragmented they have become. To defrag the page file, select “Defragment at next boot” and hit OK. The next time you restart, this program will defrag the listed files.

If you want to go the “tried and tested”, yet time consuming route without using any third-party applications, and have a separate hard drive/partition, this procedure will work every time. First, move the page file to the separate drive/partition. In XP, go to Control Panel > System > “Advanced” tab and under “Performance”, click “Settings”. Go to the “Advanced” tab and under “Virtual Memory”, click “Change”. In 2000, go to Control Panel > System > “Advanced” tab; click “Performance Options” and then “Change”. Select the drive letter that displays the Page File size. Select “No paging file” and hit “Set”. Next, select the separate hard drive/partition. Select “Custom Size” and set the Initial Size and the Maximum equal to 1.5 to 2 times greater than the total of system’s RAM. For example, if your system has 512MB of RAM, set the two values equal to 1024MB. Hit “Set” and OK after you’re done. Reboot when prompted.

Now, defrag the drive/partition your Operating System is on. It’s best if this is done in safe mode and overnight when the computer doesn’t need to be used.

After defragging is completed, go to into “Virtual Memory”, per the directions listed earlier, and select the drive letter that displays the Page File size. Select “No paging file” and hit “Set”. Now select the drive that originally had the paging file. Select “Custom Size” and set the Initial Size and the Maximum equal to what you chose to set them as when you moved it to the other hard drive/partition. Hit “Set” and OK after you’re done and reboot when prompted.

Graphics Tweaks

The following graphics tweaks help to improve graphics performance.

Disable VSYNC For Frame Rate & Benchmark Boost

If you are looking to boost your frame rate in 3D games or benchmark programs and not concerned about image quality loss, try disabling the VSYNC or “wait for vertical synchronization” setting. This setting is found in your video card’s direct 3D and OpenGL settings. When enabled, this setting basically forces the video card to conform and display frames according to the frame rate of the monitor. It has to wait until an entire image frame has been displayed before displaying the next frame. Many newer video cards may be able to render frames considerably faster than the forced cap VSYNIC puts on FPS production. Note, however, that although disabling this feature may not produce any visual quality difference in some games, in other games your card may render images horribly. Either way, if disabling VSYNC produces desirable results, there is no reason not to leave it that way.

On ATi cards:
In the “Advanced” display settings, go to the “3D” tab and check “use custom settings” for both direct3D and OpenGL. Click the “Custom” button to access the controls for both modes. Turn the “wait for vertical sync” slider all the way to the left.

On nVidia cards:
In the “Advanced” display settings, go to the tab that identifies your video card model. The VSYNC settings are located in “more direct3D settings” and “OpenGL settings”. Disable the appropriate one.

Visual Effects

Both Windows 2000 and XP have all sorts of fade and other fancy effects turned on as default. All right, so they look pretty, however, they can really bog down systems.

Under XP, in the Control Panel, go to System >“Advanced” tab and under “Performance”, click “Settings”. The two I suggest to uncheck here are “Fade or slide menus into view” and “Fade menu items after clicking”. You can turn off and on any effects you want in order to find a good balance between visual effects and performance Hit Apply and OK after you’re done.

In 2000, Right click on the desktop, click “Properties” and go to the “Effects” tab.

Boot & Shutdown Speed Tweaks

These tweaks address some of the larger causes of slow Windows boot up and shutdown times.

Disable the “nVidia Driver Helper” Service

This relatively new feature has been included with some of the more recent Detonator driver packages. What does it do? That’s where it gets hazy. There is no solid definition of what it is or what it does, and it is even left off of nVidia’s web site. The only thing that is definite about it is that can slow down boot and shutdown times considerably.

Here’s how to disable it. Go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Set the startup value of the “nVidia Driver Helper” service to “Manual” or “Disabled”.

Slow Boot Caused By Networking

If you are experiencing a long pause after getting to the desktop before you can really do anything, a network feature is probably the culprit.

In XP, go to Control Panel > Networking Connections. In 2000, go to Control Panel > Networking and Dial-up Connections. Right click on your Internet connection and click “Properties”. Uncheck “File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Network” and hit apply and OK. Windows 2000 machines will need to reboot before continuing. Go back into “Properties” and re-check the box, hit apply and OK and reboot if needed. Hopefully, you will notice a boost in speed after booting to your desktop.

Turn Off Terminal Services

If you are experiencing slow shutdowns, one tweak you can try is turning off Ternimal Services. If you do not use remote desktop, fast user switching, remote assistance or the terminal server, then proceed with this tweak.

Go to Start > Run and type services.msc /s. Find “Terminal Services” on the list and double click on it (If it’s not there, it isn’t installed). Change startup type to “disabled” or “manual” and click OK.

Networking Tweaks

These following tweaks will give you a speed boost over LAN and net connections without resorting to a change of ISPs.

Alleviate CPU Workload Taken Up By The NIC

If your network adapter has an onboard processor, enabling it alleviates some of the network processing workload from the system’s CPU. This option is disabled by default. Note that this tweak should not be attempted if you are on a dial-up connection. It only pertains to ethernet cards and may have adverse effects (and if there are any, it usually results speed loss) on the dial-up connection.

In regedit, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services/Tcpip/Parameters , and create/modify the DWORD value “DisableTaskOffload” to 0. 1 Disables the NIC processor.

Disable Internet Connection Sharing

If you don’t use Windows’ Internet Connection Sharing service, it can be turned off. This will have no effect on computers running on a LAN off of one Internet connection, as long as the feature has not been configured for use. It is most often the case that it is not used.

To turn it off, go to Start > Run and type services.msc. In XP, set the startup type to “Manual” or “Disabled” for “Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) / Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)”. For 2000, it is the “Internet Connection Sharing” service.

DNS Caching

When you surf the web, Windows stores recently visited addresses in a DNS cache. The cache is accessed before a request is sent out over the net when a web page address is requested. If the address is found in the DNS cache, it saves time by eliminating the need to request and IP address from a DNS server over the net.

There is a stack of IP addresses in the DNS cache that constantly gets bumped down as IP requests are made. Sort of like a waiting list. This tweak will increase the size of the DNS cache, thus greatly increasing the speed at which web pages are accessed, especially if you regularly check certain web pages.

You can either apply this tweak using a downloadable registry file, or apply it manually with the following instructions:

Open up regedit and go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services/Dnscache/Parametersand create/modify these DWORD values: “CacheHashTableBucketSize” set with the value of 1; “CacheHashTableSize” set with the value of 180; “MaxCacheEntryTtlLimit” set with the value of ff00; and “MaxSOACacheEntryTtlLimit” set with the value of 12d.

The second part of DNS caching involves the caching of unsuccessful results. Namely, a valid URL that is temporary offline or cannot be accessed for some reason. As long as that entry remains in the cache and even if the URL goes live again, because Windows refers to the DNS cache first, it will only see the unsuccessful connection and continue to refer to it until it is bumped from the cache. Sounds bad, but there is a way to avoid this with a registry fix that prevents unsuccessful DNS lookups from being cached.

Open regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services/Dnscache/Parameters. Create/modify the following DWORD values: “NegativeCacheTime” set with the value of 0; “NetFailureCacheTime” set with the value of 0; and “NegativeSOACacheTime” set with the value of 0. Close regedit and reboot.

Increase Max Number of Simultaneous Connections in IE

IE6 only offers two simultaneous server connections by default, although it may be fine for normal use with low traffic demands, traffic can get bogged down when connecting to web pages with a significant amount of graphical content. By increasing the number of possible server connections, your bandwidth can be used more efficiently and load complex web pages faster.

Start out by opening up regedit and going to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Internet Settings. Create/modify two DWORD values: “MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server” set with the value of 0000000a, and “MaxConnectionsPerServer” set with the value of 0000000a. Close regedit and reboot.

You can also use this downloadable registry file to apply this tweak.

Remove the QoS Bandwidth Reserve Setting

QoS, or “Quality of Service” is a provision in Windows XP’s networking connections that allows certain software that has been written to take advantage of QoS to reserve up to 20% of a connection’s bandwidth solely for that program’s use. So, whenever a program is running that has the ability to utilize the QoS provision, it will automatically delegate this 20% to its self and not allow anything else to use it in order to make sure it has priority. Yes, it will allow smooth sailing for this program over a net connection, but it can also hinder any other programs that require bandwidth. Remember, this 20% is reserved whether or not there is actually traffic going over the networking connection. Disabling this option will ensure that everything requesting bandwidth to be put in the “first come, first served” queue.

If you wish to disable QoS, go into Control Panel > Network Connections, right click on your active net connection and select “Properties”. Scroll through the scroll box to locate “QoS Packet Scheduler”. Uncheck the box and click “OK”. It will appear to freeze for a few moments, so be patient. Once the dialog windows closes, QoS will have been disabled. If you should want to enable QoS again, simply go back in and check the box.

Windows Sharing

It’s fairly common nowadays to have more than one computer in the house on LAN so they can each connect to the Internet. It’s also common to share and transfer files between the computers. When you try to access one computer from another, there is often a significant delay while trying to connect. This is because your computer will check the remote computer you are accessing for any scheduled tasks. The more there are on the remote PC, the longer it takes to connect.

To avoid this delay, go into regedit, and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Explorer/RemoteComputer/NameSpace. Delete the {D6277990-4C6A-8D87-00AA0060F5BF} key and reboot. The next time you try to access the shared files on a remote computer, you will probably notice your computer gets there faster.

User Settings & Security

The following tweaks address user accounts and data security.

Become a Power User

Working logged onto Windows as a power user, rather than an administrator, can be safer when it comes to system security. To change your current administrator account into a power user account, go to Start > Run and type lusrmgr.msc. Click on “Groups” and double click on “Administrators”. Make sure there is an administrative user other than your user name that you can use for full administrative privileges.

Select the user account that is going to be a power user and hit “Remove” and OK. Double click “Power Users” on the side panel, click “Add”, and type the account’s name that you just removed from the Administrators group. Click OK, and OK again.

Power users do not always have to log out in order to perform tasks that only an administrative user can. Hold down the shift key and right click on a program’s *.exe file or shortcut. Click “Run As” and select “Run the program as the following user” or “The following user”. Enter the username and password of an administrator user account and hit OK.

Encrypt Files & Folders in XP Pro

This security feature only works on XP Pro with an NTFS file system. What it does is allow only the user that encrypted the folders/files to access them. Right click on a file/folder, and click “Properties”. On the “General” tab, click “Advanced”. Check the “Encrypt contents and secure data” box and click OK. Specify whether or not to encrypt the subfolders (it is recommended that you do). To undo the encryption, just uncheck the Encrypt box.

Get 2000 Security with XP Home

Although XP Home lacks some security features, you don’t have to be totally left out to dry. You have the ability to use the same security features available in Windows 2000, and explained in this sections under Set Folder Permissions in 2000.

First, boot up in safe mode (just hit F8 before getting to the Windows loading screen). You may now follow the instructions in Set Folder Permissions in 2000. Just like with 2000, you can only do this with NTFS drives. Reboot back into normal mode when you have completed setting the permissions. This is the easy way.

There is a way to handle permissions while in normal mode, but it’s a little tricky to handle. Start out by going to Start > Run and type cmd. At the command prompt, type cacls (calc brings up the calculator; you don’t want that). This gives you the ability to add, remove or modify file permissions on files and folders through the command prompt without having to reboot into safe mode. Type cacls /? for help on different options and variables.

Hide a Drive

If you don’t want other users stumbling over a drive while browsing the computer through Explorer, this tweak may help out. Although this tweak will render the drive invisible in Windows Explorer, it will still be accessible through Windows’ search utility, as well as other third-party file managing applications. Microsoft Office applications will also be able to access the cloaked drive with no problem.

To cloak a drive, open up regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/Explorer. Create/modify the DWORD value “NoDrives” to match a corresponding drive letter you wish to hide. A: 1; B: 2; C: 4; D: 8; E: 16; F: 32; G: 64; H: 128; I: 256; J: 512; etc. To hide multiple drives, just add the values together and enter the sum as the value for the DWORD value “NoDrives”. To hide all the drives, just enter the value 67108863.

Hiding a XP Computer from Network Neighborhood

If you want to share files from a XP computer, yet want to remove it from showing up in the Network Neighborhood, Run net config server /hidden:yes

Increase Folder Cache

The default setting for WindowsXP is to cache the folder settings for 400 folders. If you notice that your folders keep losing their settings, you may want to increase this number if you have a good number of folders.

In regedit, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/ShellNoRoam and double click on BagMRU. Select “Decimal” and then change the number value to whatever size you want. 2000 seems to be a good place to start, for it should be more than enough for most users. For users with several multiple storage drives; that number should be increased by another thousand or two.

Make Folders Private in XP

You can make any folders private to all other users on the system by right clicking on the folder and going to the “Sharing” tab. Check the “Make this folder private” box and hit OK. Note that this only works on NTFS file systems.

Set Folder Permissions in 2000

There is a neat little feature in 2000, however only applicable on NTFS drives. On and partition/drive/folder, right click and click “Properties” and go to the “Security” tab.

The different users will be listed according to user groups. Administrators on top, Creator, Everyone, SYSTEM, Users, and customized groups are inserted according to closest user group. If you only want a specific user access to a certain folder, turn every body’s permissions off except for the user, administrator and SYSTEM. Depending on how much freedom you want to give the user, you can make the folder read-only by unchecking “Full Control”, “Modify, “Read & Execute” and “Write”. If the user wants to open something, they would have to copy and paste the file to an area where they had permission to open files a.k.a. “Read & Execute”.

So, here’s a rundown on what each entry does: “Full Control” grants total unrestricted access; “Modify” allows users to change files (i.e., edit and save Word documents); “Read & Execute” allows the user to run *.exe files and open files; “List Folder Contents” allows the user to view anything in that folder; “Read” allows the user to see files, but not open or modify them; “Write” allows users to save new files, but not change any existing ones. Note that any change made to a folder will also change all the subfolder permissions. Anything left unchecked in the main folder can be checked in the subfolders, but anything left checked in the main folder cannot be unchecked in the subfolders. Folder hierarchies need to be kept in mind when changing these permissions.

Overall, it’s fairly simple to work with. You just need to keep track of where you are within the file structure.

System Settings

These tweaks deal with various and miscellaneous system settings.

Disable Windows Messenger

To stop Windows Messenger from loading, there is a registry tweak you can try out. If you use MSN Messenger, it can be run without Windows Messenger. If you install MSN Messenger after applying this tweak, the tweak will be reset by the installation and it will need to be done again.

First, if you have it open, close MSN Messenger and make sure it is not open in the system tray. Open up regedit and to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Policies/Microsoft/Messenger/Client. Create/modify these to DWORD values: “PreventRun” set to the value of 1; and “PreventAutoRun” also set to the value of 1.

If you are experiencing a slow down opening OE as a result of the above tweak, try this:

Open regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Classes/CLSID. Find the key {FB7199AB-79BF-11d2-8D94-0000F875C541} and under it select the folder IniProcServer32. In the right panel of regedit double-click on the “(Default)” entry at the top and completely delete the value data it contains. Now do the same for the LocalServer32 folder as well.

Freeze Folder Settings

Every time a user logs off, any changed settings are saved. Window locations, window sizes, and taskbar adjustments are all saved at the exit of each windows session. This tweak allows you to set up everything the way you want it, and no matter how you fiddle with the settings, everything will return to the way you set it up upon the next login.

Start out by adjusting everything the way you want it. This will be the freeze point. Next, open up regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/Explorer. Create/modify the DWORD value “NoSaveSettings” and set the value equal to 1. You will have to log off and back on again before the settings take effect. After that, no matter what you do, after every new login, the folder and taskbar settings will be returned to the frozen state you set earlier. You can also use this downloadable registry file to apply this tweak.

Put Outlook in the System Tray

If you like to have Microsoft Outlook open all the time and have Office XP installed, you’re in luck. You can remove toolbar icon from the toolbar and send it to the system tray when Outlook is minimized.

First, close Outlook if you have it open. Next, open up regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/MicrosoftOffice10.0/Outlook/Preferences. Create/modify the DWORD value “MinToTray” and set the value equal to 1.

The next time you open Outlook, it will be seen in both the toolbar and the system tray. As soon as it is minimized, it will disappear from the toolbar and only be seen in the system tray. Just double click the icon to restore it.

Reassign Drive Letters

If you want to reassign your drive letters, go to Start > Run and type diskmgmt.msc. In the Disk Management window, all your drives will be listed down at the bottom half of the screen. Right click on a disk and click “Change Drive Letter and Path”. Click “Edit” or “Change” and select an unused letter from the drop down list. Click OK, answer the prompts that come up, and finally hit OK when you are done.

General Windows Annoyances
Have you come across an annoying problem in Windows that just bothers you so much you want to get rid of it? These tweaks tackle some of the more annoying problems with Windows and take care of them.

AIM Related Problems and Tweaks

This isn’t a Windows per say, but there are a few issue that has been complained about a number of times about AIM.

Buddy List Limited to 200 buddies
First, there is a 200-entry limit for the number of users you can have on your buddy list. There is a very simple registry tweak to increase the limitation number. Go to this key in the registry: HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/America Online/AOL Instant Messenger (TM)/CurrentVersion/Buddy. Double click the MaxBuddies DWORD value. C8 is the default which sets the limit to 200. Set this value reasonable amount.

Saving Away Messages
There are some people who only have the default away message and don’t really care much about it. There are other people that go nuts and have one or multiple sliding lists full of custom away messages. When it comes time to backup files and settings up for a reformat, this can be handy if fall in the second category of people.

Open up regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/America Online/AOL Instant Messenger (TM)/CurrentVersion/Users. Open up the key with your AIM username. Export the IamGoneList key. This is where all your away messages are stored. To restore them after AIM is installed, simply double click on the .reg file and restore the key.

Cut, Copy & Paste Icons on the Toolbar

One of the consistent features between different Windows Operating Systems was the handy cut, copy and paste icons on the toolbar of Windows explorer during file & folder browsing. By default, these icons do not appear.

Double click on “My Computer”, right click up on the toolbar and click “Customize”. A “Customize Toolbar” window should appear and just add/remove icons as you see fit.

Delay When Opening “My Computer”

It is a sure thing that you have sat in front of your monitor more than a few times and waited for “My Computer” to load. There is a simple fix to eliminate the wait time.

Open up “My Computer”, go to Tools > Folder Options and select the “View” tab. Uncheck “Automatically search for network folders and printers” and hit OK. Now try opening up “My Computer”. Notice a difference?

Driver Signing

It’s a pain to be prompted by Windows warning you about “unsigned drivers” whenever you need to install third party drivers for hardware. No, there’s nothing wrong with installing “unsigned drivers”. They merely lack Microsoft’s stamp of approval. The only thing the prompts are good at is slowing down a driver installation. Here’s the simple fix that gets rid of those annoying prompts.

Right click “My Computer” and click “Properties”. Go to the “Hardware” tab and click on “Driver Signing”. Select “Ignore” for the action. You will never be bothered by those pesky prompts again.

Error Reporting

On the occasion that a program, or even the entire Operating System experiences a crash, you are greeted with a prompt to send an error report back to Microsoft. I don’t know about everybody else, but most of the time when I get this, it isn’t usually the Operating System’s fault and I would never bother to send a report.

To turn off this prompting, go to Control Panel > System >“Advanced” tab and click “Error Reporting”. Select “Disable Error Reporting”, but leave “But notify me when a critical error occurs” checked, for it’s sometimes a good idea to see it and it sometimes give a clue as to what happened.

IE’s Image Auto-Resize

Whenever IE6 comes across an odd sized image or an image that is larger than the viewable screen, it resizes the image to fit. Many people would much rather view images at their true size, so here’s how to avoid it. In IE, go to Tools > Internet Options and select the “Advanced” tab. Scroll down to the “Multimedia Options” and uncheck “Enable Automatic Image Resizing”.

Logon Background

If you are one of those people who choose to disable the Windows XP Welcome screen (or are simply running Windows 2000) and want to replace the old boring background that appears with the login dialog, this tweak will do the trick. This sets the background for the login screen only, and is separate from the desktop background.

First, open up regedit and navigate to this registry key: HKEY_USERS/.DEFAULT/Control Panel/Desktop. On the right panel there should be a string value named “Wallpaper” (if not, simply create it). Double click on it and enter the full path to a bitmap (bmp) file that is going to be used for the background. For example: C:/Documents and Settings/Bob/My Documents/picture.bmp.

If you would like to tile the wallpaper, double click on the string value “TileWallpaper” and set the value to 1 (a value of 0 turns off tiling). If you would like to stretch the wallpaper, double-click the string value “WallpaperStyle” and set the value to 2 (the “TileWallpaper” value must be a 0 for this to work)

Finally, if you just wish to change the background color instead of setting a background image, go to: HKEY_USERS/.DEFAULT/Control Panel/Colors. Double click on the “Background” string value and change the values.

The values are in R G B; the default should be something similar to 0 78 152, meaning the Red component is 0; Green is 78; and Blue is 152.

Low Disk Space Balloon Warning

Some of you may have gotten this before if you have a hard drive nearing its capacity. XP will notify you via a balloon warning, notifying you of the situation and inviting you to clean up your disk. It can be very annoying. There are two remedies for the problem. The first is to go out a buy another hard drive. The second is this quick registry edit: Open up regedit and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/Explorer. Create a new DWORD value called “NoLowDiskSpaceChecks”, give it a value of 1, and reboot. You won’t be seeing that pesky balloon warning again.

“My [Insert Name Here]” Folder Keeps Reappearing

My eBook, My Music, My Picture, etc, etc, etc. No matter how many times you delete them, they just keep coming back. Here’s how to get rid of them for good.

Go to Start > Run and type regsvr32 /u mydocs.dll. Now go ahead and delete those pesky “My” folders.

Once you have finished, go to Start > Run and type regsvr32 mydocs.dll.

Right Click Context Menu Items

These tweaks go to address the annoyance of having a lengthy list of items on any right-click menu that get installed with various programs.

“Send To” List Items
To add/remove things in the right click > Send To menu, go to this directory: x:Documents and SettingsusernameSendTo. Feel free to add and remove shortcuts at your leisure within this folder.

“New” List Items
To get rid of things in the right click > New menu, open up regedit, and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/.ext and delete the sub-key Shellnew. .ext being the actual extension type you wish to remove (ie .psd, .rar, .bmp, etc.).

You can also do this from the run command prompt, but only with Windows XP. If you wanted to delete “Photoshop image”, enter this: reg delete HKCR/.psd/Shellnew, and hit “Y” when prompted if it’s the key you wish to delete.

Note that this run command will not work with Microsoft extensions. You will have to go into the registry and navigate to each sub key for the extension (ie, .xls, . ppt, .pub, etc), and delete the Shellnew keys that reside there. Make sure you pay attention for separate programs that use the same extension, such as Wordpad and Microsoft Word. There are separate entries under the .doc extension for each one.

Context Menu
If you right click on any file or folder, you can sometimes see a length list of “Add to…” items or other such junk that gets placed on the menu with the installation of certain programs.

Items that are located in the “Open with…” slide menu are located in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/*/OpenWithList in the registry. Deleting items off this list should only be done if an “Open with…” extension has been wrongly associated with a certain program. Once deleted, you will be free to re-associate it, or just leave it as is. This should not be confused with

Anything found below “Open With…” to the next separator is found in this key in the registry: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/*/shellex/ContextMenuHandlers. In the image example, “The Cleaner”, “WinRar”, “WinZip” and “Yahoo Email” are the items that can be removed. As a side note, the WinRar and WinZip menus can be useful if you start using them, so it may be suggested that those two entries be left.

Here are other locations for any global entries that only appear after right clicking on certain files or folders:
These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a folder:
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Directory/shell]
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Directory/shellex/ContextMenuHandlers]

These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a drive (hard drive, CD drive, etc):
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Drive/shell]
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Drive/shellex/ContextMenuHandlers]

These are for the items that appear when right clicking on a file. Note that extension specific menu entries are not located here.
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Folder/shell]
[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Folder/shellex/ContextMenuHandlers]

There are two ways to approach editing out context menu items. The first is if you don’t know what it is, leave it alone. The second is backup the registry entry, try removing the entry and if it doesn’t end up being a desirable result, restore the entry you backed up. The good thing about fooling around with these menu item tweaks is that they do not require a reboot to be applied.

Running Ancient Programs in XP

If you have programs that pre-date XP and do not run under XP, right click on the program’s shortcut and click “Properties”. Go to the “Compatibility” tab, and under “Compatibility Mode”, choose the appropriate Windows version. Note that it may be dangerous to use system utilities meant for older Operating Systems through the Compatibility Mode option, such as AntiVirus software, registry tweakers, or defragger utilities.

Running Ancient Programs in 2000

Just like XP, there is a way to enter compatibility mode with pre-2000 programs. Make sure you have SP2 or higher installed before trying this. Here’s a tweak to enable the compatibility tab:

Go to Start > Run and type regsvr32 %systemroot%\apppatch\slayerui.dll

Thaw Out From a System Freeze

On those occasions that the system experiences extreme lag and the mouse moves in seemingly slow motion when you try to tell it to do something it doesn’t like, there is an easy way to thaw your way out.

Press the famed three-finger salute (CTRL + ALT + DEL), and click “Task Manager”. In the “Processes” list, end the task named “explorer.exe”. Next, and without exiting the Task Manager, go to File > New Task and type %systemroot%\explorer.exe.

You should now be able to operate the system normally. Note that some programs that run in the system tray may have disappeared after this fix. You can either start them manually by clicking on their respective icons in the programs folder on the start menu, or simply go to Start > Log off. This, however, will close any programs you have open. Log back in, and everything should load up normally like it was a reboot.

Unused Desktop Icons Balloon Warning

To avoid getting the “There are unused icons on your desktop” balloon message prompting you to go thought a cleanup wizard, right click on the desktop and click “Properties”. Click on the “Desktop” tab, “Customize Desktop”, and the “General” tab in the new window. Uncheck “Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days”.

The Last Word

Are these all the tweaks that can be done to your system? In this article, yes. However, there are insurmountable numbers of tweaks and optimizations, both oddball and mainstream, that are available out on the web to try out. Note that not everything is legitimate, has complete or correct instructions, or will work correctly on your system. For these reasons, the backup procedures at the beginning of this article should all be performed to ensure that a quick restore feature will get your system back on its feet in no time. I won’t be responsible for any problems that may come up as the result of tweaking your system. Tweaking can sometimes be tricky, but can pay off in the end by producing a jump in performance, a removal of a plaguing annoyance, or simply a customized adjustment of the GUI (Graphical User Interface). The tweaks that have been presented here are some of the more common and/or useful tweaks that I have come across.

To keep your system uncluttered and running well, resist the urge to install every single obscure freeware/shareware programs you run across on the net. Some will install spyware along with the actual program. Scan for viruses, spyware and trojans on a regular basis and keep all of the definitions of these programs up to date. They’re no good if you are using obsolete definitions to detect newer and sneakier forms of malware. Clean out your temp files regularly, and if you are running XP, include the prefetch folder in your regular cleanup activities. Defragging regularly, uninstalling unused programs and keeping Windows current on the critical updates assist in keeping your system in tip-top shape. That said, good luck and happy tweaking!

11 responses to Operating System Tweaks – Windows 2000/XP

  1. Juan September 18th, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    I used your POWER User Tweak and do not like it. How do I go back to the original way?

        Reply

  2. Force Flow September 18th, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Do the same thing, except instead of “Power Users” replace that with “Users”.

    Note that this will resrict the user from doing certain things, such as installing software and the like.

        Reply

  3. Juan September 19th, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I can,t do the same. Before there was and Administrator and Other. Now there is only Administrator. And you mean that it will not be the same as before, now it will have those restrictions ( installing software and the likes)?

        Reply

  4. Force Flow September 19th, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Ok, perhaps I’m not understanding what it is you’re trying to undo. What did you tweak and what do you want to change?

        Reply

  5. Critter December 10th, 2007 at 5:33 am

    Force, it a great artical. Not your fault that n00bs cant follow very good instructions.

    Thanks for the tips :-)

        Reply

  6. Jeremy January 11th, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Great article! I’ve read many “tweaking guides”, but this is the most helpful I’ve seen. Thanks for a well thought out and time consuming article!

    If you are a beginner do not attempt these tweaks!

        Reply

  7. narc August 26th, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    kids, don’t try it at home if you not understood what was tweaking on services.msc

    for me this was more detail like jeremy said..

    get dummies for services.msc if can find one.

    cheer.. Force Flow.. have a good one.

        Reply

  8. bench69human September 12th, 2008 at 6:21 am

    force this is great article I use the networking tweaks now my laptop even faster…. I have a question how can I disable my other OS when I open my laptop….coz it show’s two OS….i must choose one everytime thankz more power

        Reply

    • Susan April 26th, 2009 at 7:55 am

      Right click on My Computer and bring up properties. Go to the Advanced tab and open Startup and Recovery. Select the OS you want to use on the drop down menu. Uncheck Display list of operating systems. Restart. That should do it.

          Reply

  9. ALECIA February 24th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    the site in my reply url.

        Reply

  10. Philip Walsh March 4th, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I use facebook but till I not get any message of this kind and if I will get any message of this kind I will ignore that.

        Reply

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