Why I Enjoy Tweaking XP

September 23rd, 2006

I am often asked why I spend so much time and effort tweaking Windows XP.  I feel that Microsoft did great with the operating system, it isn’t about that.  The main reason I got started is because a network admin told me that “Windows 2000 is for tweakers, XP is for everyone else.”  From that day forward, I have been very focused on the great things that can be tweaked in XP.  It has been a while since those words were spoken to me, and they don’t bother me anymore, now it is a challenge to find something else that can be modified to save time or to increase performance.  I have most of my favorite tweaks included in my copy of XP that I made using nLite (my origingal XP discs are put away for safe keeping).   That way, when it is time for a reload, my tweaks are already set up and all that is left is loading software and a little fine tuning. 

Windows XP: Enhancing My Computer

September 20th, 2006

Enhance My Computer

I rarely used XP’s My Computer for anything more than a mere entry point into my various drives. However, after using a few easy-to-do registry hacks, My Computer has become very useful and saves me time and mouse clicks. One such tweak will allow you to add any combination of the following to the My Computer window: Printers and Faxes, Administrative Tools, Scheduled Tasks, Network Connections, Recycle Bin, My Network Places (See Expand The Functionality Of My Computer). To give My Computer even more functionality, you can add many different applets to the context (right-click) menu. You can add any or all of the following (click the link to see how to add it):

Remember to back up your registry before making any changes.

While the Windows Places bar isn’t as customization-friendly as the Office My Places bar (see my recipe for how to modify it), it can be altered. 

1. Type GPEDIT.MSC in the Start, Run

2. Navigate to this location:

User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Explorer -> Common Open File Dialog

3. Double-click Items displayed in Places Bar and add your places.

Thumbs.db is a file which is created in a folder with Movies or Pictures so that you can view a piece of their content without actually opening them (you can’t see thumbnails unless you have the option to view system files turned on). Thumbs.db is there so that you don’t need to reload a thumbnail every time you browse that folder. Sad fact is, is Thumbs.db takes up about 2kb per file and if you edit a lot of stuff its annoying to keep seeing them popping up all over your computer. You can remove Thumbs.db quite easily by following the following steps:

  1. Go to “Run” in the startmenu.
     

  2. Type gpedit.msc.
     

  3. Click OK and the Group Policy will open.
     

  4. Go to User Configuration/Administrative Template/Windows Components/Windows Explorer.
     

  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the long list of stuff that now shows up in the menu on the right. Double-Click on Turn off caching of thumbnail pictures.
     

  6. Click on Enable then Apply, Ok. And now you no longer have this annoying problem.
    Alternatively or if you use XP Home you can make this change in Control Panel -> Folder Options -> View -> “Do not cache thumbnails
    NOTE:  Disabling thumbnail caching will considerably slow down opening folders in thumbnail view. So if you use thumbnail view a lot, think about it.