Windows
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Please note:  Technology changes can occur faster than my website updates, so some of the tips on this page don't work as described. The various releases of Windows have changed the funtionality of some of them since they were written. I have Windows XP on my home PC (my preference; why did they discontinue this), Windows 7 at work, and Windows 10 on my laptop.

  Windows is the dominant operating system in use today, so I believe it is better to master Windows than be mastered by Windows. The purpose of this page is to help you reach that goal. If some things may appear outdated bear in mind I started this page back in the 90s. I have used Windows XP for years and have always been very comfortable with it, and have always used the Classic Start Menu so I can set up a fairly elaborate menu system to access the things I frequently use on my PCs (I have 3—a desktop at home, a desktop at work, and a laptop).

Classic Start Menu on Windows 7

  For years I had Windows XP on a couple of computers and heavily configured the top of the Start menu to create sub-menus with various things I want to do regularly. Then at work I was upgraded to Windows 7, which doesn't allow this. To keep my XP Start Menu setup I installed Classic Shell. Then, the IT police told me it wasn't approved software and it was deleted so I had to create it manually.

There are several ways to create the Classic Start Menu manually on Windows 7. First you need to create a folder emulating the menu setup you want (I call mine "Start").
  • Add entries to your Personal folder (my preference)
    Right-click Start >> select Properties >> click on Customize...
    Select Personal folder to display as menu and save changes.
    Click on Start >> right-click on Your Name >> select Open.
    After it opens as a folder copy the options from your newly created folder here (see below about renaming them to sort the way you want).

  • Create a popup menu on the task bar
    Windows 7 - Emulating classic start menu - use your new folder

  • Add new entries to the Start Menu
    Click Start >> right-click All Programs >> click Open All Users
    Put your new folder here and it will appear on the All Programs menu (if you put each item from the folder here directly it will be one less click to access them).
Sorting the new menu:
- Sort All Programs Menu By Name controls whether menu items are organized alphabetically or by the order of installation.
- I sort alphabetically and preface the options with numbers and spaces (alt-0160 multiple times to separate the number from the name).

List of features removed in Windows 7 - so far I'm not too impressed


Links
     Microsoft.com
Windows Family Home Page
Microsoft Download Center
     Microsoft Support
Microsoft Help and Support
Product Support Centers (FAQs)
Microsoft Knowledge Base Search
Description of Windows Files Located in the Root Folder
     Upgrades & fixes
PCWorld.com – Software Bugs
Versions.com – software update info: Windows/Linux/Mac
     Other links
Annoyances.org – Windows tips
Bob Cerelli's Windows Page
Windows Trouble Shooter
Drivers HeadQuarters
WinDrivers.com – many Windows device drivers
WUGNET - Windows Users Group Network
ComputerHope.com – free computer help
     Microsoft Windows History
Windows Registry Guide at WinGuides.com – formerly RegEdit.com
Microsoft DOS – a useful command reference
The real inventor of Windows
Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File – great advice here


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Windows Tips
  I've been using Windows regularly on PCs since Win 3.1 came out and I've configured them to my personal preferences. Here are some things you can do to make your Windows PC a personal computer. There should be a file in the Windows folder on your PC named Tips.txt that has a lot of useful information regarding Windows configurations. Some of this information may be listed in that file. Every visual element in Windows, including menu options, has a context-sensitive popup menu that displays when you click on it with the right mouse-button. Many of these settings are accessed in options on this menu.


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Customize the Start Menu Please note: This section was created when I had Windows XP and my not be relevant to future versions.
The Windows 7 tips for this are at the top of the page.
  Organize your Start Menu in a way that's meaningful for you. You can add items above Programs option than can be shortcuts or sub-menus (see below). I have a menu named Edit that has options for my various word-processing and editor programs on it. I have one named Internet that has options for Netscape, IE, FTP, and email. I have one named Explore that has separate options for starting Windows Explorer in the various folders I go to frequently (see below). Menus can also contain other sub-menus.

Add individual programs to the Start Menu

Drag and drop an icon onto the Start button using the mouse. This will add it as an option listed above the Programs option.

Add sub-menus to the Start Menu
  1. Click on the Start button with the right mouse-button and select the Explore option. This will start Windows Explorer in the Start Menu folder.
  2. In the Start Menu folder (the right panel of the Explorer window), click with the right mouse button to get the popup menu and click New » Folder.
  3. Double-click this 'New Folder' (name it whatever you want) to open it in the right Explorer panel and drag-and-drop any shortcut icons you'd like to locate there. Now if you click on the Start Button, you'll see your folder listed as a menu name in the area above the Programs menu option and there will be options for your new shortcut icons on it.
Change the order of items on the Start Menu

This applies to items on the Programs menu or sub-menus, and custom menu items appearing above the Programs menu option.
  • Click on the item you wish to move with the right mouse-button and drag it up or down to the location you want to insert it.
Add the contents of the Control Panel as options on the Start Menu

Create a new folder on the Start Menu (described above) and give it the following name spelled exactly including punctuation:

       Control Panel.{21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}

The best way to do this is to copy the above string to the clipboard (use the mouse + Ctrl-c method described on this page under Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts) and paste it (Ctrl-v) when you do the rename.

You can also do the same with the following folders:

  • My Computer.{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
  • Dial-Up Networking.{992CFFA0-F557-101A-88EC-00DD010CCC48}
  • Printers.{2227A280-3AEA-1069-A2DE-08002B30309D}
  • Network Neighborhood.{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}
  • Inbox.{00020D75-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}
  • Recycle Bin.{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
  • Desktop.{00021400-0000-0000-C000-000000000046}
  • Briefcase.{85BBD920-42A0-1069-A2E4-08002B30309D}
  • Fonts.{BD84B380-8CA2-1069-AB1D-08000948F534}

In Windows you get a little icon on the Quick Launch toolbar called Show Desktop, so adding these folders to your Start Menu won't necessarily provide more access to your desktop, but they do menuize these options.

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Windows Explorer tips
Start Windows Explorer in the drive or folder of your choice

There are command-line switches for Windows Explorer that enable it to be started in a specified way. On the popup menu for a shortcut to Windows Explorer, click Properties, select the Shortcut tab, and in the area labeled 'Target:' set Explorer using the following syntax:

    Explorer [/e][,/root,<object>][[,/select],<sub object>]

/n Do not open the selected directory. This is the default view.
/e Use Explorer view (scope and results pane view). The default is Open view (results in pane view only).
/root<object>    Specify the object in the "normal" name space that is used as the root (top level) of this Explorer/Folder (i.e., local path or UNC name). The default is the Desktop.
/select The parent folder opens and the specified object is selected.
<sub object> Specify the folder unless /select is used. The default is the root.

Parameters are separated by commas. Many combinations are allowed.

'EXPLORER.EXE /n, /e, /select, c:\'   will start Explorer with no drives or folders opened.

Open any file with the program of your choice
  1. Click once on the file with the left mouse button to highlight it.
  2. Hold down the Shift key and click on the file again with the right mouse button.
  3. On the popup menu, select Open With...
    (Open With has been added to the context menu in Windows 2000 and XP making steps 1 and 2 unnecessary)

The Open With dialog has an option for 'Always use this program to open this file type'.

Use the Send To option on the context menus

On popup menus for files in Explorer, there is a Send To option. Clicking on this option shows a menu of possible targets for the file. To add more destination options to the Send To menu, create shortcuts in the SendTo folder, which is located in the Windows folder. If you put Notepad in there you can send a text file to Notepad to open it. You can copy a file to diskette by sending it to 3-1/2 Floppy (A). You can send a file to a printer, or fax, or even to a particular folder.

Go directly to a command prompt from any folder in Explorer

When you are in Windows Explorer and you want to get to a command-prompt in a specific folder, first you must get to a DOS prompt, then you have to type a lot of 'CD' commands followed by directory names to navigate to the directory you want. By making a few entries in the Windows Registry, you can directly open any folder at the DOS level from a menu option. Here's how to add the option to the folder's context menu.

  1. Start Regedit to edit the Windows Registry.
  2. Open HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell.
  3. Add a Key with a name like CmdHere by clicking New » Key from the Edit menu.
  4. Double-click on (Default) in the right panel and specify Command Prompt from Here (or any text you want to see on the menu) for its value data.
  5. Under the CmdHere key add another Key named Command by clicking New » Key from the Edit menu.
  6. Double-click on (Default) in the right panel and specify c:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe /k cd %1 for its value data (use your path to cmd.exe).

Now when you want to get to DOS in a folder, just point to the folder icon with the mouse, click the right mouse-button, and select the Command Prompt from Here option from the popup menu.

You can also create a Windows shortcut to go directly to a command prompt in the folder of your choice.

  1. Create a shortcut to CMD.EXE.
  2. Edit the shortcut properties.
  3. For 'Start in:' put in the path to the folder.

Map network drives at startup

I map several network drives to Linux servers in my office using a batch file at boot time (run from MSCONFIG).
(My passwords do not expire on these servers.)

  @echo off
net use L: \\SERVER-NAME\www /user:USERNAME PASSWORD /persistent:yes
net use M: \\SERVER-NAME\www /user:USERNAME PASSWORD /persistent:yes
net use N: \\SERVER-NAME\www /user:USERNAME PASSWORD /persistent:yes
net use P: \\SERVER-NAME\www /user:USERNAME PASSWORD /persistent:yes
exit

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Some mouse and keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows – from Microsoft
Keyboard Shortcuts Instead of Mouse – for RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) sufferers

Copy and paste text from anywhere, including an Internet webpage
  1. While holding down the left mouse button, drag the mouse pointer across all the text you wish to copy, including multiple lines, then release the mouse button (to highlight a single word just double click it)
  2. Press Ctrl-c to copy the highlighted text to the clipboard (a temporary holding buffer).
  3. Position the mouse pointer where you wish to insert the text, and press Ctrl-v to paste the contents of the clipboard.
Rename a file or shortcut without using the menu
  1. Click once on the file to highlight it—then pause momentarily.
  2. Click on the file again and the name becomes input capable.
Rename has been added to the context menus in Windows 2000 and XP making these steps unnecessary.
Locate an item in a list with the keyboard

When you have a series of files or folders displayed, either in a list or as icons, type a letter and the first item beginning with that letter is selected and receives focus. This works in most Windows displays.

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Save placement of desktop icons without shutting down
  If you rearrange the icons on your desktop and you want to save the new layout without rebooting your computer, do the following:
  1. Single-click on the desktop with the left mouse-button.
  2. Press the F5 key.
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Control autostarting of programs during boot sequence
  Windows 9x will launch items during bootup in the following order:
  1. Items in config.sys and autoexec.bat

  2. Load= and Run= in system.ini and win.ini

  3. Run keys in the registry:
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServicesOnce
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce\Setup

  4. Items in the Startup folder
  Windows 98 comes with a program, MSCONFIG, that lets you control the startup items. To run it click on Start » Run... then type in 'msconfig'. The Startup tab allows you to enable or disable a startup item. When an item is disabled it remains on the list where you can re-enable it by checking it again. In the Registry, these disabled items are put into a corresponding key that is followed by a - (minus) sign. For instance, an item in the Run key is moved into the Run- key. This allows MSCONFIG to still show them on the list but with the check-box unchecked.

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Internet Explorer hacks
My favorite browser is Firefox, but as a web programmer I need to test things I develop in all browsers, so I will still have to use IE sometimes. There are several things about IE that I don't like and here are ways to fix some of them.



Put the Menu Bar above the Address Bar

  By default, there is no Menu Bar (File Edit View...) anymore in IE, which many of us have gotten used to using in browsers. To show it click on the Tools icon on the Command Toolbar and select Menu Bar (this puts a checkmark in front). Now the menu bar is visible, but it appears below the Address Bar. In previous versions of IE you could unlock the toolbars and drag them to place them where you wanted them, even combining them or components of them. In IE the Address Bar is not movable. But there is a way to put the Menu Bar above it by editing the Registry. (The usual disclaimer here: Please use caution when editing the Registry.)

  1. Start Regedit to edit the Windows Registry.
  2. Open HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Toolbar\WebBrowser.
  3. Add a DWORD named ITBar7Position by clicking New » DWORD Value from the Edit menu (or right-clicking in the right panel).
  4. Double-click the new ITBar7Position entry in the right panel and specify 1 for its value data.
The next time you start IE the Menu Bar will be at the top above the Address Bar. I also have my Links Toolbar moved to the right end of the Menu Bar. You can do this (the way you always could in IE) by unlocking the toolbars and dragging it there with the handle (the little vertical dotted separator at the left edge of the toolbar).
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Remove the Search Box

  I have always used the Google Toolbar for its convenience. IE lets you have Google as your search engine for its built-in Search Box, but the Google Toolbar has many features I like, one of my favorites being that it puts the search words on the toolbar so you can click on them to find them on the page you are viewing from your search results. So, I continue to use the Google Toolbar and not the IE Search Box. You can remove it using the Group Policy editor.

  1. Click on Start » Run and enter gpedit.msc.
  2. Under Computer Configuration (or User Configuration if you are sharing a PC) click on
        Administrative Templates
            Windows Components
                  Internet Explorer
  3. Double-click on Prevent the Internet Explorer search box from displaying
  4. Set to Enabled.
The next time you start IE the Search Box will be gone.
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Dock the toolbars

  As in all versions of IE it is possible to dock (combine) toolbars to free up space and enlarge the page-viewing area. Some of the toolbars don't need an entire bar to themselves, and most of them you can customize by removing unwanted icons to shorten them. I have 3 toolbars combined in one toolbar, the Menu Bar, the Google Toolbar, and the Links Toolbar. My Menu Bar has the default options, but I have removed all the icons from my Google Toolbar because I seldom use them (and they still are available on context menus), and I have removed the default options Microsoft puts on the Links Toolbar and added my own items (mostly folders, which create menus).

Here is how to combine toolbars.

  1. Right-click on a toolbar and if the Lock the Toolbars option has a checkmark (it is locked) click on it to unlock it.
  2. To move the toolbar where you want it drag it by the handle (the little vertical dotted separator at the left edge of the toolbar).
  3. After your toolbars are docked click on the Lock the Toolbars option again to lock them.
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Annoyances & fixes
Sometimes things do not work the way you want them to in Windows, either because Microsoft has chosen to do something in a way you don't like, or because you have encountered a bug that needs to be fixed. Here are what I would consider to be some of those situations.



Stop menus from following the mouse

  Microsoft thinks users would like the associated submenu to pop up whenever the mouse passes over a menu item. I find this annoying and would prefer to click on the item to see the submenu. Here's how to control this. (The usual disclaimer here: Please use caution when editing the Registry.)

  1. Start Regedit to edit the Windows Registry.
  2. Open HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\desktop.
  3. Add a String Value named MenuShowDelay by clicking New » String Value from the Edit menu.
  4. Double-click the new MenuShowDelay entry in the right panel and specify 65534 for its value data.
  5. Some Registry changes are dynamically applied, but this one requires a reboot.
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Start web browser from a link specified in email

  When you receive an email that contains an Internet address for a website, the URL should be highlighted and underlined, allowing you to click on it with the mouse to open up the site in your web browser. If this does not occur, there is a Windows setting that may need to be configured to fix this problem. Here is the Microsoft Knowledge Base article that explains what to do:

Internet Shortcuts in Outlook Express Do Not Start Web Browser

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Order of items in Open and Save dialog boxes not staying

  The order and type of display you select for folders in Windows Explorer also applies to the Open and Save dialog boxes. If you find you have to keep resorting this order with the Arrange icons option on the context menu when you do an Open or Save As..., there is a setting in Windows that needs to be reset.

  Here are a couple of Microsoft Knowledge Base articles on this:

Items in "Open" and "Save As" Dialog Boxes Sorted Incorrectly
Contents of the "Open" and "Save As" Dialog Boxes Sorted Incorrectly – registry edit

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Remove an ISP's name from the Internet Explorer title bar

  When you run Internet Explorer, do you see "Microsoft Internet Explorer provided by Some-Company-Name" on the title bar? Sometimes when you install software from a CD or even a download the distributer might make it look as if they had something to do with the development of the software by putting their name on it, when they actually had nothing to do with it. This can be easily removed with a Windows registry edit.

  1. Start Regedit to edit the Windows Registry.
  2. Open HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main.
    (The same value at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main doesn't seem to have any effect on my PC.)
  3. Double-click the Window Title entry in the right panel and edit the string.
    (You can actually put any words here you want to see displayed on your title bar!)
  4. Some Registry changes are dynamically applied, but this one requires a reboot.

This tip also applies to Outlook Express and other software.

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Control the restart dialog on Automatic Updates

  If you have Automatic Updates set on in Windows XP, after the updates have been downloaded and applied you must restart your computer for them to take affect. You may be in the middle of something that makes it a bad time to reboot so you click on Restart Later, but the restart dialog keeps popping up every few minutes. Here is how to turn this off.

The Annoying Automatic Updates Restart Dialog

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Windows error opening Internet shortcut or local HTML file - (Firefox only)

  If Firefox is your default browser and you click on a link in an email, or if you double-click on an html file on your PC, it may open the webpage in Firefox as intended but it can also produce this annoying message dialogue saying, "Windows cannot find <url or path to file>. Make sure you typed the name correctly, etc...". There is a setting in Folder Options that controls this.

MozillaZine knowledge-base answer

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Newsgroups
  I used to have all the Windows usenet groups listed here but they don't seem to function in browsers anymore, so I am just providing a link to Google Groups, where they are offered in a web format.

comp.os.ms-windows

   There are more newsgroups on my Programming page.