Top 15 registry tricks for Windows

The WinXP Registry stores the options and settings for all of your hardware, software, and Windows itself. Windows and programs automatically create most of these options, which receive the default settings. Unfortunately, default settings don’t always provide optimum results performance-wise. Plus, default settings might create a look you’re not satisfied with or render various program functions unusable.

Microsoft is aware that changes to the Registry are often a necessity, and its Registry Editor utility provides a simple way to do so. To open the Registry Editor, click Start, select Run, type regedit in the Open field
, and click OK.

Throughout this article, we’ll discuss several of today’s most popular Registry modifications. Some of these tweaks will be a blessing, while others may not be appropriate for your Windows environment; we’ll leave it up to you to determine which tweaks will work best for your computing needs.

Now for a few words of warning: Editing your Registry is a delicate process. The Registry Editor will do little or nothing to warn you if you’re making potential missteps, and moreover, it won’t even ask you to confirm or save changes to the Registry—it just does it. Changes to Registry keys(containers of other keys and associated values; in the Registry Editor, keys appear as folders in the left pane) and values (types of settings) can damage your Windows installation if you do them improperly, so it’s imperative that you back up your Registry or the entire Windows environment before proceeding with any of these tweaks. For more information about backing up the Registry, see “Protect Yourself” in this issue.

1. Enable automatic logon: Although many Registry modifications boost convenience, few save as much time and hassle as enabling an automatic logon, especially if you share your computer with other users. By storing your Windows password and other information in the Registry, anyone with physical access to your computer will also have access to your complete Windows environment, including files and folders, as well as any network resources. This could be handy in a home or small office environment, especially if you’re not always present to provide the password needed to grant access. It’s even useful if you’re the only user for several user accounts because entering a password each time you start your system or reboot can be a pain.

But be warned that this tweak will render your computer accessible to anyone around it, so it’s important that you realize the dangers involved before you move forward. Because this tweak will result in storing your password in plain text in the Registry, anyone with local or remote access to your registry will be able to discover your password without much effort.

With all that said, let’s go ahead and enable an automatic logon. Browse to the Winlogon folder using the following path in Registry Editor: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS
NT\CURRENTVERSION\WINLOGON. After you highlight the Winlogon folder in the left pane, double-click the DefaultUserName entry in the pane on the right, type your username in the Value Data field, and click OK. Double-click the DefaultPassword entry, type your password in the Value Data field, and click OK. (If there is no DefaultPassword entry, click Edit, New, and String Value. TypeDefaultPassword as the value name and press ENTER. Then follow our previous directions to enter your password.)

Next, double-click the AutoAdminLogon entry, type 1 in the Value Data field, and click OK. (If there is no AutoAdminLogon entry, follow the same steps we just described to create a new value.) Close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer.

Oops! By modifying the Registry, you can ban certain programs from appearing on the Most Recently Opened Programs List and revealing your computing habits.

2. Increase hard drive allotment for System Restore. System Restore can be a godsend if your system has become unstable. For example, if WinXP started crashing on a regular basis but you can’t find the problem, you can use System Restore to return your system to a previous stable state. The utility works by creating restore points, either automatically or manually. By default, you can grant as much as 12% of your hard drive space for these restore points. But using a Registry tweak, you can increase this “maximum” allotment, which should permit space for more restore points (which, in turn, is helpful if you tweak your system on a regular basis and count heavily on System Restore to cover your behind).

To implement the tweak, open the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL _MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS
NT\CURRENTVERSION\SYSTEM RESTORE. Double-click the DiskPercent value in the pane on the right, and you’ll notice that the default value is “c,” which indicates that Windows can reserve as much as 12% of your root drive (where WinXP is installed) for restore points. If you type d in the Value Data field instead, System Restore will allow as much as 13% of drive space for restore points. Following suit, changing the value to “e” will grant 14% and changing it to “f” will grant 15% (without the quotes, of course). If you need even more space, any two-letter combination of values using letters ranging from “a” to “f” will let you use as much as 100% of your hard drive for restore points. However, we don’t recommend that you use more than 25% of your hard drive for this purpose because doing so could interfere with space crucial Windows components need.

It’s important to remember that if you give System Restore the drive space, it will use it, so make sure you’re not sacrificing too much of your hard drive. But if you have a massive hard drive, a healthy stock of restore points could come in handy, especially if you’re tweaking your system on a regular basis. For more information about System Restore, see “Find, Install & Use Backup & Restore” and “Protect Yourself” in this issue.

3. Define the content of the Most Frequently Used Programs List. The Most Frequently Used Programs List in WinXP provides convenient access to programs you use on a regular basis. However, some programs seem to appear regularly on the list no matter how often you use them. This behavior reduces the effectiveness of the list because little-used programs are wasting space that should be reserved for your more popular programs. Luckily, you can modify the Registry to prevent programs from appearing on the list. This is also useful if you don’t want other users of the computer to see which programs you’ve been using.

First, open the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\APPLICATIONS. Within the Applications key, you’ll see other keys that represent programs (for example, Iexplore.exe represents Internet Explorer). Find the key(s) that represents the program(s) you want to banish from the Most Frequently Used Programs List. Within a particular program key, add a new string value called NoStartPage, and leave the data in the string as is. To do this, select the key and click Edit, New, and String Value. Type NoStartPage as the value name and press ENTER. Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer. That program will no longer appear in the Most Frequently Used Programs List.

4. Rename assigned Desktop icons. If you’re into modifying the look and feel of your WinXP environment, one of your first priorities should be changing the name of the system icons on your Desktop. Although the changed names might take a little while to get used to, especially if you’re a long-time Windows user, you’ll certainly appreciate the personal touch.

To change the icon names, open the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_CURRENT _USER\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS
\CURRENTVERSION\EXPLORER\ CLSID. Within the CLSID key, you’ll probably see the following five keys that represent your assigned Desktop icons:

•My Network Places—{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}

•My Computer—{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

•My Documents—{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}

•Recycle Bin—{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}

•Internet Explorer—{871C5380-42A0-1069-A2EA-08002B30309D}

To change an icon name, simply double-click its default value in the pane on the right, type a new name in the Value Data field, and click OK. Now right-click an empty spot on the Desktop and click Refresh to see the new name under the icon.

5. Automatic completion for Command Prompt. If you’re a regular user of WinXP’s Command Prompt for administration and other tasks, you know what a hassle the unintuitive interface can be. To make navigation simpler, Microsoft implemented automatic completion so that typing a few characters and using a key on your keyboard (TAB) will complete your file or folder identification for you. For example, typing cd \pro and pressing TAB switches to the Program Files folder. This function is only available on a session-by-session basis, unless you modify your Registry to activate it permanently.

To make automatic completion permanent for Command Prompt, open the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\COMMAND PROCESSOR. Double-click the CompletionChar value, make sure the Base option is set for Hexadecimal, type 9 in the Value Data field, and click OK. Follow the same procedure for the PathCompletionChar value, and close the Registry Editor.

6. Keep DLL files out of cache memory. Although DLL (dynamic-link library) files are crucial to system operation, it’s not necessary for WinXP to keep them close by in case they’re needed. Nonetheless, that’s precisely what WinXP will do at times, despite the fact that these DLL files consume cache memory that could be spared for more important data.

To change this behavior via the Registry, browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS
\CURRENTVERSION\EXPLORER. With the Explorer key highlighted, create another key (a subkey) by clicking Edit, New, and Key. Type AlwaysUnloadDLL to name the key, press ENTER, double-click its default value, type 1 in the Value Data field, and click OK. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer. WinXP should now empty DLL files from cache memory when it finishes using them.

7. Display comma separators in the System Monitor. The System Monitor is extremely useful, but it’s not extremely user-friendly. One reason is because it doesn’t provide comma separators, which means that counter values such as 1000000 are difficult to read. We’re here to change that. In the Registry Editor, browse to HKEY_CURRENT_ USER\SOFTWARE \MICROSOFT\SYSTEM MONITOR. (If you’re using WinXP Home Edition, you’ll need to add the SystemMonitor key first. With the Microsoft key highlighted, click Edit, New, and Key. Type SystemMonitor and press ENTER.)

Next, highlight the SystemMonitor key, and then click Edit, New, and DWORD Value. Type DisplayThousandsSeparator to name the value and press ENTER. Double-click the new value, type 1 in the Value Data field, and click OK. In order for the change to take effect, close the Registry Editor and restart the System Monitor.

8. Customize your Taskbar groupings. If you’re a WinXP power user, your Taskbar real estate is extremely precious. After all, your Taskbar is likely loaded with Quick Launch and System Tray icons for various programs. And because you’re a power user, your system is probably jammed with enough memory to let you multitask like crazy, letting you keep a flock of program windows open at once. Of course, all of this fills your Taskbar space with icons and buttons, but WinXP has a solution for that.

When you enable the Group Similar Taskbar Buttons option in the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box (right-click the Start button, select Properties, and choose the Taskbar tab), WinXP will combine buttons that represent the same open item or program. For example, if you have three open IE windows, you can click one button on the Taskbar and choose from any of the three windows. By default, WinXP groups items first that you opened first, but you can change the grouping behavior via the Registry.

Speeding up Windows XP’s shutdown process is as easy as modifying the AutoEndTasks, HungAppTimeout, and WaitToKillAppTimeout Registry values in your Registry Editor.

\ADVANCED. With the Advanced key highlighted, click Edit, New, and DWORD Value. Type TaskbarGroupSize to name the value and press ENTER. Double-click the new value to change its Value Data field. If the Value Data field is set to 0, then WinXP groups the buttons by age, with t he oldest group first. You can change the Value Data field to: 1 to group the buttons by size (largest group first); 2 to group programs or items when two or more instances are open; and 3 to group programs or items when three or more instances are opened. Change the Value Data field according to your preference and click OK. You’ll need to close the Registry Editor, log out of WinXP, and then log back on for the change to take effect.

9. Quicken your system’s shutdown speed. WinXP is the speediest of all Windows OSes (operating systems), but if you think its shutdown process isn’t fast enough, you can morph your shutdown from a turtle to a roadrunner. First, browse to HKEY_CUR RENT_USER\CONTROL PANEL\DESKTOP and double-click the AutoEndTasks value. The default character in the Value Data field is 0. Change it by typing 1 in the field and click OK. You can further reduce the amount of time WinXP takes to shut down both active and hung applications by double-clicking the HungAppTimeout value (also at HKEY_CUR RENT_USER\CONTROL PANEL\DESKTOP) and confirming that the Value Data field is set to 5000. Exit that Edit String dialog box, double-click the WaitToKillAppTimeout value, set its Value Data field to 4000, and click OK.

10. Resolve the “Search for files containing text” problem. The Search function has never been flawless in past Windows OSes, and WinXP is no different. For example, when you execute a search for text or files containing a certain word or phrase, WinXP won’t return results for certain file types. Using the Registry Editor, you can fix this problem by inserting a PersistentHandler value for each of the missing file types.

In the Registry Editor, go to HKEY_CLASS ES_ROOT and find the key that represents the file type you wish to modify. For example, if WinXP isn’t returning results on files ending the .WPD extension, expand the .WPD key branch and see if it contains a PersistentHandler key. If not, you’ll need to add one (if it does contain one, do not modify it).

With the .WPD key highlighted, click Edit, New, and Key. Type PersistentHandler and press ENTER to name the key. Next, with the new key highlighted, double-click the default value in the pane on the right, type {5e941d80-bf96-11cd-b579-08002b30bfeb} in the Value Data field, and click OK. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer.

11. Disable the CD autoplay function in WinXP Home Edition. Although the CD autoplay function has good intentions, it can be annoying if you’re accessing the CD for something other than what WinXP assumes you’re accessing. If you’re a user of WinXP Home Edition, you’ll need to modify your Registry to disable the feature.

Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYS TEM\CURRENTCONTROLSET\SERVICES\ CDROM. With the Cdrom key highlighted, double-click the AutoRun value from the pane on the right, and change the 1 listed in the Value Data field to 0. Click OK, close the Registry Editor, and reboot your computer.

12. Hide the Recycle Bin. For some of us, the Recycle Bin is the ultimate annoyance. After all, experienced computer users typically don’t delete files by accident and rarely need to peruse the contents of the Recycle Bin. If the Bin is simply consuming space on your Desktop, you can hide it (and deleted files will continue to transfer to the Recycle Bin if it’s still configured to accept deleted files).

Open the Registry Editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVER SION\EXPLORER\DESKTOP\NAMESPACE. Within the NameSpace key, you’ll find another subkey titled {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}; delete this subkey. Close the Registry Editor, return to your Desktop space, and press F5 to refresh the Desktop, which should now be missing the Recycle Bin.

If you need to view your Recycle Bin contents later, you’ll find them in the C:\RECYCLED folder. Of course, to see this folder, your system must be set to display hidden files and folders. Open the Tools menu, select Folder Options, choose the View tab, and below the Hidden Files And Folders heading, select the Show Hidden Files And Folders option. Click OK.

13. Fix damaged Outlook Express key. If you’re an Outlook 2002 or Outlook Express user, you’ve probably noticed the annoying bug that prevents your ISP (Internet service provider) password from being saved when retrieving email from a POP (Post Office Protocol) server, even though you’ve told Outlook Express to save it. A damaged Protected Storage System Provider Registry key causes this behavior. The good news is you can fix it.

In the Registry Editor, browse to HKEY_ CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\PROTECTED STORAGE SYSTEM PROVIDER. With the key highlighted, click Permissions from the Edit menu, and then click the Group Or User Name that represents the account you’re currently using. Make sure the Read and Full Control permissions have check marks in their Allow checkboxes. Next, click the Advanced button, choose the Permissions tab, and select the current user account. Make sure that account’s Permissions column lists Full Control and its Apply To column lists This Key And Subkeys.

At the bottom of the Permissions tab, select the checkbox next to Replace Permission Entries On All Child Objects With Entries Shown Here That Apply To Child Objects. Click Apply, click Yes, and then click OK twice.

Next, double-click the Protected Storage System Provider key, and then click the subkey directly below it; this subkey should look like a long string of letters and numbers, such as S-1-5-21-527237240-1078145449-725345543-1003. (If you see subkeys below the Protected Storage System Provider key, locate the subkey that represents the user account that’s experiencing the bug and delete it per the following instructions. If all user accounts are experiencing the bug, delete all of the subkeys.) With the subkey highlighted, click Delete from the Edit menu and click Yes to confirm the deletion. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your computer.

14. Enable IP forwarding. If you want to use your computer as a router, WinXP is an excellent choice for an OS. But to use WinXP in a router configuration, you must enable IP forwarding. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL _MACHINE\SYSTEM\CURRENTCON TROLSET\SERVICES\TCPIP\PARAMATERS. Next, double-click the IPEnableRouter value and change the character in the Value Data field to 1 to enable routing. Click OK, close the Registry Editor, and reboot your computer.

15. Tweak IRQ settings for certain components. Although the Plug-and-Play specification has long helped to ease problems with IRQ (interrupt request line) conflicts, you still might find that one of your computer’s components isn’t being utilized efficiently. By increasing the priority given to an IRQ number that represents a certain component (such as the System CMOS/Real-Time Clock), you can boost its performance. (CMOS, by the way, stands for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor.)

In the Device Manager (right-click My Computer, select Properties, choose the Hardware tab, and click the Device Manager button), find the component you feel needs a boost and double-click it. In its Properties dialog box, choose the Resources tab, and find its IRQ number. Write down the IRQ number, close the Device Manager, and open the Registry Editor.

Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYS TEM\CURRENTCONTROLSET\CONTROL \PRIORITYCONTROL. Highlight the PriorityControl key, open the Edit menu, and click New, DWORD Value. Type IRQx Priority (replace x with the IRQ number you wrote down) and press ENTER to name the value. Double-click the new value and type 1 in its Value Data field. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your PC.

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