Disabling System Restore to Reclaim Disk Space

System Restore is a great Windows XP feature that allows you to restore your system to a previous configuration set in the event that a software installation, driver update, or system change renders it crippled or damaged. By default, the System restore feature will create what are known as restore points automatically when you make system changes (like installing a program) or manually as per your instructions. A portion of a given drive’s disk space is allocated to storing these restore points, and as it fills up, older restore points are discarded to make way for new ones.

As a general rule, disabling System Restore is not a good idea, especially for less experienced users who may need to rely on the extra “help” that System restore can provide should they run into a jam. However, on a systems with multiple drive partitions, System Restore can usually be safely disabled as a means to reclaim disk space. Disabling the feature on the main system drive (usually C:) is not recommended, though its size settings can be tweaked to better meet your needs.

To disable System restore on one or more drive partitions, follow these steps:

1. Click Start > Control Panel > System and click the System Restore tab.

2. In the list of available drives, click the drive for which you want to disable System Restore and click Settings.

3. Check the Turn off System Restore on this drive checkbox to disable System Restore for that drive and click OK.

Note that disabling System Restore for a drive will result in the loss of all that drive’s stored Restore Points.

Adding Multiple Desktop Support to Windows XP

If there never seems to be enough room on your Windows desktop, all is not lost. While Windows XP doesn’t include virtual desktop support natively (like Linux), it can be added by way of the Virtual Desktop Manager PowerToy available as a free add-on from Microsoft.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of virtual desktops, here’s the skinny. Right now you have one desktop, but with this tool installed, you gain access to a total of 4, which you can switch between as need be. This is especially helpful in cases where you want to have different programs open simultaneously, but don’t want to deal with minimizing and maximizing windows all the time. Instead, you could dedicate one virtual desktop to web browsing, another to your email program, and another to say, Microsoft Word.

While its no substitute for having multiple monitors, virtual desktops do increase your desktop “real estate” dramatically. Ask any Linux user – once you start using virtual desktops, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them!

Hiding Local and Network Drives on Windows XP

Its not unusual for network administrators to want (or need) a way to stop users from accessing certain local and network drives. While features like NTFS security permissions can be used to do the trick, sometimes it’s the simplest solutions that work the best – in this case, simply hiding the drives from the Windows Explorer interface.

One good example – users have a drive (say Z:) mapped to a directory on a server, but this drive is only used to access a client/server program’s data files. The client portion of the program needs access to the network drive, but the user’s themselves shouldn’t be browsing through its contents. In this case, it would be best if drive Z: were completely hidden from view.

The easist way to accomplish this, without the need for Registry edits, is to use the free TweakUI PowerToy from Microsoft. Once it’s installed, open the program from its Start menu shortcut, expand My Computer, and then click Drives. Simply uncheck any local or network drives that you want to hide from users, and then click OK to activate your new settings.

Disable Display of Last Logged on Username in Windows XP

If you share your Windows XP Professional system with many other users, you have no doubt experienced how pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del results in the name of the last user logged on to be displayed automatically in the username portion of the logon box. While this is great if you were the last one to log on, it can be frustrating if you weren’t. More often than not, users won’t even bother looking at the username portion of the box and just type their password, resulting in a failed logon.

To address this issue, you may want to consider disabling the automatic display of the last user’s name in the logon dialog box. This is accomplished via a Registry edit. To ensure that the user portion of the logon box remains unpopulated, follow these steps:

1. Click Start > Run. Type Regedit.exe in the Open text box and click OK.

2. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System

3. Right click in the right-hand side of the screen and select New > DWORD value. Name the value DontDisplayLastUserName.

4. Double-click DontDisplayLastUserName and set its value to 1. You can subsequently re-enable the setting by changing its value to 0 if need be. Close the Registry Editor and reboot to check your new logon settings.

Disabling Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) on Windows XP Professional Systems

Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) is a Windows feature that assigns a DHCP-enabled network connection an IP address in the range 169.254.x.y in cases where a DHCP server is not available to allocate a legitimate IP address. Designed as a stopgap measure in case the DHCP server is only temporarily off line, a system with an APIPA address will attempt to contact the DHCP server to obtain a valid address at regular intervals.

While APIPA has its uses, some administrators would rather it not exist at all. The good news is that disabling APIPA for a given network adapter is easy enough via a Registry edit. Just follow these steps for a Windows XP Professional system:

1. Click Start > Run. Type Regedit.exe and press OK.

2. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters\Interfaces\Adapters

3. Double click on the IPAutoconfigurationEnabled entry, and change its Value data to 0.

4. Close Regedit and restart.

Disabling Security Center Taskbar Alerts on Windows XP

Technically those red, yellow, and green Security Center “shield” icons that appear on the XP taskbar from time to time are there for a good reason – to keep you informed as to the security status of your firewall, anti-virus program, and automatic updates. However, there may be cases when you don’t want these icons to appear, such as on corporate networks where personal firewall programs are often disabled, or on systems that are updated manually rather than via automatic updates.

If you want to stop Security Center from displaying these status icons on XP’s taskbar, follow these steps:

1. Head to Control Panel and open Security Center.

2. On the left-hand menu, click Change the way Security Center alerts me.

3. In the Alert Settings window, uncheck any of the items for which you don’t want alert messages to appear and click OK.

Search for Text in Web Pages More Quickly with Firefox

There’s nothing worse than being directed to a web site and then having to spend minutes browsing through the page trying to find the information that you’re looking for. Rather than endlessly scrolling through the page and trying to scan text on the fly, why not let Firefox do the searching for you?

Like other popular browsers, Firefox includes a built-in “Find” feature. The search feature is hidden by default, but appears in the lower-left corner of your screen when you select the Edit > Find in This Page option or press the Ctrl+F shortcut. Type in a word and Firefox will jump to its first instance on the page, after which you can use the Next and Previous arrows to find additional instances.

The Find feature is great, but there’s an even easier way to use it by having it open on its own. Click Tools > Options, click the Advanced icon, and then select the General tab. Check the option marked Search for text when I start typing and click OK. Now, when you surf to a web page and begin typing, Firefox will begin looking for the text you type in immediately. To avoid conflicts, the feature only works when your “focus” isn’t already within a text box or other editable element.

15 Essential Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts

Want to save energy when using Mozilla Firefox? If so, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these helpful time-saving keyboard shortcuts. From quickly getting “Home” to switching between tabs with ease, there’s a little something for everyone on this list:

1. Alt+Home takes you back to your configured web home page.

2.  F5 refreshes the current page being viewed. If you want to ensure that the refreshed version isn’t pulled from cache, use Ctrl+F5 instead.

3. Ctrl+T opens a new blank tab.

4. To switch between open tabs, press Ctrl+(1 or 2 or 3 etc…), where the number pressed is the ordered number of the tab moving from left to right.

5. To switch to the next tab to the right, press Ctrl+Page Down. For the next tab to the left, press Ctrl+Page Up.

6. To move backwards through your surfing history, press the Backspace button.

7. To move forward, press Shift+Backspace.

8.  To increase the size of the text on the current page, press Ctrl+ + (in other words, hold down the Ctrl key and then press the + key). Press the + sign multiple times for larger text.
9. To decrease the size of the text on the current page, press Ctrl+ – (in other words, hold down the Ctrl key and then press the – key). Press the – sign multiple times for smaller text.

10. To navigate to the top of the current page, press the Home button.

11. To get to the bottom of the current page, press the End button.

12. To view a web page in Full-screen mode, press F11. Press F11 again to return to normal view.

13. To bookmark the current page, press Ctrl+D.

14. To clear all private data stored during your browsing session (including things like your surfing history) press Ctrl+Shift+Del.

15. To open the Firefox Downloads window, click Ctrl+J.

Disable the Desktop Cleanup Wizard in Windows XP

One of the more annoying “features” in Windows XP is the operating system’s insistence on periodically “helping” you by launching the Desktop Cleanup Wizard. While the idea isn’t bad in and of itself, most users will prefer cleaning up unused icons from their desktop manually, rather than having Windows decide what should stay and what should go.

For those who would rather not be troubled by the Desktop Cleanup Wizard, the tool can be disabled via a simple Registry edit. Follow these steps to stop the wizard from bothering you in the future:

1. Click Start > Run. Type Regedit.exe and click OK.

2. Browse to the following location: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\CleanupWiz.

3. Right-click in the right-hand pane and select New > DWORD Value. Name the value NoRun.

4. Double-click on the new NoRun entry and set the Value data to 1.

Close Regedit. The Desktop Cleanup Wizard will be disabled the next time you restart XP.

Backing Up Outlook Express Email Messages

Most Windows users understand the importance of backing up their personal data files – images, documents, spreadsheets, and so forth – on a regular basis. Assuming that you store all of your personal files within your My Documents folder hierarchy, this is a relatively simply affair – burn your entire My Documents folder to a CD or DVD and be on your way. What many users don’t realize, however, is that backing up My Documents doesn’t back up their Outlook Express email messages. Outlook Express doesn’t store messages within this folder.

While backing up your Outlook Express email isn’t terribly difficult, it’s not exactly intuitive either. First, you need to determine where the DBX files that Outlook Express uses to store messages are located, and this is slightly different for every user. The easiest way to find the folder location, however, is to open Outlook Express, select Tools > Options, and then click the Maintenance tab. If you click the Store Folder button on this tab a window will open the full (and long) location to the files you’re after.

The easiest way to get to this folder is to highlight the entire path to the files (for example, C:\Documents and Settings\dan\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{A91177D0-06A7-4337-AD66-17F9863C4F3E}\Microsoft\Outlook Express), right click and select Copy. Next, click Start > Run, and then paste the path into the Open text box and click OK. The folder containing all of your DBX files will open.

To back up your Outlook Express email, copy or burn all of these files to the medium (CD, DVD, etc) of your choice. Back up your email regularly, especially if you rely on it for business purposes.