Creating an Instant Windows FTP Server

As part of my consulting work, I regularly find myself in need of a quick and efficient way to transfer files between different operating systems, like Windows and Linux. This is especially the case when I’m trying to deal with a Windows system that won’t boot and I need to recover data. When faced with this situation, I generally boot into Linux, mount the hard drive, and then transfer user data to my Windows desktop. Rather than deal with the hassles associated with SMB/SAMBA connections, I prefer to transfer the files via FTP.

While Windows XP Pro does sport an FTP server in the form of IIS, I find it overkill for my needs. In cases where I want an FTP server up and running instantly, I rely on a basic but effective (and very small) utility called FTPDMIN.

FTPDMIN is described by its author as an “ad-hoc” FTP server and the description fits the bill – it’s best suited to temporary connections only, not meant as a dedicated always-on server. After downloading the file to an appropriate location, you simply double-click to get the server up and running (or run it from a command line). It will then wait for a connection from FTP clients, allowing you to upload and download files as required. Client connections are handled anonymously, so all you need to supply in the username anonymous and an email address as your password to connect.

Available startup options allow you to control whether users can upload files, specify the server’s listening port, and more. As a slender 65K file, FTPDMIN in a tool that every admin should keep in their utility pouch.

Burning ISO Files to Disc

If you’re the type of person who often downloads large files online, you’ve probably come across files with an extension of .ISO. ISO files are probably the most popular optical disc file format, literally an “image” of a CD or DVD disc. When one user wants to exchange an entire CD with another, for example, one will create an ISO image file of the disc’s contents and then pass it along to the other who will need to burn that ISO image to a disc. Once the ISO file is burned to disc, it is literally an exact replica of the original.

One of the most common uses of ISO files in the public domain is as a means of distributing Linux distributions to users. For example, let’s say that you want to download and install Ubuntu Linux. The Ubuntu site provides the operating system as an ISO image. After downloading and burning the ISO to disc, it’s like having an original copy of the Ubuntu installation disc in hand. ISO files are also commonly used to distribute large files or images of discs via means like Torrents.

Unfortunately, Windows XP lacks built-in support for burning ISO files. All is not lost, however. Most of the CD burning utilities included with PCs – including limited versions – include support for burning ISO images to disc. In Nero Express, for example, the option is called Burn Image to Disc. When selected, you supply the location of the downloaded ISO file and then click the appropriate options to burn the disc. If your PC lacks a third-party CD writing utility, then I would suggest downloading CDBurnerXP Pro, a free program that includes a variety of advanced burning options for both CDs and DVDs, including the ability to both burn and create ISO files. You can find this handy tool at

Access the XP Administrator Account from the Welcome Screen

If you’re running Windows XP on a shared multi-user system at home, there’s a good chance that you’re also using XP’s Welcome screen as your primary logon enironment.  While the Welcome screen provides the “friendliest” logon environment for shared systems, it comes with a drawback – namely the fact that XP’s built-in Administrator account is missing as a logon option from this screen.

Thankfully all is not lost. If you need to log on with the built-in Administrator account (perhaps to change system settings or reset a password) you can access the Administrator account even though it’s not visible by default. To get to it (or any other account for that matter), try the following with no other users logged on:

At the Welcome screen, press Ctrl+Alt+Del. Without releasing the Ctrl+Alt keys, release the Del key and tap it again. This will display the traditional XP logon dialog box, from which you can then enter the Administrator username and password and log on with that account.

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.

Capturing and Saving On-Screen Error Messages in Windows

The next time that a Windows or program error message box appears on your screen that you want to save, don’t go rushing for a pen and paper. While writing down an error message is a reasonable way to ensure that you have some information at hand when searching for a solution to the problem, it’s far from efficient. A far better way to deal with the problem is to take a picture of your screen, and save that picture into a file for later reference.

Now don’t go running for your digital camera either – you don’t need it. All you need is Windows’ built-in ability to capture the contents of your screen, via the PrtScn button on your keyboard. To capture an error message and save it, follow these steps.

  1. When the error message appears, click the PrtScn button. This will copy a snapshot of your screen to the Windows clipboard.
  2. Open a program like Microsoft Word, WordPad, or even Paint and select Edit > Paste. A copy of your screen should now be visible on the screen. Save the file as you normally would and use it for future reference.

If you only want to capture the error message window itself (rather than the entire desktop), hold down the Alt key and then press PrtScn and then paste the window into your preferred program.

Renaming Groups of Files Quickly and Easily

Renaming large numbers of files can be a real pain. While there are many reasons why you may need (or want) to rename large groups of files, one of the most common is with digital photos. By default, your digital camera probably gives every picture you take an image file name like DSC1003.jpg, incrementing the ending number for each subsequent photo. Obviously, this isn’t terribly handy from an identification standpoint when you’re looking a particular picture from last year’s vacation.

Thankfully, Windows makes it easy to rename large groups of files in at once, avoiding the need to rename similar files individually. To do this, begin by selecting all of the files that you want to rename. If it’s all of the files in a particular folder, click Edit > Select All. If it’s only a select group of files you want to rename, highlight those files by pressing down the Ctrl or Shift key and then clicking on the files in question. Release the Ctrl or Shift key once all required files are selected.

Next, press the F2 button and give the first file a new name, for example vacation 2005. After pressing Enter, all of the selected files will be renamed according to this convention, bearing names like vacation 2005 (1), vacation 2005 (2), and so forth. While it’s not the most glamorous solution, it makes small work of bulk renaming files in a simple fashion on a Windows system.

Configuring Windows XP Error Reporting

Finally, is you’re tired of those annoying error messages that pop up when an application or system error occurs, the System applet in Control Panel gives you a little control over the situation. By default, all error messages pop up to inform you of the error, and then ask whether you’d like to have the details of the error sent to Microsoft for data gathering or troubleshooting purposes. If you’re not comfortable with having information from your system sent to Microsoft, then you’ll want to click the Error Reporting button at the bottom of the Advanced tab.

Clicking the Error Reporting button opens the configuration window. Error Reporting is enabled by default for both the XP operating system and installed applications. Clicking the Choose Programs button allows you to control which programs or components reporting will be enabled for, and even allow you to selectively exclude certain programs from this list. However, many users will appreciate the ability to simply turn error reporting off altogether by choosing the Disable error reporting radio button instead.

Windows XP Environment Variables

If you’re a more advanced user, then you may want to take a closer look at the settings found behind the Environment Variables button on the Advanced tab. Environment variables are settings such as the file extensions that XP will search for when you don’t provide one from the command line or Run command (for example running calc rather than calc.exe) or a list of file paths that XP should search within when a path is not provided. Both user and system variables can be defined – individual users can configure or edit their own user variables, while only an administrator can configure system-wide variables.

If you’re looking to customize your system with different time-saving shortcuts, then definitely take a closer look at the Environment variables help topic in Help and Support Center, as this particular subject is one that requires a greater deal of understanding to use effectively.

Windows XP Startup and Recovery Settings

Nothing is worse than encountering system errors on an XP system. While you may not be able to control when errors occur, you can control how XP will react to those errors. Clicking the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section of the Advanced tab opens the Startup and Recovery window, as shown below. From this screen you can configure what XP will do when a fatal error occurs – reboot, write an event to the System log in Event Viewer, and so forth. This screen is also important to users with multi-boot systems, since it allows you to configure system startup options, such as how long the operating system selection screen is displayed, which operating system will be loaded by default, and so forth. Another neat feature of this screen is the Edit button – it allows you to reconfigure your system’s Boot.ini file without the need to undo read-only settings on the file manually.

Windows XP User Profiles

In simple terms, user profiles contain the unique settings and documents associated with a user account, allowing different users to maintain distinct desktop environments and locations for the storage of their personal files. For example, an XP user’s profile contains settings like their Internet Explorer Favorites, their My Documents folder, messages stored by Outlook Express, and so on. Because of the wealth of data stored in a profile, they can quickly become very large, especially on a multi-user system.

The User profiles section of the System applet Advanced tab allows you to access user profile settings when you click the Settings button. While this will allow you to create roaming profiles in domain environments (where a user’s setting follows them to different XP systems), it is less useful for non-domain users. However, this window will display important information such as the current size of stored user profiles, and gives you the ability to also delete unused profiles if necessary. If you do choose to delete a profile, be sure to first empty the profile of all files that you want to keep – forgetting to do so may result in you losing critical data you meant to hang on to.