Disabling Native ZIP Support in Windows XP

Windows XP includes built-in support for creating and opening ZIP files, but it’s capabilities are nowhere near as robust as third-party ZIP management tools like WinZIP, Filzip and other popular compression programs.

While there’s technically nothing wrong with leaving both XP’s built-in ZIP capabilities and a third-party tool installed simultaneously, some performance improvements can be had by disabling XP’s native ZIP support.  Disabling XP’s native ZIP handling capabilities is a simple matter of unregistering the DLL file associated with the feature, namely zipfldr.dll.

To disable XP’s native ZIP support, click Start > Run and then type the following the Open text box:

regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll

Click OK, and when the RegSvr32 dialog box appears, click OK to confirm that the file was unregistered. Reboot and from that point forward, use your preferred third-party ZIP utility as you normally would.

To re-enable native ZIP support, enter the command regsvr32 zipfldr.dll

Add Custom Shortcuts to the Windows XP Send To Menu

When you right-click on a file or folder, Windows XP displays a shortcut menu that includes options like Open, Delete, Rename, Properties, and so forth. More than likely, you’ve noticed that this menu also includes an option called Send To, which when expand displays different locations to which you can send the item. For example, choosing the Send To > Mail Recipient option automatically opens a new blank email message with the file in question attached. Choosing the Send To > My Documents option places a copy of the current file or folder directly into your My Documents folder hierarchy.

While the default options supplied by XP (and some other programs once installed) are handy, most users don’t recognize that they can add custom locations to the Send To menu as well, as per their needs. For example, let’s say that you commonly store image files in a folder like C:\SharedImages. Adding a shortcut to this folder to your Send To menu makes it easy to move files or folders into C:\SharedImages from the right-click Send To menu.

To add new shortcuts to your user account’s Send To menu, click Start > Run, type Sendto and click OK. Then, right-click and choose New Shortcut to open the New Shortcut wizard and select the location and name of your choice. Once complete, the new shortcut will appear as an option on your Send To menu.

Control System Icons Displayed on the Windows XP Desktop

Everyone has their own ideas as to what constitutes their “perfect” Windows desktop. Some prefer the clean and crisp look, where shortcut icons are kept to an absolute minimum. Others deem substance more important than style, and prefer to use their Desktop real estate as a placeholder for shortcuts to all of their most commonly used programs and system tools.

Creating shortcuts to programs is easy enough, but some users struggle after making the decision to remove certain “key” desktop icons like those associated with the Recycle Bin or My Computer. Most often, these icons are removed by accident, leaving the user in a panic as to how they can be removed to their rightful place.

Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy makes it easy to return certain key system icons to their rightful place without the need to dig through system settings or edit the Registry. By opening the program and browsing to the Desktop icon you can control whether the Internet Explorer, My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and Recycle Bin icons appear on your XP desktop. Simply check those you want to appear and uncheck those you want to hide, click OK and you’re off to the races.

Changing the Windows XP Screen Saver Grace Period

If you’ve enabled a screen saver on your Windows XP system and set it to prompt for a password (or display the Welcome screen on Windows XP Home edition) to re-enter your user session, then you may be aware that you have a “grace” period between when the screen saver first appears and when a password is required to dismiss it. This grace period is provided to give you a quick opportunity to dismiss the screen in cases where your PC has been idle for the wait period, but you’re not quite ready to have Windows XP be safely locked up just yet.  By default, the grace period for a screensaver is 5 seconds. In other words, if you move your mouse or tap a key before the grace period expires, your password will not be required to exit the screensaver.

Want a little more time before the locking mechanism of your screensaver kicks in? All you need to do is adjust it’s grace period, a task easily accomplished with Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy. Open the program, browse to Logon > Screen Saver, and then adjust the Grace Period (seconds) setting to a number that better meets your needs. A little more time (say 30-60 seconds) may be the differences between having to unlock your system multiple times per day rather than just a couple.

Disable Display of Unread Email Messages at XP’s Welcome Screen

With XP’s Welcome logon screen enabled, users will be presented with a list of their unread email messages when the screen is displayed. This list of unread messages is generated for users individually and takes into account unread messages from programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Hotmail, and so forth depending on a user’s setup.

While this feature makes it easier for casual users to determine whether it’s worth logging on or not, it can also be downright annoying. If you’d rather not have the unread email message list appear on the Welcome screen, a simple change can make it happen.

One way to remove the unread email message is to edit the Registry directly, but a safer method is by using Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy. With the program open, browse to Logon > Unread Mail and then uncheck the Show unread mail on Welcome screen check box. Next, choose a suitable option in the Scope section, for example whether this setting should apply to your user account only, or all user accounts. Once complete, click OK and enjoy.

Changing Image Thumbnail Settings on Windows XP

Windows XP makes it easy to browse through images stored in folders on your system by way of its “thumbnail” view option. When thumbnail view is selected for a folder (by clicking View > Thumbnails in My Computer), Windows XP displays images as miniature thumbnails rather than as traditional file icons, making it easier to differentiate between images.

While thumbnail view makes it easier for most users to sort their pictures, the default thumbnail image size (96 pixels) may be a little too small for some users. If you find yourself squinting at the screen to see thumbnail images, then you should consider increasing XP’s default thumbnail size.

The easiest way to make the switch to a larger size is by using Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy. After downloading and installing the program, open it and browse to Explorer > Thumbnails. Increase the Thumbnail size to a new larger value like 200 pixels and click OK. After doing this, all folders that you switch to thumbnail view will display thumbnails in this larger size. Note that increasing the thumbnail size results in higher memory and disk space usage.

Changing Mouse Scroll Wheel Settings on Windows XP

Chances are good that the mouse connected to your PC includes a scroll wheel between the right and left mouse buttons. Using the scroll wheel to navigate up and down within programs like Microsoft Work or your web browser is certainly helpful, much easier than grabbing for the vertical scroll bar at the right-hand side of the screen.

While most users are familiar with the purpose of the scroll wheel itself, many don’t realize that the manner in which the wheel performs can actually be customized to better suit one’s needs and preferences. By default, scrolling the wheel will scroll the screen three lines at a time in the direction you specify. This can be changed to a higher number of lines for faster scrolling, or even to a page at a time if that’s your preference.

To change the scroll wheel settings for your mouse, open Control Panel, open the Mouse applet, and then click the Scroll tab. Use the settings on this tab to adjust how your scroll wheel mouse performs to better suit your preferences.

Disable Balloon Messages on Windows XP

Tired of Windows XP displaying those warning balloon messages on your taskbar? While they do help to keep less experienced users a little more informed about the state of their Windows XP system than they might otherwise be, they can get annoying, especially for experienced users who would rather not be disturbed.

As with most system settings, balloon messages can be disabled by a Registry tweak. However, a safer option for most users is to make the change via Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy instead. To disable balloon messages with this tool, open it and then head to the Taskbar and Start menu section. Uncheck the Enable balloon tips item and click OK to stop these “helpful” balloon messages from bothering you.

Disable Low Disk Space Warning Messages on Windows XP

Running out of hard disk space? When Windows XP detects that a drive has 200 MB or less free disk space left, it begins alerting you to the situation by displaying the following message:

You are running out of disk space on X (where X is the drive letter in question). To free space on this drive by deleting old or unnecessary files, click here.

The “solution” to this problem is obviously to delete unneeded personal files, or uninstall unused programs in a bid to free up space.While the message is there to help, it can also become annoying, especially once you’re aware of the situation. If you want to disable these warnings and keep tabs on your disk space situation as you see fit, then changing one simple setting will get the job done. While the message can be disabled via a Registry edit, a safer option is to use Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy to make the change.

To disable the low disk space warning with Tweak UI, open the program, click Taskbar and Start menu, uncheck the Warn when low on disk space option, and click OK.

Disable AutoPlay on Windows XP Drives

One of the more annoying “features” of Windows XP is its insistence on launching AutoPlay when you insert or attach certain types of media to your PC, like CD discs or USB thumb drives. While AutoPlay can be temporarily disabled by holding down the Shift key after inserting a CD, for example, you may want to consider disabling the feature completely.

AutoPlay can be disabled via a Registry hack, but an easier method also exists. The free Tweak UI PowerToy from Microsoft makes it easy to disable AutoPlay for the drive letters of your choice at the click of a button. After installing Tweak UI, just expand My Computer > AutoPlay > Drives and uncheck any drive letters for which you want AutoPlay disabled. Click OK and then never worry about being harassed by AutoPlay settings on those drives again. If you change your mind, you can always re-enable AutoPlay by checking the associated driveusing Tweak UI.