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 stand