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Our Favorite Windows XP Hints, Tips, Tweaks, and Fixes

Working with Windows XP Home and Pro editions over the past seven years, I discovered some good fixes, and came across some great sites, that will help improve your WinXP performance.

You might also check out our page full of our favorite Windows freeware/shareware computer programs which will make your computer experience better and safer.

Our suggestions are easy to implement and should not cause you anything but good results, we nonetheless accept no liability for any actions taken based upon our information, and since every computer system is a little bit different from the next, we can't guarantee our information will work for everyone.

Always take proper precautions, back up everything, and when in doubt --- don't do it.

Our favorite Quick Tweaks for WinXP
1. Disable the annoying search helper.
Why:Sanity and resources.
The Fix:Click "Start". Click "Search". Click "Turn off animated character".
2. Resize the Recycle Bin.
Why:The default setting wastes too much hard drive space.
The Fix:Right-click on "Recycle Bin". Click "Properties". Move the "Maximize size of Recycle Bin" slider from the default (of 10%) down to 1 or 2%. Click "OK".
3. Resize the System Restore.
Why:The default setting wastes too much hard drive space.
The Fix:Right-click on "My Computer". Click "Properties". Select "System Restore" tab. Move the "Disk Space to use" slider so than System Restore only uses 500MB to 750MB of hard drive space. Click "OK".
4. Show filename extensions and hidden files.
Why:It's nice to know what's on your computer.
The Fix:Open any folder on your hard drive. Click "Tools". Select the "View" tab. Look in "Advanced Settings" and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types" and check "Show hidden files and folders". Click on "Apply to All Folders" button. Choose "Yes". Click "OK". Reboot.

5. Change the location Windows uses to store Temp files.
Why:Help your system run more efficiently, and make it easier to find and clean out all of your temporary files.
The Fix:Step One: right-click "My Computer". Select "Properties". Select the "Advanced" tab. Click "Environment Variables" button.
Step Two: highlight "TEMP". Click "Edit". Change the "Variable value" to c:\Temp. Click "OK".
Step Three: repeat for "TMP". Continue clicking the various "OK" buttons until you can exit. Reboot.
6. Change the size and location of your Windows swap/paging file.
Why:Help your system run faster and more efficiently by optimizing your swap file.
The Fix:Step One: right-click "My Computer". Select "Properties". Select the "Advanced" tab. Under "Performance" click "Settings" button. Select the "Advanced" tab. Under "Virtual Memory" click "Change" button.
Step Two: select "Custom Size". Input the same number into both the "Initial Size (MB)" and "Maximum Size (MB)" boxes. This number should be about 150% to 200% (or 1.5 to 2.0 times) the amount of RAM in your machine. Example: If you have 512MB of RAM, make both boxes 768MB or 1024MB. Click the "Set" button. Click the various "OK" buttons until you can exit. Reboot.
7. Activate and enlarge the Quick Launch Toolbar.
Why:It's really handy for launching your most often used programs.
The Fix:Step One: right-click on the Taskbar (the bar to the right of the Start button). Click "Properties". Check the box labeled "Show Quick Launch". This will allow enough space next to your Start button for three "quick launch" program icons.
Step Two: to increase the space to allow for more "quick launches", right-click on the Taskbar. Uncheck "Lock the Taskbar". Move the separator bar left or right to resize the Quick Launch Toolbar area. Recheck "Lock the Taskbar".
8. Increase the number of files on your Start Menu.
Why:It's handier.
The Fix:Step One: right-click on the "Start" button. Select "Properties". On the "General" tab under "Programs" increase or decrease the number of "most recently used" programs that can appear in the lower left hand area of the Start Menu.
Step Two: to move a program into a "fixed" position at the upper left hand area of the Start Menu, simply right-click on any program from the above list, and select "Pin to Start Menu". All of the pinned programs in this upper left area can be sorted with drag-and-drop.
9. Resize / Maximize your Internet Explorer (IE) Window.
Why:It's annoying when IE opens small windows at launch.
The Fix:Step One: Start IE
Step Two: Right click any URL and select "Open in a New Window".
Step Three: Return to the first IE window you launched and close it.
Step Four: Manually drag the second (and now only open) window to fill the screen. Do not use the maximize button.
Step Five: Close this window, using the close button (read and white X in upper right hand corner of screen).
Step Six: Relaunch. Your IE windows should now open properly maximized.
10. HELP! I need instructions on how to get rid of a virus!
Why:Why not?
The Fix:RemoveVirus.org is a community of virus and spyware removal experts getting together to write the most accurate and up to date removal instructions for the latest Virus, Spyware, Malware, Trojans and Rootkit threats on the internet. This site includes hundreds of expert written guides to help you learn more about viruses and spyware and how to remove whatever threat you may have. Just do a search for the threat that you want to learn more about and you should be good to go. [It helped me unload the really annoying "Antispyware/Antivirus Soft" trojan].
11. Fix Printer Spooler / Unjam Printer Queue
Why:Sometimes the printer will spool and not print, a print job gets stuck, or an endless pile of unreadable characters prints on page after page and you can't make it stop.
The Fix:Step One: Turn off your printer if your printer goes nuts, otherwise skip to Step Two.
Step Two: Start Menu > Run > Open: CMD > Click OK
Step Three: Type "net stop spooler" (no quotes)
Leave CMD window open for a few seconds. Check the print queue. The print job should be gone.
Step Four: Type "net start spooler" (no quotes) in the CMD box.
Done. Restart Printer. Try printing job again.

Disable Microsoft Messenger
What this does:Messenger is Microsoft's IM (Instant Messaging) program. To Microsoft's dismay, there are a lot of folks like myself that do not want Microsoft Messenger hogging resources, especially if we do not use it. TechRepublic has a good discussion on how to keep it from loading, and thankfully, it is pretty easy.

If you want to disable it altogether, you'll need to follow Microsoft's Support bulletin and make a couple small changes to your registry files. [Although this tip deals with an easy modification to your registry, an incorrect entry in the registry can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Use the information provided at your own risk].

Juno IE Scripting Error
What this is:Juno users may experience an Internet Explorer Scripting Error. It occurs after downloading mail and exiting Juno. A pop-up error box will appear. The direct cause of the error is a pop-under window ad that Juno is attempting to run upon your exiting the program. The error may occur when you have a pop-up blocker (like Norton Internet Security) running.
The Fix:Step One: the scripting error will go away if you set your blocker program to allow pop-ups on the Juno pop-under ad page that loads --- but then you have to contend with the ad every time you exit.
Step Two: according to the folks at Juno, the ad is not suppose to run every time you exit. This can be fixed by going into Juno's "Options>Web Preferences" and checking the box marked "Delete all cookies when exiting".
Doing either step should produce immediate results. Doing both steps should clear up the problem entirely.

Speed Up Your Browsing With OpenDNS
What this does:DNS is the Domain Name System used behind the scenes on the internet to translate URL's (internet addresses like www.lavasurfer.com) into Internet Protocol addresses (IP addresses which are all numbers). OpenDNS replaces your current default DNS server with one that is generally faster, safer, and more stable. Head over to OpenDNS.com for step-by-step instructions to redirect your DNS settings on your computer and router to OpenDNS.

If you already know how to do this, use the following DNS server address settings:
Preferred DNS Server:
Alternate DNS Server:

Black Viper
What this site does:Visit to get installation information on several operating systems, as well as "super tweaks" --- especially for the security conscious. Be sure to check out his helpful WinXP Home and WinXP Pro "Services Configuration" Chart. He'll have you saving a ton of RAM in no time. Ad free. Donations welcome.
Note: If links do not work, do a Google search for "Black Viper mirror site" without the quotes.

Registry Edits for Windows XP
What this site does:Kelly's Korner provides over 400 executable scripts for fixing common Windows XP annoyances. Simply download and run whichever scripts you need and your registry will be updated for you without ever having to open the registry itself. Note: While these are pretty straight forward fixes, it wouldn't hurt to backup your registry prior to running a script.

Pacman's Portal
What this site does:Sure, everyone has typed "msconfig" at one time or another to check out their startup applications and slim down their system tray applications. Ever wonder what all those cryptic program names in your System Configuration Utility Startup group are? This huge database will help you identify the programs so that you can decide whether to keep them or disable them in order to free up your precious resources. Also helps you to identify malware and viruses.

Information is from personal experience and sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. The information presented is intended to assist experienced computer users in solving Windows XP related issues and improving the performance of their computer.

Since we do not have complete control over the "Ads by Google" appearing on this page, we do not directly endorse their sites or products. Please notify us if you find any of the advertisers to be misleading.
Feel free to contact me to correct any information in this article or to alert me to additional information one should consider.

© 2005 Topher
Updated 2019

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