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Maintenance and Troubleshooting

087 |

Don't Reactivate After Reinstalling.  If you reinstall Windows XP, you normally have to reactivate it, but there's a way around reactivation. Windows XP maintains the activation information in the file Wpa.dbl, which you'll find in the Windows\System32 folder.  After you activate, and any time you add hardware to your system, back up the file to another disk. If you need to reinstall Windows XP for any reason, go through the installation routine, then copy the latest version of Wpa.dbl to the Windows\system32 folder.

088 |

Reboot Without Launching Programs In The Startup Folder,  When you're troubleshooting a problem, it helps to reboot without launching the items in the Startup folder.  In some cases, the problem may go away, which indicates that the problem is a conflict with one of those applications.  In cases where these items have no effect on the problem, skipping the Startup folder may still speed up the reboot considerably, which is convenient if you have to restart repeatedly.  To skip loading the items in the Startup folder, hold the Shift key down during boot-up.

089 |

Create a Real-Mode Floppy Disk.  To run a program in a real-mode DOS session, just format a floppy disk and navigate to C:\Windows\Command\Ebd.  Copy Io.sys and Command.com onto the floppy disk and it's ready to be booted.

090 |

Keep Windows Up To Date.  You can update Windows XP manually by choosing Start | All Programs | Windows Update.  In Windows 98, Me, and 2000, this option is listed at the top of the Start menu.

Windows XP and 2000 offer an Automatic Updates feature to ensure that you always have the latest Windows fixes.  In Windows XP, you can turn Automatic Updates on from the System Properties dialog box.  Open the Control Panel and choose System.  Next, choose the Automatic Updates tab; turn the feature on, if necessary, by clicking the check box Keep my computer up to date at the top, then choose one of the options for how you want updates to be handled.  For Windows 2000, you set options by going to Control Panel | Automatic Updates.

If you want a lot of control over what's being installed (or don't want to be a guinea pig for brand-new updates), choose the option to have the system notify you before downloading updates and again before installing them.  This lets you review what updates are available and decide whether to download and install them on a case-by-case basis.  But remember, it's a good idea to install security updates as soon as they are available.

091 |

Clean Up The Add/Remove Box.  Sometimes, when you uninstall a program, its entry remains in the Add/remove programs listing.  Or you might delete something manually and find that the entry remains in the list of uninstallable programs.  You can clean up the list and remove programs that you've already uninstalled.  Run Regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall.  From there, you can remove any unwanted items, which are in the form of Registry keys.

092 |

Manage File Associations.  A file association specifies which application is the default for a particular file type.  When you open a file - an MP3, for example - the associated program launches.  To change the current file association for a file type, or to create an association, right-click on a file with the appropriate extension, and select Open with.  (In Windows 98, you need to hold down the Shift key when right-clicking.)

In Windows 98, Me, or 2000, select the program you want to use from the list that appears, or Browse for another application.  Windows XP will show you a short list of recommended programs or let you Choose Program.  Check the box labeled Always use the selected program to open this kind of file, and choose OK.

If you're using Win XP and not sure which program to use, and you are connected to the Internet, click on the link called Look for the appropriate program on the Web to go to a Web page that may help you find out the correct program to use.

093 |

Use Your Computer.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's worth understanding.  Windows keeps a record of the applications you use most often and reorders them on your hard drive to optimize their launch.  This record is continually updated in the file Layout.ini; the actual file moving takes place every few days, while the computer is idle.

In addition to moving files, Windows tracks the programs and processes initiated immediately after your system boots up, creating a list of files to prefetch during boot-up (meaning that Windows anticipates your next move and grabs necessary files before the computer even needs them).  Windows performs a similar task each time you use an application, because when you launch an app, you're not just running the executable file; a number of files and program components load.  In theory, these actions will make Windows run faster the more you use it.

094 |

Roll Back Drivers.  Updating a driver can sometimes have an adverse effect on your system.  You may experience problems such as system crashes and malfunctioning devices.  If this happens, use Windows XP's Device Driver Rollback feature to restore a previous driver.

Go to the Control Panel and open the System applet.  Under System Properties, choose the Hardware tab and select Device Manager.  Expand the menu for the type of device you want to roll back.  Right-click on the device, choose Properties, and click on Roll Back Driver.

095 |

Use boot defrag.  Windows XP includes a boot defrag feature that speeds up the startup process by placing boot files next to each other on the hard drive (see Tip 093).  By default this option is on, but there have been instances where Windows XP has been installed with the option turned off.  To make sure boot defrag is enabled, go to the Registry Editor and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Dfrg\BootOptimizeFunction.

With this key highlighed, look in the Name column on the right side of the window for Enable, and check that the Data value for Enable is set to Y.  If it is, the feature is on, and you can close the Registry Editor.  If it's not on, right-click on Enable and choose Modify.  Change the value to Y, choose OK, and close the Registry Editor.

096 |

Check Event Logs.  Windows XP maintains logs of application, security, and system events.  When you're troubleshooting, the application and system event logs can provide valuable clues about the cause of the problem.  To view these, open the Control Panel and choose Administrative Tools.  Then select Event Viewe.  For an overview of how to use this applet, open Event Viewer, then choose Action | Help.

097 |

Clear The Prefetch.  If you're using Windows XP, add C:\Windows\Prefetch to the list of directories to empty periodically.  This folder is probably full of prefetch directions for applications you no longer use (see Tip 077).  You can safely remove these files; any files that are needed will be created again automatically.

098 |

Control Your Desktop Icons.  When you temporarily change your desktop to a lower resolution - while using Safe mode, for example - Windows can wreak havoc with your careful positioning of desktop icons.  A free download, available at www.pcnineoneone.com/tweaks/layout.zip, lets you save and later restore your icon layout.

Download Layout.zip and unzip it to extract two files.  Move Layout.dll to the Windows\System32 folder.  Double-click on Layout.reg to add it to the Registry.

If you now right-click on almost any of the standard desktop icons you'll see two new items: Save Desktop Icon Layout and Restore Desktop Icon Layout.  Choose the former whenever you change the layout; choose the latter when you need to restore it.

099 |

Remove DoubleSpace and DriveSpace.  Nobody uses the disk compression utility DoubleSpace or its latter-day replacement, DriveSpace, anymore.  Hard drives of immense capacity have become so affordable that it's foolish to do so.  But by default, either Dblspace.bin or Drvspace.bin loads into memory when Windows starts.  You can prevent this by simply deleting those files from both the root directory and the C:\Windows\Command folder.

100 |

Protect Your Data.  All computer users should be careful to protect themselves against the loss of data, and notebook users should be extra cautious; laptops are easier to steal and are more prone to being damaged.  Windows XP Professional makes it drop-dead simple to back up your data.

To begin, click Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup.  You can then walk through the Backup wizard to select which files you want to copy, and where you want to write the backup copy of the data.

When you get to the end of the wizard, there is an Advanced button that provides more backup options.  Here you can choose normal or copy (these both back up all marked files every time), incremental or differential (both of these options back up all files that have been changed since the last backup), or daily (which backs up all of the files that were created that day).  Copy and differential don't mark the files as having been backed up.

As you continue through the wizard, you can specify other options, such as setting up a daily backup schedule that runs automatically.

101 |

What's the Process?  When you're troubleshooting problems, it can be helpful to look up information about the running processes.  You can do this from the Task Manager, which you open by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del.  But more information is available in this view than you may think.  After opening the Processes tab, click View | Select Columns.  Here you can add useful information - such as the process identifier (or PID), CPU time, and peak memory usage associated with each process - to the main Processes window.

102 |

Defrag.  This shouldn't be news.  We have huge hard drives with tons of data and programs, and they need to be organized periodically - we recommend at least once a month.  Schedule disk defragging using the Task Scheduler (in the Accessories section of the Start menu) and you'll never have to think about defragging again.

103 |

Use the Registry Favorites Menu.  If you repeatedly tweak the same keys in the Registry, use the Registry's Favorites menu.  Choose Favorites | Add To Favorites.  The next time you need to edit the key, open the Registry Editor, select Favorites, and pick from the list.

104 |

Back Up Critical System Files.  Several of the tips here require modifying the Registry.  Be very careful!  Tampering with system files can cause problems if not done properly.  To be safe, back up the Registry and other critical files before making any changes.

Microsoft makes this easy.  Just select Start and click Programs in Win Me or All Programs in Win XP.  Select Accessories and System Tools and System Restore.  Choose Create a restore point and Next.  Give the restore point a description, and press Next in Win Me or Create in Win XP.

If your system develops any problems and you can still get into Windows, follow these steps to get back to System Restore, and choose Restore my computer to an earlier time.  If Windows will not boot, press F8 as soon as the operating system starts trying to load.  If you're running Win Me, boot to Safe Mode and run System Restore.  In Windows XP, you can use Safe Mode or choose Last Known Good Configuration.

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