Helpful XP Registry Hacks

Every-once in a while, someone asks me for neat little tricks or how to customize their computer.  One of the things that I find fun to do, are registry hacks to make Windows XP do things that otherwise I couldn’t do.  Also some of these things can be implemented as minor security measures or help you troubleshoot a problem.  So below are five of the registry hacks I’ve used recently.

Create a hidden user account
The user accounts you’ve set up appear on the Welcome screen (another new feature in Windows XP) when you start up the PC. To hide one of the user accounts so that it doesn’t appear here, go to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\UserList

Right-click anywhere within the Registry Window and click New to create a new DWORD value with the name of the account to be hidden. Set the value to 0 (decimal). This account won’t be accessible when switching users with Fast User Switching; you’ll only be able to access it from the Log On To Windows dialog box. Keep in mind that it is not a totally hidden account; the account’s profile will appear in the Documents And Settings folder. Also, the account appears in Local Users And Groups when an administrator is logged on.

Prevent programs from loading at start-up
Remember back in the good old days of Windows 3.1 when you could open up the Win.ini file in a text editor and remove an item from the RUN= line to disable it from running at start up? With Windows 9x and above, the Win.ini file became less useful because 32-bit programs were set to run at start-up from within the Registry instead.

One way to selectively disable programs from loading at startup is to use MSCONFIG (from the Run command) to deselect certain items. Another way to remove them is to edit the Registry directly. Consider the following locations:

for applications that start up for all users

for applications that start up when the current user logs on

Remove the entry for a program by right-clicking it and selecting Delete to prevent it from loading.

Erase the swap file at shutdown
You might be concerned about someone browsing your users’ swap files and gathering up little bits of their sensitive data. A remote possibility, to be sure, but it could happen. For that extra measure of security, go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

Set the ClearPageFileAtShutdown DWORD to 1. This will make shutdowns take longer, because it overwrites everything in the swap file with zeroes. Don’t turn this feature on unless you have a serious security threat.

Adjusting System Restore values
The new System Restore feature will automatically back up a snapshot of your system, once every 24 hours and will save this snapshot for 90 days.  Now these values aren’t directly editable in the System Restore tab, but you can actually change them in the Registry. Go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\SystemRestore

You’ll find all sorts of settings here. To change when the computer automatically created restore points, change the RPGlobalInterval setting. To how long a restore point is retained in days, change the RPLifeInterval setting.

System Restore time intervals are measured in seconds, not days, so you must convert the number of days you want into seconds. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, so multiply 86,400 by the number of days you want to determine the value. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour.

Create a right-click command prompt option
You can right-click a folder to get a list of actions you can apply to it. Here’s a way to modify a right-click menu that opens a command prompt window with the selected folder already selected. In Notepad (or your own text editor), type or copy and paste the following:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here]@=”Command &Prompt Here”

[HKEY_CLASSES-ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here\command]@=”cmd.exe /k pushd %L”

This is simple, just name the file and add “.reg” at the end of the file. Then goto the location where you saved the file and double-click it and choose Yes to merge the file’s information into the Registry when prompted. You can delete the file if you are done with it, or save it elsewhere as the file doen’t need to stay there to run. Right-click any folder you want and you’ll see the CommandPrompt Here option.

Hope these help you make the changes to your Windows XP box, and make it work more like you want.

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