Posts tagged “XP”.

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows XP re-install

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows XP re-install

Here is a guide to refurbish a Windows XP Laptop system; in other words, re-installing Windows from scratch. In this case, the Laptop was a Toshiba Satellite 1800-514 which has a Celeron 1 GHz processor and 384 Mb RAM (128MB + 256MB) installed and a 15Gb internal hard drive. It is a ‘legacy’ system with limited resources, indeed. However, with some tweaking, it will still perform well for common applications. After customization, the system was able to run iTunes 9, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Office 2003 suite.

1)      Backup all data.
Make sure you are logged on with administrator privileges. Change the folder options to include hidden files and system folders.
Search the system for data files. Not all files may reside under ‘My Documents’, in particular also scan the Shared folders on the system.
An easy way to perform the backup is to use the ‘Sysback’ tool.

2)      Backup user profile specific files.
Custom desktop wallpaper files are stored in C:\Documents and Settings\<user profile>\Local Settings\Microsoft\
Custom account picture files are stored in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\

3)      Backup user mailboxes.
In case of Microsoft Outlook Express, it wise to follow my Microsoft Outlook Express housekeeping steps.

4)      Backup or get a copy of specific drivers for video, sound, modem and network support. In particular, keep a copy of the video drivers; download the most up to date copy from the manufacturer’s site (e.g. NVIDIA or ATI), if necessary. Check if any other specific files or settings have to be saved. Check the equipment model and version in the Device Manager (Control Panel, System, Hardware). The auto detection of some of the devices may not work for older systems, so write them down.

5)      Save your Wireless Network Connection settings, in particular, ensure you note the network name (SSID) and security key.

6)      Set the CD-ROM as first bootable drive in the BIOS and reboot the system with the Windows XP installation CD. Remove all external drives! If not, windows may install them as system drives.

7) Before starting the windows installation process, check the available partitions. Ideally, you should create a partition to install windows on (with at least 30 Gb) and a partition for the user data files (any remaining space). If the drive is too small (50 Gb or less), just use one partition. More information about partitioning is available in my ‘dedicated data partition‘ post. In this case the system has only 15 Gb, which means that you should remain with only one partition.

8) Once Windows has been installed, proceed with the custom driver installation. The first to update is the video driver. Then check the Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager: for any device with a (yellow) question mark, you will need to install or update the driver. Use the files from step 4, install from the manufacturer CD (if available) or download from the internet. This step is only successful if no question marks occur in the Device Manager list. You may need to reboot the system after installation of some device drivers.

9)      Start the customization of your windows environment:
Regional and Language Options (in the Control Panel) are a minimum to verify, in particular the keyboard settings (in the Languages tab, Details) need to match the attached keyboard lay-out.
Name and Company Information can be changed in the Registry. Follow the Microsoft instructions.
Apply the items of my ‘Windows XP optimization‘ post.
In this particular case, I applied additional tweaks to improve the performance:

  1. Verification if some services can be disabled (refer to my ‘disable services’ post).
  2. Prefetch setting was set to value 1-App launch (instead of 3-Both):
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters\EnablePrefetcher].
  3. Last Access Timestamp was disabled
    [run: FSUTIL behavior set disablelastaccess 1]
  4. DOS 8.3 filename creation was disabled
    [run: FSUTIL behavior set disable8dot3 1]
  5. Performance counters were disabled
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Perflib]
    (run regedit and create DWORD ‘DisablePerformanceCounters’)
    Set the value of DisablePerformanceCounters to 1
  6. Disable ‘Automatically search for network folders and printers’ in the Control Panel, Folder Options, View tab.
  7. Process idle tasks in the background (this operation may be periodically repeated).
    (run ‘Rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks’)

10)   Set the Hard Drive as first bootable drive in the BIOS and reboot the system. Make sure the system is connected to the internet (a wired connection, not Wi-Fi), to allow windows updates to occur. The system may need to be rebooted upon request. In this particular case, only a Wi-Fi adaptor was available.

11)   Install all applications (respect the copyrights) and printers. This may be a good opportunity to upgrade the system with the latest version of the applications. Check on the software developer’s site if any new versions are available. In this case, Firefox 3.5.5 was installed instead of Internet Explorer 8.  Firefox performed better when I checked the performance of the browser, using the Network Tools on my ADSL page.

12)   Create a system ‘restore point’ (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore).

13)   Restore the data from step 1, 2 and 3. Check the user privileges and access rights of the restored data (try to copy a file to an USB key, to check the file access rights).

14) Perform the five essential steps in XP Maintenance.

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows XP re-install

Windows XP re-install

Here is a guide to refurbish a Windows XP desktop system; in other words, re-installing Windows from scratch. In this case, the desktop was a Dell Dimension 4550 on which three user profiles were defined.

1)      Backup all data for each user profile.
Make sure you are logged on with administrator privileges. Change the folder options to include hidden files and system folders.
Search the system for data files. Not all files may reside under ‘My Documents’, in particular also scan the Shared folders on the system.
An easy way to perform the backup is to use the ‘Syncback’ tool.

2)      Backup user profile specific files.
Custom desktop wallpaper files are stored in c:\Documents and Settings\<user profile>\Local Settings\Microsoft\
Custom account picture files are stored in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\User Account Pictures\

3)      Backup user mailboxes.
In case of Microsoft Outlook Express, it wise to follow my Microsoft Outlook Express housekeeping steps.

4)      Backup or get a copy of specific drivers for video, sound, modem and network support. In particular, keep a copy of the video drivers; download the most up to date copy from the manufacturer’s site (e.g. NVIDIA or ATI), if necessary. Check if any other specific files or settings have to be saved.

5)      Set the CD-ROM as first bootable drive in the BIOS and reboot the system with the Windows XP installation CD. Remove all external drives! If not, windows may install them as system drives.

6)      Before starting the windows installation process, check the available partitions. Ideally, you should create a partition to install windows on (with at least 30 Gb) and a partition for the user data files (any remaining space). If the drive is too small (50 Gb or less), just use one partition. More information about partitioning is available in my ‘dedicated data partition‘ post.

7)      Once Windows has been installed, proceed with the custom driver installation. The first to update is the video driver. Then check the Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager: for any device with a (yellow) question mark, you will need to install or update the driver. Use the files from step 4, install from the manufacturer CD (if available) or download from the internet. This step is only successful if no question marks occur in the Device Manager list. You may need to reboot the system after installation of some device drivers.

8)      Start the customization of your windows environment:
Regional and Language Options (in the Control Panel) are a minimum to verify, in particular the keyboard settings (in the Languages tab, Details) need to match the attached keyboard lay-out.
Name and Company Information can be changed in the Registry. Follow the Microsoft instructions.
Apply the items of my ‘Windows XP optimization‘ post.

9)      Set the Hard Drive as first bootable drive in the BIOS and reboot the system. Make sure the system is connected to the internet (wired connection, not Wi-Fi), to allow windows updates to occur. The system may need to be rebooted upon request.

10)   Install all applications (respect the copyrights) and printers. This may be a good opportunity to uprade the system with the latest version of the applications. Check on the software developer’s site if any new versions are available.

11)   Create a system ‘restore point’ (Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore).

12)   Create the user profiles and restore the data from step 1, 2 and 3. Check each user profile, in particular the user privileges and access rights of the restored data (try to copy a file to an external drive, to check the file access rights).
Visual Effects may need to be reviewed for each user profile.

13)   Perform the Five essential steps in XP Maintenance.

Tuning the Windows environment – XP Housekeeping

XP Housekeeping

The foundation to make the housekeeping process easy and efficient is the partioning of my hard disk(s).

While the primary partition holds the operating system and programme files, the secondary is dedicated to the data files. This way, the operating system may be re-installed at any time without data loss. Disk cleanup and defragmentation will run faster and more efficient. Finally, also the system performance may be improved.

Removing unused and temporary information from your system allows Windows to run faster and more efficiently:

  • Perform a regular disk cleanup and defragmentation of the volumes
  • Perform a regular registry cleanup and defragmentation
  • Perform a regular complete virus scan of your disks
  • Perform a regular complete spyware scan of your system
  • Defrag the pagefile

Check my related posts:

Five Essential Steps in XP Maintenance‘,

Windows XP Optimization‘,

optimize XP for audio and video‘,

disable services‘,

reclaim disk space‘,

and Best of Breed section for a selection of freeware tools to help you with these tasks.

Dutch speaking users may check PcLeek.com which offers an excellent digest of XP and Vista help pages!

Check out the Windows Sysinternals website for latest tool developments.

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows XP optimization

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows XP speed optimization

Here is a list of items that I apply to optimize a Windows XP system.

1)      Review the System Properties
Adjust the Performance Options in the Advanced Tab:

  1. Visual Effects:
    Adjust for best performance.
    In case you want to keep the look and feel of XP, then tag:
    visual styles, common tasks in folders, show window contents while dragging, smooth edges of screen fonts, smooth-scroll list boxes.
    Visual Effects
    Additionally, you may disable the Start Menu delay in the registry:
    [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\]
    set MenuShowDelay to 0
  2. Virtual Memory (Advanced Tab):
    Adjust the pagefile size used for Virtual Memory (a.k.a. swap file). The recommended size is equivalent to 1.5 times the amount of physical installed memory (RAM) on your system.
    In case you have a (fast) secondary or subsequent physical internal drive installed in your system (not an external drive), you may opt to move the paging file to one of these drives.
    Virtual Memory
  3. Disable Error Reporting (Advanced Tab)
    Error Reporting
  4. Adjust Environment Variables (Advanced Tab)
    Match the location for the ‘Temp’ directory in the ‘User variables’ and in ‘System variables’
    Temp Variables
  5. Adjust the Automatic Updates selection to Notify only.
    Automatic Updates
  6. Review the Device Manager IDE controllers (Hardware Tab)
     Enable DMA on primary IDE channel
    IDE Channel

2)      Disable indexing services
In Control Panel, choose Administrative Tools, Services, Indexing Service.
By default, indexing is disabled on my System Hard Disk partition. Other drive partitions should also be considered, if the Search function is not or seldom used.
Indexing Services

3)      Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile
The Virtual Memory Pagefile (a.k.a. swap file) may become fragmented.
I use two options to keep this file ‘tidy’:
option 1: Regularly perform a pagefile defrag (see ‘Five essential steps in XP Maintenance‘).
option 2: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile at shutdown
This option is also used for security purposes. It ensures that no traces are left on the system and prevents other operating systems to ‘sneak’ into this file.
The backdraw is a slower shut down.
Enable this policy in the registry to clear the system Pagefile upon shutdown.[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management]
Set ClearPageFileAtShutdown value to 0

Clear Virtual Memory

4)      Move the Temporary Internet Files (TIF) folder from the default location.
In ‘Internet Options’, select the ‘General’ tab, Temporary Internet Files box, Settings button, Move Folder button. Move the folder to the root location of any of the permanent drive partitions (like D:\). Note that this is a hidden folder and therefore may not be visible by default.

Tuning the Windows environment – Five essential steps in XP Maintenance

Five essential steps in XP Maintenance

Check the disk space for a successful defragmentation. If the system disk has less than 10% free space then install the tools in the next steps on another partition. If no other partition is available, then uninstall unused software first.

1) Cleanup the XP hotfixes and reclaim disk space (see related post)

2) Cleanup the temporary and unused files and the registry (use a cleanup tool like ‘ccleaner‘)

3) Defragment the system disk (use a tool like MyDefrag)

4) Defragment the registry (use a tool like Auslogics registry defrag)

5) Defragment the Pagefile (use a tool like Windows Sysinternals PageDefrag)

pc maintenance

Dell™ Dimension™ 4550

Dell™ Dimension™ 4550

Installed Operating System:

Windows XP
Professional Edition
Service  Pack 3
easy hardware access – disappointing system performance

Tuning the Windows environment – A Windows 2000 Pro Clean (re-)Install description

A Windows 2000 Pro Clean (re-)Install description

Format the drive C: partition

Install the drive in a second pc (running windows NT or XP). Select the disk drive as `slave’ and format the bootable partition with NTFS support.

Re-install the drive and start Windows 2000 Pro setup from the CD-ROM. If the CD-ROM is not bootable, you may need a bootable floppy disk.

Setup of Windows 2000

Make sure all devices are connected and switched on. In particular, the USB devices.

Recovery of the D: partition

The folders and files stored on the D: partition have been tagged by your previous windows installation with properties and security rights. Since windows has been re-installed from scratch, the security settings have been lost. To grant access to these files, run the Administrative Tools in the Control Panel. In `Computer Management’, under `Storage’, `Disk Management’, the partitions should be listed. Check the Security in the properties. You will find old entries that you can remove. Grant all rights to the users you prefer (you must have administrator privileges, to perform this task). In the Advanced Access Control Settings you must also change the ownership of the files and folders to the administrator or administrators group. Note that some individual files may need a change of the security settings as well.

Install IPX/SPX

IPX/SPX is not installed by default. Use this protocol to share files and print services over your home LAN. Secure your files from the Internet and disable Netbios over IP in the TCP/IP protocol settings (Advanced options).

Workgroup name

If not selected during the installation, then rename the workgroup name. Make sure all your computers on the home LAN use the same name. To change this setting, run `System’ in the Control Panel, under `Network Identification’, go to the properties.

Setup of the users:

  • During setup of the operating system, you can setup an Administrator Account,
  • Use this account to install all software,
  • Install and configure all software and drivers before you setup other users,
  • Setup new users without Administration rights to protect the system against malicious Internet attacks,
  • Define the access rights for the users: shared directories and devices.

Nero Burning ROM

Read my notes on Admin rights for CD-ROM access.

USB connect

Plug & pray when you attach USB devices. To introduce a USB-hub, may require re-install of the device drivers.

Remote Assistance – the easy way with Microsoft (XP and Vista)

To offer remote support you may use the Remote Assistance built in with XP and Vista. In this example an XP PC requested the assistance from a Vista PC.

First, make sure remote assistance is enabled: check the configuration settings and system properties.

Start the ‘Remote Assistance’ programme (Hulp op Afstand). Select ‘Invite someone to help’ (Iemand uitnodigen om te helpen).

 MS_RA01

This action will send a file (by email) to the person and the pc that will access your pc remotely.

You will need to give the email address of the person that will logon to your pc and define a temporary password (only for one session).

Once the person has received the file with the credentials, he/she can open the file and will be prompted for the password.

Note that the credential file will only be valid for a short while.

If the remote person wants to get control of the pc (Demander le contrôle), then this needs to be granted.

MS_RA02

Read more about using Remote Assistance on the Microsoft website

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows Genuine Advantage

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA and/or OGA notification)

Even though you may have a legitimate copy of Windows installed or you did buy a license, it could occur that the Automatic Windows Update installs the WGA notification tool.

To remove this tool, check the following pages:

To remove Office Genuine Advantage notifications in XP and Vista, you may proceed as follows:

1) open the System32 directory of your %SystemRoot% folder

2) make system and hiden files visible in the folder options

2) locate all files that start with OGA (find files with the extension. Dll and. Exe) and rename the files (e.g. with extension .old)

3) locate the files ‘WgaTray.exe’ and ‘OGAAddin.dll’ and rename them (e.g. with extension .old)

4) reboot your PC

Tuning the Windows environment – Windows Folder Sharing

Windows Folders Sharing (Windows XP)

To get full control of your Folder sharing options, you may need to modify the Folder Options settings.

In the Windows explorer menu, select ‘Tools’. In the ‘Tools’ pull-down menu, choose the ‘Folder Options’. The Folder Options window has a ‘View’ Tab which lists the Advanced Settings. In the Advanced Settings, untag the ‘Use simple file sharing’ (see Dutch example below):

WinFolderSharing

You may apply these settings only to one folder or all folders. Once this setting is applied, you will be able to control the access by user and by access type (read/write/etc.).

Read also the NetBIOS security settings.