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Make Windows XP Behave Itself!
Last Updated 6/12/2003 - Visit My Discussion Forum

Despite the hype and Microsoft's continual global dominance and predatory business practices, Windows XP (once properly hobbled) is a fine operating system and is actually a step up from Windows 2000 and it is certainly better than any Windows 9x product.

However, XP is bloated. They leave security holes turned on BY DEFAULT. They have bloated UI services running, etc. Those of us coming from a Windows 2000 sleek environment, you can be overwhelmed by the bloated 'AOL FEATURES' of XP.

This document will get you through turning off the security holes and configuring XP to be sleek and fast as possible. You will end up with a Windows 2000 looking box with all the core improvements and goodies of Windows XP. As I find them, we'll close up other terrible things like WebPopUp and other undesirable 'features' that Microsoft decided you should have by default.

Jump to a Tweak  
01) Classic Start Menu
02) Lose Themes
03) Bloated Display Effects
04) Remote Assistance Security Hole
05) Microsoft Firewall
06) NetBIOS over TCP/IP (Advanced Users)
07) TweakXP your box!
08) QOS Bandwidth Stealing
09) Automatic updates
10) Windows File Protection Disable (Advanced Users)
11) System Restore
12) Ad Blocking (Advanced Users)
13) Error Reporting
14) Disable Windows Picture and Fax Viewer
15) Disable ZIP FOLDERS
16) Disable WebPopup

It should go without saying but I'll say it anyway. I'm not responsible for any damage or issues to your computer from using these tweaks. While I know of NO one that has had problems performing these tweaks, you cannot hold me nor my ISP responsible for anything you find on this page. I've noted more complicated tweaks with an Advanced Users label.

1) Classic Start Menu (Back to Top)

Can't stand the AOL Start Menu? Me neither ... Bloated, confusing, useless to power users.

a. Right click the START button.
c. Select the START MENU tab.
d. Choose CLASSIC option.
e. You may wish to choose CUSTOMIZE and disable PERSONALIZED MENUS at this time if you don't like it as I do not.
f. Hit OK.

2) Lose Themes (Back to Top)

Themes are the bloated, nasty AOL-style things that make XP slower than molassas in winter and drain your system of valuable resources. Changing themes to WINDOWS CLASSIC isn't enough ... it just 'skins' your XP to 'look' like Windows 2000! The service is still running!

a. Hit Start Button.
b. Select Settings.
d. Double click Administration Tools
e. Double click SERVICES.
f. Find the THEMES service (its in alphabetical order). Double click it.
h. Hit STOP button.
i. Hit OK

3) Bloated Display Effects (Back to Top)

XP has all sorts of fancy, slowing features like transparent menus, etc. These suck up valuable CPU time and can be changed easily to allow for fastest operation.

a. Right click MY COMPUTER on your Desktop.
c. Select ADVANCED tab.
d. Under PERFORMANCE, click the SETTINGS button.
f. Hit OK.

4) Remote Assistance Security Hole (Back to Top)

Remote Assistance is a tool that allows someone else to come in and remote control your computer over the Internet or network. This is basically Terminal Services (if you are familiar with that). This is ENABLED BY DEFAULT. Your box is wide open.

a. Right click MY COMPUTER on your Desktop.
c. Select REMOTE tab.
d. Uncheck the bottom box. Your box is no longer accepting connections from others.

5) Microsoft Firewall (Back to Top)

First off, most of you know that Firewalls are an annoyance, not a necessity. The average user, using a good anti-virus program, has no need for a firewall. And for those of you that think you do need one, would you REALLY trust one made by Microsoft, the Great Security Satan? Of course not...

a. Right click MY NETWORK PLACES on the Desktop.
c. Right click on your LAN adapter at the top of the window.
e. Select ADVANCED tab.
f. Uncheck the option under INTERNET CONNECTION FIREWALL.
g. Click OK.

6) NetBIOS over TCP/IP (advanced users) (Back to Top)

Remember that GREAT security hole in every other version of Windows? The one that opens your shared files to other internet users on port 139? Yep, you guessed it ... XP still has it. Note: If you have internet connection sharing, do NOT remove TCP/IP from your LAN network card; just the one connected to the Internet.

Warning! If you have an INTERNAL LAN (i.e. TWO NIC cards in your PC), ONLY perform these steps on your INTERNET connected card, not your LAN card! If you do, you will lose file and print sharing on your box within your LAN!!

a. Right click MY NETWORK PLACES on the Desktop.
c. Right click on your LAN adapter at the top of the window.
e. Select the GENERAL tab.
g. Click ADVANCED button at the bottom.
h. Select the WINS tab.
j. Hit OK. You're protected!

7) TweakXP your box! (Back to Top)

There are many little tweaks that your box can use to make it faster. The perfect utility is TWEAKXP. There are 4 things in there I recommend you do.

a. Download TweakXP from here. (You don't need to buy it to do the next steps)
b. Install TweakXP and run it.
c. Select CACHE OPTIMIZATION on the left.
d. If you have 512MB of RAM or more, select ENABLE CORE SYSTEM PERFORMANCE. This will make XP NOTICABLY faster, as your OS will no longer page to the HD anymore.
e. Select a Cache setting that matches your memory configuration.
f. Select HARDWARE TWEAKS from the list on the left.
g. Make selections and tweak your video card and your CPU based on what you have.
h. Close TweakXP - you're done! TweakXP doesn't need to remain on your system anymore to get the benefits. Uninstall if you like.

8) QOS Bandwidth Stealing (Back to Top)

Quality of Service is a sneaky little thing Microsoft threw in to remove some of your bandwidth for 'exclusive' use by QOS enabled programs. This means you are being throttled 20% of your bandwidth by default, and don't even know it. You can set this to 0% and get this back.

a. Follow the steps in the article here.

9) Automatic updates (Back to Top)

Did you know that XP will default talk to Microsoft and download updates without your knowledge? Maybe you like that. I don't. Here is how you turn it off.

a. Right click MY COMPUTER on your Desktop.
e. Hit OK.

10) Windows File Protection Disable (advanced users) (Back to Top)

Ever tried to remove something from your computer (say, Outlook Express- because you use a REAL email program that isn't full of security holes, like THE BAT or PMMAIL) only to find a moment later the files magically REAPPEAR? That's because Microsoft is dictating to you what you can and cannot have on your computer. Nice, huh? There are numerous programs and hacks out there that CLAIM to disable this feature in XP, but alas, none of them work. The only way to be sure is to remove XPs ability to restore the files by deleting the ones it has in backup.

a. Use a file manager to navigate to the folder c:\windows\system32\dllcache
(Note: Navigating with a Windows utility like Windows Explorer will likely NOT show this folder - they don't want you messing with it. Try using PowerDesk or Directory Opus.
b. Note the 365MB or so of files in there? Those are the 'protected' files that Microsoft doesn't want you ever deleting on your hard drive. If you delete files here, you can then delete them PERMENANTLY from your system.
c. Delete the 'backup' files of the ones you want to remove from your system.
d. Go back to the folder where the 'real' version of the files are stored, delete them.
e. Windows will IMMEDIATELY insist you insert the XP disk so it can get the files back. Select CANCEL, and YES.
f. Repeat for any other problem programs you have.

11) System Restore (Back to Top)

System Restore is a handy, yet double edged sword. It makes 'restore' copies of critical system files every so often so that you can 'roll back' to another point that worked, should your computer have problems. While this sounds like a great deal, it is costly in terms of Hard Drive space. At the VERY LEAST, you should jump in and check the settings and make sure too much of your hard drive isn't used for it. You can also disable it all together.

a. Right click MY COMPUTER on your Desktop.
c. Select SYSTEM RESTORE tab.
d. Change settings according to your desires.
e. Hit OK.

12) Ad Blocking (advanced users) (Back to Top)

There are ad blocking packages out there. Pointless when you can get the same effect by simple measures. To reverse the process, just delete the HOSTS file and rename the HOSTS.SAM file in the same folder to HOSTS.

a. Download this new HOSTS file. (Its zipped)
b. Extract to C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\ (this will overwrite what is there)
c. Load your browser - almost all the ads will be GONE from your pages. If you find another ad server you want blocked, load C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts into Notepad or other PURE text editor and add it in the same manner the others are.

13) Error Reporting (Back to Top)

WOW! Is THIS 'feature' ever annoying!

a. Right click MY COMPUTER on your Desktop.
c. Select ADVANCED tab.
e. Select your options (I recommend full disable).
f. Click OK, Click OK.

14) Disable Windows Picture and Fax Viewer (Back to Top)

Once again, Microsoft doesn't want you using your OWN picture viewing software to look at your images. No matter if you associate files with ACDCEE or other picture viewer software, this annoying XP program will ALWAYS take over and open it. Ditch it and get control back. NOTE: Once disabled you'll need to install another program (or associate common picture files) with an existing program. If you have nothing, and are in a pinch, open your JPG and GIFs with your web browser.

a. Hit the Start button.
b. Select RUN.
c. Enter the following text: (cut and paste for accuracy)

      regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll

d. Click OK..

15) Disable ZIP FOLDERS (Back to Top)

In order to reduce the need for you to use your OWN ZIP utility like WinZip or WinRAR, Microsoft helpfully added the ability to open .ZIP files as folders (more innovation through plagurization - this was actually done years ago by ZipMagic from Mijenix). It also makes your SEARCHes run slow as molassas. Lose it and make you system faster.

a. Hit the Start button.
b. Select RUN.
c. Enter the following text: (cut and paste for accuracy)

      regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll

d. Click OK.

16) Disable WebPopUps (Back to Top)

Seems that people are using WebPopUp Messenger to send spam to unsuspecting Windows users. I believe if you disable NetBIOS over TCP/IP, this will no longer function. However, here is the way to shut the service off completely.

a. Right click on MY COMPUTER.
b. Select MANAGE.
d. Double Click SERVICES.
e. Find MESSENGER service (alphabetical order)
f. Right Click MESSENGER and select PROPERTIES.
g. Hit STOP.
h. Select DISABLED from START TYPE menu.
i. Hit OK.

That's it! In a few easy steps, you've made a sleek, fast running Windows XP that will run faster, safer, and better than any previous version of Windows.