Windows XP Timesaving Techniques for Dummies


* For the millions who already know the basics of Microsoft Windows, this handy reference shows how to make it work faster and better through quick, easy-to-follow lessons loaded with screen shots and step-by-step instructions
* Explores more than sixty Windows XP tasks, including customizing the Windows desktop, protecting online privacy, creating CDs and DVDs with Windows XP, working with the Outlook Express e-mail client, dealing with digital photos and video, and setting up ...
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* For the millions who already know the basics of Microsoft Windows, this handy reference shows how to make it work faster and better through quick, easy-to-follow lessons loaded with screen shots and step-by-step instructions
* Explores more than sixty Windows XP tasks, including customizing the Windows desktop, protecting online privacy, creating CDs and DVDs with Windows XP, working with the Outlook Express e-mail client, dealing with digital photos and video, and setting up a home network
* Along with the normal Windows tools, Windows XP is packed with rich media features and networking options previously available only through separate software packages; this book helps readers make the most of these exciting additions
* Author is one of the best-known gurus for first-time PC users, and maintains a Web site and e-mail subscriptions that reach more than 500,000 readers weekly
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
You’re running Windows XP (Home or Professional). You don’t need to learn how to point and click. But you suspect you could be doing a lot more with Windows XP. Getting the job done faster. Having more fun -- and fewer hassles. You’re right. And Woody Leonhard’s going to show you how, in Windows XP Timesaving Techniques for Dummies.

Leonhard’s been sharing his Microsoft expertise for years: His free Windows and Office email newsletters now reach more than 510,000 readers every week. Now he’s brought together some 600 pages of great Windows time savers into one incredibly easy book. We’re not talking about obscure registry tweaks that promise to deliver whopping 1% performance improvements but actually crash your computer. We’re talking about stuff that’s actually useful and doable.

These tips cover no less than 60 categories of tasks. You’ll learn how to customize your Windows desktop; create CDs and DVDs as quickly and effectively as possible; protect your privacy online; make the most of Outlook Express email; cope with your digital photos more efficiently -- and that’s just scratching the surface.

Leonhard focuses much of his attention on Windows XP’s improved networking features and rich media capabilities, often showing how to use Windows to do things that would’ve required costly add-ons in previous versions. (Sometimes add-ons are still required; Leonhard points those out, as well. And the book’s a gold mine of web links to deeper information: for example, complete guides to setting up your computer for multiple operating systems, or sites that contain free benchmark tools for seeing just how fast your computer is.

Take for example, the tip on getting Windows to start faster by skipping the logon screen (not for high-security environments, but handy for lots of other folks who always logon the same way to play the same games). Like a few of Leonhard’s tips, this one takes advantage of Windows XP PowerToys, which are definitely worth your time to download. (By the way, if you do need to see a logon screen -- maybe to change users -- you can always do that by pressing Shift while Windows starts.)

If you care about every last second, Leonhard also points you to Microsoft’s BootVis tool, which tweaks the boot process in all sorts of ways you probably don’t want to know about.

It’s conventional wisdom that adding memory improves performance. Often, it does -- but Leonhard also tells you when it won’t. (You could save some bucks.)

There’s also plenty of coverage here for notebook users. Leonard helps you make the most of standby and hibernate, and identifies some power-saving choices that could save you both time and battery life. There’s even a trick for deterring theft.

If you need an introductory guide to Windows XP, Leonhard’s earlier book, Windows XP All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies, fits the bill. But if you’re further along, Windows XP Timesaving Techniques for Dummies is tough to beat. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

From the Publisher
“…Windows For Dummies has long been the standard for Windows references…[now] to make Windows work faster have this title…” (Computer Business Review, September 2003)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764537486
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/8/2003
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Woody Leonhard is a Windows guru and author of Windows XP All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies. He publishes several e-mail newsletters, including Woody's Office Watch and Woody's Windows Watch.
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Read an Excerpt

Windows XP Timesaving Techniques For Dummies

By Woody Leonhard

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7883-9

Chapter One

Getting the Latest Version of Windows


Save Time By

  • Getting the right version of Windows XP - the first time

  • Updating Windows to the latest version

  • Making the best installation decisions

  • Bringing over all your old files and settings quickly - or maybe not

    Appearances to the contrary, Windows XP hasn't taken over the earth. Three years after Microsoft unleashed Windows XP on an unsuspecting world, only half of the roughly 400,000,000 Windows machines alive were running XP. The other 200,000,000 were still chugging along with Windows 2000, or even 98 or Me.

    With the advent of Service Pack 2 and its considerable improvements in dozens of different areas, Microsoft is betting that more people will buy new computers, thereby acquiring Windows XP. If the Softies are lucky, many folks who just said "No" to the original Windows XP may be convinced to part with their hard-earned clams to upgrade their current machines to the "reloaded" Windows XP SP2.

    If you're struggling with the question of whether to get Windows XP Home or part with the extra hundred bucks and go straight for Windows XP Professional, the first part of this technique pays for the book several times over - and saves you a bunch of time in the process.

    If you have a new PC, or you've just installed Windows XP on an olderPC, you need to wade through the arcana of Service Pack 2, and make a few key decisions with precious little unbiased advice. This technique points the way.

    If you're faced with the chore of upgrading an older version of Windows to Windows XP, this technique includes a handful of school-of-hardknocks recommendations that can save you hours (days!) of hassle. When is it safe to stick in the upgrade CD and let it have its way with your machine? When do you need to reformat the whole ^%$#@! hard drive before installing XP? Find the straight answers here.

    Finally, in this technique, I take you behind the scenes with the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, a remarkable Wizard if ever a Wiz there Wuz. Bet you didn't know that you can use it to transfer files when you switch computers at the office - even if you're moving to a computer that's been around forever - and save yourself a headache in the process.

    Installing Service Pack 2

    Windows XP Service Pack 2 may sound like a patch - it's called a Service Pack, after all - but in reality SP2 embodies a massive upgrade for Windows XP. No doubt you've heard lots of horror stories about upgrading to SP2, or buying a new machine with SP2 installed. Some of the horror stories are true - but most of them, fortunately, are way overblown, and there are ways (which I discuss in this technique) to minimize your chances of turning your PC into SP2 Road Kill. If you don't have SP2, you should get it, right now.

    You gotta ask yourself one question ... Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

    Oops. Wrong movie.

    If you decide to upgrade to Service Pack 2, seriously consider wiping out your entire hard drive, reinstalling Windows XP, applying Service Pack 2, and then bringing back all your programs, data, and settings. It's a Herculean task, but your system runs better for it. If you're willing to install from scratch, and you have a day or two to spare, jump in this technique to the section called "Breezing through clean installs." Back up your data, install Windows XP, install SP2, and then follow along here in the section called "Setting up Service Pack 2". Then bring your programs and data back. Your PC will thank you for it.

    If you just unpacked a new computer with Windows XP, or if you're brave enough to ignore the hype and upgrade to Windows XP Service Pack 2 in spite of your brother-in-law's podiatrist's secretary's nail stylist's recommendation, here's the best way to proceed:

    1. Make sure you aren't running SP2 already. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and choose Properties (see Figure 1-1).

    If you see the phrase "Service Pack 2" (or anything later - perhaps "Service Pack 3"), you already have SP2 and can skip this section completely.

    2. Check your hardware manufacturer's Web site to make sure that your BIOS is up to date. While you're there, search the site for any specific recommendations about installing Windows XP Service Pack 2.

    The BIOS is a small, crucial program that lets your computer communicate with the outside world. If you have an older edition of your computer's BIOS, it may work fine with the version of Windows that you're using now - and die when confronted with Service Pack 2.

    Installing a new BIOS is almost always quick and painless, it's frequently free or almost free, and the latest BIOS may well make your PC run better. You should update your BIOS every couple of years anyway. Just be sure to follow your computer manufacturer's instructions precisely. If you've never updated a BIOS, or need a refresher course, check out

    3. If you can't get the latest BIOS, at the very least you must protect yourself from a well-known bug in the SP2 installer that causes PCs to completely freeze in the middle of installation.

    Microsoft screwed this one up big time. They discovered the bug after Service Pack 2 shipped. Instead of spending millions of dollars to reissue Service Pack 2, they decided to release a patch that has to be run before you install SP2.

    4. Follow Technique 52 to install and run Spybot- Search & Destroy. Then follow Technique 53 to install and run Ad-Aware.

    Both of these steps are necessary to clean garbage out of your system before you install Service Pack 2. There's one specific piece of software - a, uh, "permission-based contextual marketing network" program called T.V. Media that throws the SP2 installer for loops.

    5. Follow Technique 60 and perform a complete backup of your system.

    If you can run Norton Ghost, or some other program that makes a full mirror image of your hard drive, all the better.

    6. Make sure you're the only one logged on to your computer, and shut down all running programs.

    If you have Fast User Switching enabled (see Technique 8), make sure all other users are logged off.

    7. Make sure you have Service Pack 2 ready.

    Got the update CD? Great. That's all you need. If you can't find the CD at your local computer shoppe and don't want to order it from Microsoft ( protect/cd/confirm.aspx; allow four to six weeks), it's easy to find online. If you have a fast Internet connection, go to technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/maintain/ winxpsp2.mspx, click the Download and Deploy Service Pack 2 to Multiple Computers link, and download the SP2 installation file - all 270MB of it. If you're limping along with a slow connection, or you want to follow the Microsoft Party Line, you can use Windows Update (see the next step).

    Depending on which patches you already have installed, Windows Update may only download a portion of the full SP2 package. If there's any chance that you might want to rerun the SP2 installer, or if you want to have a copy of SP2 to give to a friend or co-worker, avoid Windows Update.

    8. Run the update.

    Stick the CD in the drive and follow the instructions on-screen. Or double-click the Windows XP-KB835935-SP2-ENU.exe file and run it. Or, choose Start[right arrow]All Programs[right arrow]Windows Update, and wade through a zillion questions to get SP2 Express Update going.

    9. When the installer finishes, restart your computer.

    SP2 immediately asks for security information, which I discuss in the next section.

    Setting Up Service Pack 2

    Immediately upon installing Service Pack 2, or unpacking and plugging in a new computer with Service Pack 2, Windows XP demands answers to a few key security questions. Depending on your route to enlightenment ... er, depending on the way you received Service Pack 2, the physical appearance of the questions may vary. But in the end, Windows XP only wants to know how to handle its Security Center settings (see Figure 1-2).

    If you've already gone through the initial setup and you want to rethink your answers to the key questions, you can bring up the Security Center by choosing Start[right arrow]Control Panel and double-clicking Security Center.

    My strong recommendations for the three Security Center settings:

  • Firewall: Set to ON, signifying that Windows Firewall is turned on, unless you have a thirdparty firewall (such as Zone Alarm, which I cover in Technique 51).

  • Automatic Updates: Set to notify you when updates are available, but not install until you give your permission. This may be the most controversial recommendation in the entire book, but I believe it's in your best interests to control when (or, indeed, if) patches are installed, simply because Microsoft's record with botched patches has been so abysmal. You can do so by clicking the Automatic Updates icon at the bottom of the Security Center, and then selecting one of the two middle buttons in the Automatic Updates dialog box (see Figure 1-3). See Technique 55 for the gory details.

  • Virus Protection: May not show anything at all: Windows Security Center is notorious for not correctly identifying the status of antivirus protection. Regardless of what the Security Center says, you need to have one of the major antivirus packages installed, and update it daily. When setup is complete, some of your programs may not work. See the next section for details.

    Recovering from SP2 Problems

    Most Service Pack 2 problems that I encounter fall into two broad categories:

  • Hardware that doesn't work because new drivers are needed.

  • Programs that don't work because of Windows Firewall settings.

    Immediately after you install Service Pack 2, run through Technique 58 and make sure that all your drivers are up to date. If you have a program that doesn't work, look at Technique 50 for detailed information on poking through Windows Firewall.

    With a bit of luck, you'll have Service Pack 2 up and running in no time.

    Choosing Between XP Home and XP Professional

    Everybody knows that Windows XP Professional is "better" than Windows XP Home, right? That's why XP Professional costs a hundred bucks more. But the simple fact is that most individual Windows users (that is, people who aren't connected to a Big Corporate Network) are better off with Windows XP Home.

    There are some exceptions, however. Aren't there always?

    Chances are very good that the company you bought your computer from advertises that it "recommends Windows XP Professional". You know why? Because Microsoft forced PC manufacturers to boldly post that phrase, as part of their licensing agreement: If Frodo Computer Co wanted to sell Windows XP, Frodo had to say "Frodo recommends Windows XP Professional", conspicuously, whether anybody at Frodo Inc gave two cat's whiskers about XP Pro or not. As this book went to press, Microsoft's, uh, creative marketing requirement was being contested in court.

    Here are the cases when you must choose XP Professional:

  • You're connected to a Big Corporate Network (a domain in Microsoft-speak). Your network administrator will almost undoubtedly insist that you use Windows XP Professional Edition. And you mustn't anger the network administrator. Besides, he or she has good reasons, mostly revolving around security. End of discussion.

  • You currently run Windows 2000 or NT 4, and you want to upgrade to XP without wiping out your hard drive. You can install XP Home on a PC that currently runs Windows 2000 or NT, but you have to reformat the hard drive in the process. (See the next section for details.) With the Professional Edition, you can skip that step.

  • You want to set up a slave machine to use with the Remote Desktop feature. The Remote Desktop feature (see Figure 1-4) allows XP Professional machines to act as slaves. You can take control over your slave PC using just about any computer that can connect to the slave over a network, and the slave behaves as if you were sitting right in front of it. This setup is great for retrieving files you left at home or printing a document at the office while you're on the road. Two important details

    * XP Professional must be running on the slave machine, but you can have any version of Windows on the master machine.

    * Both XP Home and XP Professional have a similar feature called Remote Assistance (see Technique 61), but someone has to be sitting at the slave machine to get Remote Assistance to work.

    If you want to be able to access your PC as a slave, and someone will always be around the slave machine to click a few times when you make the connection, XP Home (with Remote Assistance) works just as well as XP Professional (with Remote Desktop).

  • You want to use specific kinds of exotic hardware, a handful of special-purpose software, or you need the extra security of NTFS file encryption. Only XP Professional supports dual processor systems, or the 64-bit Itanium processor (in yer dreams). XP Home doesn't include the settings to run more than one monitor simultaneously, which is great for gamers and people with biiiiig spreadsheets, but most video card manufacturers have multiple-monitor-capable drivers of their own.
  • You want to clump together two or more hard drives so that they look like a single hard drive (what the big-time geeks call dynamic disks), or to set up a mini-Web site. XP Professional also supports a very secure form of file encryption, so that you can password-protect all your files.

  • You want to have Windows handle all your backups and restores.

    Microsoft really bungled this one. XP Home has a handy Backup capability, but restoring those backups is, ahem, less than dependable. (See Technique 60.) XP Professional contains a very versatile - but quite complex - backup/ restore feature called ASR. If you're willing to do your own backups, possibly with a thirdparty utility, such as Norton Ghost for making full disk mirror copies (, or ZipBackup ( for backing up individual files or folders, XP Home is fine.

  • If you're using XP on a portable, and you want to automatically synchronize network files when you unplug the portable from the network, you probably want XP Professional. For most people struggling with the idea of spending an extra hundred dollars on XP Professional, it boils down to one question: whether Offline Files (in XP Professional only and shown in Figure 1-5) works better than the older Briefcase (which is available in XP Home). The timesaving answer: If you have a lot of files that you frequently need to synchronize between your laptop and the network, XP Professional is worth the money.

    Figure out where you stand with those seven issues, and you'll quickly discover whether you need to spend the extra money on XP Professional.

    Upgrading Quickly

    If you're installing Windows XP on a machine that has another version of Windows running, the most important decision you make is whether to upgrade Windows on top of the current version or wipe out the hard drive entirely, reformat it, and start all over from scratch.

    Make the wrong decision, and you'll regret it for months or years to come.

    In my experience, people who have done a clean install - where they completely wipe out the hard drive and install Windows XP from scratch - have many fewer problems down the road than those who upgrade in-place.

    The problem: A clean install takes more time now, but results in a much more stable copy of Windows. An in-place upgrade goes much faster now, but the resulting system may be less stable over the long term.


    Excerpted from Windows XP Timesaving Techniques For Dummies by Woody Leonhard Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Table of Contents


    Part I: Making Windows Lean and Clean.

    Technique 1: Getting Windows Running in a Flash.

    Technique 2: Making Windows Work Faster.

    Technique 3: Running the Activation Gauntlet.

    Technique 4: Saving Time (And Your Eyes) on the Screen.

    Technique 5: Stopping a Thief with Your Welcome Screen.

    Technique 6: Rapid Power Passwords.

    Technique 7: Windows Power Management.

    Technique 8: Retrieving Your Product Key.

    Technique 9: Keeping Programs from Starting Automatically.

    Technique 10: Removing and Reinstalling Programs.

    Part II: Convincing Windows to Work Your Way.

    Technique 11: Streamlining the Start Menu.

    Technique 12: Building a Power Desktop.

    Technique 13: Shut Down, Restart, and Switch Users Quickly.

    Technique 14: Tricking Out the Taskbar.

    Technique 15: Launching Your Most-Used Programs Quickly.

    Technique 16: Using Built-In Keyboard Shortcuts.

    Technique 17: Making Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts.

    Part III: Timesaving File Handling Techniques.

    Technique 18: Exploring Effectively.

    Technique 19: Finding the Files You Want Fast.

    Technique 20: Listing Files Quickly.

    Technique 21: Running Disk Chores While You Sleep.

    Technique 22: Keeping Your Hard Drive in Shape.

    Part IV: Making the Most of Your Internet Time.

    Technique 23: Customizing Internet Explorer.

    Technique 24: Saving Time with Google.

    Technique 25: Giving Pop-Ups the Brush-Off.

    Technique 26: Locating and Sharing Files on the Internet.

    Technique 27: Controlling Cookies Quickly.

    Technique 28: Keeping Windows Messenger in Line.

    Technique 29: Streamlining Outlook Express.

    Technique 30: Zapping Junk Mail.

    Technique 31: Protecting Your Kids.

    Part V: Ensuring Peak Network Performance.

    Technique 32: Installing a Small Network.

    Technique 33: Sharing an Internet Connection.

    Technique 34: Adding and Configuring a New User.

    Technique 35: Sharing Drives and Folders.

    Part VI: Fast Security Techniques.

    Technique 36: Protecting Your PC from Viruses While You Sleep.

    Technique 37: Fast, Easy, and Safe Online Shopping.

    Technique 38: Thwarting Internet Intruders.

    Technique 39: Checking Your Security Perimeter.

    Part VII: Keeping Your PC Alive.

    Technique 40: Running Periodic Maintenance.

    Technique 41: Keeping Windows Up-to-Date Automatically.

    Technique 42: Making Backups — Fast.

    Technique 43: Requesting Remote Assistance.

    Technique 44: Getting Help Fast.

    Part VIII: Optimizing Your Musical Entertainment.

    Technique 45: Using Windows Media Player.

    Technique 46: No-Nonsense Music Gathering.

    Technique 47: Creating Your Own Music CDs.

    Technique 48: Transferring Music to MP3 Players.

    Technique 49: Tuning In the Radio.

    Part IX: Having Fun and Saving Time with Visual Media.

    Technique 50: Taking Snapshots with a Webcam.

    Technique 51: Recording Video with a Webcam.

    Technique 52: Editing Your Home Movies.

    Technique 53: Managing Pictures from a Digital Camera.

    Technique 54: Doing More with Your Pics.

    Technique 55: Decreasing Picture Download Times.

    Technique 56: Printing and Posting Pictures.

    Technique 57: Using a Scanner Effectively.

    Part X: Fast (Nearly Painless) Disaster Recovery.

    Technique 58: Getting Your PC to Boot When It Doesn’t Want To.

    Technique 59: Restoring Your System after Calamitous Change.

    Technique 60: Recovering a Lost Password.

    Technique 61: Surviving the Blue Screen of Death.

    Technique 62: Creating a Startup Disk.

    Part XI: The Scary (Or Fun) Stuff.

    Technique 63: Changing the Registry without Getting Burned.

    Technique 64: Making Programs Run Your Way.

    Technique 65: Updating Drivers Safely.

    Technique 66: Using Program Compatibility Modes.

    Technique 67: Getting the Most from Windows Solitaire.

    Technique 68: Cracking Windows Minesweeper.

    Technique 69: Setting Winning Streaks in Spider Solitaire.

    Technique 70: Cheating at Hearts.


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