Friday, June 17, 2005


A great many of Windows' settings can be tweaked to reflect your computing preferences in more relevant ways than, for example, changing the picture on the desktop.

Edit the Send To Menu

When you right-click on a file and choose Send To, a submenu appears with options to copy that file to the A: drive, the My Documents folder, or various other places. You can enhance this menu to copy files into the folder of your choice. Navigate to the folder C:\Documents and Settings\username\SendTo (replacing username with your username). If the SendTo folder isn't visible, select Folder Options from the Tools menu, click on the View tab, and check the box labeled Show hidden files and folders. Launch another instance of Windows Explorer and locate the desired destination folder. Right-drag it into the SendTo folder and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. Rename the new shortcut with the name you want to see in the Send To menu.

Edit the Places Bar

The Open and Save dialogs have a Places Bar at left with five buttons for folders like My Documents. You can actually replace one or more of these with your own choice of folder. The easiest way is to use the TweakUI PowerToy, a free download available at pro/downloads/powertoys.asp. Launch it and click Common Dialogs in the list at left, then the Places Bar. Check the option titled Custom places bar. Now you can choose any of 11 system folders for each of the buttons, or type in a folder of your choice.

It's also possible to change the folders by tweaking values in the Registry key HKCU\ Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Policies\comdlg32\placesbar. Each of the values named Place0 through Place4 holds either a numeric value representing one of the system folders or a string value representing a user-defined folder. To change from system to user-defined, you'll have to delete the numeric value and create a string value with the same name. Clearly, using TweakUI is a much easier solution.

Unwanted Network Neighbors

If you ever have to navigate to My Network Places, you've likely been hung up by the long list of network nodes. These nodes are folder shortcuts, created automatically by the system. They may even be shortcuts to network shares that no longer exist. You should be able to delete them without harm.

Before deleting one, however, right-click it, choose Properties, and verify that the Type field says Folder Shortcut. If so, go ahead and delete it. You can still access any node on the network through the Entire Network node or the Computers Near Me node. When you do, Windows will recreate the folder shortcut.

Don't Wait for a Welcome

Don't wait for a welcome
Tired of the extra step the Windows XP Welcome screen represents? We don't recommend it, but you can make Windows XP boot directly into your main user account, bypassing the Welcome screen. It requires these precise conditions: exactly one user account, not password- protected, and no Guest account. But even if these criteria seem true, you may find that suddenly one day the Welcome screen starts appearing at start-up. This generally happens because of a Windows Update that adds a virtual user account called ASP .NET. This account is useful only to programmers—if you don't need the account, you can delete it from the Control Panel's User Accounts applet. Of course, the next Windows Update may well restore that account. And it's a really bad idea to configure your user account with no password.

Don't Wait for a Welcome: Multiuser Edition

You may want to boot directly to the default account, bypassing the Welcome screen, on a computer that has multiple user accounts defined. Select Run from the Start menu and enter control userpasswords2 to launch the User Accounts applet. Uncheck the box at the top whose title begins Users must enter a user name. (Note that if your computer is connected to a domain this box won't appear, and this solution does not apply.) Click OK and enter your username and password in the Automatically Log On dialog that appears. Click OK once more. Windows should now boot to the default account without requiring a password.

Whichever technique you used to bypass the Welcome screen, you won't lose access to the other user accounts. If you hold down the Shift key while Windows is starting, the Welcome screen will appear. You can also choose Log Off from the Start menu and then log on as another user.

No matter how you accomplish it, configuring Windows XP to boot without going through the Welcome screen leaves your system wide open to anybody with physical access to it. Unless the system in question is locked in a safe when not in use, you may be better off suffering through the drudgery of entering a password at start-up.

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