Archive for the ‘System Modifications’ Category

Each user uses (or May not use) devices differently depending on the system setup. Nonetheless, some classes of devices are more commonly disabled than others. Knowing which ones will help you make your decision as to which devices you should disable. The following classes of devices are frequently disabled:

  • Network adapters: Especially on notebook computers, there is often more than one network device. Disabling the network devices that you do not use will definitely save you some booting time.
  • FireWire: If you have 1394 connections, otherwise known as FireWire, you might consider disabling them. Unless you are using your FireWire port to connect your digital video recorder to your computer, or have other external FireWire devices, you have no need to have this device enabled.
  • Biometrics: Some of the latest computer hardware includes biometric sensor equipment such as a fingerprint scanner. If you do not use these security features, you can save time by disabling these devices, too.
  • Modems: Do you have a broadband connection? If so, consider disabling your modem. If you rarely use it, why not disable it? If you ever need to use it again, just re-enable it.
  • TPM security chips: Does your computer have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)? These chips are typically used as a secure place to store an encryption key that would be used for something such as hard drive encryption. If you are not using any of these advanced security features of Windows Vista, disable these devices, too.
  • Multimedia devices: Your computer has lots of multimedia devices. Take a look at the “Sound, video, and game controllers” section in Device Manager. You will find a lot of device drivers that are loaded during your boot. Some are used by all users, but you will find a few that you do not use. For example, I do not use my game port or my MIDI device, so I disabled both of those.
  • PCMCIA cards: If you are a laptop user, consider disabling your PCMCIA card controller located under “PCMCIA adapters.” The PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) slot is a special expansion slot that is rarely used today on laptops except for wireless and wired network cards and card reader attachments for compact flash and other solid-state memory cards. Most laptops now have built-in network adapters, and some even have built-in wireless adapters. If you do not use your PCMCIA adapter, it is yet another device you can safely disable.


Do not disable any hardware devices located under the Disk Drives, Computer, Display Adapters, IDE Disk Controllers, and the System sections (except for the system speaker). These hardware devices are critical to the operation of your system.

In the preceding section, I set a new Timeout value that will cut down on the amount of time that is wasted before the operating system starts to load. That works great when your primary operating system is the default; but if it is not, you must remember to press a key at the right moment on every single boot. There is a much better way to handle the situation. Just make your primary operating system the default operating system in the Windows Boot Manager. This will allow you to benefit from the lower Timeout value and speed up the overall boot time.

Setting the default operating system is a little more difficult because you need to use the command-line Boot Configuration Editor, bcdedit.exe. The Boot Configuration Editor is part of Windows Vista, but it requires an account with administrative rights to run. Even if you are logged in with an account that has administrator rights but have user account control enabled, by default the tool will not run as administrator. Follow these steps to use the Boot Configuration Editor to set the default operating system:

  1. Click the Start button and navigate through All Programs and Accessories.
  2. Locate the Command Prompt shortcut and right-click it to bring up the context menu.
  3. Select Run as administrator from the context menu.
  4. When the command prompt has loaded, you are ready to use the bcdedit.exe command. First, you need to get the ID of the operating system that you want to set as the default. To do this, type bcdedit /enum all in the open command prompt window. Scroll through the list of different entries and look for the one with the description matching “Microsoft Windows” for Windows Vista.
  5. After you have found the correct entry, note its identifier. That is used in the next step.
  6. While still at the command prompt, run bcdedit /default (entry identifier). For example, I ran bcdedit /default {}.

The default operating system on the Window Boot Manager is now set. The next time you reboot, your changes will be in use.

Tip The Boot Configuration Editor is a powerful utility that you can also use to change many other settings of the Windows Boot Manager. Experiment with bcdedit.exe by running bcdedit /? from command prompt. This will show you all the other available options and flags that you can use with the Boot Configuration Editor.

All systems initialize in more or less the same way. During the POST mentioned earlier, the BIOS checks the hardware devices and counts the system memory. Out of all the different types of system memory, the random access memory, better known as RAM, takes the longest to be checked. Checking the RAM takes time, and on a machine that has large amounts of RAM, this calculation can take several seconds. For example, a machine that has 512MB of RAM may take up to 3 seconds just to check the memory. On top of the RAM counting, a few other tests need to be done because your computer wants to make sure that all the hardware in your computer is working properly.

The complete version of these tests is not needed every time that you boot and can be turned off to save time. Most system BIOSs offer a feature called Quick Boot. This feature enables the user to turn off the full version of the test and sometimes enables you to run a shorter quick check test instead. Other BIOSs allow you to turn off the Memory Check only, which will still cut down on a lot of time.

To turn on the Quick Boot feature or to turn off the Memory Check, just do the following:

  1. Enter the system BIOS again by pressing F2 or the correct system setup Enter key on the POST screen for your system.
  2. After you are in the BIOS setup, locate the text “Quick Boot” or “Memory Check,”. Navigate with the arrow keys until the option is highlighted.
    Use the Change Value keys to cycle through the options and select Enable for the Quick Boot feature or Disable if your system’s BIOS has the Memory Check feature.
  3. After you have made the change to the setting, exit the system BIOS by pressing the Escape key. Make sure you save the changes upon exit.

Use of the Quick Boot feature or the disabling of the Memory Check will not do any harm your system. In fact, some computer manufacturers even ship their computers with these settings already optimized for performance. The only downside to disabling the tests is in the rare situation in which your RAM self-destructs; the BIOS will not catch it, and you might receive errors from the operating system or your system could become unstable. If you notice that your system becomes unstable and crashes frequently or will not even boot, go back into the BIOS and re-enable the tests to find out whether your system’s memory is causing the problems.

Now that you have all your performance counters set up and displaying data, you need to select the interval time of how often the data will be updated. How often you want the counters to be updated depends on your purpose for monitoring your hardware. For example, if you are trying to track how much data your computer is sending through your network adapter every day or hour, it is not necessary to have that counter update every second. You will just be wasting CPU cycles because you are making the computer constantly update that performance counter. However, if you are interested in current memory or CPU utilization, you will want a much faster update time.

To change the update interval, perform the following steps:

  1. While in the Performance Monitor section of the Reliability and Performance Monitor, click the Properties button, which looks like a hand pointing to a notebook. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+Q.
  2. After the System Monitor Properties window loads, click the General tab.
  3. Locate the Graph elements section and update the Sample Every text box. This number is in seconds.
  4. Click OK to close the window and save your changes.

Now Performance Monitor will poll the data sources at your specified interval.

The Send To menu is one of the features of my context menus that I use the most. The ability to right-click any file and have a shortcut of it sent to the desktop is invaluable. How would you like to make it even more useful? It is very easy to add your own items to the Send To menu, such as folders that you can send files to. Do you have a folder that you store all your music in? How about a folder that you store all your digital photos in? Just follow these quick steps to add anything you want to your Send To context menu entry.

Tip :If you do not see any of the folders that are required in this section, you might have Hidden Files turned on. Because these folders are hidden by default, you will have to tell Windows to show all files.
  1. Click the Start button and select Computer.
  2. Click on your Windows drive and browse through Users\ Username \AppData\ Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\SendTo.
  3. You will see all the files that appear in the Send To menu. If you want to add an entry to the menu, just copy a shortcut to this folder.
  4. Let’s say that you want to add your Digital Photos folder to your Send To menu. Navigate to your Digital Photos folder, right-click it, and then select Send To desktop. This will create a shortcut to the folder and save it on your desktop. Next, cut and paste the shortcut that was created from your desktop into the SendTo folder.
  5. If you ever want to remove items from the Send To menu, just delete them from the SendTo folder.

It is that simple. You are now finished customizing your Send To menu.

Disable Animations in Vista

Posted: August 22, 2009 in System Modifications, Vista

When demonstrating the Windows Vista user interface, I always get a lot of comments about the animations. Some love them, but others hate them and immediately ask how they can turn them off. This section is for all those users who find the minimize and maximize animations annoying and want to turn them off.

I personally like the animations, but I cannot help but notice how much faster my computer feels when they are turned off. There is not really much of a performance increase, but it just feels snappier because the instant I click Maximize or Minimize or even Close, the window instantly changes or is gone. I recommend giving this section a try even if you like the new animations; you might like the feel even better when they are disabled.

You can disable the animations a few different ways. In this section, I show how you can disable the animations using the Registry. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Click the Start button, type regedit, and press Enter.
  2. When the Registry Editor loads, navigate through HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINES\SOFTWARE\ Policies\Microsoft\Windows\DWM.
  3. Right-click the DWM folder, select New, and then select DWORD (32-bit) Value.
  4. Name this new value DisallowAnimations.
  5. Right-click DisallowAnimations and select Modify. Set the value to 1 and press OK.
  6. Exit the Registry Editor and open a command prompt with administrative access.
  7. You now need to restart the DWM so that it knows to disable animations. Type net stop uxsms followed by net start uxsms to restart the DWM.

When the DWM restarts, the animations are disabled.

Making your own theme enables you to easily back up your visual changes to Windows Vista so that you can distribute your settings to other computers or on the Internet. Making your own theme is actually just like changing the theme. The most difficult part of the process is customizing all the little aspects of the visual elements that make up the user interface. The next few sections walk you through the process of fine-tuning the user interface and then show how you can save your changes and make your own theme file.

Modifying window metrics and fonts

What the heck are window metrics? Well, it is the fancy way of talking about how big everything is. There is a lot that you can adjust that will affect the size of the user interface elements, such as the title bar of a window and other window elements such as buttons. Almost everything on a window has an adjustable size. This section explains how you can alter how your visual style or classic Windows interface looks by fine-tuning the different components of the window.

Another possibility is to fine-tune the fonts used. You can change the size of the font displayed, the style, and even the actual font that is used.

To get started, use Appearance Settings to make the changes:

  1. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize.
  2. Click Window color and appearance.
  3. Select Open classic appearance properties for more color options.
  4. When Appearance Settings loads, click the Advanced button.
  5. The Advanced Appearance window opens. From here, you can change the size and the font for all the different aspects of a window. You can make changes in two different ways. The first way is to use the Item drop-down box. Just expand it and select the item that you want to modify. The other way is to click the object that you want to customize on the Preview picture. This click automatically selects the item from the Item drop-down box for you. Either way, select an item that you want to change. For the purpose of demonstration, I suggest that you click or select Active Title Bar.
  6. After you have selected an object that you want to change, use the Size, Font, and Color settings to customize your window. Keep in mind that most of the color settings here will apply only to the classic Windows interface. If you are running Aero Glass or the non-Glass visual style, the color settings will not affect you.
  7. When you have finished customizing your window metrics, press OK to save your changes.
  8. Press OK once more to activate your changes and close the Appearance Settings window.

You have now finished customizing your window metrics. Next you customize the system sounds.

Modifying system sounds

You can attach sounds to many events such as logging on, logging off, minimizing a window, and maximizing a window. Because I am taking you through all the different things that a theme file will save the settings for, I also go over how to change the settings for the sounds that Windows uses so that you can customize this aspect of your computer, too.

Changing the event sounds is simple. Just follow these steps to launch and configure the sound properties:

  1. Click the Start button, type mmsys.cpl in the box, and press Enter to launch the system Sound properties.
  2. After the Sound properties loads, click the Sounds tab.
  3. To adjust the sound clip for a specific event, click the event that you want to modify by navigating through the Program list
  4. When you have an event selected, the Sounds drop-down list becomes enabled, and you can select the sound clip that you want to use. You can select (None) from the top of the list if you do not want to use a sound for a specific program event. If you cannot find a sound that you like on the list, you can use the Browse button to pick a specific sound file on your computer to use.
  5. Here you can also enable or disable the Windows startup sound by clearing the Play Windows Startup sound box.
  6. When you have finished with your changes, just press OK to save your work.

You have now finished customizing the sound events on your computer. The next step is to customize the cursors of the mouse so that they, too, are included in your theme file.

Customizing mouse cursors

The mouse cursors are yet another item saved in the theme file. Many different pointer schemes are included with Windows Vista. Although not all of them are the nicest-looking cursors, they can really help out in some situations. In addition, Windows Vista includes special large mouse cursors so that the cursors will be easier on the eyes.

To get your cursors set perfectly for your theme file, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button, type main.cpl, and press Enter to open Mouse Properties.
  2. Click the Pointers tab.
  3. You have two options to customize the cursors: You can use the drop-down Scheme box to change all the pointers simultaneously to different styles, by selecting a different cursor scheme from the list. When you select the different schemes, all the cursors change automatically. Alternatively, if you do not like the cursor schemes, you can individually select a cursor from the Customize list by scrolling through the list and selecting the cursor you want to change. Then press the Browse button to change it.
  4. When you have finished customizing your cursors, just press OK, and you are finished.

Now you are ready to move on to customizing the visual style that the theme will use.

Selecting the theme’s visual style

Windows Vista builds on top of the existing Windows XP visual styles, with the addition of support for the new 3D surface-based desktop powered by the Desktop Window Manager (DWM). Visual styles are basically a skin file for the user interface that allows Microsoft to easily change the look of the entire operating system with just one file. Windows Vista includes only two visual styles: Windows Aero (Vista Glass) and Windows Vista Basic. As you might already know, Vista Glass works only on specific supported hardware; those who do not have the correct hardware can use Windows Vista Basic only. Depending on your personal preferences, you might like the new Windows Vista Basic.

Now that you know the fundamentals of the visual style, it’s time to tweak the visual style settings so that when you make your theme file in the next sections it will be included with your sound and mouse settings:

  1. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize to bring up the Personalization screen.
  2. Click Windows Colors and Appearance.
  3. On the next screen, click Open classic appearance properties for more color options. The Appearance Settings window opens.
  4. At the bottom of the window, you will see a Color schemes list.
  5. When you have finished selecting the visual style you want to use, press OK to save your changes.

Configuring Windows Aero (Vista Glass) settings

If you have a computer that supports Vista Glass, you can also customize the color and transparency of the Aero window interface. These settings are also saved in your theme file, so it is a good idea to customize these settings, too. With these settings, you can change the color tint of your windows and adjust the transparency of the glass. Some users have found that the interface works a lot better for them if they disable transparency completely because it makes it easier to see and performs better on their hardware.

Customizing the Windows Aero settings is one of the easiest things to do because these settings are set using Microsoft’s new-settings window format. Just follow these steps to customize Glass your way:

  1. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize.
  2. On the Personalization screen, click Window Color and Appearance.
  3. You have a couple of approaches you can take to change the color tint. You can select one of eight preset color tints. Alternatively, you can come up with your own by expanding Show Color Mixer and then adjusting the Hue, Saturation, and Brightness sliders
  4. You can also disable transparency completely by removing the check in the Enable transparency box.
  5. After you have your color picked, you can fine-tune your selection by adjusting the Color intensity slider.
  6. When you’re finished, press OK to save your changes.

Setting the wallpaper

Most people know how to change wallpaper on their desktop (right-click the desktop, select Personalize, and then select Change Wallpaper), so I’m going to show you a cool little trick to change your wallpaper even faster. This process also allows you to change the wallpaper on multiple computers without having to go to Personalize on each computer.

The trick? Just create a Registry file that you can import into the Registry that will overwrite your current wallpaper information. Doing so is actually easy. Just follow these steps to create your own file:

  1. Open Notepad. (Click the Start button, type notepad, and press Enter.)
  2. Type the following code:
  3. Replace c:\\window\\… with the path and filename to the bitmap that you want to use. Note that in the path, wherever there is a backslash (\), you have to put two of them in the Registry file you are creating because the Registry Editor requires all paths to be in that format. You can change the WallpaperStyle property that will allow you to control how the bitmap image displays on your computer. Setting the value equal to 0 centers the image onscreen. Setting the value to 1 displays the image as if it were tiled or repeated across the entire screen. Setting the value to 2 stretches the image to fit the entire screen.
  4. When you have the text in Notepad looking like the code in Step 2 but with your changes included, you are ready to save the file. Go to the File menu item and select Save As. Then select Save As Type. In the File Name box, enter wallpaper.reg. Keep in mind that you need to have the .reg at the end of the filename so that your computer knows to import the file into your Registry using the Registry Editor.
3.  Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
5.  [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]
6.  "Wallpaper"="C:\\windows\\MyWallpaper.bmp"
7.  "WallpaperStyle"="1"

10.  After you save the file, just go to the location where you saved it and double-click the file. A screen will come up asking whether you want to import the file into the Registry. Click Yes. Then you are presented with a confirmation screen informing you whether the update was successful.

You must log off and back on if you want to see your changes take effect.

Saving your theme to a file

You have now customized all the aspects that the theme file will keep track of. You are ready to create your own theme file that you can use as backup or give to other people so that they can replicate your changes.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear what exactly the theme file saves. The theme file saves the configuration of all the different parts of Windows Vista that you just modified; however, it does not save the actual files that you used. For example, if you decide to change the sounds of a program event on your computer, you also have to provide that sound clip to anyone or any computer that you want to apply the theme file that you made. A theme file just saves the settings, nothing else.

Now that you understand what the theme file format is, you are ready to get started. Making your own theme file is just as easy as changing one. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize.
  2. Click theme.
  3. On the Theme Settings page, click Save As.
  4. Enter the name that you want to save the theme file as and the destination.

You have now created a backup of your theme so that you can easily change back to it when you customize the user interface in the future. Now it’s time for you to explore more Aero Glass tweaks.

Would you like to display a message to your users before they can log on? Are any instructions necessary for users of your computers, such as “Do not shut down this computer!” or possibly a security warning informing unauthorized users that they are breaking the law if they try to log on to your laptop? All these are possible with the help of Group Policy. With just a few clicks, you can easily display a message to your visitors.

Using the Local Security Policy editor, you can turn this feature on. Follow these steps to activate it on your PC:

  1. Click the Start button, type secpol.msc, and press Enter.
  2. When the Local Security Policy editor loads, navigate through Local Policies and then Security Options.
  3. Locate the Interactive logon: Message title for users attempting to log on policy. Right-click it and select Properties.
  4. On the Local Security Settings tab, type a title that you would like to use for your message and click OK.
  5. Locate the Interactive logon: Message text for users attempting to log on policy. Right-click it and select Properties.
  6. On the Local Security Settings tab, type your message and click OK.
  7. Close the Local Security Policy editor; you are finished.

As soon as you log off or reboot, the security message settings will be activated.

As the size of hardrives increase, more people are using partitions to seperate and store groups of files.

XP uses the C:\Program Files directory as the default base directory into which new programs are installed. However, you can change the default installation drive and/ or directory by using a Registry hack.

Run the Registry Editor (regedit)and go to


Look for the value named ProgramFilesDir. by default,this value will be C:\Program Files. Edit the value to any valid drive or folder and XP will use that new location as the default installation directory for new programs.

How To Convert File System, fat – fat32 to ntfs

open a dos prompt and give the command

convert d: /fs:ntfs

this command would convert your d: drive to ntfs.

if the system cannot lock the drive, you will be prompted to convert it during next reboot.

Normally you should select yes.

Conversion from fat/fat32 to ntfs is non-destructive, your data on the drive will NOT be lost.

Be aware that converting to ntfs will make that partition of your

drive unreadable under dos unless you have ntfs utilites to do so.