Archive for the ‘Tweaking’ Category

The problems described in the symptoms section occur because of a lock on the Service Control Manager (SCM) database.  As a result of the lock, none of the services can access the SCM database to initialize their service start requests. To verify that a Windows computer is affected by the problem discussed in this article, run the following command from the command Prompt:

sc querylock

The output below would indicate that the SCM database is locked:

QueryServiceLockstatus – Success
IsLocked : True
LockOwner : .\NT Service Control Manager
LockDuration : 1090 (seconds since acquired)

There is no additional information in the Event Logs beyond those from the Service Control Manager indicating that Service startup requests have timed out. The underlying root cause is a deadlock between the Service Control Manager and HTTP.SYS.

Resolution

You can modify the behavior of HTTP.SYS to depend on another service being started first.  To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. Open Registry Editor
  2. Navigate to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP and create the following Multi-string value: DependOnService
  3. Double click the new DependOnService entry
  4. Type CRYPTSVC in the Value Data field and click OK.
  5. Reboot the server

NOTE: Please ensure that you make a backup of the registry / affected keys before making any changes to your system.

 

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Issue: We had a System running Server 2008 and when it would boot it would hang with “Applying User Settings”.  When it would finally load, many of the services were not started.
Diagnosis: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2004121 – This Microsoft Article explains the issue associated with the SCM database being locked:

sc querylock
The output below would indicate that the SCM database is locked:
QueryServiceLockstatus – Success
IsLocked : True
LockOwner : .\NT Service Control Manager
LockDuration : 1090 (seconds since acquired)

Resolution: You can modify the behavior of HTTP.SYS to depend on another service being started first.  To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. Open Registry Editor
  2. Navigate to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP and create the following Multi-string value: DependOnService
  3. Double click the new DependOnService entry
  4. Type CRYPTSVC in the Value Data field and click OK.
  5. Reboot the server

 

NOTE: Please ensure that you make a backup of the registry / affected keys before making any changes to your system.

While Windows Vista may be Microsoft Corp’s most secure operating system ever, it’s far from completely secure. In its fresh-from-the-box configuration, Vista still leaves a chance for your personal data to leak out to the Web through Windows Firewall or for some wicked bot to tweak your browser settings without your knowledge.

But by making a few judicious changes using the security tools within Windows Vista — and in some cases by adding a few pieces of free software –you can lock down your operating system like a pro.

1. Use Windows Security Centre as a starting point

For a quick overview of your security settings, the Windows Security Center is where you’ll find the status of your system firewall, auto update, malware protection and other security settings. Click Start, Control Panel, SecurityCenter, or you can simply click the shield icon in the task tray. If you see any red or yellow, you are not fully protected.

For example, if you have not yet installed an antivirus product on your machine, or if your current antivirus product is out of date, the malware section of the Security Center should be yellow. Windows does not offer a built-in antivirus utility, so you’ll want to install your own. For free antivirus,

I recommend Avast 4.8 Home Edition.

2. Use Windows Defender as a diagnostic tool

The malware section of Windows Vista also protects against spyware using Windows Defender. The antispyware protection in your antivirus program usually trumps the protection Microsoft provides, but there are several good reasons to keep Windows Defender enabled. One is that every antispyware program uses a different definition of what is and is not spyware, so redundant protection can actually offer some benefit.

Another reason to keep Windows Defender enabled: diagnostics. Click Tools, and choose Software Explorer from the resulting pane. You can display lists of applications from several categories such as Currently Running Programs, Network Connected Programs and Winsock Service Providers, but Start-u

p Programs is perhaps the most useful. Click on any name in the left window, and full details will appear in the right pane. By highlighting, you can remove, disable or enable any of the programs listed.

3. Disable the start-up menu

Windows Vista keeps track of all the documents and programs you launch in the start-up menu. This can be convenient for some users, but it can also compromise your privacy if you share a computer within an office or household. Fortunately, Windows Vista provides an easy way to tweak this setting

. To protect your privacy, follow these steps:

* Right-click on the task bar and select “Properties.”

* Click on the Start Menu tab.

* Uncheck “Store and display a list of recently opened files.”

* Uncheck “Store and display a list of recently opened programs.”

* Click “OK.”

4. Get two-way firewall protection

No desktop should be without a personal firewall, but even if the Security Center says you’re protected, you may not be. The Windows Firewall within Vista blocks all incoming traffic that might be malicious or suspicious — and that’s good. But outbound protection is not enabled by default. That’s a dangerous situation if some new malicious software finds its way onto your PC.

Microsoft did include the tools for Windows Vista to have a true two-way firewall, but finding the setting is a little complicated. (Hint: Don’t go looking the Windows Firewall settings dialog box.

To get two-way firewall protection in Windows Vista, do the following:

* Click on the Start button; in the search space, type “wf.msc” and press Enter.

* Click on the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security icon. This management interface displays the inbound and outbound rules.

* Click on Windows Firewalls Properties. You should now see a dialog box with several tabs.

* For each profile — Domain, Private and Public — change the setting to

Block, and then click OK.

Even if you do this tweak, I recommend adding a more robust third-party firewall. I suggest either Comodo Firewall Pro or ZoneAlarm, both of which are free and fare very well in independent firewall testing.

5. Lock out unwanted guests

If you share your computer with others — and even if you don’t – Windows Vista includes a neat way to keep unwanted guests from guessing your systems administrator password. When you set up users and declare one user as administrator with full privileges, Windows Vista allows an outsider unlimited guesses at the password you chose. Here’s how to limit the guesses.

* Click Start, then type “Local Security Policy.”

* Click Account Lockout Policy.

* Choose Account Lockout Threshold.

* At the prompt, enter the number of invalid log-ins you’ll accept (say, three).

* Click OK and close.

6. Now audit your attackers

With the Account Lockout policy in place, you can now enable auditing to see any account attacks. To turn on auditing for failed log-on events, do the following:

* Click the Start button, type “secpol.msc,” and click the secpol icon.

* Click on Local Policies and then Audit Policy.

* Right-click on “Audit account log-on events policy,” and select Properties.

* Check the Failure box, and click OK.

* Right-click on “Audit log-on events policy” and select Properties.

* Check the Failure box and click OK.

* Close the Local Security Policy window.

You can then use the Event Viewer (by running eventvwr.msc) to view the logs under Windows Logs and Security.

7. Secure your Internet Explorer settings

The Windows Security Center will also report whether your Internet Explorer 7(or IE 8) security settings are at their recommended levels. If the screen shows this section as red, you can adjust the settings within the browser itself.

* Within Internet Explorer, click Tools in the menu bar.

* From the drop-down menu, click Internet Options.

* Choose the Security tab.

* Within the Security tab, click Custom Level.

Here you’ll see a window with all the security options for the browser. If any are below the recommended level (if, say, some malware reconfigured your browser settings), these options will be highlighted in red.

To change an individual setting, click the appropriate radio button. To reset them all, use the button near the bottom of the tab. You can also change the overall security setting for Internet Explorer from the default Medium-High setting to the recommended High or Medium, if you wish. Click OK to save and close.

8. Use OpenDNS Domain Name System (DNS) servers act as a phone book. When you type “pcworld.com” in the address bar, for instance, your browser sends that common

-name request to your Internet service provider’s DNS servers to be converted into a series of numbers, or an IP address.

Lately, DNS servers have come under attack, with criminals seeking to redirect common DNS preferences to servers that they control. One way to stop such abuse is to use OpenDNS.

Go to Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, and then click Network and Sharing Center. Under the tasks listed on the left, click Manage Network Connections. In the Manage Network Connections window, do the following:

* Right-click on the icon representing your network card.

* Click Properties.

* Click Internet Protocol Version 4.

* Click the Properties button.

* Select the Use the following DNS server addresses radio button.

* Type in a primary address of 208.67.222.222.

* Type in a secondary address of 208.67.220.220.

* Click OK.

9. Live with User Account Control

One area where some people might want to see the Windows Security Center turn red is User Account Control (UAC), perhaps the most controversial security feature within Windows Vista. Designed to keep rogue remote software from automatically installing (among other things), UAC has a tendency to thwart legitimate software installations by interrupting the process several times with useless messages.

In Windows 7, you’ll be able to set UAC to the level you want. Until then, you do have some options. One is to disable UAC. I would caution against that, since UAC is meant to warn you of potential danger.

Instead, install TweakUAC, a free utility that enables you to turn UAC on or off as well as provides an intermediate “quiet” mode that keeps UAC on but suppresses administration-elevation prompts. With TweakUAC in quiet mode, UAC will appear to be off to those running as administrator accounts, while people with standard user accounts will still be prompted.

10. Check your work

Now that you’ve tweaked Windows Vista, you can keep tabs on your system’s security with the System Health Report. This diagnostic tool takes input from the Performance and Reliability Monitor and turns it into an information-packed report that can spotlight potential security problems.

* Open Control Panel.

* Click System.

* In the Tasks list, click Performance (near the bottom).

* In the resulting Tasks list, click Advanced tools (near the top).

* Click the last item on the resulting list — “Generate a system health report.”

The report will list any missing drivers that might be causing error codes, tell you whether your antivirus protection is installed and declare whether UAC is turned on. You may want to run this report once a month just to make sure everything is still good.

WINDOWS XP HIDDEN APPS

To run any of these apps go to Start > Run and type the executable name (ie charmap).

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1) Character Map = charmap.exe (very useful for finding unusual characters)

2) Disk Cleanup = cleanmgr.exe

3) Clipboard Viewer = clipbrd.exe (views contents of Windows clipboard)

4) Dr Watson = drwtsn32.exe (Troubleshooting tool)

5) DirectX diagnosis = dxdiag.exe (Diagnose & test DirectX, video & sound cards)

6) Private character editor = eudcedit.exe (allows creation or modification of characters)

7) IExpress Wizard = iexpress.exe (Create self-extracting / self-installing package)

8) Microsoft Synchronization Manager = mobsync.exe (appears to allow synchronization of files on the network for when working offline. Apparently undocumented).

9) Windows Media Player 5.1 = mplay32.exe (Retro version of Media Player, very basic).

10) ODBC Data Source Administrator = odbcad32.exe (something to do with databases)

11) Object Packager = packager.exe (to do with packaging objects for insertion in files, appears to have comprehensive help files).

12) System Monitor = perfmon.exe (very useful, highly configurable tool, tells you everything you ever wanted to know about any aspect of PC performance, for uber-geeks only )

13) Program Manager = progman.exe (Legacy Windows 3.x desktop shell).

14) Remote Access phone book = rasphone.exe (documentation is virtually non-existant).

15) Registry Editor = regedt32.exe [also regedit.exe] (for hacking the Windows Registry).

16) Network shared folder wizard = shrpubw.exe (creates shared folders on network).

17) File siganture verification tool = sigverif.exe

18) Volume Contro = sndvol32.exe (I’ve included this for those people that lose it from the System Notification area).

19) System Configuration Editor = sysedit.exe (modify System.ini & Win.ini just like in Win98! ).

20) Syskey = syskey.exe (Secures XP Account database – use with care, it’s virtually undocumented but it appears to encrypt all passwords, I’m not sure of the full implications).

21) Microsoft Telnet Client = telnet.exe

22) Driver Verifier Manager = verifier.exe (seems to be a utility for monitoring the actions of drivers, might be useful for people having driver problems. Undocumented).

23) Windows for Workgroups Chat = winchat.exe (appears to be an old NT utility to allow chat sessions over a LAN, help files available).

24) System configuration = msconfig.exe (can use to control starup programs)

25) gpedit.msc used to manage group policies, and permissions

Why Doesn’t Windows Remember My Folder View Settings?
If you’ve changed the view settings for a folder, but Windows “forgets” the settings when you open the folder again, or if Windows doesn’t seem to remember the size or position of your folder window when you reopen it, this could be caused by the default limitation on storing view settings data in the registry; by default Windows only remembers settings for a total of 200 local folders and 200 network folders.
To work around this problem, create a BagMRU Size DWORD value in both of the following registry keys, and then set the value data for both values to the number of folders that you want Windows to remember the settings for. For example, for Windows to remember the settings for 5000 local folders and 5000 network folders, set both values to 5000.
Here is how:
Follow these steps, and then quit Registry Editor:
1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
2. Locate and then click the following key in the registry:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell
3. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
4. Type BagMRU Size, and then press ENTER.
5. On the Edit menu, click Modify.
6. Type 5000, and then click OK.
AND:
1. Locate and then click the following key in the registry:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam
2. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
3. Type BagMRU Size, and then press ENTER.
4. On the Edit menu, click Modify.
5. Type 5000, and then click OK.
Note:
When you use roaming user profiles, registry information is copied to a server when you log off and copied to your local computer when you log on. Therefore, you may have performance issues if you increase the BagMRU Size values for roaming user profiles.

Why Doesn’t Windows Remember My Folder View Settings?

If you’ve changed the view settings for a folder, but Windows “forgets” the settings when you open the folder again, or if Windows doesn’t seem to remember the size or position of your folder window when you reopen it, this could be caused by the default limitation on storing view settings data in the registry; by default Windows only remembers settings for a total of 200 local folders and 200 network folders.

To work around this problem, create a BagMRU Size DWORD value in both of the following registry keys, and then set the value data for both values to the number of folders that you want Windows to remember the settings for. For example, for Windows to remember the settings for 5000 local folders and 5000 network folders, set both values to 5000.

Here is how:

Follow these steps, and then quit Registry Editor:

1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.

2. Locate and then click the following key in the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell

3. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.

4. Type BagMRU Size, and then press ENTER.

5. On the Edit menu, click Modify.

6. Type 5000, and then click OK.

AND:

1. Locate and then click the following key in the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam

2. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.

3. Type BagMRU Size, and then press ENTER.

4. On the Edit menu, click Modify.

5. Type 5000, and then click OK.

Note:

When you use roaming user profiles, registry information is copied to a server when you log off and copied to your local computer when you log on. Therefore, you may have performance issues if you increase the BagMRU Size values for roaming user profiles.

Thumbnail Cache

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[HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced]

“DisableThumbnailCache”=dword:00000001

Windows XP has a neat feature for graphic and video files that creates a “thumbnail” of the image or first frame of the video and makes it into an oversized icon for the file. There are two ways that Explorer can do this, it can create them fresh each time you access the folder or it can load them from a thumbnail cache. The thumbnail caches on systems with a large number of image and video files can become staggeringly large. To disable the Thumbnail Cache, browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ Advanced and find the DWORD “DisableThumbnailCache”. You may need to create this key. A setting of 1 is recommended for systems where the number of graphic and video files is large, and a setting of 0 is recommended for systems not concerned about hard drive space, as loading the files from the cache is significantly quicker than creating them from scratch each time a folder is accessed.

Powertweak application

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xxx.powertweak.com

Powertweak is an application, which acts much like a driver for our chipsets. It optimizes the communication between the chipset and the CPU, and unlocks several “hidden” features of the chipset that can increase the speed of the system. Specifically, it tweaks the internal registers of the chipset and processor that the BIOS does not for better communication performance between subsystems. Supported CPUs and chipsets can see a significant increase in I/O bandwidth, increasing the speed of the entire system. Currently the application supports most popular CPUs and chipsets, although you will need to check the website for your specific processor/chipset combo – the programmer is working on integrating even more chipsets and CPUs into the software.

Priority Tweak

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[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ PriorityControl]

This setting effectively runs each instance of an application in its own process for significantly faster application performance and greater stability. This is extremely useful for users with stability problems, as it can isolate specific instances of a program so as not to bring down the entire application. And, it is particularly useful for users of Internet Explorer, for if a rogue web page crashes your browser window, it does not bring the other browser windows down with it. It has a similar effect on any software package where multiple instances might be running at once, such as Microsoft Word. The only problem is that this takes up significantly more memory, because such instances of a program cannot share information that is in active memory (many DLLs and such will have to be loaded into memory multiple times). Because of this, it is not recommended for anyone with less than 512 MB of RAM, unless they are running beta software (or have some other reason for needing the added stability).

There are two parts to this tweak. First is to optimize XP’s priority control for the processes. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ PriorityControl and set the “Win32PrioritySeparation” DWORD to 38. Next, go into My Computer and under Tools, open the Folder Options menu. Select the View tab and check the “Launch folder windows in separate process” box. This setting actually forces each window into its own memory tread and gives it a separate process priority.

QoS tweak

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QoS (Quality of Service) is a networking subsystem which is supposed to insure that the network runs properly. The problem with the system is that it eats up 20% of the total bandwidth of any networking service on the computer (including your internet connection). If you are running XP Professional, you can disable the bandwidth quota reserved for the system using the Group Policy Editor [gpedit.msc].

You can run the group policy editor from the Run command line. To find the setting, expand “Local Computer Policy” and go to “Administrative Templates” under “Computer Configuration.” Then find the “Network” branch and select “QoS Packet Scheduler.” In the right hand box, double click on the “Limit Reservable Bandwidth.” From within the Settings tab, enable the setting and then go into the “Bandwidth Limit %” and set it to 0%. The reason for this is that if you disable this setting, the computer defaults to 20%. This is true even when you aren’t using QoS.

IRQ Priority Tweak

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[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ System \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ PriorityControl]

You will need to create a new DWORD: IRQ#Priority (where # is the number of the IRQ you want to prioritize) and give it a setting of 1. This setting gives the requisite IRQ channel priority over the other IRQs on a software level. This can be extremely important for functions and hardware subsystems that need real-time access to other parts of the system. There are several different subsystems that might benefit from this tweak. Generally, I recommend giving either the System CMOS or the video card priority. The System CMOS generally has an IRQ setting of 8, and giving it priority enhances the I/O performance of the system. Giving priority to the video card can increase frame rates and make AGP more effective.

You can give several IRQs priority, but I am not entirely certain how the system interacts when several IRQs are given priority – it may cause random instabilities in the system, although it is more likely that there’s a parsing system built into Windows XP to handle such an occurrence. Either way, I would not recommend it.