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Common Windows XP Annoyances and How to Fix Them

826windowsxpbugThrough the years of using Windows, I’ve encountered common issues and their solutions. I’ve documented a couple, Enabling Tab-Completion for Windows 2000 and Accelerator Keys for Address Bar Text Alignment (Internet Explorer), and wanted to capture the remainder below. (The tips below may also work for Windows 7.)

Where is my Show Desktop icon?

On Windows XP, there is a nice Show Desktop icon in the Quick Launch toolbar which when clicked on, will minimize all windows. (On Windows 7, this is replaced by an empty vertical bar at the right-most position in the system tray.) The Show Desktop icon was a quick way to get access to all the icons on the desktop. Unfortunately, through system or user error, this icon may get deleted.

The Show Desktop icon is not a Windows shortcut. It is a Shell Command File (SCF) containing text which Windows understands and can execute. To re-create the Show Desktop icon, create a text file named “Show Desktop.scf” with the content below, and drag it to the Quick Launch toolbar:


How to automatically log into Windows on startup?

If you did not input a password when creating your default user during Windows XP installation, Windows will log you in automatically. However, if you did input a password, Windows will prompt you to login with a Welcome screen. If you would like Windows to log in by default, here is how you can create an automatic login to bypass the Welcome screen:

  1. Go to Start Menu->Run, type “control userpasswords2”, and click Ok.
  2. Uncheck the “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer” option and click Apply.
  3. A dialog will appear that asks you what user name and password should be used to logon automatically. Type your username and password, and click OK.

How to add my own “Send To” menu command?

When you left-click on a file, you will see a list of options including a menu called “Send To”, which contains a list of applications which you can pick to open the file. If you would like to add your own choice of applications to that list, here are the steps:

  1. Run Start Menu->Run, type “shell:sendto”, and click Ok. This will open up your user’s “Send To” folder.
  2. Create a shortcut to any application (such as Notepad.exe or Wordpad.exe) in the folder.

How do I cancel a print job?

Eventually for whatever reason, you will find yourself with a print job which is stuck and cannot be cancelled using the Printer properties dialog. The dialog would keep saying that the job is in “Deleting” state. To avoid having to reboot the computer, try this command line method to delete that print job:

  1. Run Start Menu->Run, type “cmd”, and click Ok.
  2. Execute the following commands:
    net stop spooler
    del c:\windows\system32\spool\printers\*.shd
    del c:\windows\system32\spool\printers\*.spl
    net start spooler

How to debug my wireless connection?

The Windows network diagnostic help has improved greatly from Window XP to Windows 7. However, even in Windows 7, you may eventually need to run some command lines to diagnose the network problem. Below are some useful commands.

  • Type “ipconfig” to find the assigned IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway.
  • Type “ipconfig /all” for the above with even more details.
  • Type “ipconfig /flushdns” to flush the dynamic name service cache (used to resolve hostname to IP addresses).
  • Type “ping [hostname]” to see if you can reach a particular hostname. (Note that for security reasons, some hosts may disable the ping response and this command won’t succeed.)
  • Type “nslookup [hostname]” to resolve a hostname to an IP address.
  • Type “tracert [hostname]” to show the servers that participate in the communications pipeline between you and that host.
  • Type “route print” to show the routing rules in effect.
  • Type “netstat /a /o” to list all the active connections and listening ports.

Note: You can always press the Control + C keys to abort long-running commands such as “ping” and “tracert”.

If all else fails, reboot both the wireless router and your computer.

How to increase the number of folders Windows will remember custom settings for?

When you customize the settings on a folder (such as list instead of icon view), Windows will remember your settings for the next time you open that folder. However, Windows will only do this for a limited number of folders. (Windows XP Service Pack 2 alleviates this issue by increasing the original, default 400 folders to 5000 folders.)

To increase the number of folders that Windows will remember custom settings for, do the following:

  1. Start the Registry Editor by going to menu Start->Run, type “regedit”, and click Ok.
  2. Go to the “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam” key.
    • Delete the “Bags” and “BagMRU” subkeys. One can also delete the “MUICache” subkey.
    • Create or modify the DWORD key called “BagMRU Size” with the desired number of folders in hex. For example, for 5000 folders, input the Hex “1388” value.
  3. Repeat the above steps for the “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell” key.
  4. Restart Windows for the changes to take effect.

How to remove deleted Windows programs from the “Add/Remove Programs” dialog?

Sometimes, a program which you know have been deleted will still show up in the “Add/Remove Programs” dialog. To remove it from the list of installed applications, do the following:

  1. Start the Registry Editor.
  2. Go to the “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall” key.
  3. Remove the entry for the deleted program in question. You will need to click on each subkey to locate the one with the correct program title.

Hope that these tips will prove useful. For other annoyances (for all flavors of Windows), check out the website.

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