Windows XP Tips

All of the information, instructions, and recommendations on this Web site are offered on a strictly "as is" basis. Remember "Murphy's Law." Please take the proper precautions before attempting any of the tips or modifications listed here.


Lost Data After Reinstalling Windows XP warning image
Recovery Console Issues warning image
PNG images are not displayed in Internet Explorer
How to Create a Custom Default User Profile
Internet Access Issues, After Updates
Windows XP's Rebuild Command
Change Access Control Lists
No Sound From External Speaker When Adjusting Volume
Disable AutoPlay
Add Command Prompt to Windows Context Menu
Turn off Windows XP's built-in support for ZIP files
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2's Firewall Falls Short
How to use Outlook Web Access on a Windows XP SP2-based computer
Create a shortcut to run ipconfig from the desktop
Hide a User Account From the Welcome Screen
Revoke Windows XP License Key
Disable Changes to the Start Menu
How to Disable "My Recent Documents" on the Start Menu in Windows XP
Prevent the Last Logged-in User Name From Being Displayed
Allow a Limited User to Change the Date and Time
Beware of Windows encrypting file system (EFS) 'gotchas'
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3)
How to perform a repair installation of Windows XP if Internet Explorer 7 is installedExternal Link
IE7: Known issues, installation and troubleshooting adviceExternal Link
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 on CDExternal Link
Programs that are known to experience a loss of functionality when they run on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computerExternal Link Article ID: 884130
Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2External Link Article ID: 842242
Network level authentication not supported on Windows XP SP3
Links: Windows XP
Windows Tips Index
Computer Tips Index


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You May Lose Data or Program Settings After Reinstalling, Repairing, or Upgrading Windows XP

You may lose data that is stored in the All Users folder and default program templates and settings that are stored in the Default User folder after you reinstall, repair, or upgrade Windows XP. You may be missing Start menu shortcuts, items in the Startup group, and documents, pictures, or music files that are stored in the Shared Documents folder.

This problem can occur after you perform any of the following actions on a computer that has Windows XP preinstalled by a computer manufacturer (also known as an Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM):

So, before trying to upgrade or repair your Windows XP, make sure you've backed up any data, photos, etc. that you don't want to risk loosing.



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Recovery Console Issues

Windows XP supports an optional boot-time command line environment called the Recovery Console. As its name suggests, the Recovery Console is only designed to be used in the event of a system problem. To enable it, insert your Windows XP CD-ROM and type D:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons in a command line (assuming your CD drive is D:).

You'll have a problem logging into the Recovery Console if you’ve installed Windows XP Service Pack 1 and try to run Recovery Console from you original Windows XP CD, if that CD does not have SP1 integrated or Sysprep was used to create the original image.

Install the Recovery Console to your hard disc drive before you need it, or obtain or create a version of Windows XP that has Service Pack 1 already integrated.

Update: (Nov. 2004) I upgraded my personal system to Windows XP Service Pack 2 and was able to log into the Recovery Console that was previously installed under Microsoft Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1. So there is no need to re-install the Recovery Console if it was working under XP SP1.



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PNG images are not displayed in Internet Explorer

OS Windows XP SP3
Application Internet Explorer


In Internet Explorer, PNG images on a Web page may not display. Instead, a placeholder (red X), may appear in place of the PNG images, but all other image types are displayed.


If PNGs display when logged in as an Administrator, then try restoring the default security templates for the affected user:

  1. Log in as the affected user
  2. Open a Command Prompt, then with that command prompt open another Command prompt as Administrator.
    runas /user:Administrator cmd
  3. In the elevated Command Prompt, issue the following command:
    secedit /configure /cfg %windir%\repair\secsetup.inf /db secsetup.sdb /verbose
  4. Log out, then log back in as the affected user.

If PNGs don't display for Administrators, then try fixing the file association and MIME settings for .PNG file types:

  1. Download
  2. Unzip/extract pngasso_xp.reg.
  3. Right-click pngasso_xp.reg and choose Merge.
  4. Click Yes to confirm the merge operation.




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Windows XP's Rebuild Command

When the operating system gets badly damaged, booting into the "Last Known Good" configuration or Safe Mode won't work. You may encounter errors such as "Missing or corrupt HAL.DLL," "Invalid Boot.Ini," or "Windows could not start..." Before resorting to a full re-installation of Windows XP, try the Rebuild command.

The Rebuild command is a software "switch" used with Windows XP's bootcfg command. It searches the hard drive for valid startup information and files, letting you choose the correct ones. This removes any references to invalid, missing, or corrupt startup information that was preventing a normal boot of Windows XP.

Booting problems may be fixed with these steps:

Additional Information


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No Sound From External Speaker When Adjusting Volume

When using the volume control in the system tray to adjust the speaker volume, Windows XP is supposed to play the "Windows XP Ding.wav" file to audition the volume level via the external speakers.

If Windows XP uses the internal computer speaker instead of the external speaker it will be difficult if not impossible to judge the volume level.

It's probable that the user registry is missing the following sub-key:


Create a .reg file with the following content and then "merge" the file into your registry.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


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Add Command Prompt to the Windows Context Menu

To access a directory in a command shell by simply using a "right-click," do the following in Windows Explorer

  1. Navigate to Tools > Folder Options > File Types > N/A (Folder)
  2. Add "Command Prompt" as a new action with the executable "cmd.exe /k pushd %L".

Substituting %1 for %L will result in the Long File Name notation for the path being shortened to the 8.3 notation.

Note: It may be necessary to substitute "cd" for "pushd" on some Windows platforms.

Also, other executables supporting command line options may be added to the context menu in the same manner. To hash the current directory in a command shell, use the action: Cmd.exe /k hash.exe [options]


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Turn off Windows XP's built-in support for ZIP files

By default, Windows XP treats ZIP files like folders. If you're not familiar with ZIP files, this can be convenient. However, if you've already got a system in place to manage your ZIP files, this new feature just gets in the way, and Microsoft hasn't provided any easy way to turn it off. Here's how to do it:

  1. Select Run from the Start Menu.
  2. Type regsvr32 /u %windir%\system32\zipfldr.dll at the prompt
  3. Click Ok.

You'll have to restart Windows XP for this change to take effect.


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Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2's Firewall Falls Short

Although the firewall included with Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2External link is vastly improved, it only protects your system from incoming threats. It does not monitor or block outgoing connections which is a major problem if your system becomes infected with a virus or spyware.

I recommend that you use a software firewall on all your computers.

I've had good results with ZoneAlarmExternal link and Comodo Firewall Pro.


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How to use Outlook Web Access on a Windows XP SP2-based computer

To connect to Outlook Web Access on a Windows XP SP2-based computer with Internet Explorer, you must use one of the following methods.

Method 1 In Internet Explorer, add the URL for the Outlook Web Access Web site to the Allowed Sites list for the Pop-up Blocker. We recommend this action. To do this, follow these steps:
1. On the Tools menu, click Pop-up Blocker, and then click Pop-up Blocker Settings.
2. In the Address of Web site to allow box, type the URL of the Outlook Web Access Web site.
3. Click Add, and then click Close.
Note We recommend that you use method 1. Method 1 enables the Pop-up Blocker to continue to function on other Web sites.
Method 2 You can select the Basic client instead of the Premium client when you log on with Forms-Based Authentication.

Note If you do not have sufficient permissions to use method 1, we recommend that you use method 2. (For example, you may not have sufficient permissions to use method 1 if you are using a kiosk computer.)
Method 3 You can lower the Filter level. This enables some pop-up advertisements to appear, but some Outlook Web Access functionality may no longer work as expected.
Additionally, you can turn off the Pop-up Blocker in Internet Explorer. However, we do not recommend this action.

See: Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 883575External link for full details on: Use of Outlook Web Access on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer, Existence of known issues, Loss of functionality of the Outlook Web Access S/MIME control, Existence of miscellaneous behavior changes.


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IP Config Shortcut

Here's a shortcut to display what your current IP Address settings are for Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

  1. Right click on an empty area of your Desktop and choose new > shortcut
  2. When the Create Shortcut wizard appears, enter the following for "Type the location of the item: "%windir%\System32\CMD.exe /K "ipconfig /all"
  3. Click next
  4. Type ShowIP as the "name for this shortcut:"
  5. Click Finish
  6. Right-click on the ShowIP shortcut you just created
  7. Change Start in: to \
  8. Click OK


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Hide a User Account From the Welcome Screen

Many times when I setup computer systems I add a backup administrator level account that's used only for emergencies. I don't want this backup administrator account listed on the Welcome Screen of Windows XP.

By modifying the registry, you can hide accounts you don’t want displayed on the Welcome Screen.

Please take the proper precautions before attempting to modify your registry.

  1. Start the Registry Editor
  2. Go to the following key in the registry:

    Note: There is a space between Windows and NT.

  4. Add the username you wish to hide as a DWORD value.
  5. Set the value to 0 (zero) to hide or 1 (one) to display.

This will prevent the user from showing up on the Welcome Screen. You will need to press Ctrl-Alt-Del two times at the logon screen to get the old Windows 2000 logon, to be able to logon to the account you've hidden. Adding a username and setting the value to 1 will cause that user, such as Administrator, to show up on the Welcome Screen as well.


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Revoke Windows XP License Key

You'll need to do this if your XP gets invalidated after installing XP SP-1.

Run System Restore to create a new restore point before you follow these steps.

  1. Run REGEDIT and locate the key
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\Current Version\WPAEvents.
  2. Edit the value OOBETimer, and change at least one digit of this value to deactivate Windows.
  3. Close REGEDIT and open a command line (Start > Run > CMD).
  4. At the command line, type:
    %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a
  5. Click on "Yes, I want to telephone a customer service representative to activate Windows."
  6. Click on "Change Product key."
  7. Enter the new key and click Update.
    You'll need to get a new key via the phone, through MS's 1-800 number, but the process takes only about five minutes.

See: How to change the Volume Licensing product key on a Windows XP SP1-based computerExternal link



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Disable Changes to the Start Menu

Use this registry modification to protect the Start Menu by preventing specific users (i.e. Students) from moving or deleting shortcuts on the Start Menu, or even right-clicking.

  1. Login as the user whose Start Menu you want to protect. i.e. Student
  2. Open regedit and add the following key under the following HIVE:
"NoChangeStartMenu" Dword= 00000001 

The registry files needed to apply or undo the above registry settings can be found in


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How to Disable "My Recent Documents" on the Start Menu in Windows XP

To disable the My Recent Documents list, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Customize... button.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Under Recent documents, click the Clear List button
  5. Uncheck "List my most recently opened documents"
  6. Click OK to save the settings, and then click OK to exit the Start Menu properties.

Your most recently used documents are removed from the My Recent Documents folder, and the My Recent Documents folder is no longer displayed on the Start Menu.

Note that this action does not delete the documents from your hard disk.


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Prevent the Last Logged-in User Name From Being Displayed

When you press Ctrl-Alt-Del, a login dialog box appears which displays the name of the last user who logged in to the computer.

This makes it easy to discover a user name that can later be used in a password-guessing attack.

Windows XP Professional:

For Windows XP Professional, this behavior can be disabled via the Group Policy snap in.

  1. Run the Group Policy snap in, GPEDIT.MSC
  2. Go to: Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options
  3. Enable, "Interactive logon: Do not display last user name"

Windows XP Home Edition:

For Windows XP Home Edition, you'll have to edit the registry to disable this behavior since the Group Policy snap in is not available in XP Home Edition.

  1. Run regedit
  2. Go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\policies\system
  3. Change the value of "dontdisplaylastusername" to the number 1


  1. create a New > Text Document named: DontDisplayLastUsername.reg
  2. Add the follow to "DontDisplayLastUsername.reg"

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


  3. Right click on "DontDisplayLastUsername.reg" and select "Merge" to add the registry entry.


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Allow a Limited User to Change the Date and Time

  1. Run GPEdit.msc as a user that's a member of the Administrators group
  2. Go to: Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment
  3. Add the Users group to "Change the system time"
  4. You'll need to reboot for the change take effect




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Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3

Windows XP SP3 includes all previously released updates for the operating system, in addition to a small number of new updates. Though XP SP3 aggregates all of the previously-released XP fixes, Microsoft recommends that you have Service Pack 2 installed before installing SP3.


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