Front Page  |   Information  |   Computer  |   Computer setup tips  |   Router setup tips  |   Funnies & Everything Else
I'll put a New after something when it's added to the page. After the item has been on the page for about a month, I'll take out the New and just leave the "Added" date.

If you find a dead link, a typo or have a suggestion, there's a link at the bottom of the page that you can use to send me an Email.

Date format is MM/DD/YYYY
New Section: Computer setup tips  Added 02/2002 And XP setup tips  Added 06/2003

Security Warning: Are you using the AnalogX Proxy? If so PLEASE change it from the default setting that allows anyone from anywhere to connect to it and use it.

Are you using IE as your browser? You may want to reconsider. See Milly's Google page 9/26/2003 New

3/20/2005 I've updated the page to include some of the changes made by Service Pack 2. If you haven't installed SP2 yet, before you do, update your BIOS and check with the computer manufacturer to see if you need to do anything else. Also be sure to remove any junkware and that you have no viruses. I recommend at least running Spybot Search and Destroy, AdAware and A-Squared Anti-Trojan. All have free versions, but feel free to send them money if you can.

If you really want to get serious about preparation, see Getting and Installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 , How to perform a clean boot in Windows XP and What to Know first at Microsoft. And this site has been extensively recommended on the xp.help_and_support forum, it provides a SP2 Installation Checklist And finally the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) Comprehensive Guide.

And once you're sure you're going to be able to stay with Service Pack 2, you can use these instructions to reclaim a lot of space that is used up by files saved for uninstalling the Service Pack.

My goal with this page is to provide an online resource to simplify installing and or cleaning up a Windows XP computer. The reason for having it online is so that I can use when working on other people's computers. It's a guide for me, and meets my needs. If anyone else want's to use it they're more than welcome. This document was originally drafted by my daughter for use in helping others setup new computers where she works. They primarily use Dells. I have tweaked it, added to it, and removed a few parts. I've used it as a guide on several laptops and numerous desktop computers, and it worked for me. And some of these settings reflect my personal preferences. There is no guarantee that it will work for you, so any use of these instructions/guidelines is at your own risk. Of course. And not every setting will work on every computer.

These instructions assume some basic computer knowledge, but almost anyone should be able to muddle through.

Before you start make sure that you have a firewall and anti-virus program available to install prior to connecting to the internet.

I can't emphasize that enough, it's simply too risky to connect unprotected these days. The built in XP ICF offers good inbound protection, and will suffice during the installation and patching, but it doesn't do outbound. If you're installing XP with SP2 rolled into it, the renamed Windows Firewall is turned on by default, which is a major security improvement on Microsoft's part. If you're on broadband, I seriously recommend a router in addition to the firewalls and anti-virus program.

There is a much more thorough set of instructions (with pictures) at Blackviper's site for XP Home and XP Pro.

And if your installation disk doesn't include Service Pack 2, you can Slipstream it before you install it. And lots of information at Labmice.

I'm starting with a clean install. If you have a good install CD (as opposed to a Restore CD) I'd recommend starting from scratch if you have a prebuilt, factory configured computer. If you built your own, this is not an issue. My Dell laptop came with a bunch of extra stuff installed that I didn't want, like trial versions of software. A clean install gets rid of all that. If all you have is a Restore disk that puts the computer back in "Factory Condition" you can't do this. You should consider returning the computer and buying one that will let you do what you want. Dell is good enough to provide a real OS install disk. A big plus IMO.

Start at whatever step is appropriate for you. If you're cleaning up an existing operating system, you can start with the Cleanup section if you want.


Boot from the CD ( this may require changing a setting in the BIOS).
Choose to delete, create, or leave existing partitions as suits you, but be sure to create any additional partitions that you might need, even if you aren't going to format them yet, otherwise they won't show up in Windows! And if you're trying to replace an existing installation, you'll have to delete the partition it's on and create a new one to install on, otherwise XP will do a parallel installation and you'll end up with two copies.
Pick the partition to install on.
Format boot partition as NTFS, if it isn't already.
Wait a while for it to format and copy files.
If you get a prompt asking if you want to get Updated Setup Files over the internet, I'd suggest saying no. You can go to Windows Update once the install is done.
Reboot when prompted (or let it time out to reboot,) you can leave the CD in the drive, just DO NOT press a key to boot from CD when prompted.
Enter your name, and company name if necessary. Keep in mind that this information will be accessible to many programs during installs and later on, so you may not want to enter anything too identifying.
Check the keyboard and location settings and make sure they're correct for your location.

Choose a computer name and if offered the chance choose an administrator password. Make this a random character, mixed case, alpha-numeric password, and DON'T LOSE IT!!!
Set the date, time and time zone.

Network Setup:

If you have no Network card:

You won't see anything at this point.

If you have a Network card:

You'll get a setup dialogue for it. If you're not connected to a Network at the time, you can probably just press "Next" and take the defaults. These can all be changed later. I do recommend that you turn on the Internet Connection Firewall if the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise do it later. Note that on Windows XP, Service Pack 2, the firewall is renamed to Windows Firewall and finally turned on by default.

If you are connected to a Network: Wait for the Network Settings screen. You'll need to know how your Network is set up for some of this, if you don't have that information, you'll have to get it. The settings I'm using may not work for you, but this can at least be a guideline.
Choose Custom Settings.
Check the device name-leave all devices but the actual NIC as default.
Install Client for Microsoft Networks, File Sharing if needed, TCP/IP on the Ethernet Controller and uncheck QoS Packet Scheduler.
Choose properties for TCP/IP, and set your IP address and DNS servers, or leave at "Obtain an IP Address automatically" if that's correct for your network.
Click the Advanced button, then the WINS tab and check "Enable NetBios over TCP/IP" if you'll be needing it for your Network. If you won't need it for a network, Disable it. Leave all other settings default, click OK.

Now for the Firewall:
For XP and XP SP1 turn on the Internet Connection Firewall unless you have a good reason not to. Click on the Advanced tab in Network Connection Properties. Put a check in the box to "Protect my Computer and Network...." Click OK. You need to set it for each available connection. Once you've done them all, close Network Connections.

If you have SP2, the options have changed slightly. It's now Windows Firewall. Once on the Advanced tab, you need to click on the Settings button. By default the firewall is now enabled. Make sure that it's turned on. Check the Exceptions tab and make sure that nothing unexpected has been added. When Windows Firewall asks you whether or not you want a program allowed internet access, this is where it is listed. For most programs it won't ask, which is why you want another firewall that does outbound control. And check back here occasionally. This is where you can modify the restrictions placed on programs. Also check the Advanced tab, then the Settings button for any listed connections to make sure that nothing unexpected has been checked. Click OK to work your way out of the NIC Properties window.

With few exceptions, the built in XP firewall, by either name, seems to work fine in conjunction with other firewalls, so I recommend having it on even if you use something else. Layers of protection are a good thing on the internet these days. Here's another site with details about configuring the Windows Firewall. And this newsgroup post has some tips for network settings that may help if you have problems.

Click Next, choose Workgroup or Domain.
Enter a user with permission to join the Domain if necessary, create a computer account if necessary, and wait for the next screen. BE PATIENT, this takes a few minutes, if you hit enter again you'll miss some settings! Contact your Network Administrator if you have issues.
Wait for files to copy.
And now, you get to go through the wizard. Pretty much enter the information it asks for (user names, mostly) and click next.
However, choose to be reminded to activate later, and choose to set up your internet connection later if asked.

Click Next, and OK until it asks you to reboot.

XP Cleanup:

Log on as Administrator.
When that annoying little "Tour Windows XP" balloon pops up by the clock, click on it, then click "Cancel", if you just close it, it will start every time you reboot.
First, disable CD AutoRun if you want to: once you get to the Desktop, click Start, then Run and type regedit.
Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Services/Cdrom and double-click "AutoRun" in the right-hand window. Change the value from 1 to 0,

Then to disable the Search assistant if you want to: (from and other places).
Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ CabinetState \
Right-click an empty space in the right pane and select New > String Value
Name the new value Use Search Asst.
Double-click this new value, and enter no as it's Value data

To do the same for IE Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Internet Explorer \ Main \
Right-click an empty space in the right pane and select New > String Value
Name the new value Use Search Asst.
Double-click this new value, and enter no as it's Value data, then close regedit.
You may have to repeat some of these steps for each user.

Now would be a good time to do your first full back up. That way if anything causes problems, you can back out of it. You could also do a defrag. But keep in mind that if things go sideways at this point, it's relatively easy to start over.

Next, go to Control Panel.
Switch to Classic View so you can find stuff again.
Go to Add/Remove Programs.
If you have a prebuilt system, uninstall any unnecessary programs (the extra media players, AOL, and some of the Support Tools for instance).
Go to Add/Remove Windows Components.
Uncheck Indexing Service (if checked), MSN Explorer (unless you actually use MSN Explorer), and Windows Messenger (unless you use it) and click Next, then click Finish.
Close Add/Remove Programs,

Go to System.
Go to the Advanced Tab, and click Startup and Recovery Settings.
Uncheck Automatically Reboot (if checked), and make sure it is set to do a "small" memory dump, or "none" if you prefer.
Click OK

Go to the Remote Tab, and uncheck Allow Remote Assistance Invitations unless you know for absolutely positive that you will be asking a friend to connect to your computer over the internet soon. Actually, uncheck it anyway, it's easy to put back temporarily when you need it. ON SP2 do the same for Remote Desktop
Go to the Automatic Updates tab, and choose to Turn off Automatic Updates. Unless you want them downloaded and/or installed without you having to think about it. I prefer to make sure the latest patches aren't causing more trouble than they solve. People using Automatic Update can be the guinea pigs. If you do turn it off, be sure to periodically do it manually . And Automatic Updates must be set to Automatic and started for the latest version of Windows Update to work. So if you have it disabled you have to enable it each time you want to use Windows Update. On SP2 you have more options. I recommend setting it to "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them" or if you're on broadband "Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them".

Go to the System Restore tab, and crank that slider down to about 7%. If you have more than one drive you have to go to the Settings for each drive. You can turn it off for individual drives if you want. That should be more than enough to save you if you actually need it, without eating up a bunch of your drive space. Don't turn it off completely unless you're using other back up software because it will CYA if you ever royally screw up your system in some situations. Read Microsoft TechNet to see if you think you will need it at all. Keep in mind that it is not a backup program in the true sense of the word.
SP2 has added another setting. On the Hardware tab there's a Windows Update button that has settings for updating device drivers. I don't like updates being done without my knowledge, so I have it set to "Ask me...". The best place to get driver updates is from the manufacturer though, not from Windows Update. Click OK to accept your changes and get back to Control Panel

Go to Administrative Tools, then Services
Maximize the window, then decide whether you prefer Standard tab at the bottom left, instead of the Extended layout.
If you use Standard, drag the slider bars so the Name and Description fields are wide enough to read,
In either layout then click on Status twice to sort by Started Services.
To stop and disable services, double click on the name, then simply click "Stop", and change the Startup Type in the drop-down menu to "Disabled"
What you need running will vary slightly based on your setup, but these are pretty standard. Defaults may vary depending on your version of XP, but check to see if you need to disable:

See Blackviper for more information and suggestions. Please note that not everything here agrees with that page. Much of the same information is at ss64's Services page. Another site that has some good information for checking on Services is Snakefoot's page.

Next, look at your list of started services, and make a note of which ones are set to Manual. After you reboot (in a few steps) you can come back here if you want to and set these services to Automatic because they are necessary for your computer's configuration. Setting these to Automatic will slightly increase your boot speed.
Close Services and Control Panel.

Getting rid of Windows Messenger

Windows Messenger is a very persistent little bugger. No matter how many places you turn it off, it will still start when you start some other programs. I recently started Outlook Express to check the location of a setting and Windows Messenger also started up. If you don't plan to use it, follow ALL these steps.

Double click Windows Messenger in the tray, or start it from Start/Programs if necessary, then click Cancel when it asks you to set up a username.
Click Tools/Options
Click the Preferences tab, then uncheck Run this program when Windows starts, and uncheck Allow this program to run in the background. You may only have the second of those two choices. That's the case here.
Close Messenger.
Even if you don't use it, start Outlook Express. Go to Tools/Options. On the first tab uncheck Automatically log on to Windows Messenger and click OK, then close OE. Restart OE and see if Windows Messenger starts.
If you have Outlook installed, start it and go to Tools/Options/Other tab (may vary by version) and make sure that Instant Messaging is unchecked. Close Outlook.

To be even more safe, follow the instructions in the Microsoft Knowledge Base. For XP Pro it's:

Enable both settings and reboot. Windows Messenger will never be seen again on your screen or in your task list until you disable these settings.

XP Home requires a Registry tweak, which is listed on that page.

Another way to do it is to use the instructions posted at NTBugtraq.

You could also start Windows Explorer and go to C:\Program Files, and rename the Messenger folder to MessengerNOT or something similar. I'm told this will significantly increase how fast Outlook 2003 starts if you're using that.

Setting up Windows Explorer

Open Windows Explorer.
Click the View Button and choose your favorite style (I prefer Details) then click Tools/Folder Options.
Pick your style on the General tab, then click the View tab.
Uncheck , Hide Extensions for Known File Types, Show Pop-up Description for Folders, and Use Simple File Sharing (not available on XP Home), and maybe Hide Protected Operating System Files (BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU DELETE IF YOU DO THIS) and Automatically Search for Network Folders.
Display Contents of System folders, Show Hidden Files and Show Control Panel in My Computer, choose what you like of the others.
Click Apply (not OK) then click Apply to All Folders at the top of the window. Click Yes.

Go to File Types and scroll down to SHB and SHS.
Click on the file type, then Advanced. Make sure they are checked to "Confirm after download"
And then check the box to always show file extensions. See Scrap Files at PcHelp's site
You can set any other files that you’re worried about to the same settings. I always check the various types of script files and registry files among others.

Go to Offline Files, and Uncheck Enable Offline Files, Click OK to close the window.
This next bit applies to NTFS drives only.
Right-click on your C: drive and choose Properties, then uncheck Allow Indexing Service. This is the Operating System equivalent of the old Microsoft Office Fast Find. Turning this off will speed up viewing folders in Explorer and prevent Windows from bogging down the system periodically while it indexes things. Repeat this for other drives if you have them.
Click OK, then click OK to apply changes to all subfolders. You can click Ignore All when it tells you it can't apply to some files, these will be system files that are in use and Windows can't apply attributes until later.
Close Explorer.

If you are logged on as Administrator, make any changes you want to for your Desktop and Start Menu settings (see below) because when you reboot, you'll log on with your username.

Restart your computer to apply all the changes you've made.
Log on with your username, either the one you chose in the setup wizard, or your Network username if you joined a Domain-if you joined a Domain, it automatically sets that, you don't have to click "options" and choose to log on to it.

Personal Customizations

This is where you get to make it look the way you want. Feel free to ignore any of my suggestions.
Right Click your desktop, and choose Properties.
You can choose to keep the XP (bubbly) theme, or go back to Windows Classic.
Click the Desktop tab, choose a background if you want to change it, then click Customize Desktop.
Uncheck Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard, check the box for any system icons you want to add to your desktop and click OK.
There's a more complete list of settings to make XP look and act more like Windows 2000 at PCWorld

Click the Screensaver Tab.
Choose a screensaver (or "None") and decide whether you want to "Display the Welcome Screen" when you wake it up. Keep in mind that those fancy moving screensavers take some CPU power, sometimes a lot, and if you're going to put the monitor to sleep, you won't see them anyway. Then click Power.
Choose how long before your monitor goes to sleep, then set the hard drives to never sleep (it doesn't really save that much power, and it can make your computer take longer to wake up.) Also choose your standby and hibernate times. I prefer Never for both of those, since I've had problems before. YMMV.
And if you have a computer more than a couple years old, they may not wake up from Standby without being powered off, which pretty much defeats the purpose.

If you have a laptop, set the Alarms for low battery, then go to the Advanced tab and choose what happens when you close the lid or hit the power button. I set mine to Do Nothing when I close the lid, because I often have to do that for a little extra space for a few minutes. Or to keep the cats from walking on the keyboard when I'm not around.
Go to the Hibernate tab, and uncheck Enable Hibernation. When you reboot, this will remove the Hibernate file from your hard drive, that thing can get pretty good sized, and I've never really seen the purpose, especially if you're someone who lets your computer go into standby (which I'm not, but still. . ) Click OK to make your changes,

Go to the Appearance Tab.
Choose XP or Classic Style buttons, then choose a color scheme. To change specific desktop, window, and menu colors, click the Advanced Button (different from the Advanced tab we're on) and make your choices.
If you want, you can click the Effects button and change transition effects and shadows.
If you have an LCD monitor (including on a laptop), click the effects button and Check "Use the following method" and change it to "ClearType". The difference can be very noticeable.
If you want to change the desktop resolution, go to the Settings tab, if not, click OK.

Right-click your taskbar and click Properties.
Check or Uncheck Hide the Taskbar, Show Quicklaunch, and Group Similar Items depending on your preferences.
If you have lots of programs that insist on loading and just sitting by the clock, check Hide Inactive Icons. You can customize which ones always hide, always show, and hide if inactive by clicking the Customize button. Be advised that this feature may not always act as expected.
Once you're done with this page, right click the Start Menu tab.
Choose XP or Classic Start Menu, then click Customize. For Classic, just choose what items to show. For XP Customize, choose Large or Small Icons, then set the number of programs to show on the start menu (the left-hand side of the split menu, above "All Programs;" I set mine to 6, and clear the list, then later I choose which programs to Pin there semi-permanently).
Uncheck "show internet and email on start menu" if you want to. They're in about 5 other places, so I uncheck this. On the Advanced tab you may want to uncheck "Highlight newly installed programs". You can also pick some features to display on the Start Menu, and what options they use. Keep in mind that many functions on the Start Menu can be performed using Hotkeys, so they don't need to be on the menu as well.
Click OK twice.

This would be a good time to do another backup. If any of the patches you're about to install cause problems you can recover without too much trouble. You should also do a defrag.

Now that your settings are pretty customized, it's time to install patches.
Be careful as you do this, Microsoft has released a service called Microsoft Updates. It is not the same as Windows Update. I always do a custom installation of updates, if you choose the Express Installation it may automatically set you up for Microsoft Update.

Open Internet Explorer, and follow the Connection Setup if it opens too. You should know your settings, if not I can't help you there.
Once IE is open, click Tools, then click Windows Update. Normally you can also start Windows Update by clicking Start, All Programs and it's above the bar on the left.
Click Yes if it asks you to install Windows Update Controls, then click Scan for Updates.
When it's done scanning, go straight to Review and Install Updates on the left-hand side.
If you're lucky, you have a new enough version of XP that Service Pack 2 is already installed, or at least you have a high-speed internet connection. Otherwise order it on a free CD from Microsoft.

Probably everything listed is a Critical Patch, so I recommend you just click Install without removing anything. Normally I choose "Custom Install" and go through the list to see what each one is because there are some that I don't want. Media Player for one since I never use it. But Microsoft has made it very difficult to see what each update is now, you have to go at least two levels deep to get any details, so it's very time consuming.
If SP2 or an Internet Explorer SP is included in this, it will give you a warning about installing an item that has to be installed separately, click Yes or OK to install this item. If you're on dial-up, go have dinner, watch a movie, and read a book. Otherwise, just wait a few minutes for the patches to download and install, then click Cancel when it asks you to reboot, and go restart your computer manually. I prefer to do it myself since I found (long ago) that there was a higher percentage of failed reboots if it did it automagically.

Once you reboot, go back to Windows Update and scan for updates again. If you installed a Service Pack, you'll probably have lots of critical Updates left. And possibly even another Service Pack, if you installed XP SP2, and not the IE SP.
Click Review and Install Updates, click Install, agree to the license, and wait for them to download again. And then reboot, again.

Once you've installed all the critical patches, you can go back and see if any of the recommended updates look like they apply to you and install them if you want to.
However, I do NOT recommend installing any driver updates from Windows Update, go to the manufacturers site and download and install from there. They are generally newer and more stable (and more easily uninstalled) drivers than the ones on Windows Update.

Once you're done with Windows Update, Install and run the MS Baseline Security Analyzer from MS Technet. A perfect score is not necessary, but make sure you understand why you have any negatives that show up.
Also take a look at the XP Powertoys and install any that look useful. I recommend at least TweakUI and Open Command Window Here. Another very useful tool is the SendTo Powertoy from the Windows 95 PowerToys. Use the "How to download" instructions at the bottom of the page, then right click on sendto.inf and choose install. Then you can delete the folder. SendTo works fine on XP, I can't speak for any of the others.

And the Belarc Advisor to check for hardware and software problems.

Then you get to install and configure any software you want on your computer.

Once all your software is installed, you can organize your Start Menu.
Right-click the Start Button, and choose Explore All Users or Explore. Explore All Users lets you create folders and shortcuts shared by everyone and Explore lets you create folders and shortcuts just for you.
Once Explorer opens, click on Programs in the left pane, then create whatever folders you want to sort things into in the right pane. I generally sort things by type, for instance all Games in one folder, all things Internet in another folder, all Utilities (including System Tools) in another folder, and so on.
Once you're done creating folders, you can expand the Programs folder on the left side, and click and drag folders from the right side into the folders you want them in. When you're done moving stuff around, close Explorer.

Open Windows Media Player from the Start Menu.
Go to Tools/Options, and uncheck Download Codecs Automatically, Allow Sites to Uniquely Identify your Player and Aquire licenses automatically.
You can also set it to use a proxy so that it can't go anywhere anyway. with port 80 works if you don't have a real proxy working on that port already. If it still tries to get out, make a rule in your firewall to block it.
You can also reportedly use the proxy trick with RealPlayer, although I don't have that installed so can't confirm it.

Make any other changes you think you want to, click OK, and close Media Player. I use alternative programs anyway. Media Player Classic, Real Alternative QuickTime Alternative.

ss64 also has a good list of command line options for tweaking and tuning.

You can also go read up on Windows Product Activation for XP from which includes a link to a product activation analyzer tool from

Written for
any browser
Check out the Any Browser pages.
If something doesn't work right please

Email me.
RogSoft's Notepad+
Better than your
average Notepad

Hits on this page since 07/22/2002.

Page Revised 10:58 PM 3/26/2006