Winders Cheat Sheet (Tips & Tricks)

12 Mar

All of these Windows tips are things that I have mostly assembled from other sources. Things I found useful on a regular basis. Some of these come from the excellent and now gone JSI Inc. Tips pages. Others came from a guy I work with. You know the type, people who have seemingly memorized the Windows registry.

All of the tips here assume you have some familiarity with your computer. There are a lot of registry hacks. If you are not comfortable with editing the registry go away, don’t try these!

I assume a level of familiarity with Regedit and common abbreviations. These tips work in Microsoft Operating Systems including NT4, Win2K, XP, Win2K3, Win2K8 and Windows 7. A few are specific to 9X. I have noted those.

Latest tips added (at the bottom) March 2014


Don’t blame me if you try something here and you lose years of irreplaceable data, screw up your PC, cause the ground to open under your feet and send the Earth careening into the sun. You are responsible for your own actions. This stuff works for me. So make copies of any files before you change them. Think about what and how you are doing something so that, if it fails, you can back out of the changes you have made.

Bypass Windows Validation Check on Windows Update

Before clicking on the ‘Custom’ or ‘Express’ paste this text to the address bar and press enter


This will turn off the trigger for the key check.

Log On Automatically: Windows XP

When you open the user accounts control panel there is no way to turn off the requirement to press CTRL ALT DEL to log onto your computer. Annoying!

The control panel that has this functionality is hidden, go figure. To access it do this:

Start -> Run and enter this:

Control userpasswords2

Press enter and the other accounts pane will come up. On the Advanced tab uncheck the bottom option that requires users to press CTRL ALT DEL. click back to the users tab, select the user you want to log on as, un check the top check box that requires users to enter a username and password to use the computer and click OK. It will ask for an administrator username and passord and then prompt you to reboot.

The one caveat to this is if you are a member of a Windows Domain, then it just won’t work. The reason for a Windows Domain is security. So, DUH!

Windows Update says you have to reboot.

But you DID just reboot!. Maybe a dialog box pops up every restart asking you to reboot or an installer won’t run because it tells you that you have to reboot first. You do and the same thing happens. Here is the fix:

Launch regedit, follow this procedure:


Look for the folder “RebootRequired” under AutoUpdate

Right-Click that folder and select delete.

You are ready to update!

Problems sending/receiving email via VPN?

This is fairly common with DSL users. Go into the registry


Right click and chose add a DWORD parameter EnablePMTUBHDetect. Now modify it and set its value to 1 (true).


Turn Off the Low Disk Space Warning

When Windows detects that one of your hard drives has too little free space, a warning appears offering to run the “Disk Cleanup” utility. Here’s how to turn off this message:

Windows XP

  • Open this key
  • If that key is not there create a DWORD value and call it NoLowDiskSpaceChecks.
  • Double-click on NoLowDiskSpaceChecks, and enter the value 1, and click OK.

Windows 98

  • Open the Disk Cleanup utility (cleanmgr.exe, or go to Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup).
  • Select the drive on which Windows is installed and click Ok.
  • Choose the second tab, and turn off the If this drive runs low on disk space, automatically run Disk Cleanup option
  • Click Ok when you’re done – answer any subsequent prompts as desired.
  • You may have to repeat this for all your hard disks (if you have more than one).

Looking for things that run automatically?

Look in these keys

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Cur rentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Cur rentVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Cur rentVersion\RunServices
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Cur rentVersion\RunServicesOnce
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Userinit
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Run
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\RunServices
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\RunServicesOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows

Reboot is necessary!


Or, if you prefer, the excellent and free SysInternals (now Microsoft) Autoruns. It does all of the above registry hacking in a nice GUI. Though it will tell you when it has to make changes that require administrative permissions and ask you to relaunch the program. I just always launch it as Administrator. Saves time!

MS Word, Excel (etc) Preferences/settings corrupt?

Delete these Keys. Replace the [X.X] with the version installed on your PC and “Word” with the program name in question.

  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\[X.X]\Word\Data
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\[X.X]\Word\Options

No reboot necessary!

Set Pagefile from the registry

Go To

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management
c:pagefile.sys 4000 4000

The first value is the initial size, the second value is the maximum size. Note the maximum size of a page file is 4096

Admin Registry hack

This is one of my favorites, but can be disabled by Group Policy. It allows you to log in under the Administrator (or any account with Admin privileges) and have full access to the user’s profile. Warning, Windows now thinks that two profiles point to the same place on the hard drive. So be careful mucking about in System -> Advanced -> User Profiles. You could verily easily end up deleting the wrong profile and all the files associated with it. Ask the Voice Of Experience…

Log in with an account that has administrative rights. This creates your profile and most importantly a registry entry that we will be changing


Find the key that has the users current profile under the key "ProfileImagePath."

Open the key and copy the path

Find the entry relating to the Administrator profile

Open the ProfileImagePath key and paste the users profile in.

Log out and then back in and you will now be using that user’s profile, ugly desktop pattern obscured by a carpet of document icons, and everything. Note that you won’t have access to any of their network resources that require their username and password.

Change the Logon Desktop pattern

You will need a .BMP file of suitable aspect ratio placed somewhere on the hard drive. Preferably in the SystemRoot. Set the value of this key to the path to the .BMP file

HKU\.DeFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop\Wallpaper

Unhide/UnProtect hidden files:

At a command prompt do this:

Attrib [file] -h -R -s

Setting the initial [Num Lock] position

NT-4 and earlier BIOS especially would not maintain the state of the num-lock key. I like my num lock key to be a number pad and not an arrow pad. To set the [Num Lock] key automatically to ON when Windows NT boots, open Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Keyboard/InitialKeyboardIndicators

Set this value to 2.

Hiding the last login user ID

This is mostly used on servers to hide the username of the administrator who logged in. It is a simple security thing to do. While this works in Win2K and XP you can more easily edit this in Group Policy

When logging on to Windows NT, the user ID of the last successful logon is displayed in the Login dialog box. To disable this so that no user ID appears, open Registry Editor:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\ Current Version\WinLogon

Add a new value called


as a REG_SZ data
type, with a value of 1.


If you logon on as an Administrator and want the user to see his/her logon when logging back in:




to the name of your NT4 or AD Domain and


to their logon.

Disabling CD-ROM Autorun

Microsoft’s TweakUI will do this without hacking the registry but if you must do it in RegEdit:


Set the Autorun value to 0.

Removing uninstalled applications from Add/Remove Programs

If you know you’ve already uninstalled a program and need to remove it from the Add/Remove Programs box. Or if a program refuses to uninstall and you just delete the program file folder and want to get rid of the entry in Add/Remove programs:


Each program is listed there. Just delete the key that corresponds to the program you want to get rid of. a program. It won’t prevent them from deleting the folder with the program files in it but it might slow them down.

Environment Variables

Sometimes it is desirable to set the TEMP directory to a different drive or partition. The path of the default TEMP and TMP variables is stored here:


You can set TEMP and TMP to the desired path (IE D:\TEMP, etc). By making that change, any new users will get these settings. You’ll still have to modify current settings.

This will be in


You’ll need to know what your User SID is. That exercise is left up to you.

Can’t browse the Network Neighborhood? (Windows 9X)

This problem seems to be a pretty regular occurrence in Win9X. Almost every time I had to update or reinstall something related to networking I had to change the value of this key:.

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Network/RealMode/transport


Dont forget the asterisk at the beginning and All caps. Reboot the PC and networking should be working. Well as good as networking works under Win9X.

Windows 2000 Delays in Browsing Net Neighborhood or connecting to a PC?

You can experience a delay as long as 30 seconds when you try to view shared files. MS confirms this is a problem in Win2K: support.
Win2K is using the extra time to search the remote computer for Scheduled Tasks.


Select the key


Delete the key and reboot. This key instructs Windows Explorer to search for Scheduled Tasks.

To prevent an NT Workstation from acting as a browser

set this key to no


No Windows Logon? (Win9X)

If you are missing the dialog box that lets you log onto the computer or domain? Well it could be the TCP/IP hack above or you could try this:

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Network/RealMode

Change AUTOLOGON to 01 or just delete the key

No Windows Logon? (Win9X)

If you are missing the dialog box that lets you log onto the computer ordomain? Well it could be the TCP/IP hack above or you could try this:

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Network/RealMode

Change AUTOLOGON to 01 or just delete the key

Outlook Express (ugh!) STILL the default email program?

For some reason it is still difficult if not impossible to remove Outlook Express as the default Windows email program. Even if you have installed MS Outlook. Here’s how to fix that. Open regedit and go to this key


Highlight “Default” under name and change the Value data to “Microsoft Outlook”

December 22 2006

Mystery devices in Device manager?

Don’t you just hate it when device manager shows an unknown device and nothing gives you any helpful information on what this might be?. Time to open up Regedit and go here.



Each key in this hive will list the Vendor ID and Device ID for every piece of detected hardware.

The IDs are 4 digit hexadecimal numbers.

Look for the DeviceDesc value to get a plain language description of the hardware device (if any).

If you see a device description that says “Unknown”, that’s your yellow question mark item.
Make a note of the Vendor ID and Device ID and cruise on over to the PCI Database
for some helpful info on the device

December 22 2006

Add Copy To & Move To Contextual Menus

If you love your contextextual menus as much as I do here is a handy way to add some functionality to the Finder
Windows Explorer. Again open up Regedit and go here.


Note: The Send To key is already there. Lets make the Copy To entry.

  • Right-click on the ContextMenuHandlersfolder
  • select New -> Key
  • Give it the name “Copy To”
  • double-click the (Default) value of the new key’s right-hand pane.
  • Type in this code as the new data: {C2FBB630-2971-11D1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}Now for the Move To entry
  • Right-click on the ContextMenuHandlersfolder
  • select New -> Key
  • Give it the name “Move To”
  • double-click the (Default) value of the new key’s right-hand pane.
  • Type in this code as the new data: {C2FBB631-2971-11D1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}

Click OK, close Regedit and “Copy To” and “Move To” should now be available options on contextual menu.

December 22 2006

Removing Stored Passwords in XP

There is a second way that Internet Explorer can store passwords. You will notice that sometimes a dialog box will pop up asking you for a password. And you can often save this password. This is not stored in the IE password file that is managed under the content tab of the Internet Options control panel. Nope this is managed by Windows XP itself. Of course there is no easy nor obvious way to manage these passwords. I refer to this as “job security.”


It’s an easy 3 step process to fix

  • Go to the Start menu and select Run
  • Type rundll32.exe keymgr.dll, KRShowKeyMgr
  • There is no step 3

You will get a dialog box that looks like this allowing you to manage the passwords stored by XP


December 22 2006

“Printer has not yet responded” error?

I ran across this problem just the other day. It was a networked printer in a corporate environment and was served from a Windows 2003 print server. No one else was having the problem. Removing and reinstalling MS Office 2003 had no effect, neither did removing and reinstalling the printer, nor installing the drivers locally. Strangely enough other applications (other than MS Office or IE) printed fine. I found this solution after several hours of hunting on google.

  • Add any other local printer. Set the port to something local and unused like LPT1.
  • Set this printer as default printer.
  • Try and print a doc. yes it will fail, that is fine.
  • Reboot the PC.
  • Set printer back to the problematic one and you should be able to print now with no errors.

Windows XP Activation

Need to activate Windows XP? Need the dialog box to enter your serial number? Try this:

oobe/msoobe /a

May 2012

Extend Windows 7’s Trial Period to a Full Four Months

When you install Windows 7 and don’t enter an installation key you enter trial mode and the 30-day activation clock starts. To see how many days you have left get Computer Properties (right click on “Computer” on your desktop or in the Start menu). At the bottom of the window under Windows Activation, you’ll see the number of days left in your trial period. Now, to extend the free period another 30 days:

  • Launch a command prompt as an Administrator.
  • type: slmgr -rearm
  • Restart Windows.

You can run the -rearm trick a total of three times. To extend it even further:

  • open Regedit
  • go here: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\SoftwareProtectionPlatform
  • Open SkipRearm and change the 0 to a 1

Now you can keep extending the Trial Activation period another eight times, bringing the total period of No-Activation Free Trial of Windows 7 to 360 days.

May 2012

Empty Another Users Trash

So you have logged onto a machine and are cleaning things up. You need to empty the trash of another user quickly and easily. Open a command prompt and…

  • For Windows 7 or Server 2008:  rd /s c:\$Recycle.Bin
  • For Windows XP, Vista, or Server 2003:  rd /s c:\recycler

May 2012

Where Did They Hide The Temporary Internet Files Folders in Windows 7?

Microsoft, in it’s infinite wisdom, has made things a little more difficult when it comes to the temporary internet files folders for individual users. Outlook is fun too.

C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files

That path is easy enough but there is more. Once you are in that folder, click in the address bar at the top of the Explorer window so you get the actual path (like above) and add the following to the end of the path.


It is not case sensitive. Press Enter and you get a whole bunch of folders containing all the rest of the IE cache files. Delete all of them. Why those don’t show up when you show hidden files and folders and operating system files, I have no idea, strange.

May 2012

Outlook 2010 Cache Folder in Windows 7

Having problems with Outlook? Some attachments not opening or saving? The program itself acting strangely? Well Microsoft has made the Outlook cache folder invisible in the same way that they did with the “content.IE5” cache folder for Internet Explorer, and it is right next door to that folder.

C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\[random number]

You do the same thing as above but add \Content.Outlook to the end of the path. You will see a single folder with a random number for a name. Delete it.

May 2012

Show Drive Letters Before the Drive Name in Windows Explorer

I don’t give my drives clever/cute names. Drive letters do just fine, so finding a registry hack to put the drive letters first in Windows Explorer is right up my alley. Here’s how you do it:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
  • Right click in the right hand pane and select New -> DWord (32-bit) Value.
  • Enter ShowDriveLettersFirst
  • Change its value from 0 to 4.
  • Use task manager to kill and then start explorer.exe)

To return to the default behavior, just set the key’s value back to 0. You can also set it to 1 to show only network drive letters before the name, or 2 to remove drive letters altogether.

May 2012

Clone an ISO to a Flash Drive (Vista/Win7 Only)

This is something that I have taken for granted for so long on the Mac that I forget wat a PITA it can be on a PC. As long as I can recall I have been able to take a disk image file and mount it as a virtual drive on my Mac or restore the contents of the disk image (an ISO ir DMG file) to any media, CD/DVD, hard drive, flash drive, external USB/Firewire drive, quickly and easily using the built-in disk utility on the Mac OS. Making a CD/DVD on a PC from an ISO is easy enough, the rest of it is a little less simple.

I got some of this procedure from here [Toms Hardware] but as links can be a bit transient the whole procedure is outlined below.

  • Download and install the Freeware Virtual Clone Drive.
  • Open a command prompt, insert your flash drive, and enter the following commands.
  • diskpart (opens a new window)
  • List disk Note: this will verify what the flash drive’s disk number is. For the purposes of this I will assume it is disk 1.
  • select disk 1 (making sure that your usb drive IS disk 1)
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=fat32
  • assign
  • exit (closes the diskpart window)Your USB drive is now formatted. Do not format the drive from within Windows. Once this is done we mount the ISO and use xcopy to copy the installation files to your flash drive.
  • Mount the ISO using Vuitual Clone Drive
  • xcopy D:\*.* /s/e/f E:\ Note: D:\ is the source E:\ is the destination. Change them to reflect the appropriate drive letters.

May 2012

Securely Wipe a Drive Within Windows 7/8

Cipher.exe is a command-line tool (Win 2K thru Win 8.1) used to manage EFS. It can also be used to securely wipe a drive or, optionally a folder. I find this a bit easier than booting a system with a DOS boot disk and using killdisk to wipe the drive. Also killdisk (the free version) does a one-pass wipe with zeros while cipher.exe does three passes. The first one with zeros (0x00), the second with 255s (0xFF) and the third with random data. On a 2GB drive connectied via USB it took 60-90 minutes to wipe the drive.

  • Open a command prompt and execute the following command:
  • cipher /w:x:
  • Where “X” is the drive letter of the drive to be wiped.
  • I gather that you can wipe the contents of a folder by just adding the path to the folder after the drive letter.

December 2013

Problems Activating Office 2010?

I have found that sometimes after you activate Office 2010 the regular way (EG File -> Help) when you then quit and relaunch an Office program it still shows as not activated. This will fix that issue.

  • Quit any office programs and launch a command prompt as Administrtor.
  • CD "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14"
  • cscript ospp.vbs /act
  • Now launch an Office program and go to the File tab then Help and verify that office is activated.

December 2013

Clean the WINSXS folder

Ever since Vista the uninstall files for updates and service packs have not been stored in an easily accessible place (like in XP those blue [compressed] folders with the strange names at the top of the Windows directory). Unless you may want or need the ability to undo Windows update patches deleting these files has no effect on Windows and doing so frees up disk space. You can’t do that in Windows Vista, 7 and 8. However, there is a command that will do some of this cleanup. It is especially effective at cleaning up un-needed files if you applied a service pack after installing windows rather than one with the service pack already installed.

  • Open a command prompt as an Administrator and run this command:
  • DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /SpSuperseded
  • Depending on how much there is to do this will take 30 seconds to several minutes to do it’s thing. Note that Windows is “smarter” about keeping some stuff around. So doing this may result in little or no reclaimed disk space. But it’s worth a try.

Check out this thread in the MS discussion forums for more details.

December 2013

Installing x86 Print Drivers on x64 Win2008 R2 and Win2012

This has always been a major pain in the ass. Often times when you try and install the x86 print drivers the way it is recommended: going to printer properties -> Sharing -> Additional Drivers. Then checking the x86 driver and pointing it to the actual, current (and working) driver it fails in a variety of ways. If you have experienced all or one of those failures this is the procedure that has worked for me.

  • Install the x64 drivers on the server as you normally would, create the queue and set your printer options, if any.
  • Log on to an x86 computer with an account that has Domain Admin rights (that’s your account right?)
  • Place a copy of the (extracted) driver on this x86 PC.
  • Open the printer from the server as if you were going to install it: \\ServerName
  • Double click on the printer, the printer will “install” on this computer.
  • Once installed open the queue and get properties on the printer.
  • Go to the Sharing tab and click on Additional Drivers.
  • Because you are viewing the print queue on the print server, only the x64 drivers are currently available.
  • Check x86 and click OK.
  • The computer will ask you for the x86 driver. Point it to the folder with the x86 drivers you previously copied to this PC.
  • The drivers will install and you will be good to go.

There are a lot of failure modes for installing x86 printer drivers on Windows Server x64. And many manufacturers (and Microsoft) have a variety of workarounds, some involving editing the registry or copying specific system folders from x86 computers. This seems to work better and more easily than many of the methods I have found online.

March 2014

Shut Down From a Command Line

Ever log into a PC with Microsoft’s RDP client and need to shut down or reboot the PC and RDP doesn’t show those options in the Start Menu? Annoying, isn’t it?

  • Open a command prompt (DOS window if you prefer)
  • Enter this command: shutdown /i
  • That’ll give you a standard shutdown/restart dialog

March 2014

Using PSExec To Get a Serial Number (Dell Service Tag)

If you are not familiar with it PSExec is a Microsoft command line tool that allows you to log onto a remote PC (with the proper credentials) and issue commands as if you were at a command prompt on that PC. Because of what it does and how it does it some antivirus/malware tools will prevent it from running. So you may have to adjust the settings of your A/V to leave PSExec alone.

While I have only used this to get the Dell Service Tag off of a computer, this is a Windows-specific tool that should work on any reasonably modern PC

  • Open a command prompt (DOS window if you prefer)
  • Enter this command: psexec \\[PC Name] -u [DOMAIN]\[Admin User] -p [PASSWORD] cmdExample: For a PC named GANDALF in an AD Domain called AMERICAS with an account with workstation Administrator rights called WKSADMIN with a password of 123456 you would type this in: psexec \\gandalf -u americas\wksadmin -p 123456 cmd
  • That’ll give you an interactive command prompt on the target computer
  • Enter this command: wmic csproductYou’ll get back a bunch of info including the serial number (service tag) and Model. Shiny!

March 2014


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