Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot new tips for WindowsXP

WindowsXP

Hot New Tips and Tricks

Automatic Logon

WindowsXP provides you host of advance facilities including facility for fast user switching, multiple user login i.e. facility for more than one user logging in the same computer at the same time and more. You can further change these login settings, for example, in a physically secured WindowsXP machine, you can bypass the annoying login dialogue screen by automating things. Automatic logon is also advisable in single user Desktop machines having multiple user accounts (if other user accounts seldom used) and where security is not an issue. There is some couple of utility available, which you may use for managing Windows Login process. Yet, the best way to do it is through tweaking Windows registry settings.

In previous issues of i.t. magazine, all the aspect of Windows registry had described in detail. Now, what about trying some real hot stuff to hack WindowsXP registry? Nevertheless, before you get ready, keep in mind that playing with Windows registry can be potentially dangerous and it may leave your machine in non-usable state since a single mistake may corrupt it. So, before playing with Windows registry, back it up first along with your valuable data so that you can restore the originals later. Further, make sure that your WindowsXP computer has more than one user account defined with password protected login else some registry settings may be reset on a fresh reboot and the procedure given here may not give you desired result.

Login to WindowsXP as administrative account user and click on Windows Start button. Click on Run menu that appears. Type regedit in the open: input box and click on OK button to start Windows Registry Editor. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\Winlogon and see for string AutoAdminLogon. If it is not there already, then create this string by right clicking on registry editor’s right pan and selecting New String Value. Change the name of this value exactly as it appears keeping in mind the upper case and lower case letters. After naming it AutoAdminLogon, with type REG_SZ, right click on it to modify its value data. Change its value from 0 to 1 to enable automatic login to WindowsXP.

Further, you have to specify the user name and corresponding password of the user who is going to login automatically. For this, you have to edit a couple of more registry entries. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon and find the value of string DefaultUserName. If the value is not of the particular user specified for automatic login, then you have to change it suitably. Similarly, to set password for default user name, go to registry entry- HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\Winlogon and see for DefaultPassword string name. If it is not there, then create one and modify its string value exactly as the password of the account. Note that since registry keys are entered in clear text, hence password entered as registry values are visible to everyone who has a hand to registry editor. Next, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\Winlogon and find DefaultDomainName String. If it is the desktop you are using, nothing is to be changed here since the only computer name available will be there. But if you want to login across network, then you have to specify the domain name or the server name as the case may be. Finally, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\Winlogon and make sure that String Names- LegalNoticeCaption, LegalNoticeText does not have any set values. If they have any values set, simply delete them. Similarly, at the same location, try to find DontDisplayLastUserName string name. If you did not find any, fine, but if there exists one, you have to delete it or modify its value to 0, else the above settings will not work. Now exit registry editor and reboot to take effects the things. Next time during booting, your WindowsXP will not prompt for anything and you will be able to login automatically.

Now, how can you login as different user when automatic login is enabled? You can do it through WindowsXP logoff dialogue box that offer you facility to switch user account. The automatic login process could also be bypassed during WindowsXP boot up process. Simply keep pressing the shift key during boot up and you will be prompted with standard login dialogue screen.

Backing up Windows Product Activation:

To curb piracy and unauthorized use, WindowsXP needs to be activated through special keys obtained from Microsoft. The product activation key is meant for the only WindowsXP machine for which it is obtained and is generated by keeping in mind the variable factors such as installed hardware etc. If there is significant change in machine hardware, the product activation may not work. But if you are reinstalling WindowsXP on the same machine after formatting your hard disk etc. then you need not obtain a fresh product activation key. Simply back up your WindowsXP product activation database file and restore them after WindowsXP reinstall. Thus, you can avoid activation process and can shun out Microsoft personnel questioning you the reason behind asking for duplicate product activation key. However, if you have significant different hardware such as new Hard disk and motherboard, then you may need to get new product activation key.

After activating WindowsXP, a product activation database file is generated and stored as wpa.dbl file in Windows\System32 directory. You may find a back up of the same file as wpa.bak in the same directory. Copy these files and store them at safe location. After reinstalling WindowsXP, start your computer in Safe Mode and go to the Windows\System32 directory. Find the newly created files wpa.dbl and wpa.bak. You may not find wpa.bak file in newly installed system. Rename these file and copy the file wpa.dbl and wpa.bak that you have previously backup from your safe location to windows\system32 folder. Now reboot WindowsXp to take effect the changes. Take note that this is not a hack for Windows activation, but is a documented procedure to save Windows activation data and works only when no significant hardware is changed.

Display file name traditionally

In WindowsXP command prompt, you may find working a bit strange since the directory and file listings are displayed on right side. To make its settings as our traditional good old DOS look alike, click on Start button, go to My Computer menu that appears and right click there. Click on Properties menu that appears, and then click on Advanced tab. Click on Environmental Variable button and finally on New button. It will ask for new variable Name and its value. Enter variable name as dircmd and variable value as /-n . Click on OK/ Apply button to take effects the changes. You will be happy to see your directories and files once again in left side of window.

Changing look & feel of Command prompt Window

Finally, Microsoft has ditched the DOS command prompt in WindowsXP and started calling its new avatar as Command Window. Well, for good or bad, but it has finally provided option to decorate command window with some easy to apply settings. You can radically change look and feel of command window by some simple settings. Start command prompt, right click on its title bar, and select Defaults. Select the items you want to change. You are presented with fancy colors for fonts, backgrounds and popup windows. Change appropriate colors, size etc. and apply them. Let us hope, in near future, we will be able to work in Windows command prompt decorated with the chosen background of our own wallpaper.

Fast Shutdown and Reboot

Sick of clicking Start button even for shutting down Windows? Relax. At last, WindowsXP gives you some option to shutdown and reboot your machine in traditional Unix way with a new utility, shutdown.exe which also has a number of advanced, command line options. Though there are options like displaying messages and making delay before shutdown, which is used in networked environment, here are two small shortcuts that you can make for real fast Windows Shutdown or Reboot for your Desktop Computer. Right click anywhere on your computer’s empty desktop. Select New and then Shortcut. In the Create Shortcut input box that appears, enter shutdown –s –t 00, assign a name you like such as Exit, Shutdown or Good-Bye and click Finish to create Shortcut for Windows shutdown. Later, you can assign a nice icon for this shortcut from its properties window. Similarly, you can create shortcut for system reboot by entering value shutdown –r –t 00. Here, option –s is for shut down and –r is for reboot. Option –t is for the time in seconds before the command should wait to execute, followed by its value in seconds. Value 00 has taken for instantaneous shutdown or reboot.

Screenshot Descriptions:

  1. XPtips01.jpg Add a new registry entry name AutoAdminLogon with string value 1 for automatic login of specified user in WindowsXP.
  2. XPtips02.jpg You can bypass Shift override setting for automatic logon to WindowsXP by modifying its value from 0 to 1.
  3. XPtips03.jpg Strangely, WindowsXP Command Prompt displays files in right side. You can change it to old, traditional way.
  4. XPtips04.jpg Before playing with Windows registry, save a copy of it at a safe location.
  5. XPtips05.jpg You can create a shortcut for instantaneous Shutdown / Reboot of WindowsXP.
  6. XPtips06.jpg Place shutdown and reboot shortcut at handy location in your Desktop.
  7. XPtips07.jpg You can customize WindowsXP Command Prompt Window.
  8. XPtips08.jpg Command Prompt’s Variable value /-n will bring back the directory and file listing on the Left side of window.
  9. XPtips09.jpg Finally, you will be able to work on decorated Command Prompt window.

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