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Windows xp hacks

Discussion in 'Tech, Gadgets & Science Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    Joined: Feb 3, 2009
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    #44 Build Your Own Firefox Search Engine
    Firefox's built-in search box lets you search Google from wherever you are. You don't have to settle for that built-in searching, though, because you can

    build your own Firefox search engine plug-in to search through any site from the Google search box

    [Discuss (12) | Link to this hack] Take a look at the upper-right corner of your Firefox browser [Hack #43]. You'll see a nifty search box called the Search Bar that lets you search Google by typing in a search term. Better yet, you don't have to

    settle for searching just Google that way. You can search through other sites as well by installing a specific search engine add-in for that site to the Search Bar. So,

    instead of using Google to search the Internet, for example, you can use Ask Jeeves ( or A9 (
    And you're not limited to search sites. You can also search through an individual

    site. So, for example, you can search through (, eBay (, (, or the health site WebMD (

    from that box as well. All you need to do is find and add the right search engine plug-in.

    To do so, click the down arrow next to the G in the search box, and choose Add Engines. You'll be sent to Mycroft Project: Search Engine Plugins - Firefox & IE8, which is a directory of hundreds of search engines you can use in Firefox. Browse

    or search until you find one you want; then click its link. You'll get a dialog box like that shown in Figure 1, asking whether you want to add it to the Search Bar. Click

    OK, and it'll be added.
    Figure 1. Confirming the addition of a new search engine to the Firefox Search Bar

    To choose which search engine to use in the Search Bar, click the down arrow next to the G in the Search Bar and choose your search engine from the list. Then, type

    in a search term, and you'll search using that engine. The engine will stay there as your default until you choose another one.
    All that's well and good. But why settle for a search engine that's already been written? It's not that hard to write a plug-in of your own.

    To get started, open a new file in a text editor such as Notepad. Give it the name of the site for which you're building a search engine, and give it the extension .src. In

    our instance, we're going to build a search engine for searching the federal government's White House site, so we'll call it White House.src. Save it in the folder C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\.

    The first line of the plug-in should be the search tag <search, and the next line should indicate which version of Netscape the plug-in was written for. Now, I know

    Firefox isn't Netscape, but both are based on common code, called Mozilla, and for reasons not quite understandable, you need to include the most current version

    number of Netscape. At the time of this writing, it's 7.1, so that's the version we'll put here. Enter the text version="7.1" underneath the search tag so that the first two lines of your file look like this:
    Next, name your plug-in by using this syntax:

    name="My Plugin"​
    But replace My Plugin with the name of the plug-in you're writing. In our instance, we're calling it White House.

    Now, describe your plug-in by using this syntax:
    description="My Plugin - My First Search Plugin"​
    Our plug-in now looks like this:


    name="White House"

    Now you have to tell the plug-in what action to take when you type in a search term and press Enter. What you're doing here is telling it how to search the site. To get

    this information, go to the site for which you want to build a search engine. Do a search, and look at the first part of the resulting URL, the portion before the first

    question mark (?). That's what will tell what action your search engine should take. For the site, that first part of the URL before the ? is

    Here's the syntax:So, in our instance, the line looks like this:
    Now you need to put in the name of the search form. This will be the name of the site you're on, written with the following syntax:
    Again, in our instance, this is:
    Underneath that, put the following code:
    This tells the plug-in to use the GET method of searching, which is the only method

    supported, so there's no choice here. After that line, close off the search tag with a

    closing tag:
    So, here's what our plug-in looks like so far:
    name="White House"
    Now you need to add a line that tells the site's webmasters and site administrators someone is searching the site using the plug-in. So, put in this line:
    <input name="sourceid" value="Mozilla-search">​
    Next, you need to tell your plug-in what syntax to use when searching for the text you'll type into the Search Bar. This varies from site to site. Again, take a look at

    the URL that results after you search the site. Look for whatever falls between the first ampersand (&) and your search term. For the site, it is qt.

    Here's the syntax for this line:
    <input name="query" user="">​
    So, in our instance, the line looks like this:
    <input name="qt" user="">​
    Now you need to close off the entire search section with a closing </search> tag:
    Here's what our final file looks like:
    name="White House"

    <input name="sourceid" value="Mozilla-search">
    <input name="qt" user="">

    That's it; you're done. Close Firefox and restart it. Click the down arrow at the Search Bar, and your search engine plug-in will show up. Select it, type in your search term, press Enter, and you'll search the site.

    Hacking the Hack

    When you right-click the down arrow on the Search Bar, you'll see that many plug-ins have a small icon next to them. Yours doesn't, however. That's because you haven't created an icon for it. Create a 16 16 pixel icon, give it the same name

    as your plug-in, and save it as either a .jpg or .png graphics file. Then, put it in the C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins folder. So, in our instance, we create one called White House.jpg.

    For information about how to create icons, see [Hack #19] . You can also find ready-made icons in the right size, although not the right format, right on the Web. When you visit many web sites, you'll see in your web browser a small icon to the left of the http://; that same icon might show up next to the http:// on your

    Favorites list because the sites use something called a favicon which the browser displays.

    You can find the favicon for the site, save it to your PC, convert it to .jpg or .png format, and use it for your search engine plug-in. To find the favicon for a site, go

    to, where website is the Favorite you want an icon for. For example, go to for the O'Reilly icon. Keep in mind, though, that not all web sites have favicons, so you won't be able to do this for every site.

    If you're using Firefox to get the icon, a dialog box will open, asking what to do with the file. Save it to your hard disk. If you're using Internet Explorer, you'll open the icon itself in your browser. Right-click it, choose Save Picture As..., and save it on your hard disk.

    It'll be in .ico format, so you need to convert it to .jpg or .png. An excellent program for doing this is IrfanView, available from For

    details about how to do the conversion, see [Hack #99]. When you store the file, make sure it's in C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins.

    See also:

  2. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Joined: Feb 3, 2009
    Messages: 39,620
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    Speed Up Boot and Shutdown Times
    Shorten the time it takes for your desktop to appear when you turn on your

    PC, and make XP shut down faster as well

    [Discuss (2) | Link to this hack] No matter how fast your PC boots, it's not fast enough. Here are several hacks to get you right to your desktop as quickly as possible after startup.

    Perform a Boot Defragment

    There's a simple way to speed up XP startup: make your system do a boot defragment, which will put all the boot files next to one another on your hard disk. When boot files are in close proximity to one another, your system will start faster.

    On most systems, boot defragment should be enabled by default, but it might not be on yours, or it might have been changed inadvertently. To make sure that boot defragment is enabled on your system, run the Registry Editor [Hack #83] and go to:
    Edit the Enable string value to Y if it is not already set to Y. Exit the Registry and reboot. The next time you reboot, you'll do a boot defragment.

    I've found many web sites recommending a way of speeding up boot times that might in fact slow down the amount of time it takes to boot up and will probably slow down launching applications as well. The tip recommends going to your C:\WINDOWS\Prefetch directory and emptying it every week. Windows uses this directory to speed up launching applications. It analyzes the files you use during startup and the applications you launch, and it creates an index to where those files and applications are located on your hard disk. By using this index, XP can launch files and applications faster. So, by emptying the directory, you are most likely slowing down launching applications. In my tests, I've also found that after emptying the directory, it takes my PC a few seconds longer to get to my desktop after bootup.
    Hack Your BIOS for Faster Startups

    When you turn on your PC, it goes through a set of startup procedures in its BIOS before it gets to starting XP. So, if you speed up those initial startup procedures, you'll make your system start faster.
    You can speed up your startup procedures by changing the BIOS with the built-in setup utility. How you run this utility varies from PC to PC, but you typically get to it by pressing the Delete, F1, or F10 keys during startup. You'll come to a menu with a variety of choices. Here are the choices to make for faster system startups:

    Quick Power On Self Test (POST)
    When you choose this option, your system runs an abbreviated POST rather than the normal, lengthy one.

    Boot Up Floppy Seek
    Disable this option. When it's enabled, your system spends a few extra seconds looking for your floppy drive—a relatively pointless procedure, especially considering how infrequently you use your floppy drive.

    Boot Delay
    Some systems let you delay booting after you turn on your PC so that your hard drive gets a chance to start spinning before bootup. Most likely, you don't need to have this boot delay, so turn it off. If you run into problems, however, you can turn it back on.

    Fine-Tune Your Registry for Faster Startups

    Over time, your Registry can become bloated with unused entries, slowing down your system startup because your system loads them every time you start up your

    PC. Get a Registry clean-up tool to delete unneeded Registry entries and speed up startup times. Registry First Aid, shown in Figure 1, is an excellent Registry

    clean-up tool. It combs your Registry for outdated and useless entries and then lets you choose which entries to delete and which to keep. It also creates a full Registry backup so that you can restore the Registry if you run into a problem.
    Figure 1. Cleaning the Registry with Registry First Aid

    Registry First Aid is shareware and free to try, but it costs $21 if you decide to keep using it. Download it from Registry First Aid - Award Winning Windows Registry Repair.

    After you clean out your Registry, you might want to try compacting it to get rid of unused space. The Registry Compactor, available from Registry Compactor - Rose City Software Collection - InfiniSource, Inc., will do the trick. Compacting your Registry reduces its size and decreases loading time. It's shareware and free to try, but it costs $19.95 if you decide to keep it.

    Speed Up Shutdown Times

    It's not only startup times that you'd like to speed up; you can also make sure that your system shuts down faster. If shutting down XP takes what seems to be an inordinate amount of time, here are a couple of steps you can take to speed up the shutdown process:

    • Don't have XP clear your paging file at shutdown
    For security reasons, you can have XP clear your paging file (pagefile.sys) of its contents whenever you shut down. Your paging file is used to store temporary files

    and data, but when your system shuts down, information stays in the file. Some people prefer to have the paging file cleared at shutdown because sensitive information, such as unencrypted passwords, sometimes ends up in the file.

    However, clearing the paging file can slow shutdown times significantly, so if extreme security isn't a high priority, you might not want to clear it. To shut down XP without clearing your paging file, run the Registry Editor and go to:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management​
    Change the value of ClearPageFileAtShutdown to 0. Close the Registry and restart your computer. Whenever you turn off XP from now on, the paging file won't be cleared, and you should be able to shut down more quickly.

    • Turn off unnecessary services
    Services take time to shut down, so the fewer you run, the faster you can shut down. For information on how to shut them down, see [Hack #4] instead.
  3. newmzalendo

    newmzalendo JF-Expert Member

    Feb 8, 2011
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  4. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Joined: Feb 3, 2009
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    Make Your PC Work Like a Mac
    Feeling jealous about some of the Mac's nifty features? Envy it no more. Use these tools to make your PC look and work more like a Mac

    Have you ever wished you could turn your PC into a Mac? You're not alone. A lot of Windows users have eyed its slick user interface and handy features with envy. But you no longer need to envy the Mac because in this hack, I'll show you how to make your Windows PC look and work more like a Mac.

    Let's start with changing the visual appearance of XP to get a Mac-like experience. It involves three steps. First we'll change the boot screen. Then we'll replace the default logon screen. Finally we'll make Windows and its icons more Mac-like.
    Get a Mac-Like Boot Screen

    When you start your machine, you'll see a vendor-specific welcome screen, which provides access to BIOS settings. Depending on your setup, after that you might see a menu that lets you boot from one of multiple operating systems [Hack #1].

    But if you run only one instance of Windows XP, you will be greeted immediately by the Windows splash screen. To get an almost complete Mac experience, we are
    going to replace the default Windows logo with something more Panther-like (at the time of this writing, Panther is the name of the latest version of Mac OS X, Version 10.3). To do this, we use BootSkin by Stardock ( - Your Edge In Software), which is free for noncommercial use.

    After downloading and installing the program we need to obtain a Mac-like boot skin. A particularly nice one is called G5, available at Once you have downloaded it, you need to import it into BootSkin. From BootSkin, choose File &#8594; Import from file. After you import it, it will show up in BootSkin, as shown in Figure 1.
    Figure 1. The BootSkin main window with the G5 boot skin imported

    To get an idea how your boot screen will look, you can choose G5 from the list and click the Preview button. Clicking Apply saves your settings and presents the G5 splash screen upon your next boot. Modifying existing boot screens is easy. Once you have imported a skin, you can find it in the skins directory, which defaults to C:\Program Files\Stardock\WinCustomize\BootSkin\skins. Documentation is available through the BootSkin Help menu.

    For more ways to change your boot screen, see [Hack #2].
    Changing the Logon Screen

    The next step in transforming your PC into a Mac is to replace the default Logon screen with a more Panther-like version. Use the free program LogonStudio by Stardock ( - Your Edge In Software). Download the main program as well as a logon screen called Mac OS X Panther (

    After you install LogonStudio, unzip into a directory named Mac_OSX_Panther_LogonXP.logonxp. Now, move the newly

    created folder into the installation directory of LogonStudio, which has the default of C:\Program Files\WinCustomize\LogonStudio.
    Now, when you run LogonStudio, the Mac OS X Panther screen will appear in the list of available logons, as shown in Figure 2.
    Figure 2. LogonStudio's main screen

    Select it and click Apply. To see how the new logon screen looks (as shown in Figure 3), you can press Windows-L.
    Figure 3. The Panther-like logon screen

    Changing the Appearance of Windows and Menus

    The next step is to change Windows' overall visual appearance so that it's more Mac-like. Use WindowBlinds from Stardock ( - Your Edge In Software).

    For an in-depth look at how to use WindowBlinds, see [Hack #18].
    It's shareware; the registration fee is $20, although you can use a free version that has nag screens and some features disabled. Download the program and a visual style called Brushed Panther ( After launching WindowBlinds, choose "Install skin from disk" to load the skin, as shown in Figure 4.
    Figure 4. Installing the Brushed Panther visual style

    Change the desktop wallpaper to one that closely resembles Apple's blue one. If you've installed LogonStudio, go to C:\Program Files\WinCustomize\LogonStudio\Mac_OSX_Panther_LogonXP.logonxp and find Bitmap_100. Use that file as your wallpaper by right-clicking the Windows desktop, choosing Properties &#8594; Desktop, and clicking the Browse button. Navigate to the file Bitmap_100, choose it, click Open, and then OK.

    Give Your PC Mac-Like Features

    At this point, we have a PC that looks very much like Mac OS X, from its boot screen to its logon screen, and to its entire look and feel. But we've changed only the way Windows looks. Now we're going to give it Mac-like features as well.

    A popular Mac tool called Konfabulator displays so-called widgets, which are mini-applications that fulfill a particular task, such as displaying the state of your notebook's battery, the current CPU usage, or the weather forecast for your town.

    Widgets are not applications written in ordinary programming languages like C++ or Java; rather, they are written in JavaScript and can therefore be developed easily. So, not surprisingly, there are a huge number of available widgets. In the upcoming

    Tiger release of Mac OS X (early 2005), Apple is expected to include a new feature called Dashboard, which closely resembles Konfabulator. For a long time Konfabulator has been a Mac OS-only application. Fortunately, though, a new

    version works for Windows ( The program is shareware; you can try it for free, but if you decide to keep it, the registration fee is $25.

    Konfabulator neatly integrates itself into Windows. You can access its functions by clicking an icon in the notification area to install a new widget. Once you have selected the widget in the file dialog box, you will immediately see it on-screen.

    Moving the mouse over a widget and pressing the right-mouse button produces a menu which you can use to close a widget or to modify its settings, as shown in Figure 5.
    Figure 5. The Konfabulator WiFi widget with its menu

    Some settings are widget-specific but others apply to all widgets. One nice feature is called Konspose, which hides all widgets that are in Konspose mode until a certain key is pressed. Just like on the Mac, the default key for this is F8.

    Switching between windows and applications

    The Panther release of Mac OS X introduced an intuitive way to switch between applications and windows called Exposé. If you press the F9 function key you get neatly arranged previews of all open windows. F10 does a similar thing but shows

    only windows belonging to the current application. This is particularly useful because it provides a quick overview of what is happening on-screen.
    Entbloess 2 by Nipaco Enterprises ( brings Exposé-like features to XP. The program is shareware; it's free to try, but the registration fee is $7.99 if you continue to use it. Figure 6 shows the program in action.
    Figure 6. Entbloess in Exposé mode

    The Dock

    Another eye-catching feature of Mac OS X is called the Dock. Dock-like functionality has been present in several operating systems, and even the Windows taskbar can be considered some sort of Dock. The basic idea is to have some drop zone where

    you drag files and programs you need frequently. Accessing them is as simple as clicking the corresponding icon, which remains visible all the time. Additionally, the Dock shows all currently running programs. If you minimize an application window, program output takes place in the Dock.

    What makes the Mac OS X version so outstanding is its visual appearance, with lots of nice animations. Several programs for Windows deliver a Mac-like Dock experience. One of them is called ObjectDock ( - Your Edge In Software), yet another application by Stardock. The program is free to use. One you have installed the main application, make sure to download the Panther X

    Future ( and Striped Mac ( extension packs. You need to unzip these in folders that match the name of the archive without the .zip extension.

    Put the MacOSX folder in the installation directory of ObjectDock, which by default is C:\Program Files\Stardock\ObjectDock. The Striped Mac folder must reside in the Backgrounds directory.

    If you decide to uninstall the various pieces of software used in this hack, make sure that you first reset XP to its original appearance before uninstalling. If you don't, XP might still look Mac-like, even though you've uninstalled the underlying software.
    To get a nice Mac-like background, open the configuration dialog of ObjectDock and choose Striped Mac, as shown in Figure 7.
    Figure 7. The configuration dialog box of ObjectDock

    To change the icons of applications, launch the desired program, right-click its icon in ObjectDock (Figure 8), and open the Properties dialog box.
    Figure 8. Choosing an icon from the Mac OS X package

    Now you have a PC with a Mac OS X-like Dock.

    The Results

    That's it; you're done. You've put considerable effort into transforming your PC into a Mac. Figure 9 shows what the final results look like.
    Figure 9. My Sony notebook running Windows XP Pro, but looking much like Mac OS X Panther

    See also:

    • [Hack #1]
    • [Hack #2]
    • [Hack #8]
    • [Hack #17]
    • [Hack #18]
  5. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Joined: Feb 3, 2009
    Messages: 39,620
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    A Power User's Hidden Weapon: Improve the Context Menu
    The context menu is an often-underused tool. But with these four additions and edits to the menu, it'll turn into a powerhouse that you'll use every day

    Windows Explorer's right-click context menu is one of the most basic of all XP tools; it provides many shortcuts for whenever you want to take action on a file or a folder. But the right-click menu is missing several basic options, such as choosing a specific folder to which you want to move or copy the file you've highlighted, instead of just cutting or copying the file. And when you install new applications, they have a nasty habit of adding their own options that you'll rarely use in the right-click menu.

    The end result: a right-click context menu cluttered with options and lacking several basic useful ones. But you can extend the power of the menu with these four hacks.
    Add Copy To Folder and Move To Folder Context Menu Options

    I spend a lot of time copying and moving files between folders. More often than not, when I click a file in Explorer, I want to copy or move it to another folder. That means I spend a good deal of time dragging files around or copying and pasting them.

    But with a Registry hack, you can save yourself time: you can add Copy To Folder and Move To Folder options to the right-click context menu. When you choose one of the options from the menu, you browse to any place on your hard disk to copy

    or move the file to, and then send the file there. To add the option, run the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFilesystemObjects\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers. shellex tells you it's a shell extension key that lets you customize the user shell or the interface. Create a new key called CopyTo. Set the

    value to {C2FBB630-2971-11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}. Create another new key called Move To. Set the value to {C2FBB631-2971-11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}.

    Exit the Registry. The changes should take effect immediately. The Copy To Folder and Move To Folder options will appear. When you right-click a file and choose one of the options, you'll be able to move or copy the file using a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 1.
    Figure 1. Specifying a destination using the Copy To Folder option

    Add and Remove Destinations for the Send To Option

    The right-click context menu does have one useful option, Send To, which allows you to send the file to any one of a list of programs or locations—for example, to a drive, program, or folder.

    It would be nice to edit that list, adding new locations and programs and taking away existing ones that you never use. How locations and programs show up on the menu appears to be somewhat of a mystery, but, in fact, it's easy to hack. Go

    to C:\Documents and Settings\<User Name>\SendTo, where <User Name> is your username. The folder will be filled with shortcuts to all the locations you find on your Send To context menu. To remove an item from the Send To menu, delete the

    shortcut from the folder. To add an item to the menu, add a shortcut to the folder by highlighting the folder, choosing File &#8594; New &#8594; Shortcut, and following the instructions for creating a shortcut. The new setting will take effect immediately; you don't have to exit Windows Explorer for it to go into effect.

    Open the Command Prompt from the Right-Click Menu

    I began computing in the days of DOS, and I still can't give up the command prompt. When it comes to doing down-and-dirty tasks like mass deleting or renaming of files, nothing beats it. I find myself frequently switching back and forth between Windows Explorer and the command prompt.

    Often, when using Windows Explorer, I want to open the command prompt at the folder that's my current location. That takes too many steps: opening a command prompt and then navigating to my current folder. However, there's a quicker way:

    you can add an option to the right-click context menu that will open a command prompt at your current folder. For example, if you were to right-click the C:\My Stuff folder, you could then choose to open a command prompt at C:\My Stuff.

    To add the option, run the Registry Editor , then go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Classes/Folder/Shell. Create a new key called Command Prompt. For the default value, enter whatever text you want to appear when you right-click a folder—for example, Open Command Prompt. Create a new

    key beneath the Command Prompt key called Command. Set the default value to Cmd.exe /k pushd %L. That value will launch Cmd.exe, which is the XP command prompt. The /k switch puts the prompt into interactive mode. That is, it lets you

    issue commands from the command prompt; the command prompt isn't being used to issue only a single command and then exit. The pushd command stores the name of the current directory, and %L uses that name to start the command prompt at it. Exit the Registry. The new menu option will show up immediately. Note that it won't appear when you right-click a file; it shows up only when you right-click a folder.

    While many of us like fussing around with the Registry rather than doing things the easy way, there's also a way to add this option to your right-click context menu without editing the Registry. Download and install a free copy of Microsoft's Open Command Window Here PowerToy from Windows XP home page. Many other PowerToys are on that page as well, and we cover them in other places in the book.
    Clean Up the Open With Option

    When you right-click a file, one of the menu options is Open With, which provides a list of programs for you to open the file with. This list changes according to the

    type of file you're clicking. Depending on the file type, the list can get long because programs frequently add themselves to this list when you install them. Making things worse, there are times when the listed programs aren't applicable. For example, do you really want to open a .bmp bitmap graphics file with Microsoft Word? I think not.

    You can clean up the Open With list by using a Registry hack. Run the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts. Look for the file extension whose Open With list you want to edit and find its OpenWithList subkey—HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.bmp\OpenWithList, for example. The subkey will have an alphabetical list

    of String values. Open each value and examine the value data. It will be the name of one of the programs on the Open With list (Winword.exe, for example). Delete any entry you don't want to appear. Don't delete the value data; delete the String value listing. In other words, if the value data for the aString value is Winword.exe, delete the entire string rather than just the value data. Exit the Registry.