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Windows XP hints and tips

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Get a better firewall

Windows XP has a built in firewall and while it is better than nothing at all, you shouldn't assume that it is the best that is available because it is not. Although it stops unauthorised incoming internet traffic satisfactorily, it does not try to block any outgoing data sent by programs installed on the hard disk drive. Spyware, Trojans and adware, if they are installed without your knowledge, can collect information about you that is stored on the hard disk and then send it to whoever they want to on the internet.

If you have upgraded to Service Pack 2 or 3, which you should have done by now because it has been out for a long time, it offers greater protection because it warns you if a program tries to connect to the internet. It also warns you if the firewall is turned off for some reason. The improved firewall is one of the best reasons for upgrading to SP2/3. However, it is still not the best around and it is easily beaten, even by freeware firewalls.

You should install a better firewall to improve Windows security as soon as you can. Here are some free ones that are better than Windows Firewall. They aren't the best, but they are certainly a step up from what's bundled with XP.

Show the administrator account

When Windows XP starts up it first shows the Welcome screen and it lists the accounts. You can select an account and then log in. What you don't see on the Welcome screen is a hidden administrator account. It's there, you just can't see it.

To make the administrator account visible on the Welcome screen, log on as normal and when you get to the desktop click Start, Run and enter regedit to start the registry editor. The left-hand pane is similar to the folder view in Explorer windows, but instead of folders on disk, it shows the keys in the registry. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SOFTWARE \Microsoft \Windows NT \CurrentVersion \Winlogon \SpecialAccounts \UserList and then select Edit, New, DWORD Value. A new item is added to the right-hand pane and you should name it Administrator. Double click it after creating it and set the value to 1. Quit the registry editor and log off. You'll now see the administrator account.

If you want to hide the administrator account again you should return to the key, right click the Administrator value on the right and delete it. Alternatively, double click it and set the value to 0.

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