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Windows XP hints and tips

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Advanced user accounts

How do you create and modify user accounts on your computer? Do you go to the Control Panel and run User Accounts? That's for novices and there's an advanced tool for experts that is far more powerful. Click Start, Run and enter:

control userpasswords2

You can add user accounts, remove them, and change their passwords - providing you are logged on as an administrator. Double click a user account and you can enter the user's full name and add a description. On the Group Membership tab you can assign the user to a group: Standard User, Restricted User, or Other. There are 10 different accounts in the Other category and you can assign the user to one by selecting the category. When you do this, you will see an explanation of what the user is able and not able to do with this type of account.

Reduce IE's cache

Internet Explorer stores recently accessed web pages on the hard disk drive and the idea is that if you visit the page again it can be read from the cache instead of being downloaded from the web. It's called a cache and the idea was first thought of when everyone used slow dial-up modems. Now that most people have super fast broadband connections, caching web pages doesn't seem to make much difference and it's just as easy to download everything again.

Up to 1Gb of the hard disk drive can be used for caching web pages and it just seems to waste space without actually making the web any faster. You might want to try running Internet Explorer with the minimum cache rather than the maximum. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, Internet Options and on the General tab click Settings in the Browsing History section. Set it to the minimum recommended, which is 50Mb. You can actually go right down to 8Mb, but 50 is better because it's big enough to store YouTube videos and other media.

Troubleshoot shut down problems

Do you have problems when you try to shut down Windows? Does the computer lock up, spend a long time shutting down, or display error messages? It is almost certainly a program that is automatically starting with Windows. The msconfig utility can help - click Start, Run and enter:

msconfig

then select the Startup tab. Clear the tick against programs that you don't want to load in the background when Windows starts. Services are another type of program that runs in the background. Click the Services tab and tick the box labelled Hide all Microsoft services. See what's left and clear the tick against anything you don't want. It's actually quite difficult working out what's essential and what you can live without, but at least take a look because you might be able to spot something obvious.

Microsoft has put together a page full of suggestions for fixing shutdown problems. It's well worth reading.

(Don't) clean up the clutter

There is a feature in windows that runs every so often and it is designed to clean up the clutter that inevitably accumulates on the desktop. It removes items you haven't used for some time and puts them elsewhere out of sight. If you would rather keep the desktop just the way it is and not have Windows interfere, you can disable this feature. After all, it's just for novices and kids. Right click on an empty part of the desktop and select Properties from the menu that is displayed. select the Desktop tab and then click the Customize Desktop button. Clear the tick against Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days. Now you won't be bothered with this feature. You can always run it manually if you need to - you'll see a Clean Desktop Now button next to the box to turn the feature on and off.

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