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Windows XP hints and tips

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Group Policy Editor

There are several hidden utilities in Windows that are not on any menu. The registry editor is a typical example and most people are aware of it even if they have never used it. It's not on any menu and it can only be loaded by clicking Start, Run and entering regedit.

Another hidden utility is the Group Policy Editor. To load it, click Start, Run and enter gpedit.msc. One reason why utilities like this are hidden is because they are powerful and in the wrong hands, such as a novice or a child, you could actually cause problems. You might even mess up Windows so badly it won't work properly - you have been warned!

In the right hands though, hidden utilities like the registry editor and Group Policy Editor are very useful and you can do things that are not normally possible. There isn't the space here to go into what the Group Policy Editor does, but it's not hard to find out if you are interested in what this advanced utility does.

Select Help, Help Topics and read the help that's available. Some useful information can be found here, here and here. The Group Policy Editor is not available in Windows XP Home, only XP Pro and XP Media Center Edition (which is based on XP Pro).

Restore hidden updates

When you use Windows Update or Microsoft Update to see the latest updates, patches and bug fixes, initially all the updates are shown. If you decline to accept a recommended update, sooner or later it will be removed from the list of updates. There are several reasons why you might not want an update, for example, it might ve very large, but you only have a slow internet connection, or you are using your laptop on battery power and you don't want to waste the battery. Windows hides updates you don't want, but what if you change your mind and you do actually want an update that was previously offered. Where has it disappeared to?

Fortunately, you can make hidden updates visible again so that you can select them and download them. There are two ways to do this and one method is to click Start, right click My Computer and then select Properties on the menu that appears. Click the Automatic Updates tab to bring it to the front and then click the link at the bottom labelled Offer updates again that I've previously hidden.

Another solution is to click Start, All Programs, Windows Update or Microsoft Update and then check for updates. When the results are displayed you will see a link at the side of the page called Restore hidden updates. Click it to see what you have missed and you can then choose to download the items

Check your internet connection

If you are having problems with your internet connection or if you simply want to discover more about your computer and your network, there is a useful tool hidden in the Help and Support application. Click Start, Run and enter:


Wait a second or two and the Network Diagnostics section of Help and Support will appear. Click the Set Scanning Options link and you can choose what items will be tested. Just tick the boxes. Now click Scan My System. After a minute or two a report is displayed that shows whether your email is OK, whether your news server can be accessed, computer information such as the make, model, memory, user name and so on, various operating system details, modem and network interface details, and network clients. The information could be useful when tracking down connection problems.

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