You’ve read the reviews and digested the key featureenhancements and operational changes. Now it’s time todelve a bit deeper and uncover some of Windows XP’s secrets

1. It boasts how long it can stay up. Whereas previousversions of Windows were coy about how long they wentbetween boots, XP is positively proud of its stamina.Go to the Command Prompt in the Accessories menu from the All Programs start button option, and then type’systeminfo’. The computer will produce a lot ofuseful info, including the uptime. If you want to keepthese, type ‘systeminfo > info.txt’. This creates a file called info.txt you can look at later withNotepad. (Professional Edition only).

2. You can delete files immediately, without havingthem move to the Recycle Bin first. Go to the Startmenu, select Run… and type ‘ gpedit.msc’; then selectUser Configuration, Administrative Templates, WindowsComponents, Windows Explorer and find the Do not movedeleted files to the Recycle Bin setting. Set it.Poking around in gpedit will reveal a great many interface and system options, but take care — somemay stop your computer behaving as you wish.(Professional Edition only).

3. You can lock your XP workstation with two clicks ofthe mouse. Create a new shortcut on your desktop using a right mouse click, and enter ‘rundll32.exeuser32.dll,LockWorkStation’ in the location field.Give the shortcut a name you like. That’s it — justdouble click on it and your computer will be locked.And if that’s not easy enough, Windows key + L will do the same.

4. XP hides some system software you might want toremove, such as Windows Messenger, but you can tickleit and make it disgorge everything. Using Notepad orEdit, edit the text file /windows/inf/sysoc.inf, search for the word ‘hide’ and remove it. You can thengo to the Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel,select Add/Remove Windows Components and there will beyour prey, exposed and vulnerable.

5. For those skilled in the art of DOS batch files, XPhas a number of interesting new commands. Theseinclude ‘eventcreate’ and ‘eventtriggers’ for creatingand watching system events, ‘typeperf’ for monitoringperformance of various subsystems, and ‘schtasks’ forhandling scheduled tasks. As usual, typing the commandname followed by /? will give a list of options –they’re all far too baroque to go into here.

6. XP has IP version 6 support — the next generationof IP. Unfortunately this is more than your ISP has,so you can only experiment with this on your LAN. Type’ipv6 install’ into Run… (it’s OK, it won’t ruin your existing network setup) and then ‘ipv6 /?’ at thecommand line to find out more. If you don’t know whatIPv6 is, don’t worry and don’t bother.

7. You can at last get rid of tasks on the computerfrom the command line by using ‘taskkill /pid’ and thetask number, or just ‘tskill’ and the process number.Find that out by typing ‘tasklist’, which will alsotell you a lot about what’s going on in your system.

8. XP will treat Zip files like folders, which is niceif you’ve got a fast machine. On slower machines, youcan make XP leave zip files well alone by typing’regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll’ at the command line. If you change your mind later, you can put things back asthey were by typing ‘regsvr32 zipfldr.dll’.

9. XP has ClearType — Microsoft’s anti-aliasing fontdisplay technology — but doesn’t have it enabled bydefault. It’s well worth trying, especially if youwere there for DOS and all those years of staring at ascreen have given you the eyes of an astigmatic bat.To enable ClearType, right click on the desktop,select Properties, Appearance, Effects, selectClearType from the second drop-down menu and enablethe selection. Expect best results on laptop displays.If you want to use ClearType on the Welcome loginscreen as well, set the registry entry HKEY_USERS/.DEFAULT/ControlPanel/Desktop/FontSmoothingType to 2.

10. You can use Remote Assistance to help a friendwho’s using network address translation (NAT) on ahome network, but not automatically. Get your pal to email you a Remote Assistance invitation and edit thefile. Under the RCTICKET attribute will be a NAT IPaddress, like 192.168.1.10. Replace this with yourchum’s real IP address — they can find this out by going to www.whatismyip.com — and get them to makesure that they’ve got port 3389 open on their firewalland forwarded to the errant computer.

11. You can run a program as a different user without logging out and back in again. Right click the icon,select Run As… and enter the user name and passwordyou want to use. This only applies for that run. Thetrick is particularly useful if you need to have administrative permissions to install a program, whichmany require. Note that you can have some fun byrunning programs multiple times on the same system asdifferent users, but this can have unforeseen effects.

12. Windows XP can be very insistent about youchecking for auto updates, registering a Passport,using Windows Messenger and so on. After a while, thenagging goes away, but if you feel you might slip the bonds of sanity before that point, run Regedit, go toHKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Explorer/Advanced and create a DWORD valuecalled EnableBalloonTips with a value of 0.

13. You can start up without needing to enter a username or password. Select Run… from the start menuand type ‘control userpasswords2’, which will open theuser accounts application. On the Users tab, clear the box for Users Must Enter A User Name And Password ToUse This Computer, and click on OK. An AutomaticallyLog On dialog box will appear; enter the user name andpassword for the account you want to use.

14. Internet Explorer 6 will automatically deletetemporary files, but only if you tell it to. Start thebrowser, select Tools / Internet Options… andAdvanced, go down to the Security area and check thebox to Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed.

15. XP comes with a free Network Activity Light, justin case you can’t see the LEDs twinkle on your networkcard. Right click on My Network Places on the desktop,then select Properties. Right click on the description for your LAN or dial-up connection, select Properties,then check the Show icon in notification area whenconnected box. You’ll now see a tiny network icon onthe right of your task bar that glimmers nicely during network traffic.

16. The Start Menu can be leisurely when it decides toappear, but you can speed things along by changing theregistry entry HKEY_CURRENT_USER/ControlPanel/Desktop/MenuShowDelay from the default 400 to something a little snappier. Like 0.

17. You can rename loads of files at once in WindowsExplorer. Highlight a set of files in a window, thenright click on one and rename it. All the other fileswill be renamed to that name, with individual numbers in brackets to distinguish them. Also, in a folder youcan arrange icons in alphabetised groups by View,Arrange Icon By… Show In Groups.

18. Windows Media Player will display the cover artfor albums as it plays the tracks — if it found the picture on the Internet when you copied the tracksfrom the CD. If it didn’t, or if you have lots ofpre-WMP music files, you can put your own copy of thecover art in the same directory as the tracks. Justcall it folder.jpg and Windows Media Player will pickit up and display it.

19. Windows key + Break brings up the SystemProperties dialogue box; Windows key + D brings up thedesktop; Windows key + Tab moves through the taskbar buttons.

20. The next release of Windows XP, codenamedLonghorn, is due out late next year or early 2006 and won’t be much to write home about. The next bigrelease is codenamed Blackcomb and will be out in 2007.