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Windows XP - System Setup

I was prompted to write this article by Mr. Ted Baynes, one of the long time users of my backup program AKGBackup. The interaction between us started with his queries about AKGBackup and soon developed into regular contact. Sometime back, he faced a few problems with his computer and he had to go for re-installing windows and setting up his system twice or thrice. His experiences prompted me to write this article. If it helps you in keeping your computer trouble free (well, I mean less troublesome :-)), I would consider my efforts rewarded.

 

Installation of Windows XP

 

Well, installation of Windows does not need much expertise. You pop in the installation disk and go on responding to the prompts and answering the questions, and that is all. But, to have a trouble free system, one needs to do some more work.

  • Before the installation begins, delete all the partitions on your hard disk after backing up all the data. Recreate partitions afresh and format them (it is best not to go for quick formatting option). The first partition (C:) should only be reserved for installation of operating system and programs.

  • The hard disk of your computer must have more than one partition. Using the whole of the hard disk as a single partition (C:) is generally a bad idea. I prefer to have two hard disks with multiple partitions on my system.

  • Have a bootable disk of some disk image creating program ready at hand. There are many such programs. DriveImage XML is a free program. I do not have any experience with it so I cannot say how reliable it is. I use "Acronis True Image" for this purpose and it has never failed me. In my opinion, it is the best of the lot. One other good program is "Norton Ghost". Whichever program you use, make sure to create a bootable disk using your imaging program so that you can boot and run the program from the disk (CD or DVD) itself.

  • After the Windows installation is over, create an image of the C: partition on some other partition or hard disk. It will save you lots of time, if, later, you have to re-install windows for any reason.

  • Install all the drivers for the devices on your computer. Be sure to install the drivers which came with the motherboard of your computer. After the drivers' installation is complete, go to "Device Manager" and see if all the devices are correctly installed.

  • Run disk defragmenter (All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools) and defrag the C: drive.

  • Activate your Windows installation.

Windows Tweaks

Customize Desktop

The windows desktop is part of your computer which is seen most often by you. When Windows XP is first installed, all you get is a blank desktop. It should be customized to your satisfaction.

  • Right click on any empty area of the desktop and select properties. Select the "Desktop" tab and then click on "Customize Desktop" button. Click on the check boxes for "My Documents" and "My Computer" to select these items to be displayed on your desktop. You can also select "My Network places" and "Internet Explorer".

  • Selecting other tabs, you can set up themes, desktop background, screensaver etc.

Turn off "System Restore"

Turn off "System Restore" on all drives except the system drive (or C:). This feature takes up a huge space on the hard disk which seems an utter waste to me. To do this

  • Right click on "My Computer" and select Properties.

  • Click on the tab "System Restore".

  • Now select C: drive and click "Settings" button. You will now see a slider under "Disk space to use" set to max. You can see that it is taking up 12% of your C: drive!. Slide it to the left and set whatever space you wish to be used for "System Restore".

  • Repeat the same procedure for other drives and check the checkbox for "Turn off System Restore for this drive".

  • After you are done, you will see that status for all the drives except C: will show "turned off". For C:, it will show "monitoring".

  • Congratulations! You now have plenty of space on your hard disk/disks reclaimed from Microsoft :-)

Reduce Internet Explorer Cache

  • Start Internet Explorer. It is another of the great space hogs.

  • Go to Tools, Internet Options and then select the "General" tab. For "Temporary Internet Files" or "Browsing History", click the Settings button. Set the "Disk space to use" to 25 or 50 MB at the most.

Reduce the size of Recycle Bin

  • Right click on the Recycle Bin and select Properties.

  • Select the tab global and select "Use one setting for all drives".

  • Move the slider to the left to one or two percent. With modern hard disks of huge capacities, it is sheer waste to allocate ten percent or more to deleted files.

  • If the confirmation dialog, which pops up every time you delete a file feels annoying, uncheck "Display delete confirmation dialog.

Turn Off Error Reporting

  • Right click "My Computer" and select "Properties.

  • Under Advanced tab, click the "Error Reporting" button. Select "Disable Error Reporting" and "But notify me when critical errors occur".

Set the Performance options

  • Right click "My Computer" and select "Properties.

  • Under Advanced tab, click the "Settings" button under "Performance". Under "Visual Effects" tab, uncheck all the items except 1. Smooth edges of screen fonts, 2. Use common tasks in folders and 3. Use visual styles on the windows and buttons.

Setting the location of "My Documents"

In the Windows operating system, the default location for almost all your data files is "My Documents". Its default location is on C: drive itself which, although logical, is not the best place for such an important folder. The reason is that if something goes wrong with the system files and you need to re-format and re-install Windows, all your files will be gone.

You can, however, change the location of this important folder.

  • First create a folder named "Documents" (or whatever you prefer) on a partition other than C:.

  • Right click on the icon of "My Documents" and select "Properties". Under the tab "Target", click the button "Move".

  • A new dialog window will pop up. Now browse to the folder you created for your documents, select it and click OK. Now, This folder will be the default for your files and even if you formatted the C: drive, your files will be safe as they will reside on another partition.

Now restart the computer, boot from the disk image creating program disk and create an image of tweaked and activated Windows. This image should be burnt on a DVD for safe keeping. If something goes wrong, you can always restore this image for a clean, fresh, tweaked and activated Windows installation.

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