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Reload this page Windows 9x/NT/2000/Me/XP Client Desktops

Here is a tour of the most useful tips and tricks for using Windows 7/XP/2000/Me/NT/9x, etc.

Topics: on this page Start-Up on this page Keyboard on this page Desktop on this page Explorer on this page StartBar on this page FindFile on this page Installation on this page Getting Info on this page Printing on this page Getting Out on this page Limitations on this page Maintenance on this page Sources of Info


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Many of these tips were developed so you can work around non-intuitive or illogical aspects of the Windows 95 user interface created by Bill Gates' Microsoft. This page assumes that you are familiar with the Glossary of Windows 95 Jargon.

Windows: Just another pane in the glass.

The Active Desktop is enabled or disabled in the General tab in the Folder Options dialog box or in the Group Policy snap-in from the \User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Desktop\Active Desktop container.


  • When Windows starts, it automatically loads programs from several places:

    1. Folder Windows/Start Menu/Programs/StartUp
    2. The current user's Startup folder in the Start Menu.
    3. The common (all users) Startup folder in the Start Menu.
    4. Run registry keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (HKLM) for all users.
    5. Run registry keys in HKEY_CURRENT_USER (HKCU) for the current user only.
    6. On NT/2000/XP, the Services control panel or the Services item in Computer Management lists System services started before the user logs in.
    7. Run Once - started once and once only at the next system startup.
    8. Deleted programs when removed from another location. These don't run at system startup, but will merely be stored should you ever want to use them again. If you delete an item from the Deleted tab, it is removed permanently.
    Startup Control Panel displays what is started up.

  • WinPlanet has an article on setup switches and other features.
  • To quickly retrieve the Systems Properties screen, hold down the Window key and press the Pause/Break key. This shows the technical details of how your computer is configured:
    • Under the General tab, the specific version of Windows 95, Microsoft Internet Explorer, the Serial number you need to provide for technical support, and the type of computer you have (e.g., “Pentium")
    • under the Device Managers tab, the Display adapters, Modem, etc. you have installed
    • under the Performance tab, the amount of Memory you have.
    Note that this screen can also be obtained by clicking on "My Computer" on the Desktop, then Control Panel, and System.
  • In Windows 9x, press Start, Run MSCONFIG for the System Configuration Utility. This lets you control what items are set to start up.

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Keyboard Shortcuts to Control Applications:

These nifty keyboard tricks are, to me, quicker than reaching for that mouse:
  • Ctrl-Esc for the Start menu on this page (at the lower left corner of every screen).
  • Alt-Tab once for the previous task running on your computer.
  • Alt-Tab Tab to Tab (cycle) through the processes running on your computer.
  • Alt-Shift-Tab to cycle backward through the processes running on your computer.
  • Alt-Esc to cycle through tasks in the order they were opened.
  • Alt-spacebar to minimize, maximize, or close the active window.
  • Rich-click on an open area of the grey Task Bar to Close, Cascade, or Minimize ALL active windows. This menu also has an option to bring up the Task Manager.

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The Desktop:

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Items on your desktop should be what you typically invoke when you first get into Windows95.
  • To use the Windows 3.x style Program Manager, hold down the Windows key and R (for Run). Type PROGMAN and press Enter. (You can also create a shortcut to \WINDOWS\PROGMAN.EXE on your desktop.)
  • Typical changes users make to their desktop include:
    • Earthlink or other Internet ISP instead of “The Microsoft Network" provided by Windows95.
    • a short-cut to your “ToDo List" instead of “Outlook Express" provided by Windows95.
    • a short-cut to “My Documents" folder instead of “My Briefcase" provided by Windows95.
    • a short-cut to the folder where you store down-loaded files instead of the “Inbox" provided by Windows95.
    • a short-cut to your personal folder on the network instead of the entire “Network Neighborhood" provided by Windows95.
    • a short-cut to a folder named “Obsoleted" instead of the “Recycle Bin" provided by Windows95.
  • It's a good idea to create a short-cut to the Floppy drive and put it next to the “Recycle Bin" already on your desktop so that you can copy files into the diskette by dragging a file from the Windows Explorer to drop it once the diskette icon is highlighted. This drag-and-drop feature is not available on Windows 3.x.
  • To rename an icon, left-click the item once to highlight it, then press F2 on the keyboard.
    • If you want to replace all characters highlighted with what you type, just begin typing when the entire name is highlighted.
    • If you want to change just the right-most character of the name, press the right arrow key, then the Back Space key (above the Enter key).
    • If you want to change just the left-most character of the name, press the left arrow key, then the delete key.
  • To view or change the path or file name to which the icon points to, you need to get the “Properties" screen for the item by doing one of several actions:
    1. left-clicking to highlight the item, then press Alt-Enter or
    2. holding down the Alt key and double-clicking on the object.
  • When you double-click an icon on your desktop, you launch the program associated with that icon OR, if the icon is a file folder, you will get Windows Explorer to list the files within that folder.
      Note: If you return to the desktop and double-click on the same icon again, you will load another copy of that program into memory.

      People sometimes make the mistake of loading another copy of Windows Explorer program when copying files from one folder to another.

  • To change the desktop picture, place a .BMP graphics file in Windows directory. (GIF and JPG file need to be converted to the BMP format using Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, or other graphics manipulation program). Then click Start, Settings, Control Panel, then Display icon. Select the file you want displayed, then select whether you want a single copy of it in the middle of the screen. Pictures and Clip art are in the Office 97 CD.

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Windows Explorer:

  • To open Windows Explorer, hold down the Windows key on the keyboard and press E. Wait until the “Exploring" screen appears.
  • To move files among folders easily: Use CTRL+C (or right-click on the file) to copy any file to the clipboard. Use CTRL+X to cut it to the clipboard. Then open or click on the folder you want to place it in and press CTRL+V to paste.
  • To use the Windows 3.1 style File Manager, press the Windows key and R (or move the cursor to Start, then select Run). Then type WINFILE and press Enter.
    If you want this all the time, create a short-cut to file \WINDOWS\WINFILE.EXE on your desktop.
  • To get to the top of a folder window quickly, press CTRL+HOME.
  • To get to the bottom of a folder window quickly, press CTRL+END.
  • You can right-click on a text file to edit it if you create a shortcut to the Notepad.exe program in the Windows folder and move it into the Windows/SendTo directory.

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Start Task Bar:


  • Close a window by clicking on the “X" at the upper right corner of that window OR click the icon at the upper left corner of the window. Closing a window would remove the program from memory.
  • To minimize the currectly selected window, hold down the Windows key on the keyboard and press M. Minimizing does not remove the program from memory.
  • You could get to the Desktop without minimizing all the windows by adding a short-cut which points to the "Windows/Desktop" folder in the “Windows/Start Menu" folder.
  • To switch quickly among programs already loaded in memory, press Alt-Tab (hold down the Alt key and press the Tab key). To toggle backwards, hold down Shift, Alt, and Tab at the same time.
  • To get the current date , hold the cursor for a few seconds over the time shown at the lower right corner of the Task Bar.
  • To open other programs, press the Start menu or press Ctrl+Esc and the first letter of the program you want. (This is why you should consider naming items on your Start menu start with a unique number or letter of the alphabet.)
  • Programs which are already loaded into memory are listed in the the Task Bar visible when you pull your mouse to the bottom of the screen OR if you press the Windows button on a newer keyboard.
    TIP: If you use applications (such as Excel) which have tab bars on the bottom of the screen, you probably find it annoying to miss them and accidentally get the Windows Task Bar instead.
    If you make a habit of using the Windows key to get the Start Task bar, you can turn off the Taskbar Properties “Always on top" feature.
    Items on the desktop are stored in folder “Windows/Desktop".
  • The tree of Program in the Start button are short-cuts to executable programs stored in the Program Files folder or elsewhere. These short-cuts are stored in folder “Windows/Start Menu/Programs".
  • Short-cuts to programs above the Start button are stored in folder “Windows/Start Menu". Many experienced Windows95 users put a short-cut to their personal To Do List and frequently used programs (such as Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator) there. There is room for 6 items in standard font and 19 items using small fonts. If you add more items above this, you would need to click the up arrow to view them.

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Finding / Searching Files:

    There are several ways to obtain the “Find" screen (renamed “Search" in Windows 2000):

  • Hold down the Windows key on the keyboard, then press F. Wait until the screen appears.
  • From the desktop, click Alt-click on My Computer.

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    Here are some useful modifications to the standard installation:
  • Increase Windows 95 Dialup PPP Peformance by modifying the Registry TCP/IP MaxMTU value to 552
  • To sound a beep warning tone whenever the Caps Lock or the Num Lock button is pressed, Open the Control Panel, choose Accessibility Options and select Use Toggle Keys. Click OK.
  • To make Netscape Mail the default mail program (so it will come up when you click on an email link in a help file, program, etc.). go to the Registry, then to the section HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\mailto\shell\open\command. Under command, enter the full path to Netscape and then %1 (mine looks like this: c:\internet\netscape\program\netscpae.exe %1.
  • To create a shortcut to an executable, create a new folder, then use the left mouse button to drag an executable file to the new folder.
  • As default Win95 uses SoundRecorder to play back samples, as you may know it takes an age with big wav files as it has to load ALL the sample in and creates a HUGE swapfile!! If you change the Wav File type to open with Media Player it will stream the audio from the hard disk! To do this Select FILE then OPTIONS in the VIEW Menu on and window, then on FILE TYPES. Scroll down to WAVE SOUND and click on EDIT. Click on OPEN then press EDIT and type the following in the box:- C:\WINDOWS\MPLAYER.EXE. Click OK. Select PLAY and click on EDIT and type the following in the box:- C:\WINDOWS\MPLAYER.EXE /PLAY /CLOSE. This will then associate all WAV files to the media player and you will gain a MAJOR performance increase when playing Wav Files! (Well Large ones anyhow!!)
  • Sound card Wavetable support is NOT enabled as default. You have to go into Start, Settings, Control Panel, Multimedia icon. Click on the Midi tab, then choose the device that you have. The midi files will sound much more realistic and nicer.
  • The
  • Download a better Notepad, and faster Backup, and steroids for SendTo.

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Getting Information:

  • To learn what any toolbar button is for, rest your mouse pointer on the button for a few seconds.
  • To find out what is being loaded, Run msconfig

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  • To rename a file, select that file and Press F2 to switch into text edit mode. As with any selected text, whatever you type will replace the entire block highlighted. So, press the End key to position the cursor at the right side of the file name without changing it.
  • To select several files in a row, click once on the top file, then hold down the Shift key when you click the last file of your selection.
  • To select several files individually, hold down the Ctrl key when you click the various files your want.
  • To select all files in a folder, select one of the files and press Ctrl+A.

    Once you have all the files selected:

  • To move a file, right-click and select Copy or Cut. Open the destination location, right-click and select Paste.
  • Before you “drop" a drag and drop operation, look at the lower left corner of the icon you're moving. This will tell you what the default action will be: a plus means copy, an arrow means a shortcut will be made.
  • To abort a drag, press Esc while you are still holding the mouse button down.
  • To copy an object, position the cursor over the file you want copied, then hold the Ctrl key down AND hold the right mouse button down as you drag it from one folder to another on the same drive.
  • To move an object, position the cursor over the file you want moved, then hold the Shift key down AND hold the right mouse button down as you drag the file from one folder to another on the same drive.
  • To quickly see the popup menu, press SHIFT + F10.
  • To go back up to the parent folder, press Backspace in an open folder.
  • To open up another Explorer window, hold down Shift and double-click on a folder.

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  • A shortcut to your usual printer is created on your desktop so that you can print files instantly by dragging the file to the icon. This was created by selectin gthe Start menu, then Settings, then Control Panel, then Printers.
  • To pause printing, there are several methods:
    • The hard way:
      1. Press the Start menu button
      2. Select Settings
      3. Select Printers
      4. Select the Printer you want to print to
      5. Select the Printer pull-down menu.
      6. Select Pause.
    • Right-click the printer icon on the lower-right corner of the task bar.

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Getting Out:

  • There are two easy ways to minimize all open windows at once:
    1. Use your right mouse button to click an empty grey area on the Taskbar, and then click "Minimize All Windows".
    2. Hold the Start key down and press M.
  • To delete your items (moving it to the Recycle Bin) without confirmation, scroll the left pane to the bottom and drag the Recycle Bin icon into the “Send To" folder in C:\Windows. When asked to create a shortcut, click “Yes". Go to the Send To folder and rename the item whatever you wish. Then Right-Click the desired file, choose “Send To", then click your Recycle Bin shortcut. Instant delete to the Recycle Bin without confirmation.

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  • There is a limit of 512 files per directory folder.
  • Windows 95 introduced the protected-mode 32-bit VFAT method which uses the Installable File System (IFS) drivers to access 12 or 16 bit FAT tables. The VFAT system replaces the Windows 3.x SMARTDRV disk caching utility with a protected mode driver named VCACHE.

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Precautionary Maintenance:

  • Before starting setup, get a blank diskette to create an Emergency Repair Disk. Setup creates it with operating system files and utility programs for troubleshooting startup problems. Use it to boot up the system in Safe mode and display a DOS command-line prompt.
  • Safe mode can also be accessed by typing Win /d:m at the DOS prompt, or by pressing the F5 function key during startup.
  • Every time you change the hardware, create a startup disk through the Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs icon.
  • A hard drive should be defragmented once a month. From the Start menu, select Programs, Accessories, Systems Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Don't use older programs which do not recognize Windows 95's longer file names.
  • Windows Temporary files *.TMP.
  • The “Windows/Temporary Internet files" could grow quite large. Press Alt-Enter to select all files and press Delete. Click “Yes" to each prompt about deleting Cookies. (See Ways to deal with cookies
  • To empty the Recycle Bin ...
  • ScanDisk, in the System Tools folder, to check your hard disk for errors.

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Sources of Tips:

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System Diagnostics:

  • As Windows 95 runs, it outputs several logs in the drive's root directory. These text files can be viewed using a text editor program such as NOTEPAD or WORDPAD to diagnose problems.
    • SETUPLOG.TXT tracks the events of the Setup process.
    • The BOOTUPLOG.TXT file tracks the events of the Startup procedure.
    • DETLOG.TXT lists information about the detection module running when the system crashed. This is the text version of the binary Detect Crash log created when the system crashes during the hardware detection portion of the startup procedure.

  • Run Microsoft's DXDIAG to see whether the drivers installed on your system was tested by Microsoft's Hardware Quality Labs.

  • Download WinTune97 for WinNT (1.5MB) or run WinTune98 using MS Internet Explorer 4 to analyze CPU and Direct3D video performance.
    PowerQuest has utilities to retrieve data from drives which have been formatted.
    Symantec Norton writes information on disks during data recovery.
    McAfee/Network Associates

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Next: Installing Windows

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