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1/22/2004
10:45 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Ten More Ways To Make Windows XP Run Better

Fred Langa examines free add-ons and utilities that further refine and improve your operating system.

In our original "Ten Ways To Make Windows XP Run Better" we covered many fundamental tweaks and adjustments that can help you to move XP out of its bland and sometimes limiting default settings and into a configuration that better fits your own personal needs, preferences, and work style.

Of course, there actually are thousands of possible adjustments you can make. In that original article, I simply tried to pick the 10 I thought would help the most people.

But as I was recently installing XP Pro on a new PC--perhaps my 15th or 20th XP setup--I realized there were some additional tweaks I've made on essentially every XP system I've handled.

When tweaks become useful enough to be part of a routine installation, they're worth sharing. Here, then, are another 10 very useful changes, additions, or alterations you can make to XP. All are free, and take only minutes to implement:

Install The Recovery Console
The Recovery Console lets you start XP without the graphical user interface: It's roughly analogous to "booting to DOS" in older versions of Windows. It's useful for low-level maintenance, and in emergency situations when something has gone wrong and is preventing you from starting XP in the normal way.

I should point out that in a couple years of using XP on all my primary systems, I've never actually needed the Recovery Console. But I like having it handy, just in case: I depend on my PC for my livelihood, and should something go wrong, I want to be able to fix it as rapidly as possible.

Microsoft says; "In the Windows Recovery Console, you can: Use, copy, rename, or replace operating system files and folders; enable or disable service or device startup when you next start your computer; repair the file system boot sector or the Master Boot Record (MBR); create and format partitions on drives...." And so on. (See this for more information.)

You can access the Recovery Console several ways, including booting from your XP setup CD or installing the Recovery Console as a startup option right on your hard drive, so it's always instantly available. That's the way I prefer it. It's very easy to set up, and Microsoft provides complete instructions here.

After installation, when you start your PC, you'll see a new dual-boot type of selection screen which will give you the choice of booting either to your normal installation of XP, or to the Recovery Console.

To keep the Recovery Console boot option from getting in your way, you can limit how long it appears on the startup screen. I set it to display for just three seconds; it's there if I need it--I can hit a key to stop the countdown--but it otherwise passes by quickly, allowing normal booting to continue.

You can adjust the startup behavior this way: Click to either My Computer/Properties/Advanced or to Control Panel/Performance and Maintenance/System/Advanced. (Both routes get you to the same dialog box.) Next, click Settings in the "Startup and Recovery" portion of the dialog. Set the "Time to display list of operating systems" to whatever value you wish. This value, in seconds, is how long the Recovery Console option will appear at startup.

If this brief run-through on the Recovery Console is too compressed for you, you can find a longer, more-detailed explanation here.

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