Forcing Windows XP’s Disk Cleanup to delete all temporary files

by on May.09, 2009, under How to, Windows

If you’ve ever run the Windows XP’s Disk Cleanup utility, you probably discovered that your temporary files occupy a significant amount of space. You might select the Temporary Files check box in order to allow the Disk Cleanup utility to delete the files in the Temp folder, but the Disk Cleanup utility will not remove all of the files. The reason for this oddity is that the configuration for the Disk Cleanup utility does not allow deletion of files accessed in the last seven days.
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10+ keyboard shortcuts for working efficiently with Outlook items

by on May.09, 2009, under How to, Outlook, Windows

The user universe is divided into mousers and keyboarders, with the latter group stoutly insisting that it’s faster to keep your fingers on the keyboard than to stop and pick up the mouse to execute a command. If some of your users are in the keyboard camp, these basic shortcuts will be right up their alley.

The shortcuts

Action Shortcut
Create an appointment Ctrl+Shift+A
Create a contact Ctrl+Shift+C
Create a folder Ctrl+Shift+E
Create a journal entry Ctrl+Shift+J
Create a distribution list Ctrl+Shift+L
Create a message Ctrl+Shift+M
Create a meeting request Ctrl+Shift+Q
Create a note Ctrl+Shift+N
Create a task Ctrl+Shift+K
Create a task request Ctrl+Shift+U
Create a fax Ctrl+Shift+X
Send a message Alt+S
Reply to a message Ctrl+R
Reply All to a message Ctrl+Shift+R
Forward a message Ctrl+F
Mark a message as read Ctrl+Q
Delete an item Ctrl+D
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10+ lesser-known shortcuts for formatting Word text

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Office

Your users probably have a few favorite keyboard shortcuts for formatting text — like Ctrl + B for applying boldface, Ctrl + I for applying italics, Ctrl + U for underlining, and maybe Ctrl + L to left-align text. But Word provides buttons for those tasks on the Formatting toolbar, so any efficiency gains are kind of a toss-up.

The real convenience lies in knowing some more obscure keyboard shortcuts — ones that have no default button equivalents and that can save users from having to scrounge around dialog boxes looking for the appropriate options. Here are some shortcuts that are especially good for users to have under their belt.

Keystroke Function
Ctrl + Shift + D Double underline the selected text
Ctrl + ] Increase the size of selected text by 1 point
Ctrl + [ Decrease the size of selected text by 1 point
Ctrl + Shift + A Make selected text all caps
Ctrl + = Toggle subscripting for selected text
Ctrl + + Toggle superscripting for selected text
Ctrl + Shift + Q Apply Symbol font to selected text
Ctrl + Shift + N Apply Normal style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 1 Apply Heading 1 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 2 Apply Heading 2 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Alt + 3 Apply Heading 3 style to current paragraph
Ctrl + Shift + L Apply List Bullet style
Ctrl + 0 (zero) Apply or remove space above current paragraph
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Implementing User Account Control-type protection in Windows XP

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Windows

In order to protect Windows Vista from malware and inadvertent disastrous mistakes, Microsoft endowed the operating system with the User Account Control (UAC) system. This system requires all users to use the standard user mode, and then prompts for administrative credentials before performing an operation.

If you like the idea of the UAC system, but you’re not ready to upgrade to Windows Vista, you can use UAC’s predecessor in Windows XP: the RunAs command. Here’s how to use Windows XP’s version of UAC:

1. Log in as the Administrator.

2. Launch User Accounts, locate your user account, and change your account type from Computer Administrator to a Limited account.

3. Log out of the Administrator account and log back in with your new Limited account.

4. Whenever you encounter a situation in which you need administrative credentials, press [Shift] as you right-click the application’s executable file or its icon and select the RunAs command.

5. When you see the RunAs dialog box, choose The Following User option button to select the Administrator account, and then type in the password.

6. Click OK.

Now you can perform any operation that requires administrative credentials.

Note: This tip is for both Windows XP Home and Professional.

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Take advantage of Windows XP Pro’s multiple monitor support for Remote Desktop Connection

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Windows

If you manage Windows XP Pro systems via Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) with multiple monitors, you’ll want to get the newest version of RDC (Terminal Services Client 6.0) because of its invaluable support for multiple monitors.

After you download RDC (Terminal Services Client 6.0), you can use it from your multiple monitor system and span the desktop of the remote computer across the multiple monitors on your local system.

Two caveats: Your multiple monitors must have the same screen resolution, and the screen resolution on your multiple monitors and the monitor of the computer to which you’re connecting must be under 4096 x 2048.

Follow these steps to launch RDC with multiple monitor support:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window and type the command Mstsc /span.
  2. Fill in the connection settings in the standard RDC dialog box.
  3. Once you’re connected, you can toggle between RDC’s new multiple monitor display and a regular window by pressing [Ctrl][Alt][Break]
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Use the PushD command to create a quick temporary drive map in Windows XP

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Windows

Have you ever been working from a Command Prompt and needed to temporarily map a drive letter to a network location for a quick file operation? Of course, you can switch over to Windows Explorer and use the Map Network Drive command on the Tools menu.

While this is a viable solution, it requires multiple steps to create and then you have to perform several more steps to disconnect the network drive. This can be a pain — especially if you just want to work from a Command Prompt.

However, there is another way. You can use the PushD command to quickly create a temporary drive map while remaining in the Command Prompt. You can then use PopD to quickly disconnect the network drive. Here’s how:

1. Open a Command Prompt window.
2. Type the following command line:

PUSHD ServerSharepath

where \\Server\Share\path is the network resource to which you want to map a drive letter.

As soon as you do, the PUSHD command will instantly map a drive letter to the network resource and then change to that drive right in the Command Prompt window. When you’re done, just type POPD and the mapped drive letter will be disconnected and you’ll return to your original drive.

Keep in mind that, the PUSHD command allocates drive letters from Z: on down and will use the first unused drive letter that it finds.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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Increase your Command Prompt scrolling capability in Windows XP Pro with the List command

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Windows

The More command on the Command Prompt in Windows XP Pro (go to Biglogfile.txt | More) allows you to view a very long text file one screen at a time. With the More command, it’s easy to overshoot the information you need due to the overwhelming amount of data you may scroll through. When that happens, you have to cancel the operation and start over. The More command only allows you to scroll down through a file.

A command line tool called List allows you to scroll both up and down through a file. List is not found in Windows XP; it’s a part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools.
Because the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools also work in Windows XP, you can use the List command on your system. Here’s how:

  1. Download Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools.
  2. Double-click the RKTools.exe self-installer and follow the onscreen instructions.
  3. Once you have the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools installed, you can use the List command at the Command Prompt by typing List followed by the name of the file that you want to scroll through. For example, you can scroll through a big log file using the List command List Biglogfile.txt.
  4. The Command Prompt window will change into a file viewer and display contents of the file. Use the arrow keys as well as the [Page Up] and [Page Down] keys to scroll through the file.
  5. To exit List, type Q or press [Esc].

Note: This tip applies only to Windows XP Professional.

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10 dumb things users do that can mess up their computers

by on May.08, 2009, under Windows

We all do dumb things now and then, and computer users are no exception. Inadvertently pressing the wrong key combination or innocently clicking OK in the wrong dialog box can change important settings that alter a computer’s behavior or even crash the system.

Nervous newbies are often fearful that one wrong move might break the computer forever. Luckily, short of taking a sledge hammer to the box, the consequences aren’t usually quite that dire. Even so, users often do create problems for their computers and for your network. Here’s a description of common missteps you can share with your users to help them steer clear of preventable problems.

Note: This article is also available as an article and as a PDF download.
#1: Plug into the wall without surge protection

Here’s one that actually can physically destroy your computer equipment, as well as the data it holds. You may think your systems are in danger only during an electrical storm, but anything that interrupts the electrical circuit and then starts the current back again can fry your components. Something as simple as someone turning on an appliance that’s plugged into the same circuit (especially a high voltage one such as a hair dryer, electric heater, or air conditioner) can cause a surge, or a surge may be caused by a tree limb touching a power line. If you have a power outage, you may experience a surge when the electricity comes back on.

You can protect your systems against damage from power surges by always using a surge protector, but it’s important to be aware that most cheap surge protectors will survive only a single surge and need to be replaced afterward. An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is better than a surge protector; it has a battery that keeps power flowing smoothly even when there’s an outage, to give you time to gracefully shut down.
#2: Surf the Internet without a firewall

Many home users plug their computers right into their spiffy new cable or DSL modems and hop onto the Internet without realizing that they’re putting themselves at risk from viruses and attackers. Every Internet-connected computer should be protected by a firewall; this can be a firewall built into the broadband modem or router, a separate firewall appliance that sits between the modem/router and the computer, a server at the network’s edge running firewall software, or personal firewall software installed on the computer (such as ICF/Windows Firewall built into Windows XP or a third-party firewall program like Kerio or ZoneAlarm).

One advantage of personal firewalls on laptop computers is that they’re still with you when you take the computer on the road and plug into a hotel’s DSL or cable port or connect to a wireless hotspot. Just having a firewall isn’t enough, though. You must also be sure it’s turned on and configured properly to protect you.
#3: Neglect to run or update antivirus and anti-spyware programs

Let’s face it: Antivirus programs can be a royal pain. They’re always blocking some application you want to use, you often have to disable them to install new software, and they have to be updated on a regular basis to do any good. Seems like the subscription is always expiring and prompting you to renew it — for a fee, in many cases. But in today’s environment, you can’t afford to go without virus protection. The malicious programs that AV software detects — viruses, Trojans, worms, etc. — can not only wreak havoc on your system but can spread via your computer to the rest of the network. In extreme cases, they can bring down the whole network.

Spyware is another growing threat; these are programs that install themselves on your computer (usually without your knowledge) and collect information from your system that is then sent back to the spyware program’s author or vendor. Antivirus programs often don’t address spyware so it’s important to run a dedicated spyware detection and removal program.
#4: Install and uninstall lots of programs, especially betas

You like to be on the cutting edge, so you often install and try out new software. Beta programs are usually free and give you a chance to sample neat new features before most people. There are also many freeware and shareware programs made available as Internet downloads by their authors. We know you’d never do it, but some users even install pirated software or “warez.”

The more programs you install, the more likely you are to run across ones that either include malicious code or that are poorly written and cause your system to behave improperly or crash. The risk is greater with pirated programs.

Even if you install only licensed, final-release commercial software, too many installations and uninstallations can gunk up the registry. Not all uninstall routines completely remove program remnants and at the least, this practice can cause your system to slow down over time.

You should install only the programs that you really need, stick with legitimate software, and try to minimize the number you install and uninstall.
#5: Keep disks full and fragmented

One of the results of installing and uninstalling lots of programs (or adding and deleting data of any kind) is that it fragments your disk. Disk fragmentation occurs because of the way information is stored on the disk: On a new, clean disk, when you save a file it’s stored in contiguous sections called clusters. If you delete a file that takes up, for example, five clusters, and then save a new file that takes eight clusters, the first five clusters’ worth of data will be saved in the empty space left by the deletion and the remaining three will be saved in the next empty spaces. That makes the file fragmented, or divided. To access that file, then, the disk’s read heads won’t find all the parts of the file together but must go to different locations on the disk to retrieve it all. That makes it slower to access. If the file is part of a program, the program will run more slowly. A badly fragmented disk will slow down to a crawl.

You can use the disk defragmenter built into Windows (Programs | Accessories | System Tools) or a third-party defrag program to rearrange these pieces of files so that they’re placed contiguously on the disk.

Another common cause of performance problems and application misbehavior is a disk that’s too full. Many programs create temporary files and need extra free space on the disk to operate. You can use Windows XP’s Disk Cleanup Tool or a third-party program to find and delete rarely used files or you can manually delete files to clear space on your disk.
#6: Open all attachments

Some folks just can’t help themselves: Getting an e-mail message with an attachment is like getting an unexpected gift. You just have to peek inside to see what it is. But just as that package left on your doorstep could contain a bomb, that file attached to your mail message could contain code that will delete your documents or system folder or send viruses to everyone in your address book.

The most blatantly dangerous attachments are executable files — those that run code — with extensions like .exe, .cmd, and many others. (See this article for a list of file extensions for different types of executables.) Files that aren’t themselves executables, such as Word .doc files and Excel .xls files, can contain embedded macros. Scripts (Visual Basic, JavaScript, Flash, etc.) aren’t directly executed by the computer but are run by other programs.

It used to be that you could assume plain text (.txt) or graphics (.gif, .jpg, .bmp) files were safe, but not anymore. File extensions can be spoofed; attackers take advantage of the Windows default setting that doesn’t display common file extensions to name executables something like greatfile.jpg.exe. With the real extension hidden, it shows up as greatfile.jpg. So the recipient thinks it’s a graphic, but it’s actually a malicious program.

You should open attachments only when they’re from trusted sources and only when you’re expecting them. Even if the mail with the attachment appears to come from someone you trust, it’s possible that someone spoofed their address or that their computer is infected with a virus that sent the attachment to you without their knowledge.
#7: Click on everything

Opening attachments isn’t the only type of mouse click that can get you in trouble. Clicking on hyperlinks in e-mail messages or on Web pages can take you to Web sites that have embedded ActiveX controls or scripts that can perform all sorts of malicious activities, from wiping your hard disk to installing a backdoor program on your computer that a hacker can use to get in and take control of it.

Clicking the wrong link can also take you to inappropriate Web sites that feature pornography, pirated music or software, or other content that can get you in trouble if you’re using a computer on the job — or even get you in trouble with the law.

Don’t give in to “click mania.” Think before you click a link. Links can also be disguised in phishing messages or on Web sites to appear to take you to a different site from the ones they really point to. For example, the link might say www.safesite.com, but it actually takes you to www.gotcha.com. You can often find out the real URL by hovering over the link without clicking it.
#8: Share and share alike

Your mother taught you that it’s nice to share, but when you’re on a network, sharing can expose you to dangers. If you have file and printer sharing enabled, others can remotely connect to your computer and access your data. Even if you haven’t created any shared folders, by default Windows systems have hidden “administrative” shares for the root of each drive. A savvy hacker may be able to use these shares to get in. One way to prevent that is to turn off file and printer sharing — if you don’t need to make any of the files on your computer accessible across the network. This is especially a good idea if you’re connecting your laptop to a public wireless hotspot. You can find instructions on how to do so here.

If you do need to make shared folders accessible, it’s important that they be protected by both share-level permissions and file-level (NTFS) permissions. Also ensure that your account and the local administrative account have strong passwords.
#9: Pick the wrong passwords

That brings us to another common mistake that can expose you to attacks: picking the wrong password. Even if you don’t belong to a network where the administrator forces you to select strong passwords and change them regularly, you should do so. Don’t pick passwords that are easy to guess, such as your birth date, a loved one’s name, or your social security number. Longer passwords are harder to crack, so make your password at least eight characters long; 14 is even better. Popular password-cracking methods use “dictionary” attacks, so don’t use words that are in the dictionary. Passwords should contain a combination of alpha, numeric, and symbol characters for best security.

A long string of nonsense characters may create a password that’s tough to crack, but if you can’t remember it, you’ll defeat the purpose by writing it down (where an intruder may be able to find it). Instead, create a phrase you can remember easily and use the first letters of each word, along with logical numbers and symbols. For example: “My cat ate a mouse on the 5th day of June” becomes “Mc8amot5doJ.”
#10: Ignore the need for a backup and recovery plan

Even if you follow all these suggestions, an attacker may crash your system or your data may be corrupted or get wiped out by a hardware problem. That’s why it’s essential that you always back up your important information and have a plan for recovering from a system failure.

Most computer users know they should back up, but many never get around to it. Or they make an initial backup but don’t update it regularly. Use the built-in Windows backup program (Ntbackup.exe in Windows NT, 2000, and XP) or a third-party backup program and schedule backups to occur automatically. Store backed up data on a network server or removable drive in a location away from the computer itself, in case of a natural disaster like flood, fire, or tornado.

Remember that the data is the most important thing on your computer. The operating system can be reinstalled and so can applications, but it may be difficult or impossible to recreate your original data. (See “10 ways to protect your data” for additional suggestions.)

Nonetheless, you can save time and frustration by backing up your system information too. You can create mirror images of your disks using popular ghost or clone programs. This will allow you to restore the system quickly instead of going through the tedious installation process.

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Get started with Windows PowerShell 1.0 for Windows XP Pro

by on May.08, 2009, under How to, Windows

Windows PowerShell is a new scripting tool that allows you to perform simple or complex tasks from a centralized interface. Here’s how to add this new extension to your Windows XP Pro system.

Microsoft planned to add a new command-line interface and scripting language (code name “Monad”) to Windows Vista but decided to make it a standalone utility called Windows PowerShell 1.0. It is designed primarily for system administrators, but it also provides benefits to home and small business network users using the Professional OS. Users can add Windows PowerShell to Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista.
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What does “This file does not have a program associated with it” mean?

by on May.04, 2009, under FAQ!, Fix IT, Windows

I’m getting the message “This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the folders options control panel.” when I attempt to open a PPS/PPT attachment in Outlook Express. What’s that all mean, and what do I do?

Well, in short it means that Outlook Express doesn’t know what to do with the attached file. It tries to figure that out based on the file “extension” or the characters that follow the last period in the file name; the “pps” or “ppt” file.
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