Chapter 1 discusses not only some of the more common annoyances in the operating system and why they're there, but also many of the improvements in this version over its successors. It's good stuff for gaining perspective on the operating system and its history of annoying behavior.
Chapter 2 starts by examining the Windows user interface and some of the settings that can significantly impact its usefulness. This is followed by a discussion of the way you work with Windows and how to take advantage of some of its lesser-known tricks and customization features, including advanced tips on Explorer; file-manipulation tricks, undocumented interface tweaks, and, best of all, some workarounds for Explorer's annoying Search tool. Finally, information on customizing skins and creating your own start-up screen should whet your appetite for some of the real meat in the rest of the book.
Chapter 3 reveals the structure of the Registry, Windows' giant database of settings and system configuration data, as well as the use of the Registry Editor application. This information is especially important, as most of the rest of the book depends on a working knowledge of the Registry. In addition to Registry basics, this chapter includes some advanced topics, such as effective searching techniques, finding the right Registry keys, and even a way to change certain Registry settings from within Explorer!
Chapter 4 continues with customization and problem-solving topics that take advantage of the Registry techniques discussed earlier. You'll find in-depth solutions for reducing clutter, protecting your file types, and customizing Windows XP beyond Microsoft's intentions; editing the Start Menu acquires a whole new meaning in this chapter.
Chapter 5 presents an often-neglected topic. The goal is to get the best possible performance from your system without spending a lot of money or time. Learn about fine-tuning your applications, hardware, and processes to make your system run its best. If and when you decide to upgrade, you'll also find tips here to help make informed decisions. Special attention is given to gaming and virtual memory.
Chapter 6 starts with Windows startup and shutdown issues, error messages, application crashing, and the Windows Update feature. And that's only the first section. The next two sections cover drivers and hardware problems, documentation about which is often neglected. Finally, you'll find tips on safeguarding your data in preparation for the worst disasters, as well as data recovery for those for whom the disasters have already happened.
Chapter 7 allows you to expand your desktop and your repertoire by setting up a local-area network and connecting to the Internet. More than just the basics, this chapter explores protocols, troubleshooting, and advanced technologies, such as Internet Connection Sharing, Remote Desktop Sharing, and virtual private networking.
Chapter 8 covers user accounts, permissions, encryption, and resource sharing. This is essential material for anyone concerned about security, even if you're the only user on your machine.
Chapter 9 starts with a discussion of simple programming using the flexible Windows Script Host (WSH) included in Windows XP. In addition, you'll find advanced solutions, such as functions for accessing the Registry, working with files, and even making CGI programs for a web server. The chapter is wrapped up with several cool examples and a look at the Scheduled Tasks feature and how it can be used in conjunction with scripts for a truly automated environment.
Chapter 10 rounds out the book with coverage of not only installation of the operating system, but how to affect repairs without the DOS safety net found in earlier versions of Windows. Also covered are advanced topics, such as upgrading, multiple operating systems, and the system recovery console.
Appendix A is a comprehensive list of nearly every setting scattered throughout Windows XP, from folder options to removing tray icons.
Appendix B is a glossary of the often-neglected motherboard settings that can significantly affect the stability and performance of your system.
Appendix C includes brief coverage of DOS commands, which can be surprisingly useful in the Windows world, as well as batch files, which have been around since the beginning of time yet are still largely undocumented in Windows XP.
Appendix D is a discussion of network ports, useful for networking configuration and security.
Finally, Appendix E explains the most severe error messages you'll encounter in Windows XP, also known as BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) errors.