You use certain Control Panel programs to configure operating system settings. The System program that you use to configure the operating system settings affects the operating system environment regardless of which user is logged on to the computer.
To configure operating system settings, in Control Panel, click Performance And Maintenance. To view operating system performance configuration options, in the Performance And Maintenance window, click System, and then click the Advanced tab. The Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box (see Figure 10.7) allows you to configure performance options, user profiles, startup and recovery settings, environment variables, and error reporting.
Figure 10.7 The Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box
In the Advanced tab, in the Performance box, click Settings to display the Performance Options dialog box. There are two tabs on the Performance Options dialog box: the Visual Effects tab and the Advanced tab.
The Visual Effects tab of the Performance Options dialog box is shown in Figure 10.8. There are a number of options that you can select to manually control the visual effects on your computer. Windows XP Professional provides four options to help you control the visual effects: Let Windows Choose What's Best For My Computer, Adjust For Best Appearance, Adjust For Best Performance, and Custom. If you want to manually indicate which visual effects to apply, select Custom.
Figure 10.8 The Visual Effects tab of the Performance Options dialog box
A second method for accessing the Performance Options dialog box is to click Adjust Visual Effects in the Performance And Maintenance window.
The Advanced tab of the Performance Options dialog box is shown in Figure 10.9. The options in this dialog box allow you to adjust the application response, which is the priority of foreground programs versus background programs, and virtual memory.
Figure 10.9 The Advanced tab of the Performance Options dialog box
Windows XP Professional uses the Processor Scheduling settings to distribute microprocessor resources between running programs. Selecting Programs assigns more resources to the foreground program (the active program that is responding to user input). Windows XP Professional assigns more resources to the foreground program by allocating short, variable time slices, or quanta, to running programs. A time slice, or quantum, is a brief period of time during which a particular task is given control of the microprocessor. When you select Background Services, Windows assigns an equal number of resources to all programs by assigning long, fixed quanta instead.
Windows XP Professional uses the Memory Usage settings to distribute memory resources between running programs. Select Programs if your computer is being used primarily as a workstation. With the Programs option, your programs will work faster and your system cache will be the default size for Windows XP Professional. Select System Cache if you are using your computer as a server or if the programs you are running require a large system cache.
For virtual memory, Windows XP Professional uses a process called demand paging to exchange data between random access memory (RAM) and paging files. When you install Windows XP Professional, Setup creates a virtual-memory paging file, PAGEFILE.SYS, on the partition where you installed Windows XP Professional. The default or recommended paging file size for Windows XP Professional is equal to 1.5 times the total amount of RAM. For best results, never set the value of the paging file size to less than the recommended amount. Typically, you can leave the size of the paging file set to the default value. In some circumstances, such as when you run a large number of applications simultaneously, you might find it advantageous to use a larger paging file or multiple paging files.
To configure the paging file, in the Performance Options dialog box, click Change. The Virtual Memory dialog box (see Figure 10.10) identifies the drives on which the paging files reside and allows you to modify the paging file size for the selected drive.
Figure 10.10 The Virtual Memory dialog box
Only users with administrative rights can use the Performance Options dialog box to increase the paging file size.
Paging files never decrease below the value found in the Initial Size text box that was set during installation. Unused space in the paging file remains available to the internal Windows XP Professional Virtual Memory Manager (VMM). As needed, a paging file grows from its initial size to the maximum configured size, which is listed in the Maximum Size text box. When the paging file reaches the maximum size, system performance might degrade if you place additional demands on the system by running more applications.
When you restart a computer running Windows XP Professional, the system resizes all paging files to the initial size.
You can enhance system performance in several ways. First, if your computer has multiple hard disks, create a paging file for each disk. Distributing information across multiple paging files improves performance because the hard disk controller can read from and write to multiple hard disks simultaneously. When attempting to write to the paging file, VMM tries to write the page data to the paging file on the disk that is the least busy.
When choosing the drives to contain paging files, don't use a paging file on heavily accessed drives, and don't put paging files on multiple partitions on the same physical drive.
Second, you can enhance performance by moving the paging file off the drive that contains the Windows XP Professional %systemroot% folder (by default, the Windows folder). This avoids competition between the various reading and writing requests. If you place a paging file on the Windows XP Professional system partition to facilitate the recovery feature, which is discussed in the section entitled "Recovery" later in this chapter, you can still increase performance by creating multiple paging files. Because the VMM alternates write operations between paging files, the paging file on the boot partition is accessed less frequently.
Third, you can enhance system performance by setting the initial size of the paging file to the value displayed in the Virtual Memory dialog box's Maximum Size box. This eliminates the time required to enlarge the file from the initial size to the maximum size.
When applying new settings, be sure to click Set before clicking OK.
To view, create, delete, and change the type of user profiles, in Control Panel, click Performance And Maintenance, click System, and then click the Advanced tab (see Figure 10.7). In the User Profiles box, click Settings to display the User Profiles dialog box (see Figure 10.11).
Figure 10.11 The User Profiles dialog box
The User Profiles dialog box lists the profiles stored on the computer you are sitting at. You can perform the following tasks:
A read-only roaming user profile is called a mandatory user profile. When the user logs off, Windows XP Professional does not save any changes made to the desktop environment during the session, so the next time the user logs on the profile is exactly the same as the last time the user logged on. See Chapter 3, "Setting Up and Managing User Accounts," for information about creating a mandatory user profile.
The Copy Profile To text box allows you to specify a path for the location to which the user profile is to be copied. You can click Browse to locate the appropriate path. The Permitted To Use box allows you to specify the user or users who can use the user profile.
The System Properties dialog box also controls the startup and recovery settings for a computer. Click Settings to display the Startup And Recovery dialog box, as shown in Figure 10.12. The System Startup options control the behavior of the Please Select The Operating System To Start menu. The Recovery options control the actions that Windows XP Professional performs in the event of a stop error, which is a severe error that causes Windows XP Professional to stop all processes. Stop errors are also known as fatal system errors or blue screen errors.
Figure 10.12 The Startup And Recovery dialog box
When you first turn on the computer, the system displays the Please Select The Operating System To Start screen, which lists the available operating systems. By default, the system chooses one of the operating systems and displays a countdown timer. If you do not choose another operating system, the system starts the preselected operating system when the countdown timer reaches zero or when you press Enter. Modify the options under System Startup to determine which operating system is preselected, how long the countdown timer runs, and whether to display the boot menu. You are also given the option of modifying the BOOT.INI file manually, but you should allow Windows XP Professional to modify the file rather than attempting to do so manually.
The four recovery options that Windows XP Professional provides to assist users in the event of a system failure are described in Table 10.5.
You must be logged on as a member of the Administrators group to set the options in the Startup And Recovery dialog box.
Table 10.5 Recovery Options
Write An Event To The System Log
Select this check box to have Windows XP Professional write an event to the system log when a system stops unexpectedly.
Send An Administrative Alert
Select this check box to have Windows XP Professional send an administrative alert to administrators when the system stops unexpectedly.
Select this check box to have Windows XP Professional reboot whenever the system stops unexpectedly.
Write Debugging Information
The first option allows you to specify what information Windows XP Professional should write to the dump file, MEMORY.DMP. The following four choices are available:
None. Nothing is written to the dump file.
Small Memory Dump. The minimum amount of usefulinformation will be dumped. This option requires a paging file of at least 2 MB on the boot volume of your computer. A new dump file will be created every time the system stops unexpectedly. The small dump directory stores a history of these dumps and can be set. By default the small dump directory is %Systemroot%\Minidump.
Kernel Memory Dump. Only kernel memory is written to the dump file. Depending on the amount of RAM on your computer, you must have from 50 MB to 800 MB available in the paging file on the boot volume.
Complete Memory Dump. Records the entire contents of system memory when the system stops unexpectedly. You must have a paging file on the boot volume large enough to hold all the RAM on your system plus 1 MB.
There are also two additional options:
Dump File. Specifies the name and location of the dump file. By default it is %Systemroot%\MEMORY.DMP
Overwrite Any Existing File. By default, if you choose Complete Memory Dump or Kernel Memory Dump, Windows XP Professional always writes to the same dump file, MEMORY.DMP. Clear this check box to prevent Windows from overwriting MEMORY.DMP.
The following requirements must be met for the Write Debugging Information recovery option to work:
Environment variables define the system and user environment information, and they contain information such as a drive, path, or filename. Environment variables provide information that Windows XP Professional uses to control various applications. For example, the TEMP environment variable specifies where an application places its temporary files.
In the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box, click Environment Variables to display the system and user environment variables that are currently in effect in the Environment Variables dialog box (see Figure 10.13).
Figure 10.13 The Environment Variables dialog box
System environment variables apply to the entire system. Consequently, these variables affect all system users. During installation, Setup configures the default system environment variables, including the path to the Windows XP Professional files. Only an administrator can add, modify, or remove a system environment variable.
The user environment variables differ for each user of a particular computer. The user environment variables include any user-defined settings (such as a desktop pattern) and any variables defined by applications (such as the path to the location of the application files). Users can add, modify, or remove their user environment variables in the System Properties dialog box.
Windows XP Professional sets environment variables in the following order:
For example, if you add the line SET TMP=C:\ in AUTOEXEC.BAT, and a TMP=X:\TEMP user variable is set, the user environment variable setting (X:\TEMP) overrides the prior setting C:\.
You can prevent Windows XP Professional from searching the AUTOEXEC.BAT file by editing the registry and setting the value of the ParseAutoexec entry to 0. The ParseAutoexec entry is located in the registry under the following subkey:
\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\ CurrentVersion\Winlogon
Error reporting assists Microsoft in improving future products and in resolving any difficulties you might encounter with Windows XP Professional. To configure error reporting, in the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box, click Error Reporting. This displays the Error Reporting dialog box. Notice that Enable Error Reporting is selected. To turn off error reporting, click Disable Error Reporting.
If you do not want to turn off error checking, you can configure reporting to indicate which errors to report. Under Enable Error Reporting there are two check boxes selected by default. Clear the Windows Operating System check box if you do not want errors in the operating system to be reported. Clear the Programs check box if you do not want errors in any of the programs running on your system to be reported. If you want to specify the programs for which Windows XP Professional reports errors, click Select Programs.
If a system or program error occurs and you have configured your system to report it, Windows XP Professional displays a dialog box that allows you to indicate whether you want to send the report to Microsoft.
The Windows XP Professional System Restore feature allows you to track and reverse harmful changes made to your system. In the System Properties dialog box, click the System Restore tab (see Figure 10.14).
Figure 10.14 The System Restore tab of the System Properties dialog box
If you want to configure the status of System Restore on a drive, select the drive and then click Settings. The Settings dialog box for a drive allows you to turn off System Restore monitoring for the drive and to configure the amount of disk space reserved for System Restore. You cannot turn off System Restore on the drive on which Windows XP Professional is installed without turning off System Restore on all drives. System Restore monitors and restores only the partitions and drives that it is configured to monitor. It doesn't monitor partitions of drives that are redirected or excluded from System Restore monitoring. System Restore also doesn't monitor or restore the contents of redirected folders or any settings associated with roaming user profiles.
For information about using the System Restore Wizard, see Chapter 16, "Backing Up and Restoring Data."
Automatic Updates (AU) is a proactive service that allows users with administrative privileges to automatically download and install critical operating system updates such as security fixes and patches. You are notified before the installation takes place and given the opportunity to postpone the download operation. Updates are downloaded in the background so that you can continue to work during downloading. To configure AU, click the Automatic Updates tab of the System Properties dialog box (see Figure 10.15).
Figure 10.15 The Automatic Updates tab of the System Properties dialog box
Under Notification Settings, you can select one of the following three options:
AU uses the Windows Update control to scan the system and decide which updates apply to a particular computer. AU employs its innovative bandwidth-throttling technology, which uses only idle bandwidth for downloads so they do not interfere with or slow down other network activity, such as Internet browsing. Only one administrative user at a time can run the Automatic Updates feature.
If you choose not to install an update, Windows XP Professional deletes it from your computer. If you decide you want to install a previous update, in the Previous Updates box, click Restore Hidden Items. Any previous updates that are still applicable to your computer appear the next time Windows XP Professional notifies you that updates are available.
You can always go to the Windows Update Page at http://www.microsoft.com and manually install any update that is available.
If you have a computer problem, the Remote Assistance feature allows you to invite another person, a remote assistant, to help you over the Internet. The remote assistant can accept your invitation, chat with you about the problem, and view your desktop. He or she can also transfer any files required to fix the problem. To configure the Remote Assistance feature, click the Remote tab in the System Properties dialog box (see Figure 10.16).
Figure 10.16 The Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box
Under Remote Assistance, you can configure your computer to allow or prevent remote assistance invitations to be sent from your computer. Click Advanced to display the Remote Assistance Settings dialog box. To allow the remote assistant full control of your computer, ensure that the default option, Allow This Computer To Be Controlled Remotely, is selected. To allow the assistant to view but not take control of your computer, clear the check box. You can also control the number of days, hours, or minutes before the invitation expires.
In the Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box, under Remote Desktop, you can configure your computer so that remote computers can make a connection to it. This allows you to leave an application running on your office computer, for example, and then connect to your computer from home. The Remote Desktop feature allows multiple users to have active sessions on a single computer.
You can also configure which users can have remote access to your computer. Click Select Remote Users to configure the users that can access your computer remotely in the Remote Desktop Users dialog box (see Figure 10.17). All users that are listed, as well as all users that are members of the Administrators group, have remote access. You can add other users to this list by clicking Add and supplying the complete user name when prompted.
Figure 10.17 The Remote Desktop Users dialog box
You might need to install a computer when it is not attached to the network, the network is down, or a domain controller is not available. In those instances you can install Windows XP Professional and have your computer join a workgroup. When you add your computer to the network, or the network or a domain controller is available, you can join your computer to the domain. To join a domain or a workgroup, you use the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box (see Figure 10.18).
Figure 10.18 The Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box
The Computer Name tab shows you the full name of your computer and the domain or workgroup to which it currently belongs. You can add a description for your computer in the Computer Description text box, and you can click Change to change your computer's name or to join a domain or workgroup. To join a domain, there must be a computer account created for your computer in the domain or you must have the name and password of a user account that is a member of the Domain Admins group so that you can create the computer account as you join the domain.
In this practice, you use the System program to change some of the system settings. First you change the default Remote Assistance setting so that a remote assistant can only view your computer rather than take full control of your computer. Then you change the paging file size. Finally, you add and test a new system environment variable.
Run the OSSettings file in the Demos folder on the CD-ROM accompanying this book for a demonstration of changing system settings.
In this exercise, you change the access of a remote assistant from full control to being able to only view your computer. You also set the expiration time for the Remote Assistance invitation to six hours.
Windows XP Professional displays the Performance And Maintenance window.
Windows XP Professional displays the System Properties dialog box.
Windows XP Professional displays the Remote Assistance Settings dialog box.
Clearing this check box allows the remote assistant to view but not take control of your computer.
You are returned to the System Properties dialog box with the Remote tab active. Leave the System Properties dialog box open for the next exercise.
In this exercise, you use the System Properties dialog box to change the size of the Windows XP Professional paging file.
Windows XP Professional displays the Performance Options dialog box with the Visual Effects tab active.
By default, both Processor Scheduling and Memory Usage are optimized for applications.
Windows XP Professional displays the Virtual Memory dialog box.
You have just increased the initial size of the paging file.
Leave the System Properties dialog box open for the next exercise.
In this exercise, you use the System Properties dialog box to add a new system environment variable. You then test the new variable by using it at the command prompt.
Windows XP Professional displays the Environment Variables dialog box.
Windows XP Professional displays the New System Variable dialog box.
If you are not sure of the path to the Windows XP Professional system files, use Windows Explorer to locate the Windows directory.
You are returned to the Environment Variables dialog box.
The list of current environment variables is displayed and WinXPdir is listed. (Note you might need to press Spacebar to scroll down to see WinXPdir listed.)
You should now be in the Windows directory.
The following questions will help you determine whether you have learned enough to move on to the next lesson. If you have difficulty answering these questions, review the material in this lesson before beginning the next lesson. The answers are in Appendix A, "Questions and Answers."