When you first install Windows, or when you start a pre-installed version for the first time, it includes a huge number of obscure features and options, and almost as many features that are of no real value. So it's a very good idea to spend some time adjusting and deleting things.
First, eliminate the programs and shortcuts that you never use. These include the links on the desktop and the Start menu to Internet Service Providers, advertisements for services and Web sites that you don't need or want, and programs that you will never use.
Start with the desktop. Double-click each shortcut, just to see where it takes you. Unless you believe you will use that shortcut a lot-at least a couple of times every month-get it off your desktop. You can either drag the shortcut to the Recycle Bin icon located on your desktop or right-click on a shortcut and choose the Delete option from the pop-up menu.
Next, open the Start All Programs (or Start Programs) menu and look for junk shortcuts. Anything that seems to be a link to an advertisement should go.
Finally, look for pre-installed programs that you don't need or want. Follow these steps to remove unnecessary Widows programs:
Go to Start Control Panel Add or Remove Programs. Click Add/Remove Windows Components on the left side of the window to open the Windows Component Wizard shown in Figure 27.20.
Figure 27.20: Use the Windows Components Wizard to remove Windows programs that you don't need.
Start at the top of the list of Components, and select the first item. After you select a Component, click Details in the lower right corner to open a subsidiary list of categories or individual components.
Select the first item in the list of Subcomponents. If there's another Details button, click it to drop down one more level. When you get to a list of individual programs, examine each item, one at a time. If you don't expect to use this program, remove the check mark from the listing. If you want to remove every item in a category (such as Games), remove the check mark next to the name of the category.
Continue this process until you have evaluated every item in every category and subcategory. Remove all the items that you don't expect to use.
After you have worked through the entire list, click Next. Windows deletes the items you removed and completes the wizard.
Click Finish to close the Wizard.
The Indexing Service program is a notorious waste of processing time. Turn it off.
Microsoft offers a free tweak program that is essential for fine-tuning the look and feel of your Windows system. Download and install TweakUI from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx.
Figure 27.21 shows the TweakUI window. Each of the items in the tree structure on the left side of the window opens a dialog box that controls a different part of the Windows user interface and a description of the controls and options on that screen.
Figure 27.21: TweakUI includes a huge set of options and settings that affect the look and feel of Windows.
After you install TweakUI, run the program and work your way through each screen in the tree structure, including all the second-level items. Some options are more useful than others, so you may want to ignore many of them. Examine each option and read each description, and use the ones that make useful-sounding changes. Don't forget to click on the + symbol in the list of screens to see additional sub-screens, and to scroll down through the lists of options and settings that extend beyond the bottom of the list box.
Some of the most useful TweakUI options include:
Explorer: The Explorer settings are options that change specific appearance characteristics and other features of the Windows desktop, the Start menu, and other parts of Windows. If you don't use things like the list of Recent Documents in the Start menu, you can disable them from the list of Explorer Settings. If you use the Classic Windows Start Menu, be sure to scroll down the list to see options that apply to that menu format.
Desktop: The Windows desktop normally includes five icons: Internet Explorer, My Documents, My Network Connections, Recycle Bin, and My Computer. If you never use one or more of these icons (such as My Documents), you can use this TweakUI screen to remove it from the desktop.
My Computer AutoPlay Types: Windows normally runs programs and/or plays music and videos automatically when you insert a CD or DVD in your computer's drive. Use this option to disable to AutoPlay feature.
Templates: In the Windows desktop and in Explorer and My Computer windows, when you right-click a blank space, a pop-up menu appears that includes a New submenu. You can use the Templates screen in TweakUI to add or remove items from this list.
Logon: The list of Settings in the Logon screen allows you to add or remove accounts from the Welcome screen that appears when you turn on the computer and start Windows.
Logon Autologon: If only one person normally uses this computer, or if all users share a single account, you can use the Autologon screen to automatically open that account every time you turn on the computer. To start Windows without a password, click the Set Password button and make sure that the password fields are blank.