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There’s an unwritten rule that states, “To be considered a power user, you must tweak every aspect of your PC and assert man’s dominance over machine.” That means not only choosing the right combination of hardware and software to do your bidding but also tailoring Windows to perform the way you want it to, not the other way around. After all, you built your computer, so why should you have the reins pulled from your hands the moment you hit the power button? The answer is you shouldn’t, and we’re going to show you how to fine-tune Windows—from the way it looks to the way it functions, and everything in between.
We know what you’re thinking: What could we possibly show you that you haven’t already seen countless times before? Plenty. And if you think you’ve uncovered every secret there is to know about Windows, think again. These aren’t your garden-variety tweaks that litter every Windows guide on the web. We’ve dug deep to find tips that will surprise and delight even the most seasoned power user. It doesn’t matter whether you use XP or Vista; we cover both camps to bring you a smorgasbord of treats guaranteed to improve your OS experience.
OEM vendors often dress up the System Properties screen with a custom logo and support information, giving prebuilt PCs an air of professionalism. Well guess what? You can add the same personal touch to your own machine in just a few easy steps.
Open up any photo-editing program and create a 180x114-pixel image. Save the image as a bitmap and name it oemlogo.bmp, then place it in C:\Windows\System32. Next, create a Notepad file in the same folder and save it as oeminfo.ini. OEM resellers use this file to enter customer-support information, but you can write whatever you wish as long as you use the following format:
line1=For even more great tips visit
If you need more space, just create a new line.
Grab IconsExtract (free, http://tinyurl.com/2p7c7x) to extract existing icons from your system. When you find one you like, save it to the root of the drive you want to change (for example, C:\Cool_Icon.ico). Next, create a new file with Notepad and edit line one to read [autorun] and on line two write icon=Cool_Icon.ico. Save and name the file autorun.ini and reboot.
A wider scroll bar can make navigation an easier affair on a touch-screen panel, and power users can benefit from the additional real estate afforded by narrowing the scroll bar. Whatever your objective, open Display Properties in the Control Panel, click the Appearance tab, click Advanced, select Scrollbar from the Items menu, and go hog wild!
Google Desktop (free, http://desktop.google.com) pounces all over Windows’s built-in search, but to truly kick your search groove into high gear, you need to tweak a couple of settings. Under the Options menu, make sure HTTPS is unchecked to prevent Google from indexing sensitive information. Then click “Add drive or folder to search” and add any networked PCs so you can search for files across your network without ever leaving your chair. Finally, install the TweakGDS plugin (free, http://tinyurl.com/2nwxb9), which will let you designate a different folder or hard drive to store Google’s indexing information.
Whenever you copy multiple files from one location to another, Windows prompts you with an overwrite request if duplicate entries already exist. Selecting “Yes to All” can go a long way in preventing carpal tunnel, but where’s the “No to All” button? It doesn’t exist, but you can force Windows to act as though it does by holding down the Shift key the first time you press No.