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How should I set up my computer? (Part III)

In the previous articles in this series (parts I and II) I described how I began setting up my new computer; connecting it safely to the internet, updating software, and beginning to tweak some aspects of Windows XP.

As I continue, I’ll make changes to the Windows XP Task Bar, Start Menu, Startup Programs, and Services.

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But first, one little bit of bookkeeping: labeling the hard disk. Why? It’s an additional level of identification for that particular hard disk. Rather than seeing “Local Disk (C:)” in Windows Explorer, the label is shown instead, for example: “My Main Disk (C:)”. In my case I label the primary (C:) disk with the machine name.

I then make the following changes to the task bar:

  • I unlock it. Not only to make changes right now, but I tend to leave it unlocked for tweaks I might make later.
  • I make the quick launch toolbar visible. (Right-click on the task bar, select Toolbars, and then make sure Quick Launch is checked.) I use the quick launch toolbar constantly as the primary place for starting my most frequently used programs.
  • Once the quick launch bar is visible, I drag shortcuts onto it. For example, I drag the command prompt shortcut from the start menu to the quick launch bar (holding control as I drop it so that it makes a copy).
  • And finally I drag the top of the task bar up, to make it two lines high. (More on that in this previous article: My TaskBar is too small to be useful, what can I do?)

Now I move on to the Start Menu itself. Right click on an area near the task bar and select properties. I really dislike how icons in the notification area keep changing, so I disable Hide Inactive Icons on the Taskbar tab.

On the Start Menu tab, I select Classic start menu since it allows me more direct access to the programs menu, which I seem to visit often. Then the Customize button, and in the Advanced Start menu options I select:

  • Display Administrative Tools – I use them from time to time.
  • Expand Control Panel – personally I find it quite handy to have the control panel display as a sub menu rather than a separate window.
  • Expand network connections – same story for network connections; it’s convenient to simply and immediately see the list pop up as a menu.
  • Expand printers – especially when I have more than one printer available to me, this – like network connections – is handy to have as a sub menu.
  • Show small icons in start menu – among other things, the start menu takes up less space when small icons are selected.
  • Uncheck used personalized menus – much like the notification icons changing, I don’t like the way Windows tries to help by moving recently used items around on my menus. I want things to stay where they are.

Now that I’ve made those changes to the appearance of the Start Menu, I start changing its contents. I find it most convenient to modify the start menu by using Windows Explorer. Right click the Start button, select Explore All Users, and Windows Explorer will open on the Start Menu directory tree. Here I add my own menus (right click in the file list and select New, Folder which translates into a new branch in the Start Menu.)

While I’m there I also remove Windows Update (it’s also a menu item in Internet Explorer), Windows Catalog (I use it so rarely it’s not worth being a menu item), and Set Program Access and Defaults (available through control panel).

On to Windows Startup. This new computer came with several programs that run at start-up, not all of which are needed. Start, Run “msconfig”, and under the Startup tab I disable:

  • Digital Line Detect (DLG.EXE) – adds features to my dialup connection that I don’t need.
  • DSentry.exe – apparently changes the behavior of autorun on Dell machines. I’ll use TweakUI for that later, and I certainly don’t need software running all the time to do it.
  • BascsTray.exe – another application somehow related to my Broadcom-based modem. I haven’t used my modem yet, and again, don’t need software running all the time in case I do.
  • quickset.exe – a notification area application that allows quick access to my laptops power settings. I don’t need it.
  • atiptaxx.exe – a notification area application that allows quick access to the video settings. I don’t need it.

While I’m turning off software, I’ll do the same for services that start up when the machine boots as well. Right click on My Computer, select Manage, expand the Services and Applications tree, and click on Services. For each of the following services, right click on the service, select Properties, and then click Stop and change the Startup type to disabled:

  • Computer Browser
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client
  • Network Location Awareness
  • Remote Registry
  • Smart Card

A good resource for information on Windows XP services is maintained by Black Viper. Don’t let the name fool you … he’s got a lot of good information on services, as well as descriptions of most of the commonly found services and their purpose.

Now the computer’s up and running, and starting to feel like my machine. Next up: I start to install applications. Lots and lots of applications.

The Setting Up Series:

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7 comments on “How should I set up my computer? (Part III)”

  1. “One last suggestion: check what programs run automatically when you start or log into windows. Many will add icons to the notification area, reducing the available space and increasing clutter. Make sure you actually want them.”

    Ok already will someone please explain how the hell you get rid of programs that load themselves into this area. I can do everything else in the taskbar but this one has me baffled. I even looked in the mother of all books for win 98.NOT ONE THING MENTIONED how to take the crap off there permanantly Ive tried dragging, right clicking, left clicking. I do not understand why there is absolutly nothing in plain english how to modify this section. A friend had the same problem the only way he found hw to do it was download a copy of clean sweep and there was an option to remove programs that want to sit there and eat up ram and resourses. I don’t understand why nobody else feels the frustration of not being able to control what goes on in this box Iam sick of closing down 3 or 4 programs everytime my computer starts it’s right click, exit, right click, exit right click exit, on and on and on.

  2. hello sir i am in a big problem that i am fed up of seeing this word “START” on taskbar. i want to replace it with my name. pls help me out.
    thanks to u.

  3. DESPITE the fact that the toolbar id LOCKED, I cannot get the Quick Launch toolbar to load up AUTOMATICALLY when I boot up/switch on the computer.
    Any ideas. My PC is using the latest/last version of XP Home and is a Compaq Presarion.

    Brian Hopwood

  4. How do I restore “Past Items” from my Quick Launch? In particular, I want “remove hardware safely”, but I really want to know how to manipulate these items.
    Debbie (please answer)


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