Customize your new OS for administrative use

Although Microsoft's default Windows XP desktop and user settings are surely the result of numerous usability studies, most of those settings are intended for novice users who perform few setup and diagnostic tasks. Systems administrators need much more control over their XP systems. Here are the first 10 changes I make to customize XP for myself or another advanced user.

10. Turn off Windows Update. Because I want my administrative workstation to always be in a known state, I insist on having complete control over all system updates. To prevent Windows from automatically updating your system, go to Start, Control Panel, Performance and Maintenance, System. On the System Properties dialog box's Automatic Updates tab, select the Turn off automatic updating. I want to update my computer manually check box.

9. Turn off Microsoft Passport. I use Passport on my main system for Instant Messaging (IM) and conferencing services. However, I don't use it on some of my other systems. To prevent your system from pummeling you with Passport reminders, run regedit and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Sofware\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run subkey. Delete the MSMSGS item.

8. Turn off the "doggie search." Like its predecessor, Clippy, the animated doggie-search icon is hideously cute. To turn off the doggie, open Windows Explorer and click Search. In the Search dialog box, click the doggie and select Turn off the animated character.

7. Turn off the Desktop Cleanup Wizard. I place items on my desktop for a reason. I don't want XP to automatically move an item just because I haven't used it recently. To turn off the Desktop Cleanup Wizard, right-click the desktop and select Properties. On the Desktop tab, choose Customize Desktop, then clear the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days check box.

6. Clean up the Start menu. XP clutters the Start menu with several home and entertainment settings that I don't need. To remove a setting, open the Start menu, right-click the option, then select Remove from this list from the pop-up menu. I remove options for Windows MovieMaker, Windows Media Player (WMP), and Windows Tour.

5. Drag My Computer to the desktop. I enjoy the convenience of having the My Computer options available on a desktop toolbar. To create a My Computer toolbar, open the Start menu, right-click the My Computer icon, and drag it to the top of the screen. To auto-hide the toolbar, right-click an open spot on the toolbar and select the Auto-Hide option.

4. Set Windows Explorer's Details view as the default. XP's default Windows Explorer display uses the Large Icon view, which is devoid of meaningful information. To use the Details view as the default, open Windows Explorer and select View, Details. Next, select Tools, then select Folder Options. On the View tab, select Apply to All Folders.

3. Customize Windows Explorer's View options. By default, Windows Explorer hides detailed information from novice users. To obtain more useful information, go to Start, Control Panel, Appearance and Themes, Folder Options. On the View tab, select the Display the contents of system folders, Display the full path in the title bar, and Show hidden files and folders check boxes, and clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box.

2. Enable the Quick Launch Toolbar. The Quick Launch Toolbar is the best place for programs that you run frequently. To enable the toolbar, go to Start, Control Panel, Appearance and Themes, Taskbar and Start Menu. Select the Show Quick Launch check box.

1. Turn on Remote Desktop. Remote Desktop lets you easily access your desktop no matter where you are. To turn on Remote Desktop, go to Start, Control Panel, System. On the System Properties dialog box's Remote tab, select the Allow users to connect remotely to this computer check box.