Customize your system

In this Top 10, I share my favorite Registry tweaks. These tips can help you customize Windows NT to better suit the way you work. As always, be extremely careful when you change your Registry, and be sure you have a current Registry backup and Emergency Repair Disk (ERD).

10. On a new desktop system, I like to make sure that NumLock automatically turns on when the system starts. To turn on NumLock, set the InitialKeyboardIndicators value to 2 (i.e., ON) in the HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Keyboard Registry key.

9. On my servers, I typically don't want the CD-ROM drive's AutoPlay feature to automatically run. To disable AutoPlay, set the AutoRun value to 0 (i.e., OFF) in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Cdrom key.

8. Command-line completion lets the system automatically fill in directory names when you press a specific key while entering commands at the command prompt. To enable command-line completion using the Tab key, set the CompletionChar value to 9 (i.e., TAB) in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor key.

7. If the Uninstall process fails, an application might leave a set of orphaned entries in NT's Add/Remove Programs dialog box. To remove those entries, go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall key. Select the items that correspond to the entries you want to delete, then choose Edit, Delete.

6. In many cases (e.g., when items on your desktop depend on network services such as network shares), you want your logon script to complete before NT displays its graphical desktop. To enable synchronous logon scripts, change the RunLogonScriptSync value to 1 (i.e., ENABLED) in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon key.

5. You can display a legal notice in a dialog box that appears before the logon screen. You can use this screen to display a warning or a user greeting. To add a legal notice to your logon process, go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon key. To set the dialog box's text, change the LegalNoticeText value to a string such as This is the corporate ACME server. To set the dialog box's title bar, change the LegalNoticeCaption value to a string such as Unauthorized Access Prohibited.

4. To stop applications from automatically running when your system starts, delete the appropriate entries from the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, and HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run keys.

3. On shared systems and RAS servers, I disable the display of the most recent logon name. Simply set the DontDisplayLastUserName value to 1 (i.e., ON) in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon key.

2. To easily bring up a command window from the current Windows Explorer location, you can add a Command Prompt Here entry to your context menu. First, open your Registry editor and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell. Select Edit, New, Key, and enter CmdPrompt in the dialog box. Double-click (Default), and enter the name you want to display when you right-click the directory (e.g., Command Prompt Here). Then, select Edit, New, Key and enter a key under CmdPrompt named command (in lowercase). Double-click (Default), and enter the path to your cmd.exe program, followed by "%I" (e.g., C:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe /k cd "%I").

1. One simple change you can implement to help your support team is to change the vague My Computer name to the actual computer name. To change My Computer, open your Registry editor and go to the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\\{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D\} key. Use the Edit, Delete option to delete the value from the key. Then use Edit, Add Value to add a new value. Leave the name blank, set the type to REG_EXPAND_SZ, and click OK. In the next dialog box, enter %computer name%.

Corrections to this Article:

  • In Top 10, "Registry Tweaks," tip 2 gives instructions about how to add a Command Prompt Here entry to a context menu to bring up a command window from Windows Explorer. The last sentence instructs you to double-click (Default) and enter the path to your cmd.exe program, followed by "%|" (e.g., C:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe /k cd "%|"). The correct entry following the path is "%1" (e.g., C:\winnt\system32\cmd.exe /k cd "%1").

    In the same article, tip 1 explains how to change the My Computer icon label to the name of the computer. The last sentence tells you to enter %computer name% in the dialog box. The correct entry is %computername%. We apologize for any inconvenience these errors might have caused.