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Windows 95/98 Advanced Tips and Tricks

Many of the tips in this section involve changing the Windows Registry. If you're not familiar with editing the registry, the usual warning applies: Don't try it unless you feel comfortable with it. For safety's sake, create a backup of your registry by selecting Export Registry File from the Registry Menu and saving the file somewhere convenient.

Removing the "Log Off User" option from the Start Menu

To remove the "Log off User" option from the Start Menu, simply open your Registry Editor and navigate your way to "HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ Explorer" -- in the right-hand pane, create a new DWORD value and name it: "NoLogOff" (without quotes). Double-left click the new attribute to give it a value of 1. Exit the editor, reboot, and it will no longer appear on the menu. If you want to bring it back at some point in the future, just change that value to 0.

Making Sure Applications Are Fully Closed

When you close an application in Windows not all of it's components are removed from memory. If you're computer is struggling for memory or slows down as the day goes on, then you'll need to edit the registry. Goto "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer" -- create a new String Value in the right pane and name it: "AlwaysUnloadDll" (without quotes). Give this new string a value of 1, close the Registry Editor, and reboot Windows. This will eliminate DLL caching; programs won't re-launch as quickly as before, but it'll free up some valuable system resources.

Windows 95 Not Shutting Down

Windows 95 hangs on the "Please Wait While Your Computer Shuts Down" screen. Among the many things that can cause this is the Desktop Update feature of Internet Explorer 4.0. To clear this, either update to a later version of Internet Explorer, or disable the Desktop Update feature, by doing the following -

  • Click Start, point to Settings, and then click Control Panel.
  • Double-click Add/Remove Programs, click Internet Explorer 4.0 in the list of installed programs, and then click Add/Remove.
  • Click "Remove the Windows Desktop Update component, but keep the Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser," and then click OK.

How to Cheat at Freecell

Freecell is a card game that ships with Windows 9x. Now I've never got the hang of playing it, but if you want to win it's easy. In the middle of a game pressing CTRL+SHIFT+F10 will bring up a small dialogue box. As the instructions say, click on Abort to win, and you will get the sweet taste of victory on the next move. If on the other hand you find the game too easy, from the Game menu, choose the option to Select a Game. Enter either the number -1 or -2 for an impossible to win hand.

How to Run Control Panel Tools From the Command Prompt

To run a Control Panel tool without entering the Control Panel, type the appropriate command listed in the table below into the Start/Run box, or from the C:\Windows command prompt.

Control Panel ToolCommand
Accessibility Optionscontrol access.cpl
Add New Hardwarecontrol sysdm.cpl add new hardware
Add/Remove Programscontrol appwiz.cpl
Date/Time Propertiescontrol timedate.cpl
Display Propertiescontrol desk.cpl
FindFastcontrol findfast.cpl
Fonts Foldercontrol fonts
Internet Propertiescontrol inetcpl.cpl
Joystick Propertiescontrol joy.cpl
Keyboard Propertiescontrol main.cpl keyboard
Microsoft Exchange (Windows Messaging)           control mlcfg32.cpl
Microsoft Mail Post Officecontrol wgpocpl.cpl
Modem Propertiescontrol modem.cpl
Mouse Propertiescontrol main.cpl
Multimedia Propertiescontrol mmsys.cpl
Network Propertiescontrol netcpl.cpl
Password Propertiescontrol password.cpl
PC Cardcontrol main.cpl pc card
Power Management (Windows 95)control main.cpl power
Power Management (Windows 98)control powercfg.cpl
Printers Foldercontrol printers
Regional Settingscontrol intl.cpl
Scanners and Camerascontrol sticpl.cpl
Sound Propertiescontrol mmsys.cpl sounds
System Propertiescontrol sysdm.cpl

NOTE: Your computer may not have all of the tools listed in the table above, as your Windows installation may not include all of these components.

Also you can get the applets to open at a particular tab by adding ,, to the end (where n is a number normally starting with 0 for the first tab). For example if you wanted to open the screen saver tab on the Display properties, you would use the command - control desk.cpl,,1

Printing Directory Listings

One thing that Windows Explorer doesn't let you do is print a list of a folder's contents. Normally the way round this is to use some specialist tools, but this batch file should work just as well. Create a new text file in Notepad and enter / paste the following: "@dir /a %1 > lpt1" (without the quotes). Save the file as DIRPRINT.BAT in your C:\Windows\SendTo folder. Now, when you right-click on a folder, you can send it right to this batch file. You can also add the "/s" switch to the command to include subfolders, but keep in mind that this may result in a severe test for your supply of paper (and ink!).

Silencing the Modem

The chatter as your modem negotiates a connection with the remote modem is a good indicator of how the connection is progressing, so it's well worth listening in. But if you are not happy to hear it, you can turn this sound off quite easily.

  • Click Start, Settings, Control Panel and double-click the Dial-Up Networking applet. In the Dial-Up Networking window, you'll see an icon for each dial-up service you use.
  • Right click the dial-up service you use and select Properties from the pop-up menu. A dialog box will open.
  • The first tab in the dialog box is labelled General. This tab shows the phone number of your ISP and the modem used to make the connection (the device we are going to render silent). Click the Configure button in the Connect Using section on the General tab to display another dialog showing your modem's properties.
  • In the modem properties dialog box, you'll see a slider marked Speaker Volume. Slide that all the way to the left and the task is done. Click OK a couple of times to exit.

Start Menu not in Alphabetic Order

Okay, so you've done the right-click and Sort by Name to get your Start menu in alphabetic order. Then you install a new program, only to find its added itself to the bottom of the list. To cure this irritating problem, fire up Regedit and navigate the Registry to the following key -

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer \ MenuOrder

Then delete the MenuOrder key. Simple, yet effective.

Removing the Windows Logon Screen

On bootup, Windows asks for a user name and password. How do I stop this from appearing?

This is a common question, unlike the tight security you'll find on Win2k or WinXP, password 'security' on Windows 9x is a snap to bypass. To get rid of that annoying logon screen, do this:

  • Click Start, Settings Control Panel.
  • Double-click the Network applet.
  • On the Configuration tab, select Windows Logon as the Primary Network Logon, then close the dialog box.
  • Delete any file in the \Windows folder with the extension .pwl.
  • Reboot.
  • The password prompt will appear one last time. Press Enter (don't press Escape) and you'll never see it again.

Running Scanreg Automatically

In Windows 98, Scanreg checks the integrity of your registry on bootup and makes a backup copy of the registry which you can use to recover from disaster.

Usually Scanregw.exe runs when Windows starts. If it doesn't, there are two possible reasons: You may have deleted the registry key, called ScanRegistry, which controls Scanreg's operation; or there may be a problem with the scanreg.ini file, which contains Scanreg options.

To fix scanreg.ini:

Locate scanreg.ini (it should be in the \Windows folder) and open it in Notepad.
Look for the line

and make sure it reads:

Close and save the file.

If there's no problem in scanreg.ini, then you may well have deleted the registry key which automates the process. To get it back, you'll need to edit the registry (Warning! Don't do this if you don't know what you're doing!):

Open the Registry Editor.
Double-click down through HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, Software, Microsoft, Windows, CurrentVersion, Run.
Within the Run key, right-click in the right-hand pane and select New, String Value.
Name the value ScanRegistry.
Double-click the new ScanRegistry value to edit it and enter the following data value:

C:\Windows\Scanregw.exe /autorun

then exit the Registry Editor.

Windows 98 Floppy Drive Search

By default Windows 98 searches for any new floppy disk drives on bootup. If you want to to disable this (and slightly speed up boot time), right-click on 'My Computer' and select 'Properties.' Then click the 'Performance' tab, press the 'File System' button, then select the 'Floppy Disk' tab. Remove the checkmark from the box.

When was this File Modified?

Want to know the last time a file was modified? Simple, all you need to do is right click on the file and select properties. On the General tab it will display the last time the file was accessed or modified.

Switching the Sound Source

It's always the same. You get your PC running smoothly, then decide to install a new piece of software and everything goes to hell. If you suddenly lose sound after installing the latest game, here is something to check. Go into the Control Panel, and select the Multimedia option. On the Audio tab there is a setting for "Preferred Device", make sure this is set to your sound card and not something like "Voice Modem".

Changing the Default Folder

Don't you just hate it when an application uses a non-standard default folder. You know, when you go to open a new file and it points to an obscure folder in the Program Files folder instead of My Documents. Well if the program doesn't allow you to designate a default folder there is another alternative. Right-click on the shortcut icon for the program and select properties, then go to the Shortcut tab. In the "Start in" field, enter your desired "Open / Save as" folder path. With any luck, the next time you use this shortcut that dialogue will start exactly where you desire.

Blocking the Background Sheet

Want to stop anyone from changing your Windows Background? Easy. Open up regedit and navigate your way to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies \ System, then create (or edit) the DWORD value: NoDispBackgroundPage. Set its value to 1 and it'll hide the background tab on the display properties. To reverse this, just set its value to 0.

Also if you want to stop people from changing the background using the "Set as Background" feature in IE, then find the file named "Internet Explorer Wallpaper.bmp", right-click on it and select properties. In the properties set the file to Read Only. Whenever anyone tries to change the background all they should get is a message saying "Access Denied".

Fixing Windows Update Functionality

What do you do if Windows Update no longer works? Simple, click on Start and Run and enter "regsvr32 wupdinfo.dll" (without the quotes). This will hopefully fix the problem.

Logging Your Dial-up Connections

Having problems with your modem connection? Did you know that Windows produces a modem log file to help troubleshooting? No, well go into the Control Panel and open up the Modem applet. Select the modem you want and click on Properties. On the Connection tab click on Advanced, then select the View Log button.

Free PDF Creation Tool in Windows

The PDF (Portable Document Format) is fast becoming the standard way to send documents. The problem is creating a PDF can cost you a shed load of money buying specialised software. But there is a way to create them for free. Go into the Printers Folder and run the Add Printer wizard. What you need to do is install the drivers for any postscript printer, ie "HP Color LaserJet 5/5M PS". Once the drivers have been installed, go into Word and open a document. Click on File / Print and select the postscript printer, ensuring that there is a checkmark in the "Print to File" box. Save the file in your My Documents folder, and then go to PS2PDF.COM and convert it for free.

Windows Explorer Keyboard Shortcuts

In Windows Explorer select a folder from the lefthand folder list. Pressing the * key will open all the subfolders under that folder. Similarly pressing the - (minus) key will close all open subfolders.

When you have explorer set to details view there is another useful shortcut you can use. Click on an item on the rightside pane and hold the CTRL key and tap the + (plus) key. Each column will be optimised for the longest data string within it.

The START Command

When you find yourself at a command prompt (with Windows still running) you can use START.EXE to launch Windows programs. For example if you wanted to open a text file, then START FILENAME.TXT will open the file in Notepad. Run START /? to see the full list of options.


Even a simple program like Notepad has a few hidden features. If you press F5 it will automatically insert the Date/Time in the text file. By adding .LOG as the first line of the file it will automatically stamp the current date/time whenever you reopen the file.

Windows Task Scheduler

Who needs an Alarm Clock when you have Windows Task Scheduler? Launch the 'Add Scheduler Task' wizard in the 'Task Scheduler' folder, press the Browse button then select your favourite Wav/MP3/Midi file. Then select how often you want the alarm call and at what time you want it to run. If you want it to repeat every hour or so, then go into the properties for the newly created task and on the Schedule tab choose the Advanced button and select the repeat time to whatever you want.

Speeding up Windows 98

Windows 98 accesses your swap file (virtual memory) before it runs out of RAM (physical memory). Virtual memory will always operate slower than physical memory, so if you have more than 64MB of RAM then this is for you. Open up your SYSTEM.INI file and under the [386Enh] section, enter "ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1" (minus the quotes). Save the changes and reboot your PC, and you should find Windows a bit more responsive. For more information about this issue have a look at Micosoft Knowledgebase article Q223294.

Changing Your Time's Text

Fed-up with the clock in the system tray just saying AM or PM? Then go into the Control Panel / Regional Settings, and select the Time tab. Change the ' AM Symbol' and 'PM Symbol' fields to whatever you want (up to a maximum of 8 characters).

Version Conflict Manager

As you install more and more software on your PC, you run the risk of replacing important system files with older versions. Well in Windows 98, the Version Conflict Manager could save the day. Click on Start, then Run and run the program VCMUI. The Version Conflict Manager will launch and display a list of possible troublesome files, which you can fix with the click of a button.

Remember Read-Only

Always remember that when copying files from a CD-ROM that they will be set to READ-ONLY. You will need to go into the properties tab for the files and uncheck the read-only option.

Corrupt Floppy Disk

When you get a corrupt floppy disk, there are a couple of things you can try to retrieve the data on it.

1. Insert the bad floppy into the floppy drive, then in Windows right-click on the floppy drive icon in My Computer and choose the Copy Disk option. The trick is to keep hitting Rettry every time it fails (can be anything up to 100 times), and eventually it will copy.

2. If that fails, then run scandisk and let it fix any errors it finds on the disk.