Friday, February 27, 2009

WINXP - Windows Registry

The Windows Registry, all you need to know is in the link, but in summary it is where Windows keeps information about your system and individual users.

The following is from the link article:

Advantages and disadvantages

The Windows centralized Registry has a number of advantages over legacy INI files:
  • Strongly-typed data can be stored in the Registry, as opposed to only textual information in INI files.

  • Separation of machine configuration from user configuration. When a user logs into a Windows NT/2000/XP/Server 2003 computer, the user-based registry settings are loaded from a user-specific path rather than from a read-only system location. This allows multiple users to share the same machine, and also allows programs to work for a least-privilege user.

  • Group Policy allows administrators on a Windows-based computer network to centrally manage program and policy settings. Part of this involves being able to set what an entry in the registry will be for all the computers on the network, and affect nearly any installed program — something almost impossible with per-program configuration files each with custom layouts, stored in dispersed locations.

  • Standardization of the method of storing configuration data across diverse applications.

  • The registry can be accessed over a network connection for remote management/support, including from scripts, using the standard set of APIs, as long as the Remote Registry service is running and firewall rules permit this.

  • The entire registry can be backed up more easily as it is just a small number of files in specific locations. However, it is much harder to back up and restore configuration of a specific application.

  • Since accessing the registry does not require parsing, it can be read from and written to more quickly than a text file can be. However, the registry becomes a large file to process once per boot.

  • Portions of settings like any subset of an application configuration can be saved in a text-based .REG file, which can be edited with any text editor later. .REG files can easily be merged back into the registry both by unattended batch file or by the user just double-clicking on the file without harming any setting that is not explicitly stated in the .REG file. This is very useful for administrators and support personnel who want to pre-set or pre-configure only a few options like approving the EULA of a certain application.

  • The registry is constructed as a database, and offers DB-like features such as atomic updates. If two processes attempt to update the same registry value at the same time, one process's change will precede the other's, so one will only last a short time until the second gets written. With changes in a file system, such race conditions can result in interleaved data that doesn't match either attempted update. Windows Vista provides transactional updates to the registry, so the atomicity guarantees can be extended across multiple key and/or value changes, with traditional commit-abort semantics. (Note that NTFS provides such support for the file system as well, so the same guarantees could be obtained with traditional configuration files.)

However, the centralized Registry introduces some problems as well:

  • Centralizing configurations makes it difficult to back up and recover individual applications.

  • The structure is complex and hard to manipulate in practice, particularly with the use of GUIDs to link entries together.

  • In practice manual manipulation of the registry is still required to do slightly unusual tasks, such as to move the data folders of an installed application.

  • Because the Registry structure is contained in binary files, damage to it is difficult to repair. In some cases, a damaged registry may even prevent a Windows system from booting successfully.

  • Increased memory overhead, leading to inevitable system slowdown as more software is installed on a particular system.

  • Any application that does not uninstall properly, or does not have an uninstaller, can leave entries in the registry. Over time the computer suffers "Software Rot" as the registry fills with left-over and possibly malfunctioning entries.

  • Installers and uninstallers become complex, much more than just copying files into a folder.

  • Applications that make use of the registry to store and retrieve their settings are unsuitable for use on portable devices used to carry applications from one system to another.

The last item on the above list is of special concern because of application installs that do NOT fully include changes to the Registry in the Uninstall data. Therefore when you choose to remove the software via Add/Remove Programs, or their Uninstall, Registry entries remain.

Though the article includes manual editing using the Registry Editor (RegEdit) I do not recommend its use unless you are an experienced technical user.

Having said that, a Registry that has errors can cause big problems, including system crashes. So the quandary is how do you keep the Registry error-free?

NOTE: Be aware that many Microsoft MVPs do not like Registry Cleaners. They have the opinion that they do more harm than good, or are unnecessary.

One solution is to find a good Registry Cleaning Utility. By good, I mean one that safely cleans your Registry by:

  1. Backing up changes so you can undo them
  2. Warning you of entries that are Unsafe to Delete

Here are 3 Registry Cleaning Utilities I have used:

  • TweakNow (freeware Standard & shareware Pro versions)

  • See the version comparison table on the page. Both versions include an excellent notification system; Safe to Delete, Not Fully Safe to Delete, Unknown.
    Unknown entries are further diagnosed by a Deep Scan.
    We use the Standard version at work on WinXP Pro SP3 desktop systems.

  • COMODO System Cleaner (freeware, includes Registry Clean module)

  • This is one that works with Windows 2003 Server as well as all other versions, we use it at work on our server.

  • RegCure (subscription shareware)

  • This is the one I use at home, but it lacks the user-friendly notification system of TweakNow. I recommend this only for knowledgeable users.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WINXP - Networking, Checking Your Connection

On my previous post I mentioned the ping command, then realized I haven't addressed this issue. So here goes.

There are many tools to check/test your network connection. The best would be those provided by your ISP or manufacturer of your Router/Modem. Having said that, one of the simplest and easiest is WinXP's ping command.

All you need to do is open the Command Prompt ([Start], Programs, Accessories). I suggest you COPY the shortcut to your Quick Launch toolbar. The following screenshots (click for larger view) is all you need to use this to test your network connection.

The command syntax = ping domain_or_IP

Ping IP
Ping Domain

Note that ping domain is an easy way to test a specific site.

IMPORTANT: Take special note on Firewall settings in the previous article. You cannot ping a local network IP if the Firewall, Exceptions are not set properly.


One tool/utility I can recommend (I use at work and home) is GEO Spider.

See the screenshots on their WEB site and note the requirements. (NET Framework 2.0 including download link).

Monday, February 23, 2009

WINXP - Networking, Shares

This is some info on Sharing Folders or Printers with other Desktops on a network, at home or in a business. This discussion assumes you have your network already setup and running.

To share a folder, right-click the folder in Explorer (aka My Computer), and select Properties, Sharing tab. By default WinXP has Network sharing and security DISABLED, so you will first have to enable sharing by using the If you understand the risks... option.

After a few [Next] clicks, you get the Enable File Sharing dialog. I highly suggest the Just enable file sharing option as the simplest.

After enabling File Sharing, you get the Dialog that will normally open when you right-click on a folder and selecting Properties, Sharing tab. (so you enable sharing once)

Now you can click the Share this folder on the network option, then [Apply]. That's all you really need. You close all dialogs.

For Sharing Printers, if you have already enabled sharing, you just use Printers and Faxes dialog and right-click the printer you want to share, select Properties. Sharing tab.

IMPORTANT: Firewall Setting

There is a Firewall option that must be enabled to allow sharing of your folders or printers that MAY not automatically be set.

You can use Control Panel, Windows Firewall icon, Exceptions tab. You must enable (check) File and Printer Sharing.

There is another side effect if you DO NOT have this exception enabled; you can use the ping command to ping other desktops on your network, but they will NOT be able to ping you.

Friday, February 20, 2009

HARDWARE - nVidia Drivers Download

(Requires Flash Shockwave)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

COMPUTERS - Backup Hardware

This article continues the issue of backing up your system, specifically hardware used.

As I stated in the previous article on this issue, the best backup is written to a hard drive. Tape backups are dependent on the reliability of the tape and tapes ware out.

The method I use at home is an External Firewire Hard drive, but there is another option for using hard drives for backups. This is to have a removable hard drive backup device.

Here are 2 removable hard drive backup devices I know of:
Revolutionary internal removable hard disk system (fits into a standard bay)

Iomega® REV® Backup drives and removable disks provide a reliable, easy-to-use backup and disaster recovery solution to safely secure critical data. The award winning Iomega REV family of products is available in 120GB (240GB compressed**), 70GB (140GB compressed**), and 35GB (70GB compressed**) capacities per disk.

Removable drive combines the speed of a hard disk with the portability of optical media for quick, easy, affordable backups.

Removable disk drive comes with up to 500 GB cartridges.
At work, we use the Dell PowerVault RD1000 with 320gb hard drive cartridges for backups.

Although this backup hardware is on the pricey side they are worth the cost if your system, and the data on it, is important to you.

CAUTION: These devices likely come with backup software included. The Dell PowerVault RD1000 that we specified for our Dell Server came with Yosemite FileKeeper. Now this is likely good software BUT we ordered and used Symantec Backup Exec. When we installed the PowerVault via the CD, we did not pay attention and it automatically installed FileKeeper (which we had no intension of using). A very big problem came about when we wanted to uninstall FileKeeper. The uninstall caused a complete system crash/lockup. No keyboard, no mouse, nada. We had to manually force power-off (Dell Server does not have a reset button). This in turn cause major problems with uninstalling FileKeeper because the Add/Remove Programs entry was missing. The upshot is, when you install these devices DO NOT install the backup software until you are absolutely sure you are going to use it. You can always install the backup software later.

This hardware (removable hard drives) is best when you use a backup imaging utility with a boot CD, especially when you have to recover you system to a new, blank, hard drive.

Note that this type of hardware does cost more than USB or Firewire external hard drive setup. But I wanted to let you know there are alternatives.

Friday, February 6, 2009

WINXP - Explorer Addon, Show Folder Size

Found a new and very useful addon for Explorer. Folder Size

This actually installs a Service. This is very handy if you need to see what hard drive space is occupied by folder contents.

The install & setup instructions are at the bottom. Click the screenshots to see larger view.

Folder Size Properties
opened from Control Panel

Folder Size for Windows (v2.4)


This small service utility ADDS a Column Option, Folder Size (the right-click option from Column Heading bar) to Explorer in View, Details. If you only use the icon view, this does not apply, but you can still install just in case you need to use a Details view.

Note that you have the choice of enabling this new Folder Size column for individual Explorer views, or for all views as stated in next section.

Also adds a Folder Size icon to Control Panel for configuration. Suggest setting Compact (GB size) in the Display tab.

Setting it up:

First, make sure you're running Windows 2000 or XP. Sorry, it doesn't work in Vista.

Download the installer (32bit or 64bit).

Run the downloaded file to start the install wizard. It has boring template text, so just keep clicking Next. Typical and Complete installs do the same thing, Custom lets you change where it gets installed.

Now the Folder Size column is available to Explorer, but Explorer isn't displaying it yet. Open an Explorer window in Details view.

Right click on the column headers to see a list of columns you can add. Choose Folder Size.

Now we can replace the existing Size column with the new Folder Size column. Right click on the column headers and uncheck the Size column. Drag the Folder Size column header to where Size used to be.

Make this the default view for all folders. Go to Folder Options from the Tools menu. In the View tab, click Apply to All Folders.

Changing settings:

Look in the Windows Control Panels to find the Folder Size control panel. If you're in the confusing Category View in XP, where it says Pick a category, click on Switch to Classic View in the left-hand pane. And then view as Icons. Isn't that better?

Use the control panel to change the way sizes are displayed. Also stop/start the service if necessary.


CAUTION: Remove the Folder Size column from all Explorer views FIRST

So it crashes every once in a while, and slows down your computer. That's no reason to uninstall it. Well, if you really want to, use the Add or Remove Programs in Control Panel.