NOTE: These tips have been verified to work with Windows XP build 2505 (RC1) and 2526 (RC2). Older Beta 2 tips--many of which do work in RC1 and RC2, by the way--can be found here.
UPDATED! Newer tips can be found at the bottom of this page.
Add album art to any music folder
Contributed by Richard Davidson
This is easily my favorite tip! One of the coolest new features in Windows XP is its album thumbnail generator, which automatically places the appropriate album cover art on the folder to which you are copying music (generally in WMA format). But what about those people that have already copied their CDs to the hard drive using MP3 format? You can download album cover art from sites such as cdnow.com or amguide.com, and then use the new Windows XP folder customize feature to display the proper image for each folder. But this takes time--you have to manually edit the folder properties for every single folder--and you will lose customizations if you have to reinstall the OS. There's an excellent fix, however.
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When you download the album cover art from the Web, just save the images as folder.jpg each time and place them in the appropriate folder. Then, Windows XP will automatically use that image as the thumbnail for that folder and, best of all, will use that image in Windows Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) if you choose to display album cover art instead of a visualization. And the folder customization is automatic, so it survives an OS reinstallation as well. Your music folders never looked so good!
Album cover art makes music folder thumbnails look better than ever!
Change the location of the My Music or My Pictures folders
Contributed by Larry Samuels
In Windows 2000, Microsoft added the ability to right-click the My Documents folder and choose a new location for that folder in the shell. With Windows XP, Microsoft has elevated the My Music and My Pictures folders to the same "special shell folder" status of My Documents, but they never added a similar (and simple) method for changing those folder's locations. However, it is actually pretty easy to change the location of these folders, using the following method.
Open a My Computer window and navigate to the location where you'd like My Music (or My Pictures) to reside. Then, open the My Documents folder in a different window. Drag the My Music (or My Pictures) folder to the other window, and Windows XP will update all of the references to that folder to the new location, including the Start menu.
Add/Remove optional features of Windows XP
Contributed by Ong Choon Keong and Hans Breemer
I first mentioned this technique in an old Technology Showcase for Windows 2000, but it still works in Windows XP, and can be quite useful: For some reason, Microsoft has removed the ability to specify which Windows components you want to install during interactive Setup, and when you go into Add/Remove Windows Components in the Control Panel, you still don't have the full list of applications and applets you can add and remove. Thankfully, this is easy to fix.
To dramatically expand the list of applications you can remove from Windows XP after installation, navigate to C:\WINDOWS\inf (substituting the correct drive letter for your version of Windows) and open the sysoc.inf file. Under Windows XP Professional Edition RC1, this file will resemble the following by default:
[Version] Signature = "$Windows NT$"
IndexSrv_System = setupqry.dll,IndexSrv,setupqry.inf,,7
TerminalServer=TsOc.dll, HydraOc, TsOc.inf,hide,2
The entries that include the text hide or HIDE will not show up in Add/Remove Windows Components by default. To fix this, do a global search and replace for ,hide and change each instance of this to , (a comma). Then, save the file, relaunch Add/Remove Windows Components, and tweak the installed applications to your heart's content.
Cool, eh? There are even more new options now under "Accessories and Utilities" too.
Remove Windows Messenger
Contributed by Claus Bruun and many others
It seems that a lot of people are interested in removing Windows Messenger for some reason, though I strongly recommend against this: In Windows XP, Windows Messenger will be the hub of your connection to the .NET world, and now that this feature is part of Windows, I think we're going to see a lot of .NET Passport-enabled Web sites appearing as well. But if you can't stand the little app, there are a couple of ways to get rid of it, and ensure that it doesn't pop up every time you boot into XP. The best way simply utilizes the previous tip:
If you'd like Windows Messenger to show up in the list of programs you can add and remove from Windows, navigate to C:\WINDOWS\inf (substituting the correct drive letter for your version of Windows) and open sysoc.inf (see the previous tip for more information about this file). You'll see a line that reads:
Change this to the following and Windows Messenger will appear in Add or Remove Programs, then Add/Remove Windows Components, then , and you can remove it for good:
Kiss Windows Messenger goodbye!
Display the Sharing Tab in Folder Properties NEW!
Contributed by Paul Knight
In Windows 2000, getting to the Sharing options for a folder was simple: Just right-click, choose Properties, and you'd see a Sharing tab. In Windows XP, this seems to be missing, and the Beta 2 trick to displaying it (hold down CTRL as you right-click) no longer works.
But fear not, you can still cause your Windows XP RC1 or RC 2 system to display the Sharing tab if desired. Simply open up Folder Options (My Computer, then Tools, Folder Options) and navigate to the View tab. In the Advanced Settings section, scroll down to the bottom and uncheck Use simple file sharing (Recommended), a Mickey Mouse feature if there ever was one. Now share your folders on the LAN as you would in Windows 2000.
Use the Windows Sound Scheme NEW!
Contributed by Keith Furman
Windows XP RC1 and RC2 ship with a nice new sound scheme, but it's not loaded by default for some reason. So once you've installed Windows XP, one of the first things you should do is get that new sound scheme loaded.
To do so, open up Control Panel and navigate to Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices. Then, choose the task titled Change the sound scheme. In the dialog that appears, choose Windows Default for the sound scheme. Windows will ask you whether you want to save the previous scheme, which is usually a brain-dead questions, since no scheme was previously loaded. So choose No, and then click OK to exit the dialog.
Use the ultimate configuration tool NEW!
Contributed by several readers
One of the most full featured Windows XP configuration tools available is hidden right there in your system, but most people don't even know it exists. It's called the Local Group Policy Editor, or gpedit for short. To invoke this editor, select Start and then Run, then type the following:
After you hit ENTER, you'll be greeted by gpedit, which lets you modify virtually every feature in Windows XP without having to resort to regedit. Dig around and enjoy!
GPEDIT: It's your best friend for XP configuration.
I'm always looking for more good tips! If you've got something interesting, please send them along.