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This chapter is from the book

Foundation Topics

Differences in Windows Versions

The 2009 A+ Certification exams cover Windows Vista, XP, and 2000. It is important to know the differences between these three, and the minimum hardware requirements necessary to install each of the operating systems. We'll start with Windows Vista and XP's graphical user interface (GUI), which is what Windows employs to interact with the user. Normally, a keyboard and pointing device such as a mouse are used to input information to the operating system's GUI, and whatever is input will be shown on the screen. Basically everything you see on the display, including windows, icons, menus, and other visual indicators, is part of the GUI.


The Windows Vista GUI, shown in Figure 13-1, is different in several ways from Windows XP:

  • Windows Aero—This is Microsoft's new visual experience, which features translucent windows, window animations, three-dimensional viewing of windows, and a modified taskbar. You can make modifications to the look of Aero by right-clicking the desktop and selecting Personalize, and then clicking Windows Color and Appearance. From here you can modify things such as the transparency of windows. To disable Windows Aero, click the Theme link from within the Personalize window. Then, from the Theme drop down menu, select Windows Classic.
  • Welcome Center—This is the window that opens automatically when you first start Windows Vista. After installing the operating system, it a good starting point for running initial tasks such as connecting to the Internet, transferring files from another computer, adding users, and learning more about Windows Vista. The Welcome Center will continue to show up every time you start Windows unless you deselect the checkbox to the bottom left of the window. To open Welcome Center later, go to Control Panel, System and Maintenance.
  • Windows Sidebar and gadgets—The Windows Sidebar is a new window pane on the side of the desktop. It is primarily used to house gadgets. Gadgets are mini applications that provide a variety of services, such as connecting to the Web to access weather updates and traffic or Internet radio streams. They can also interact with other applications to streamline the Windows experience. Additional gadgets can be downloaded from Microsoft. You can modify the Sidebar by right-clicking on it and selecting Properties. From here you can select whether the Sidebar starts when Windows does, place it above other Windows, change its orientation, and remove gadgets. To add gadgets, click the + directly over the topmost gadget.
  • Modified Start menu—The new Start menu has a few changes compared to Windows XP. For example there is a useful search field directly above the Start button. However, the Run prompt has been removed by default, but can be added by accessing the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window. The Start menu and desktop can also be configured to run in ""Classic mode"" similar to the one used by Windows 2000 and by XP, if it was configured that way (refer to the second screen capture in Figure 13-2). In Classic mode, the Start menu displays the name of the operating system along the left side in the same way that earlier versions of Windows display the name. This is usually done to optimize Windows performance.
Figure 13-1

Figure 13-1 Windows Vista's Standard Desktop and Start Menu (a) and Classic Desktop and Start Menu (b).

Figure 13-2

Figure 13-2 Windows XP's standard desktop and start menu (a) and classic desktop and start menu (b).

The Windows XP GUI has several differences compared to its predecessor Windows 2000:

  • Personalized start menu for each user.
  • Two-column start menu shown in Figure 13-2; the left column displays the most recently or frequently used programs and access to default applications for Internet and email, while the right column provides access to the user's documents folders and Control Panel. To see all programs, hover your mouse over All Programs.
  • Task bar adjusts in size according to the number of programs that are running and the number of quick launch icons in use.
  • Start menu and desktop can also be configured to run in a Classic mode similar to the one used by Windows 2000 (Figure 13.2b). In Classic mode, the Start menu displays the name of the operating system along the left side in the same way that earlier versions of Windows display the name.

System Requirements

System requirements for different versions of Windows vary widely. Table 13-2 compares the hardware requirements for Windows Vista, XP, and 2000.

Table 13-2. Minimum Hardware Requirements for Windows Vista, XP, and 2000




2000 Professional


800 MHz

233 MHz

133 MHz


512 MB

64 MB

64 MB

Free disk space

15 GB (20 GB Partition)

1.5 GB (2 GB partition)

650 MB (2 GB partition)


DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive


CD-ROM/Floppy drive

You may hear the terms x86 and x64. x86 refers to older CPU names that ended in an "86". For example, the 80386 (shortened to just 386), 486, or 586 CPU and so on. Generally, when people use the term x86 they are referring to 32-bit CPUs that allow for 4 GB of address space. x64 (or x86-64) refers to newer 64-bit CPUs that are a superset of the x86 architecture. This technology can run 64-bit software as well as 32-bit software and can address a maximum of 1 TB.

Windows Vista and Windows XP come in 64- and 32-bit versions, so that users from both generations of computers can run the software efficiently. Windows 2000 Professional was designed for 32-bit CPUs only.

Application Compatibility

Most commercial business applications should run properly on Windows Vista/XP as well as on older versions of Windows. However, some commercial and custom applications designed for older versions of Windows might not run properly on Windows Vista/XP.

To enable applications written for older versions of Windows to run properly on Windows Vista/XP, you can use the Program Compatibility Wizard built into Windows, or the Compatibility tab located on the executable file's properties sheet to run the program in a selected compatibility mode.

To start the wizard in Windows Vista, click Start, Control Panel and then click the Programs icon. Then, under Programs and Features click the link Use an Older Program with This Version of Windows. This program works essentially the same in Vista as it does in XP.

To start the wizard in Windows XP, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Program Compatibility Wizard.

Once the wizard is started, you can select from programs already installed on your computer, select the current program in the CD-ROM drive, or browse to the program manually. After you select a program, you can select the version of Windows the program worked best under (see Figure 13-3).

Figure 13-3

Figure 13-3 Using the Program Compatibility Wizard to run an older Windows program under Windows XP as Windows 98/95 would run it.

On the next screen, you can select one or more of the following options to aid compatibility:

  • 256 Colors—Many older Windows programs can't run under 16-bit or higher color depths.
  • 640x480 Screen Resolution—Many older Windows programs use a fixed screen size and can't run properly on a high-resolution screen.
  • Disable Visual Themes—Many older Windows programs were created before visual themes were common.

After selecting the options, test the program (which applies the settings you selected and runs the program). After you close the program, Windows switches back to its normal screen settings if necessary, and you can decide whether to use these settings for your software or try others. You can choose whether to inform Microsoft of your settings, and the settings you chose for the program are used automatically every time you run the program.

Keep in mind that the Program Compatibility Wizard won't work with all old Windows programs; in particular, the wizard should not be used with antivirus, disk, or system utilities that are not compatible with Windows Vista/XP. Instead, replace outdated applications with updated versions made for Windows Vista/XP.

Microsoft periodically offers Application Compatibility Updates through Windows Update. These updates improve Windows's compatibility with older applications. If you can't get an older program to work with Windows now, it might be able to work in the future. To see which programs are affected by a particular Application Compatibility Update, click the Details button on the listing in Windows Update.

As an alternative to the Program Compatibility Wizard, you can apply the same settings by using the Compatibility tab on an executable file's properties sheet (see Figure 13-4). Use this method if you already know the appropriate settings to use.

Figure 13-4

Figure 13-4 Using the Compatibility tab to specify compatibility settings.

Primary Windows Components

You don't need to know everything about Windows to master the A+ Certification exams, but you do need to understand the following essential Windows components:

  • Registry
  • Virtual Memory
  • File Systems


The Windows Registry acts as a central database for Windows, applications, and user settings. When you install a program, update Windows, or even change the color of the desktop, a part of the Windows Registry changes. There are five different sections (known as hives) to the Windows Registry, whether it's the Registry in Windows Vista, XP, or 2000:

  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT—Links file extensions to specific applications installed on the computer (also stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE)
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER—Stores configurations specific to the current user, such as screensaver, desktop theme, and Microsoft Office user information (also stored in HKEY_USERS)
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE—Stores hardware and software setup information
  • HKEY_USERS—Stores user-specific information for all users of this computer
  • HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG—Stores the settings for the current hardware profile (also stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE)

As you can see from this listing, any setting in Windows is stored in one of two top-level keys (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_USERS). The other three keys provide shortcuts to sections of these two keys. Figure 13-5 shows you a section of a typical Registry listing for Windows XP.

Figure 13-5

Figure 13-5 Viewing some of the Registry settings for Windows XP.

To learn more about the data files used to store the Registry and to learn how to edit the Registry, see "Registry Data Files," later in this chapter

Windows Interfaces

Windows features a variety of user interfaces, from Windows Explorer to the Start menu. The following sections discuss the major features of each.

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is the file-management utility used by Windows (see Figure 13-6). Windows can use Explorer to view both local drive/network and Internet content. In Windows XP it integrates tightly with My Computer and Internet Explorer. However, in Windows Vista and Windows XP systems using Internet Explorer 7 or higher, Windows Explorer will launch a new process when connecting to Internet sites.

Figure 13-6

Figure 13-6 The Windows Explorer in Windows XP; the selected object's name appears in the Address bar.

By default, Windows Explorer doesn't display hidden and system files unless the View options are changed; see the section "Changing Viewing Options in Windows Explorer," for details.

Windows Explorer can be started in any of the following ways in Windows:

  • From the Start menu, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Windows Explorer.
  • Open the Run prompt, type Explorer and press Enter.
  • Open My Computer to start Explorer automatically.
Common Tasks View

When you start My Computer in Windows XP, the Common Tasks view shown in Figure 13-7 is displayed by default. The Common Tasks view displays the properties of the selected object and displays a preview when available. However, the most significant feature is the changeable task pane in the upper-left side of the display. In Windows Vista, this has been replaced by "Favorite Links."

Figure 13-7

Figure 13-7 The Common Tasks view of a folder in Windows XP. The Details pane at lower left displays a preview of the selected file as well as its properties. The File and Folder Tasks task pane at upper left changes its name and contents to provide task options suitable for the folder or selected object.

The contents and name of the task pane change according to the characteristics of the selected or displayed object. For example, display My Computer, and the task pane is titled System Tasks, with a choice of options such as View System Information, Add or Remove Programs, or Change a Setting. The contents of Other Places also changes to display related objects.

Changing Viewing Options in Windows Explorer

By default, Windows Explorer prevents users from seeing information such as

  • File extensions for registered file types; for example, a file called LETTER.DOC will be displayed as LETTER because WordPad (or Microsoft Word) is associated with .DOC files.
  • The full path to the current folder.
  • Files with hidden or system attributes, such as Bootlog.txt and Msdos.sys.
  • Folders with hidden or system attributes, such as INF (used for hardware installation).

Concealing this information is intended to make it harder for users to "break" Windows, but it makes management and troubleshooting more difficult.

To change these and other viewing options, follow this procedure:

  • Step 1. Start Windows Explorer.
  • Step 2. Click Tools on the menu bar, Folder Options and select the View tab.
  • Step 3. Select the options you want (see Figure 13-8). I recommend the following changes for experienced end users:
    • Enable the Display the Full Path in the Title Bar option. (In Vista, this only works if you are using the Classic theme.)
    • Disable the Hide Extensions for Known File Types option.
    Figure 13-8

    Figure 13-8 The Windows Explorer Folder Options, View tab in Windows XP after selecting recommended options for use by technicians and experienced end users.

    If you are maintaining or troubleshooting a system, I also recommend you change the following:
    • Enable the Show Hidden Files and Folders setting.
    • Disable the Hide Protected Operating System Files setting.
    You should probably change these settings back to their defaults before you return the system to normal use.
  • Step 4. Click OK to close the Folder Options window.

Objects such as files and folders can be displayed in several ways within Windows Explorer:

  • Tiles—The default (refer to Figure 13-6) in Windows XP; similar to Large Icons view in earlier Windows versions.
  • Icons—Displays more objects onscreen without scrolling vertically; might require the user to scroll horizontally to view multiple columns; similar to Small Icons view in earlier Windows versions. Vista has options for small, medium, large, and extra large icons.
  • List—Displays more objects onscreen than large icons in a single column.
  • Details—The same size of icons used by Small or List, plus size and last-modified date details (refer to Figure 13-9a).
    Figure 13-9

    Figure 13-9 Comparing the Details and Filmstrip views of a folder containing digital photos. Note that the task pane lists Picture Tasks such as printing photos or copying items to a recordable/rewritable CD.

  • Thumbnails—Displays a thumbnail (small-sized graphic) sample of previewable files and folders (.BMP, .JPG, and some other graphics file formats and folders containing these files) in the selected folder and uses large tiled icons for non-previewable files. Thumbnail view can be used in any folder.
  • Filmstrip—Displays a larger preview of the selected graphic file at the top of the right window, and smaller thumbnails below it. Buttons below the large preview can be used to rotate the graphic or to move to another graphic. This view is available in the My Pictures folder or other folders that contain digital photos in formats recognized by Windows Preview, such as .TIF or .JPG (see Figure 13-9b).

To change the view for the current folder, use the Views button or the View pull-down menu.

Windows Vista Additions to Windows Explorer

The version of Windows Explorer in Windows Vista incorporates the "Stacks" view, which groups files according to what is specified by the user. You can click the stacks to filter the files shown in Windows Explorer. You also have the ability to save searches as virtual folders or Search Folders. Another new addition to Windows Explorer in Vista is the Details pane, which displays information relating to the currently selected file or folder.

My Computer

My Computer (known as Computer in Windows Vista) is integrated tightly with Windows Explorer. My Computer is still available on all versions of Windows but many users prefer to use Windows Explorer due to its two-pane style and additional functionality. My Computer provides access to the following features and utilities:

  • Open My Computer to view the local drives on your system, available network drives, the Control Panel folder, and imaging devices (see Figure 13-10). In Windows XP, use the System Tasks left pane menu to open the System properties sheet (View system information), Add or remove programs (runs Add or Remove Programs applet from Control Panel), or Change a setting (opens Control Panel). In Windows Vista, these options are listed just below the menu bar.
    Figure 13-10

    Figure 13-10 My Computer Window and Available System Tasks.

  • Right-click the My Computer icon or the My Computer option in the Start Menu to choose options such as Properties (which opens the System properties sheet), Manage (which opens the Computer Management Console), Windows Explorer, Search/Find, drive mapping, and creating shortcuts.

Control Panel

The Control Panel is the major starting point for adjusting the hardware and user interface settings in Windows. The Control Panel's default view is known as Category view. When you click on an icon, it displays various available tasks. Figures 13-11 and 13-12 show the Windows Vista and Windows XP versions of the Control Panel configured for Category view.

Figure 13-11

Figure 13-11 The Windows Vista Control Panel in its default Category view.

Figure 13-12

Figure 13-12 The Windows XP Control Panel in its default Category view, and the submenus triggered by each icon.

If you're a Windows newcomer, you might prefer the Category view's task-oriented design. However, if you're already familiar with Control Panel, you'll probably prefer the Classic View option in the task pane. Figures 13-13 and 13-14 show Windows Vista and Windows XP versions of the Control Panel configured for Classic view.

Figure 13-13

Figure 13-13 The Windows Vista Control Panel in its alternative Classic View.

Figure 13-14

Figure 13-14 The Windows XP Control Panel in its alternative Classic View.

For the exam it is important to know how to open the Control Panel and how to access some of the Control Panel functions by way of Properties sheets, which are located in various areas of Windows.

Starting Control Panel

You can open the Control Panel from the Start button, My Computer, or the left window pane of Windows Explorer. (Note: If you're using the Classic Start menu, you will have to click Start, Settings, Control Panel.)

Open any Control Panel icon or link to see current settings and make adjustments for the devices it controls. If the Classic view is used for the Control Panel folder, double-click an icon to open it. If Web view is used in Windows XP, a single click will open an icon. Single click is the default for Windows Vista.

Shortcuts to Control Panel Functions

Some Control Panel functions can be accessed through properties sheets. For example, the following list explains how to access the Control Panel by right-clicking:

  • Computer/My Computer and select Properties; it will open the System Window.
  • Taskbar and select Properties; it will open the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window.
  • Desktop in Windows XP and select Properties; it will open the Display window. (In Windows Vista, there is no Properties option; it is known as Personalize, which opens the Personalization window.)
  • Network in Windows Vista and select Properties; it will open the Network and Sharing Center window.
  • My Network Places in Windows XP and select Properties; it will open the Network Connections window.

Command Prompt

While most computer users won't use the command prompt very often, technicians use it frequently, as it enables you to

  • Recover data from systems that can't boot normally.
  • Reinstall lost or corrupted system files.
  • Print file listings (believe it or not, you can't do this in Windows Explorer or My Computer!).
  • Copy, move, or delete data.
  • Display or configure certain operating system settings.

For more information on starting a command-prompt session and running command-prompt commands and functions, see the section "Command-Line Functions," later in this chapter. For more information about running Windows Explorer from the command prompt, see "Windows Explorer Command-Line Options," in this chapter. For more information on the command-line Attrib.exe command, see "Setting and Displaying File and Folder Attributes in Windows Explorer" in this chapter.


Windows Vista uses the Network window to view connections to other computers, and their shares. This is the successor to My Network Places. The Network window can be accessed from the Start Menu, or from within the left window pane of the Computer window. To manage network connections while in the Network window, click the Network and Sharing Center button. After that window is displayed, click Manage Network Connections. From here you can make whatever changes you want to the network connection. You will notice that by default a network adapter is known as "Local Area Connection," but you can change that name at any time. Many of the settings can be accessed by right-clicking the network connection and selecting Properties.

The properties sheet for a network connection displays the protocols (for example TCP/IP), services (such as File and Printer Sharing), and network clients installed (such as Client for Microsoft Networks), as shown in Figure 13-15. If you cannot connect to other computers on the network, keep in mind that your computer must

  • Use the same protocol
  • Use the same client
  • Have a unique name and unique IP address on the network
Figure 13-15

Figure 13-15 Windows Vista Local Area Connection Properties window.

My Network Places

Windows XP uses My Network Places to manage dial-up and local area network connections. When you open My Network Places, you see a list of network locations, including those located on the local computer and on remote computers (see Figure 13-16).

Figure 13-16

Figure 13-16 Windows XP's My Network Places shows all types of shared resources, including LAN and Internet. Clicking View Network Connections displays connection details. Select a connection for more details.

To view connection types (dial-up, wired network, wireless network), click View Network Connections in the Network Tasks pane. To configure a connection, right-click the connection and click Properties. To repair a connection, select it and click Repair This Connection from the Network Tasks pane.

The properties sheet for a network connection displays the protocol (TCP/IP), services (File and Printer Sharing), and network clients installed (see Figure 13-17). If you cannot connect to other computers on the network, keep in mind that your computer must

  • Use the same protocol
  • Use the same client
  • Have a unique name and unique IP address on the network.
Figure 13-17

Figure 13-17 The General tab for a local area connection in Windows XP.

To learn more about configuring TCP/IP and other network settings, see Chapter 16, "Networking."


It's obvious that any open applications show up on the taskbar. However, some users don't make use of another component of the taskbar: the Quick Launch. The Quick Launch is located directly to the right of the Start button. You can enable it by right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Properties, and then clicking the Show Quick Launch checkbox. This is disabled in Windows XP by default, but is enabled in Windows Vista. It's a nice tool because the shortcuts within the Quick Launch are the same size as shortcuts on the desktop; however you always have easy access to them.

Even before you click on the Start menu, most Windows installations already have several programs running in the System Tray (also known as the systray or SysTray), which is located in the lower-right corner of the screen, next to the clock. Microsoft also refers to this as the Notification area.

Although programs you launch manually can wind up in the System Tray, most programs you find there are started automatically from one of these locations:

  • The Startup group in the Start menu
  • Load= or Run= statements in Win.ini
  • Shell=explorer.exe filename in System.ini
  • Various Registry keys, such as



Figure 13-18 shows the Run key in the Registry of a Windows XP system with more than 20 entries. Running so many programs can slow down the Windows startup process and use memory.

Figure 13-18

Figure 13-18 The contents of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run indicates this computer starts more than 20 processes at startup. Other autostart methods such as the Startup group can start additional programs and processes.

Most systray programs wait for an event (such as a disk insertion or a mouse click) after they are started. To see what each icon in the systray does, right-click the icon.

The System Tray is part of the Taskbar, which displays running programs that do not insert themselves into the systray. By default, the Taskbar displays one row of program icons, reducing the amount of space given to each program as more and more programs are run. Figure 13-19 shows a typical Windows XP system's System Tray and Task Bar and their properties sheet. To display the Taskbar's properties sheet, right-click on an empty section of the Taskbar and select Properties.

Figure 13-19

Figure 13-19 The Taskbar and System Tray (Notification area), and their properties sheet, on a typical Windows XP system.

To make the Taskbar more useful if you have many programs running, you can resize it by dragging its top edge: Drag its top edge up to create additional rows or drag the top edge down to the edge of the screen to make it vanish. You can also drag the Taskbar to any side of the screen.

Start Menu

While the Start Menu has a default configuration and most programs add one or more shortcuts to it when they are installed, you can add items to the Start menu, remove items from it, create or remove folders, move an item from one folder to another, and switch between large icons (default) and small icons. You can also right-click on the menu and select Sort by Name. The default Start menu in Windows XP automatically adds the most frequently used programs to a special section of the Start menu.

Adding, Removing, and Sorting Start Menu Items and Folders

The Start menu is comprised of shortcuts to programs and other objects on your system. To add items to the default Windows Start menu, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click the Start button.
  • Step 2. To add a shortcut for the current user only, select Explore. To add a shortcut for all users, select Explore All Users.
  • Step 3. The Start menu folder opens in the left window (see Figure 13-20); shortcuts on the Start menu are shown in the right window. To see additional Start menu folders, click the plus sign (+) next to Programs in the left window.
    Figure 13-20

    Figure 13-20 Preparing to add items to the default Windows XP Start menu.

  • Step 4. To create a new folder for the shortcut, click the folder in the left window where you want to create the shortcut to open it in the right window. Right-click an empty area in the right window and select New, Folder. Name the folder as desired.
  • Step 5. To select a folder for the shortcut, click the folder in the left window. The folder's contents appear in the right window.
  • Step 6. Click File, New, Shortcut to start the Shortcut Wizard. (This will only function if you have chosen Explore in Windows Vista. Explore All Users will not allow a new shortcut.)
  • Step 7. You can enter the path to the program (such as C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe) or click the Browse button to locate the program for which you are making a shortcut. Click Next.
  • Step 8. The shortcut name created by Windows is displayed. To keep the name created by Windows, click Finish. You can also change the name as desired and click Finish.
  • Step 9. Click OK. The new shortcut (and new folder, if any) appear on your Start button menu.

Windows Vista/XP can also be configured to use the Classic Start menu (see the next section "Adjusting Start Menu Properties," for details).

If you are using the Classic Start menu, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click an empty portion of the Taskbar and select Properties.
  • Step 2. Select the Start Menu tab and click the Customize button.
  • Step 3. Click Add.
  • Step 4. You can enter the path to the program (such as C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe) or click the Browse button to locate the program for which you are making a shortcut. Click Next.
  • Step 5. Select the folder to place the shortcut in, or click New Folder to create a new folder for the shortcut. Enter a name for the new folder if desired. Click Next.
  • Step 6. The shortcut name created by Windows is displayed. To keep the name created by Windows, click Finish. You can also change the name as desired and click Finish.
  • Step 7. Click OK. The new shortcut (and new folder, if any) appears on your Start button menu.

To remove an item from the Start menu, follow the steps to add an item, but instead of adding a new item, click the Remove button and select the shortcut to remove. If you use the Windows Explorer view of the Start menu, press Del to send the shortcut to the Recycle Bin, or Shift+Del to discard the shortcut. To sort shortcuts, click Start, All Programs, right-click a folder or shortcut, and select Sort by Name.

Adjusting Start Menu Properties

You can adjust the appearance of the Start menu in various ways. To modify the Start menu, right-click the taskbar and select Properties. This will open the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window. Then click on Start Menu tab and select the Customize button, Windows offers the following options and customizations:

  • Clear shortcuts to recently opened documents
  • Clear IE browser history (Classic Start menu only)
  • Select objects to appear on Start menu and Taskbar from list
  • Most frequently used programs are automatically added to Start menu (default Start menu only)
  • Choice of icon size

Click the Advanced tab to select the following:

  • Whether to automatically open submenus
  • Whether to highlight newly installed programs
  • Which standard items to include on the Start menu and whether to list them as links or menus
  • Whether to list most recently used documents


Windows Vista and Windows XP offer indexing services in an attempt to help you find files faster. However, indexing too much content can lead to poorer operating system performance.

To adjust the indexing settings in Windows Vista go to Start, Control Panel, System and Maintenance, and click Indexing Options. From here you can modify whether folders are indexed by clicking on the Modify button and selecting or deselecting the folders you wish. It is not recommended to select an entire volume (such as C:), because it will cause poor performance. Use indexing for specific folders where you store important data that you search for on a regular basis. If you don't want indexing at all, you can either deselect all folders that are checked or disable the indexing in general. To disable indexing altogether, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Click Start, then right-click Computer and select Manage. This brings up the Computer Management window.
  • Step 2. From here expand Services and Applications in the left window pane and click Services.
  • Step 3. In the right window pane, scroll down to Windows Search, right-click it and select Stop. You can restart the service at any time by right-clicking and selecting Start. Check the startup type by right-clicking the service and selecting Properties. If the startup type is set to Automatic, you should change it to manual or disabled; otherwise, the service will start back up again when you restart the computer.

You can also turn off indexing for individual drives, as follows:

  • Step 1. Open Windows Explorer.
  • Step 2. Right-click the volume you wish to stop indexing on; for example C:, and select Properties.
  • Step 3. At the bottom of the window, deselect Index This Drive for Faster Searching.

To turn off indexing in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and select Manage. This brings up the Computer Management window.
  • Step 2. From here expand Services and Applications in the left window pane and click Services.
  • Step 3. In the right window pane, scroll to Indexing Service, right-click it and select Stop. You can restart the service at any time by right-clicking and selecting Start. Check the startup type by right-clicking the service and selecting Properties. If the startup type is set to Automatic, you should change it to manual or disabled; otherwise the service will start back up again when you restart the computer.

You can also turn off indexing on any volume by right-clicking the volume, selecting Properties and deselecting Allow Indexing Service to Index This Disk for Fast File Searching.

Essential Operating System Files

The following sections cover essential operating system files, such as those used to boot Windows Vista and XP, Registry data files, and the hibernation file used to store system configuration settings on a system in hibernation.

Windows Vista Boot Sequence

After the BIOS starts up and the MBR and boot sector of the hard drive have been located and accessed, the Windows Boot Manager is started. This and the following files are required to start Windows Vista:

  • Bootmgr (Windows Boot Manager)This is the Windows loader program. It takes the place of NTLDR in earlier versions of Windows, and determines which operating system to start.
  • BCD (Boot Configuration Data)Located in \boot\bcd. It furnishes the Windows Boot Manager with information about the operating system(s) to be booted. It is the successor to boot.ini and can be modified with MSCONFIG or with the bcdedit.exe program. BCD was developed to provide an improved mechanism for describing boot configuration data, and to work better with newer firmware models such as the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)
  • Ntoskrnl.exe—The Windows kernel, which completes the boot process after being initialized by the Windows Boot Manager.
  • Hal.dll—The Hardware Abstraction Layer, a software translator between Windows and system hardware.
  • SYSTEM key in the Registry—This is read to determine the system configuration.
  • Device drivers—These are loaded according to the information stored in the Registry.

Windows XP Boot Sequence

The following files are required to start Windows XP:

  • NTLDR—The Windows loader program.
  • Boot.ini—Options in this file affect how Windows starts up.
  • Ntdetect.com—This detects the hardware installed on your system.
  • Ntoskrnl.exe—The Windows kernel, which completes the boot process after being initialized by NTLDR.
  • Hal.dll—The Hardware Abstraction Layer, a software translator between Windows and system hardware.
  • SYSTEM key in the Registry—This is read to determine the system configuration.
  • Device drivers—These are loaded according to the information stored in the Registry.

The following files are optional:

  • Bootsect.dos—This contains the boot sectors for another operating system if you are multibooting.
  • Ntbootdd.sys—This device driver is used only if Windows is being started from a SCSI drive whose host adapter does not have an onboard SCSI BIOS enabled.

The following sections discuss some of these files in more detail.


The Boot.ini file is a specially formatted text file that configures the startup process for Windows XP. It resides in the default boot drive, even if Windows is installed on another drive.

Boot.ini indicates where the different versions of Windows are located. Here's the Boot.ini from a system that boots Windows XP Professional:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional"

The [boot loader] section is configured to start Windows XP by default. It also provides a maximum time of 30 seconds to pause a dual-boot menu (if one exists), and to enable the user to choose a different version of Windows if she was running a dual-boot configuration; for example, Windows XP and Windows 2000.

The [operating systems] section identifies the locations of any Windows versions on the computer. The next line states that Windows XP Professional is located in partition 1 of the first hard disk (disk 0).

Many additional options can be added to Boot.ini if necessary for troubleshooting. Boot.ini can be viewed with Notepad. However, if you need to configure Boot.ini to run your system in a troubleshooting mode, you should use MSConfig to view Boot.ini and configure it.


After the computer completes the POST and the system BIOS's bootstrap loader locates the NTLDR file, NTLDR does the following:

  • Enables the user to select an operating system to start (if more than one is installed). NTLDR examines the contents of Boot.ini to find out which operating systems are installed.
  • Loads the Windows startup files.
  • Uses the Ntdetect.com program to determine what hardware is installed and places a list of the detected hardware into the Windows Registry.
  • Loads Ntoskrnl.exe (the Windows kernel) and the Hardware Abstraction Layer (Hal.dll) into memory and hands over control to Ntoskrnl.exe after loading device drivers appropriate for the system configuration.

The NTLDR and Boot.ini files are located in the root directory (folder) of the default Windows drive.


This device driver is used only if Windows is being started from a SCSI drive whose host adapter does not have an onboard SCSI BIOS enabled. Most desktop computers no longer use SCSI hard disk drives, so the odds of encountering this on a Windows XP installation are slim to none.

Registry Data Files

The Windows Registry is stored in different files, roughly corresponding to different sections of the Registry. The following files are stored in the SYSTEM32\CONFIG folder beneath the default Windows folder (typically \Windows); the backup file for each is listed in parentheses:

  • default (default.LOG)—Stores .DEFAULT settings from the HKEY_USERS section of the Registry.
  • SAM (SAM.LOG)—Stores part of the Security Account Manager database from the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SAM section of the Registry.
  • SECURITY (SECURITY.LOG)—Stores part of the Security Account Manager database from the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SECURITY section of the Registry.
  • software (SOFTWARE.LOG)—Stores software settings from the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE section of the Registry.
  • system (system.LOG)—Stores settings from the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM section of the Registry.

Windows also has two additional files for each user:

  • ntuser.dat (NTUSER.DAT.LOG)—Stores most user-preference settings in the \Documents and Settings\ username folder for each user.
  • UsrClass.dat (UsrClass.dat.LOG)—Stores user-preference settings for file associations and applications in the \Documents and Settings\ username\ Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Windows folder for each user.

To view or edit the Registry, use the Windows application Regedit.exe.

For details, see the section "Regedit.exe," later in this chapter.

Backing Up Registry Data Files

To back up the Windows 2000 Registry, use the Windows 2000 backup program. Click Start, Accessories, System Tools, Backup to start it. From the opening menu, select Emergency Repair Disk, and select the option to back up the Registry on the next screen; insert a blank, formatted disk when prompted to complete the process. Because the Windows 2000 Registry can occupy as much as 20MB of disk space on some systems, the Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) does not contain a copy of the Registry itself but includes other information necessary to help restore the system in case of a crash. The Registry is stored in a folder called RegBack, which is contained in the \WinNT\Repair folder. In the event of a serious system problem, both the Windows 2000 Emergency Repair Disk and the Registry backup in the RegBack folder would be used to restore the system. You should re-create the ERD and Registry backup whenever you install new hardware or software to keep a record of the latest system configuration.

Windows XP also uses the Windows Backup program to back up the Registry as part of backing up the System State (see Figure 13-21). In Windows XP Professional, the System State also includes boot files, COM+ Class Registration database, and files protected by Windows File Protection. This backup can be stored on tape, an external hard disk, or removable media.

Figure 13-21

Figure 13-21 Preparing to back up the Windows XP Registry as part of the System State backup using the Windows XP backup program, NTBackup.

For more information about NTBackup, see the "NTBackup" section later in this chapter.

In Windows Vista there are a few ways to backup Registry data files. First of all, Vista does not use NTbackup, instead it has a program called Backup Status and Configuration. From here you would have to do a complete PC backup because the Automatic backup option doesn't backup the registry files. A simpler solution is to create a new restore point with the System Restore wizard. Or you could simply export the entire registry from the Registry Editor. Keep in mind that this could be a big file—upwards of 200 MB.


When you select the option to hibernate your system from the Shut Down menu, Windows creates a file called hiberfil.sys to store information about open programs, program windows and data files. hiberfil.sys can range in size from 250MB to more than 1GB and can be safely removed after the system comes out of hibernation.

You should delete hiberfil.sys before using any defragmenting program, as the file is a system file that cannot be defragmented. To delete the file, follow this procedure to temporarily disable hibernation in Windows XP/2000:

  • Step 1. Open the Power Options dialog in Control Panel
  • Step 2. Click the Hibernate tab
  • Step 3. Clear the Enable Hibernation checkbox and click OK.

hiberfil.sys is removed automatically. To re-enable hibernation, follow Steps 1–3, but in Step 3, click the empty Enable Hibernation checkbox to re-enable this feature.

To disable hibernation in Windows Vista, press Windows+R to open the Run prompt. Then type CMD to bring up the command-line interface. From here type powercfg.exe/hibernate off. To turn it back on, follow the same steps but instead type powercfg.exe/hibernate on. (Remember that you will need to run the command-line in elevated mode.)

Disk Partition, File and Folder Management

Understanding how to manage hard disks, files on all types of disks, and folders is an essential part of most A+ Certification exams. The following sections explain these concepts and the command-line and GUI-based tools and methods needed to work with disk partitions, files, and folders.

Disk Partitions

An internal hard disk (PATA, SATA, or SCSI) cannot be used until it is prepared for use. There are two steps involved in preparing a hard disk:

  • Creating partitions and logical drives
  • Formatting partitions and logical drives (which assigns drive letters)

A disk partition is a logical structure on a hard disk drive which specifies the following:

  • Whether the drive can be bootable
  • How many drive letters (one, two, or more) the hard disk will contain
  • Whether any of the hard disk's capacity will be reserved for a future operating system or other use

Although the name "disk partition" suggests the drive will be divided into two or more logical sections, every PATA, SATA, and SCSI hard disk must go through a partitioning process, even if you want to use the entire hard disk as a single drive letter. All versions of Windows support two major types of disk partitions:

  • Primary—A primary partition can contain only a single drive letter and can be made active (bootable). Only one primary partition can be active. Although a single physical drive can hold up to four primary partitions, you need only one primary partition on a drive that contains a single operating system. If you install a new operating system in a dual-boot configuration with your current operating system, a new version of Windows can be installed in a different folder in the same drive, or can be installed in an additional primary partition. If you want to use a non-Windows operating system along with your current operating system, it might require its own primary partition, or even special third-party software such as Norton's PartitionMagic.
  • Extended—An extended partition differs from a primary partition in two important ways:
    • An extended partition doesn't become a drive letter itself but can contain one or more logical drives, each of which is assigned a drive letter.
    • Neither an extended partition nor any drive it contains can be bootable.

Only one extended partition can be stored on each physical drive.

If the drive will be used by a single operating system, one of these three ways of partitioning the drive will be used:

  • Primary partition occupies 100% of the physical drive's capacity—This is typically the way the hard disk on a system sold at retail is used, and is also the default for disk preparation with Windows. This is suitable for the only drive in a system or an additional drive that can be used to boot a system, but should not be used for additional drives in a system that will be used for data storage.
  • Primary partition occupies a portion of the physical drive's capacity, and the remainder of the drive is occupied by an extended partition—This enables the operating system to be stored on the primary partition, and the applications and data to be stored on one or more separate logical drives (drive letters created inside the extended partition). This is a common setup for laptops, but requires the partitioning process be performed with different settings than the defaults. This configuration is suitable for the only drive or first drive in a multiple-drive system.
  • Extended partition occupies 100% of the physical drive's capacity—The drive letters on the extended partition can be used to store applications or data, but not for the operating system. An extended partition cannot be made active (bootable). This configuration is suitable for additional hard disk drives in a system (not the first drive); an extended partition can contain only one logical drive or multiple logical drives.

You can also leave some unpartitioned space on the hard disk for use later, either for another operating system or another drive letter.

Partitioning creates drive letters; formatting creates file systems on the drive letters created during partitioning. Figure 13-22 helps you visualize how these different partitioning schemes could be used on a typical hard disk.

Figure 13-22

Figure 13-22 Typical disk partitioning schemes used for the first hard disk (first four examples) or an additional drive (last two examples).

After a disk is partitioned, the drive letters must be formatted using a supported file system.

To learn more about preparing hard disks with Windows, see the following section "Using Disk Management."

Using Disk Management

The Disk Management snap-in of the Computer Management console is the GUI-based application for analyzing and configuring hard drives. You can do a lot from here, as shown in Table 13-3. Try some of the configurations listed on a test computer. All you need is a drive with unpartitioned space.

Table 13-3. Configurations in Disk Management



Initialize a new disk

A secondary hard disk installed in a computer might not be seen by Windows Explorer immediately. To make it accessible, locate the disk (for example Disk 1), right-click Disk 1 or Disk 2, and so on and select Initialize Disk.

Create a primary partition

  1. Right-click on a disk's unallocated space (shown with a black header), and select New Partition as shown in Figure 13-23.
  2. Click Next for the wizard and then select Primary Partition.
  3. Select the amount of unallocated space you want for the partition and click Next.
  4. Select a drive letter.
  5. Choose whether you want to format at this point.
  6. Review the summary screen and if it is correct, click Finish.

Note: For computers with limited resources, it is recommended that you hold off on formatting until after the partition is created.

Create an extended partition

  1. Right-click on a disk's unallocated space (shown with a black header), and select New Partition as shown in Figure 13-23.
  2. Click Next for the wizard and then select Extended Partition.
  3. Select the amount of unallocated space you want for the partition and click Next.
  4. Review the summary screen and if it is correct, click Finish.

Create a logical drive

This can only be done within an extended partition that has already been created.

  1. Right-click on the extended partition (shown with a green header), and select New Logical Drive as shown in Figure 13-24.
  2. Click Next for the wizard. You will notice that your only option is Logical drive. Click Next.
  3. Select the amount of unallocated space you want for the partition and click Next.
  4. Select a drive letter.
  5. Choose whether you want to format at this point.
  6. Review the summary screen and, if it is correct, click Finish.

Format a partition/logical drive

  1. Right-click the primary partition or logical drive and select Format.
  2. In the Format x: window, select the file system and whether to do a quick format. If it is a new drive, you can select quick format. However, if the drive was used previously, you might want to leave this option unchecked. ALL DATA WILL BE ERASED during the format procedure.

Make a partition active

Right-click the primary partition and select Mark Partition as Active. You can have up to four primary partitions on a hard disk, but only one of them can be active.

Convert a basic disk to dynamic

In order to change the size of a partition in Windows XP, to create simple and spanned volumes, or to implement RAID, the hard disk(s) need to be converted to dynamic. It's highly recommended that you back up your data before attempting this configuration.

  1. Right-click the hard disk where it says Disk 0 or Disk 1 and select Convert to Dynamic Disk.
  2. In the ensuing window you can select multiple disks to switch over to dynamic.

This can also be done in Windows Vista; however, in Vista you now have the option to extend a partition as shown next.

Extend a partition (Vista only)

Windows Vista allows you to extend the size of a partition (volume) or shrink it within the Disk Management utility. It's highly recommended that you back up your data before attempting this configuration.

  1. Right-click the volume to be extended.
  2. Select Extend Volume. (Remember that a volume is any section of the hard drive with a drive letter.)
  3. Click Next for the wizard and select how much space you'd like to add to the partition.
  4. Select any other disks (with unpartitioned space) to combine with the first disk to create a spanned partition and click Next.
  5. Click Finish at the summary screen.

A reboot is not required, and this process should finish fairly quickly. This process can also be done in the Command Prompt using the Diskpart command.

Note: Extended partitions are not fault tolerant. Make sure you have a backup plan in place.

Note: Extended partitions are also known as extended volumes, and when covering multiple disks they are also known as spanned volumes.

In Figure 13-23 we also can see the disks at the top of the window and their status. For example, the C: partition is healthy. It also shows us the percent of the disk used, and other information such as whether the disk is currently formatting, if it's dynamic, or if it has failed. In some cases you might see "foreign" status. This means that a dynamic disk has been moved from another computer (with another Windows operating system) to the local computer, and it cannot be accessed properly. To fix this, and be able to access the disk, add the disk to your computer's system configuration. To add a disk to your computer's system configuration, import the foreign disk (right-click the disk and then click Import Foreign Disks). Any existing volumes on the foreign disk become visible and accessible when you import the disk. For more information on the plethora of disk statuses, see the Microsoft TechNet article, "Disk Status Descriptions," at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc738101(WS.10).aspx.

Figure 13-23

Figure 13-23 Creating a partition from Unallocated Disk Space.

Figure 13-24

Figure 13-24 Creating a logical drive from within an extended partition.

Mount Points and Mounting a Drive

You can also "mount" drives in Disk Management. A mounted drive is a drive that is mapped to an empty folder within a volume that has been formatted as NTFS. Instead of using drive letters, mounted drives use drive paths. This is a good solution for when you need more than 26 drives in your computer, since you are not limited to the letters in the alphabet. Mounted drives can also provide more space for temporary files and can allow you to move folders to different drives if space runs low on the current drive. To mount a drive, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click the partition or volume you want to mount and select Change Drive Letters and Paths.
  • Step 2. In the displayed window click Add.
  • Step 3. Then browse to the empty folder you wish to mount the volume to, and click OK for both windows.

As shown in Figure 13-25, the DVD-ROM drive has been mounted within a folder on the hard drive called Test. The figure is showing the Properties window for the folder Test. It shows that it is a mounted volume, shows the location of the folder (which is the mount point), and the target of the mount point, which is the DVD drive containing a Windows Vista DVD. To remove the mount point, just go back to Disk Management, right-click the mounted volume and select Change Drive Letters and Paths, and then select Remove. Remember that the folder you want to use as a mount point must be empty, and it must be within an NTFS volume.

Figure 13-25

Figure 13-25 Empty NTFS folder acting as a mount point.

Windows File Systems

What exactly is a file system, anyway? A file system describes how data and drives are organized. In Windows, the file system you choose for a hard disk affects the following:

  • The rules for how large a logical drive (drive letter) can be, and whether the hard disk can be used as one big drive letter, several smaller drive letters, or must be multiple drive letters.
  • How efficiently a system stores data; the less wasted space, the better.
  • How secure a system is against tampering.
  • Whether a drive can be accessed by more than one operating system.

The term file system is a general term for how an operating system stores various types of files. Windows supports two different file systems for hard disks, FAT32 and NTFS, and supports FAT for floppy disks.


FAT32 was introduced in 1995 and is supported by Windows Vista, XP, and 2000, although NTFS is preferred. FAT32 has the following characteristics:

  • The 32-bit file allocation table, which allows for 268,435,456 entries (232) per drive. Remember, an entry can be a folder or an allocation unit used by a file.
  • The root directory can be located anywhere on the drive and can have an unlimited number of entries. Hooray!
  • FAT32 uses an 8KB allocation unit size for drives as large as 16GB.
  • The maximum logical partition size allowed is 2TB (more than 2 trillion bytes).

You can use FAT32 to format hard disks, flash memory, and removable media drives. However, FAT32 is recommended for hard disks only if the hard disk must also be accessed by dual-booting with an older version of Windows, for example Windows 95, 98, or Me, which do not support NTFS.


The New Technology File System (NTFS) is the native file system of Windows Vista, XP, and 2000. As implemented in Windows Vista and XP, NTFS has many differences from FAT32, including

  • Access Control—Different levels of access control by group or user can be configured for both folders and individual files.
  • Built-in compression—Individual files, folders, or an entire drive can be compressed without the use of third-party software.
  • A practical limit for partition sizes of 2TB—The same as with FAT32, although partitions theoretically can reach a maximum size of 16 exabytes (16 billion billion bytes).
  • Individual Recycle Bins—Unlike FAT32, NTFS includes a separate recycle bin for each user.
  • Support for the Encrypting File System (EFS)—EFS enables data to be stored in an encrypted form. No password, no access to files!
  • Support for mounting a drive—Drive mounting enables you to address a removable-media drive's contents, for example, as if its contents are stored on your hard disk. The hard disk's drive letter is used to access data on both the hard disk and the removable media drive.
  • Disk quota support—The administrator of a system can enforce rules about how much disk space each user is allowed to use for storage.
  • Hot-swapping—Removable-media drives that have been formatted with NTFS (such as Jaz, Orb, and others) can be connected or removed while the operating system is running..
  • Indexing—The Indexing service helps users locate information more quickly when the Search tool is used.

Follow these steps to determine what file system was used to prepare a Windows hard drive:

  • Step 1. Open Windows Explorer.
  • Step 2. Right-click the drive letter in the Explorer Window and select Properties.
  • Step 3. The Properties sheet for the drive will list FAT32 for a drive prepared with FAT32, and NTFS for a drive prepared with NTFS (see Figure 13-26).
Figure 13-26

Figure 13-26 A hard disk formatted with FAT32 (left) and a hard disk formatted with NTFS version 5 (right).


Windows includes the command-line Convert.exe program to enable users to change the current FAT32 file system on a drive to NTFS without reformatting the drive (which would wipe out all of the information on the drive).

To convert a drive's file system using Convert.exe, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Open a command-prompt window. (For Windows Vista, refer to the options that follow this list.)
  • Step 2. Type Convert x: /fs:ntfs and press Enter.

To see advanced options for Convert, type convert /?.

In Windows Vista, you will need to run this command in elevated mode. There are several ways to open a command-line in elevated mode. Here are two options:

  • Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. Right-click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator. Click Continue at the permission window.
  • Click Start and type cmd. Then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to execute cmd.exe in elevated mode. Click Continue at the permission window.

To learn more about preparing hard disks with Windows, see the section "Using Disk Management," earlier in this chapter.

Working with Folders/Directories

Windows provides two ways to work with folders (also called directories): visually, through Windows Explorer or My Computer, and at the command line (MKDIR/MD, CHDIR/CD, RMDIR/RD). For more information on working with folders and directories on the command line, see "MD/CD/RD," later in this chapter.

To navigate between folders in Windows Explorer, follow these procedures:

  • To view the subfolders (subdirectories) in a folder (directory), click the plus (+) sign next to the folder name in the left pane of Windows Explorer.
  • To view the contents of a folder (including files and other folders), click the folder in the left pane of Windows Explorer. The contents of the folder appear in the right pane.
  • To navigate to the previous view, click the left-hand arrow above the address bar.
  • To move to the next view, click the right-hand arrow.
  • To navigate to the next higher folder in the folder hierarchy, click the up-arrow/folder button.

Figure 13-27 illustrates these concepts.

Figure 13-27

Figure 13-27 Working with folders (directories) in Windows Explorer.

To create a new folder in Windows Explorer, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Open the folder in which you want to create a new folder. The folder's contents are displayed in the right pane.
  • Step 2. Right-click an empty space in the right pane and select New, Folder (see Figure 13-28).
    Figure 13-28

    Figure 13-28 Creating a new folder in Windows Explorer.

  • Step 3. Enter the new folder name and press Enter.

To remove a folder from either Windows Explorer or My Computer views, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click the folder and select Delete.
  • Step 2. Click Yes on the Confirm Folder Delete dialog.

The folder and its contents are moved to the Recycle Bin. To bypass the Recycle Bin, hold down either Shift key and select Delete and then click Yes.

File Management

File management skills such as file creation, filenaming, file attributes, compression, encryption, file permissions, and file types are necessary for A+ Certification exams. The following sections discuss these skills.

Creating Files

Data files that can be accessed by registered applications can be created within the Windows Explorer/My Computer/Computer interface. To create a new file, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Open the folder where you want to create the file.
  • Step 2. Right-click empty space in the right window pane and select New to display a list of registered file types (see Figure 13-29).
    Figure 13-29

    Figure 13-29 Creating a new text document on drive E:.

  • Step 3. Move the mouse pointer to the file type desired and click it. The new (empty) file is created in the open folder.
  • Step 4. Enter a new name if desired.
  • Step 5. To edit the file, double-click it.
File Types

Broadly speaking, there are two types of files used by Windows and other operating systems:

  • Text
  • Binary

Text files can be read with an ordinary text editor such as Notepad or Edit. However, most word processing and other types of document files, although they contain text, also contain formatting characters that a text editor cannot properly interpret.

Binary files look like gibberish when viewed in a text editor. Only the operating system (in the case of application binary files) or a compatible application (in the case of binary data files) can interpret their contents.

The following types of files can be started (executed) from a command prompt or from Windows Explorer/My Computer:

  • .COM
  • .EXE
  • .BAT

Both .EXE and .COM files are binary executable files, whereas a .BAT file (also called a batch file) is a series of commands that are processed in sequence. Simple batch files contain the same commands that could be entered manually at a command prompt. However, it is also possible to create batch files that have conditional logic and display progress messages.

When an executable filename is entered at a command prompt, the current folder is searched first, followed by the folders in the path. If executable files in the current folder or a folder in the path have .COM, .EXE, and .BAT extensions with the same name preceding the extension, the .COM file is always launched first. For example, assume that the current folder contains DOIT.COM, DOIT.EXE, and DOIT.BAT. DOIT.COM is launched if you enter DOIT.

Naming Files

Windows XP supports long file and folder names (LFN). LFNs can have as many as 255 characters and can contain spaces and most other alphanumeric characters, but cannot contain any of the following characters (which are used by the operating system):

\ / : * ? " < > |

A file can contain more than one period, but only the characters after the last period are considered the extension. In the following example, .doc is the extension:


By default, Windows Explorer doesn't show file extensions for registered file types. You can adjust the settings in Windows Explorer to show all file extensions by clicking Tools, Folder Options, View, and then deselecting the Hide Extensions for Known File Types checkbox. To view an individual file's extension, right-click the file and select Properties in Windows Explorer. File extensions can be seen normally within the Command Prompt when using the DIR command.

Long Filenames and DOS Alias Names

To enable files to be accessed by operating systems that don't support long filenames (LFN), Windows stores a DOS alias (also known as the MS-DOS name) as well as the LFN when a file or folder is created.

The DOS alias name is created from the first six letters of the LFN, replacing illegal characters with an underscore, removing spaces, and ignoring additional periods in the LFN. To distinguish between different files with the same DOS alias names, the first DOS alias name in a folder is indicated with a tilde and the number 1 (~1); the second as ~2, and so on. If more than nine files with the same initial letters are saved to a given folder, the first five letters are used for files numbered ~10 and up, and so forth. The three-letter file extension is reused for the DOS alias. Table 13-4 shows the results of creating three files with the same initial files in the same folder. The underlined characters in the original LFN in Table 13-3 are used to create the DOS alias name.

Table 13-4. Examples of Creating DOS Aliases from LFNs

File Creation Order

Original LFN

DOS Alias


Budget Process.xls



Budget Proposal.2003.xls



Budget History+2002.xls


There is a limit of 255 characters for LFNs. However, the path to the file counts against this limit.

Windows Vista/XP/2000 use LFNs by default; DOS alias names are used only for backward compatibility with other operating systems. The command-prompt mode uses LFNs with no special options. For example, to change to My Documents from a normal command prompt, the command would be

cd\My Documents

The Recovery Console used by Windows for troubleshooting and system recovery supports LFNs. However, you must use double quote marks around the LFN: CHDIR \"My Documents".

File Extensions

By default, Windows hides file extensions such as .BAT, .DOC, and .EXE for registered file types. However, you can change this default in Windows Explorer/My Computer.

See "Changing Viewing Options in Windows Explorer," earlier in this chapter.

Setting and Displaying File and Folder Attributes in Windows Explorer

You've probably heard of file attributes, but what are they used for? File and folder attributes are used to indicate which files/folders have been backed up, which files/folders need to be backed up, which files/folders should be hidden from normal display, and which files/folders are used by the system. Windows also supports additional attributes such as when a file/folder was created and last modified. When the NTFS file system is used on a drive and additional advanced attributes (encryption or compression) are also available.

The ATTRIB command can be used to set or display basic attributes for a file/folder from the Windows command line. However, to set or display advanced file attributes, you must use the Windows Explorer GUI interface.

Basic file attributes include

  • Archive—Files with the archive attribute have not yet been backed up. When you back up a file with XCOPY or any backup program, the archive bit is turned off. Change a file's attribute to archive to force a backup program to back it up if "changed files only" are being backed up.
  • Read-only—Files with the read-only attribute cannot be deleted or overwritten at an MS-DOS prompt and cannot be overwritten within a 32-bit Windows application. A read-only file can be deleted within Windows Explorer, but only after the user elects to override the read-only attribute. Change a file's attributes to read-only to provide protection against accidental deletion or changes.
  • System—Files with the system attribute are used by the operating system; these files often have the hidden attribute as well. Windows Explorer will caution users when they attempt to delete system files.
  • Hidden—Files with the hidden attribute cannot be copied with COPY or with XCOPY and cannot be viewed with the normal Windows Explorer settings. Some log files created by Windows (such as Bootlog.txt) are stored with the hidden attribute.

A file or folder can have multiple attributes; for example, the NTLDR file used by Windows XP/2000 has the archive, system, hidden, and read-only attributes. If you wanted to edit NTLDR, you would use ATTRIB to remove these attributes before changing the file, and reapply these attributes after changing the file.

Options for ATTRIB in Windows include


Sets an attribute.


Clears an attribute.


Read-only file attribute.


Archive file attribute.


System file attribute.


Hidden file attribute.


Processes files in all directories in the specified path.


Processes folders as well.

When the ATTRIB command is run from the Windows XP/2000 Recovery Console, the /S and /D options are not available, but +C can be used to compress a file and -C can be used to uncompress a file.

Here are some examples:

  • ATTRIBDisplays all files in the current folder with attributes (A for archive; R for read-only; S for system; H for hidden).
  • ATTRIB +R Command.comSets the file Command.com to have the read-only attribute.
  • ATTRIB -H -R -S C:\MSDOS.SYSRemoves the hidden, read-only, and system attributes from the Msdos.sys file in the root folder of drive C:.
  • ATTRIB +H +R +S C:\MSDOS.SYSRestores the hidden, read-only, and system attributes to the Msdos.sys file in the root folder of drive C:.
  • ATTRIB +C *.docCompresses all .doc files in the current folder (valid for Windows 2000/XP Recovery Console only).

The Windows file properties sheet's General tab displays only two or three of the basic file attributes. On a drive formatted with NTFS, files display only the read-only and hidden attributes. On a drive formatted with FAT32 file system, the read-only, hidden, and archive attributes are displayed.

To view these attributes in Windows:

  • Step 1. Start Windows Explorer or My Computer/Computer.
  • Step 2. Right-click a file or folder and select Properties.
  • Step 3. The General tab indicates read-only or hidden attributes for the file or folder. In addition to the basic attributes listed previously, Windows can also display the creation date of the file, the date the file was last accessed, and the date the file was last changed.

To select or deselect the archive attribute, or to set encryption or compression options on a drive using the NTFS file system, click the Advanced button. Figure 13-30 shows the General and Advanced dialogs on a Windows XP system.

Figure 13-30

Figure 13-30 Compressing a file with Windows XP. You can select compression or encryption, but not both.

Encryption and compression are available only on Windows Vista, XP, and 2000 drives formatted with the NTFS file system. To set these options for a file or folder in Windows, you can use Windows Explorer or the command-line programs Compact (to compress a file) or Cipher (to encrypt a file). To encrypt or compress a file within the Windows GUI, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Start Windows Explorer/My Computer/Computer.
  • Step 2. Right-click a file or folder and click Properties.
  • Step 3. Click the Advanced button.
  • Step 4. Select Compression to reduce the disk space used by the file, or Encryption to restrict access to only the system's administrator or the user who encrypted the file.
  • Step 5. Click OK to apply either option (refer to Figure 13-30). Files can be compressed or encrypted, but not both.
  • Step 6. If you are encrypting the file, Windows recommends that you encrypt the folder containing the file (which will also encrypt the file).
File Permissions

Windows Vista/XP/2000 systems that use the NTFS file system sometimes feature an additional tab on the file/folder properties sheet called the Security tab. It is used to control file permissions.

The Security tab permits you to control access to the selected file or folder by granting or denying permissions shown to selected users or groups:

  • Full Control—Enables any and all changes to a file, including deletion.
  • Modify—File can be modified.
  • Read & Execute—File can be read and executed.
  • Read—File can be read.
  • Write—File can be overwritten.
  • List Folder Contents—When viewing the permissions of a folder, this additional permission is listed. It allows the user to view what is inside the folder.

The Security tab has two sections. The top section shows the users and groups that have access to the selected file or folder. You can add or remove groups or users. The bottom section lets you specify the permissions available for the selected user or group.


Over time, a hard disk becomes fragmented as temporary and data files are created and deleted. When a file can no longer be stored in a contiguous group of allocation units, Windows stores the files in as many groups of allocation units as necessary and reassembles the file when it is next accessed. The extra time needed to save and read the file reduces system performance. Windows includes a disk defragmentation tool to help regain lost read/write performance.

Defragment can be run in the following ways:

  • From the Accessories menu's System Tools submenu (Disk Defragmenter)
  • From a drive's properties sheet's Tools tab (Defragment Now)
  • From the command line (a feature introduced in Windows XP): defrag (type defrag /? for options)

The Windows XP/2000 defragmenter features an Analyze button that determines whether defragmentation is necessary (see Figure 13-31). There is no Analyze button in Windows Vista; however, it will analyze the disk automatically before defragmenting.

Figure 13-31

Figure 13-31 Disk Defragmenter's analysis indicates this drive needs to be defragmented.


Windows XP/2000 includes a backup program that can be run from the Windows GUI or from the command line, NTBackup.

You can start NTBackup in the following ways:

  • From the System Tools submenu of the Start menu's Accessories submenu
  • From the command line (ntbackup.exe; for command-line options, open Help and Support Center and type ntbackup into the Search box)
  • From the Tools menu of the drive properties sheet; choose Backup Now

NTBackup supports backups to a wide variety of drive types, including tape drives, floppy disk drives, removable-media drives such as Zip, Jaz, and Rev drives, and external hard disks. A backup can be saved to a rewritable CD or DVD drive as long as the backup fits on a single disc, however, the backup file must be created first, it cannot be burned directly to the disc during the backup process.

During the backup process, you can specify the following:

  • Which drive(s) to back up
  • Which files to back up—whether to select all data files or new and changed files only
  • Whether to back up the Windows Registry (part of system state data)
  • Where to create the backup—to tape drive, floppy disk, another hard disk, or a removable-media drive
  • Whether to replace an existing backup on the backup medium or to append the backup to existing backup files
  • How to run the backup—whether to use data compression, protect the backup with a password, verify the backup, and use volume shadow copy (which enables open files to be backed up)

NTBackup can be run in interactive mode as shown in Figure 13-32 or in wizard mode as shown in Figure 13-33.

Figure 13-32

Figure 13-32 Preparing to create a backup to an external hard disk with NTBackup in interactive mode.

Figure 13-33

Figure 13-33 Running NTBackup in wizard mode.

NTBackup in Windows XP adds the ability to perform an Automated System Recovery (ASR) backup/restore to rebuild a Windows installation after a system failure, but does not support the Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) function found in Windows 2000.

To learn more about ASR, see "Using Automated System Recovery (ASR)," in Chapter 15, "Troubleshooting and Maintaining Windows." To learn more about ERD, see "Using the Emergency Repair Disk (Windows 2000)," in Chapter 15.

Using Windows Vista's Backup Status and Configuration

Backup Status and Configuration is the successor to Windows XP's NTBackup. It can back up individual files in the same manner as Windows XP's NTBackup. It can also back up an entire image of your system (using Complete PC Backup) to the removable media of your choice, for example DVD. To create a complete backup of your PC with Vista's Complete PC Backup:

  • Step 1. Start the Complete PC Backup by going to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Backup Status and Configuration.
  • Step 2. Click the Complete PC Backup button.
  • Step 3. Select Create a Backup Now, and follow the directions. Have media ready that can hold an image of your operating system, for example DVD-R. Be ready, this will be a sizeable image!


Windows includes the chkdsk.exe program to check disk drives for errors. It can be run from the Windows GUI as shown in Figure 13-34 or from the command-line.

Figure 13-34

Figure 13-34 Windows C: Properties Sheet and Check Disk Window after the Check Now button has been clicked.

As Figure 13-34 shows, you can also select whether to automatically fix file system errors and attempt the recovery of bad sectors with Chkdsk. If you select the option to automatically fix file system errors, Chkdsk will be scheduled to run at the next restart. This is necessary because Chkdsk requires exclusive access to the drive. Chkdsk performs a three-phase test of the drive after the system is rebooted but before the Windows desktop appears.

You can also run Chkdsk from the command prompt. For options, type Chkdsk /? from the command prompt.

In Windows Vista, you will need to run this command in elevated mode. It was mentioned how to do this previously. As a reminder, here are those two options again:

  • Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. Right-click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator. Click Continue at the permission window.
  • Click Start and type cmd. Then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to execute cmd.exe in elevated mode. Click Continue at the permission window.


In Windows, the Format command is used primarily to re-create the specified file system on a floppy disk, removable-media disk, or a hard disk. In the process, the contents of the disk are overwritten.

Format works in very different ways, depending on whether it is used on a hard or floppy disk. When Format is used on a hard drive, it creates a master boot record, two file allocation tables, and a root directory (also referred to as the root folder). The rest of the drive is checked for disk surface errors—any defective areas are marked as bad to prevent their use by the operating system. Format appears to "destroy" the previous contents of a hard disk, but if you use Format on a hard disk by mistake, third-party data recovery programs can be used to retrieve data from the drive. This is possible because most of the disk surface is not changed by Format.

If a floppy disk, USB flash memory drive, or removable-media disk is prepared with Format and the unconditional /U option is used from the command line, or the Windows Explorer Full Format option is used, sector markings (a sector equals 512 bytes) are created across the surface of the floppy disk before other disk structures are created, destroying any previous data on the disk. If the Quick Format or Safe Format option is used, the contents of the disk are marked for deletion but can be retrieved with third-party data recovery software.

Using Format with Floppy, USB Flash, and Removable-Media Drives

Although floppy disks, USB flash memory drives, and removable-media drives are preformatted at the factory, Format is still useful as a means to

  • Erase the contents of a disk quickly, especially if it contains many files or folders.
  • Place new sector markings across the disk.
  • Create a bootable disk that can be used to run MS-DOS programs.
Formatting Floppy and Hard Disks with Windows Explorer

You can use Windows Explorer to format both hard drives and floppy disks. Right-click the drive you want to format, select Format, and the Format options for Windows are displayed, as shown in Figure 13-35 (Windows 2000's options are almost identical, except for the lack of the MS-DOS startup disk option).

Figure 13.35

Figure 13.35 The Windows XP Explorer Format menu for a floppy disk (left) and hard disk (right).

Windows 2000 doesn't offer the Make an MS-DOS Startup Disk option, but is otherwise similar. To learn how to use Format.exe command-line options, see "FORMAT.EXE," later in this chapter.

Windows Explorer Command-Line Options

To adjust how Windows Explorer displays windows, run Explorer.exe from the command prompt with your choice of these options: /n, /e, /root (plus an object), and /select (plus an object). Table 13-5 describes each option.

Table 13-5. Windows Explorer Command-Line Options




Opens a new single-pane window for the default selection. This is usually the root of the drive that Windows is installed on. If the window is already open, a duplicate opens. (Will not function in Vista.)


Opens Windows Explorer in its default view. (Will not function in Vista.)


Opens a window view of the specified object.


Opens a window view with the specified folder, file, or program selected.

As the following examples demonstrate, the command line options can be used with local or network files and folders:

  • Example 1: Explorer /select,C:\TestDir\TestProg.exe—Opens a window view with TestProg selected.
  • Example 2: Explorer /e,/root,C:\TestDir\TestProg.exe—Opens Explorer with drive C: expanded and TestProg selected.
  • Example 3: Explorer /root,\\TestSvr\TestShare—Opens a window view of the specified share.
  • Example 4: Explorer /root,\\TestSvr\TestShare,select,TestProg.exe—Opens a window view of the specified share with TestProg selected.

Command-Line Functions

Command-line functions are run from the command prompt, and are used primarily for diagnosis, repair, and troubleshooting. The following sections discuss the major command-line functions and utilities in more detail.

Starting a Command-Prompt Session with CMD.EXE

You can start a command-prompt session in Windows by clicking on the Command prompt option in the Start menu; it's usually located in the Accessories menu on most versions of Windows. However, it's faster to use the Run command:

  • In Windows XP/2000—Click Start > Run. Then, type cmd and click OK.
  • In Windows Vista—Click Start type cmd, and then press Enter, or press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to run in elevated mode (might be necessary for some commands).

Figure 13-36 shows a typical command prompt session in Windows XP.

Figure 13-36

Figure 13-36 Using the Help command to view a list of command prompt commands in Windows XP.

The following sections discuss the command-line functions that are covered on the A+ Certification exams. These functions fall into two categories:

  • Those that are included in CMD.EXE (the command interpreter used to start a command-prompt session). These are known as internal commands.
  • Those that are separate programs on disk. These are known as external commands.

Internal Commands Overview

Cmd.exe (Windows Vista/XP/2000) contains the internal commands listed in Table 13-6. Commands marked (RC) can also be used by the Windows XP/2000 Recovery Console.

Table 13-6. Major Internal Commands

Internal Command





System management

Views system current date and allows it to be changed



System management

Views system current time and allows it to be changed



Disk management

Copies one or more files to another folder or drive

COPY *.* A:\


Disk management

Deletes one or more files on current or specified folder or drive



Disk management

Same as DEL



Disk management

Lists files on current or specified folder or drive



Disk management

Makes a new folder (subdirectory)



Disk management

Changes your current location to the specified folder (subdirectory)



Disk management

Removes an empty folder



Disk management

Renames a file

REN joe.txt jerry.txt


System management

Lists the version of operating system in use



Disk management

Lists the current volume label and serial number for the default drive



System management

Used to set options for a device or program; SET without options displays all current SET variables



System management

Sets display options for the command prompt

PROMPT=$P $G (displays drive letter followed by greater-than sign)


System management

Sets folders or drives that can be searched for programs to be run



Batch files

Turns on or off the echo (display) of commands to the screen



Batch files, system management

Clears the screen of old commands and program output



System management

Views text files onscreen


Using Wildcards to Specify a Range of Files

Command-prompt functions and utilities can be used to operate on a group of files with similar names by using one of the following wildcard symbols:

  • ? replaces a single character.
  • * replaces a group of characters.

For example, DIR *.EXE displays files with the .EXE extension in the current folder (directory). DEL MYNOVEL??.BAK removes the following files: MYNOVEL00.BAK, MYNOVEL01.BAK, but not MYNOVEL.BAK.


To see a list of valid commands you can run from the command prompt, and to see a brief description of each command, type HELP from the command prompt (refer to Figure 13-36).

To get help with a specific command, type HELP commandname. For example, to get help with XCOPY.EXE, type HELP XCOPY. You can also type the command followed by /?, for example dir /?.


The DIR command, which lists files and folders in either the current or any other specified drive or folder, has many options. For example, Windows DIR options include the following:


Specifies drive, directory, and/or files to list. (Could be enhanced file specification or multiple filespecs.)


Pauses after each screenful of information.


Uses wide list format.


Displays files with specified attributes:

D Directories

R Read-only files

H Hidden files

A Files ready for archiving

S System files

- Prefix meaning not


List by files in sorted order:

N By name (alphabetic)

S By size (smallest first)

E By extension (alphabetic)

D By date & time (earliest first)

G Group directories first

- Prefix to reverse order

A By Last Access Date (earliest first)


Displays files in specified directory and all subdirectories.


Uses bare format (no heading information or summary).


Uses lowercase.


Verbose mode.


Displays year with 4 digits (ignored if /V also given).


Display the thousand separator in file sizes. This is the default. Use /-C to disable display of separator.


Same as wide but files are list sorted by column.


New long list format where filenames are on the far right.


Display the owner of the file.


Controls which time field displayed or used for sorting:

C Creation

A Last Access

W Last Written


This displays the short names generated for non-8dot3 filenames. The format is that of /N with the short name inserted before the long name. If no short name is present, blanks are displayed in its place.

The options listed for DIR can be combined with each other, enabling you to use DIR to learn many different types of information about files and folders. The following are some examples:

  • DIR/AHDisplays files with the hidden attribute (see the discussion of ATTRIB later in this chapter) in the current folder.
  • DIR/S command.comDisplays all instances of Command.com in the current folder and all folders beneath the current folder.
  • DIR/O-S C:\WINDOWSDisplays all files in the folder C:\Windows in order by size, largest first.


EDIT is a plain-text text editor that can be used to read and edit batch (.BAT), .INI, CONFIG.SYS, and other types of text files. To open a file with EDIT, type EDIT filename.

The options shown here apply to all versions of EDIT:

Here are some examples:


Forces monochrome mode.


Displays the maximum number of lines possible for your hardware.


Load file(s) in read-only mode.


Forces the use of short filenames.


Load binary file(s), wrapping lines to <nnn> characters wide.


Displays this help screen.


Specifies initial files(s) to load. Wildcards and multiple filespecs can be given.

  • EDIT C:\MSDOS.SYSOpens the Msdos.sys file in the root folder of drive C: for editing; user must change file attributes of Msdos.sys with ATTRIB first to allow changes to file.
  • EDITOpens editor; user must open File menu within Edit to select file(s) to open.

EDIT has pull-down windows you can activate with a mouse or with the keyboard. If you are using EDIT after booting from an EBD and no mouse driver is loaded, hold down the Alt key and press the first letter of each menu to display that menu:

  • File—Opens, saves, prints, and closes a file; exits the program
  • Edit—Cuts, copies, pastes, and clears selected text
  • Search—Finds and replaces specified text
  • View—Adjusts options for dual-screen editing (two documents at once)
  • Options—Adjust tab stops, printer port (COM or LPT), and screen colors
  • Help—Displays EDIT help screen


The COPY command copies files from one drive and folder to another folder and drive. The folder specified by COPY must already exist on the target drive. COPY will not work with files that have the system or hidden file attributes; to copy these files, use XCOPY32 instead.


Specifies the file or files to be copied.


Indicates an ASCII text file.


Indicates a binary file.


Specifies the directory and/or filename for the new file(s).


Verifies that new files are written correctly.


Suppresses prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file.


Causes prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file. The default is to prompt on overwrites unless the COPY command is being executed from within a batch script.


Allow the destination file to be created decrypted.


Uses a short filename, if available, when copying a file with a non-8dot3 name.


Copies networked files in restartable mode.


(Vista only) If the source is a symbolic link, copy the link to the target instead of the actual file the source link points to.

The options for COPY in Windows Vista/XP include the following:

Here are some examples:

  • COPY *.* A:Copies all files in the current folder to the current folder on the A: drive.
  • COPY *.TXT C:\Mydocu~1Copies all .txt files in the current folder to the Mydocu~1 folder on the C: drive.
  • COPY C:\WINDOWS\TEMP\*.BAKCopies all *.bak files in the \Windows\Temp folder on drive C: to the current folder.
  • COPY C:\WINDOWS\*.BMP D:Copies all .bmp files in the \Windows folder on drive C: to the current folder on drive D:.


The XCOPY command can be used in place of COPY in most cases and has the following advantages:

  • Faster operation on a group of files— XCOPY reads the specified files into conventional RAM before copying them to their destination.
  • Creates folders as needed—Specify the destination folder name in the XCOPY command line, and the destination folder will be created if needed.
  • Operates as backup utility—Can be used to change the archive bit from on to off on files if desired to allow XCOPY to be used in place of commercial backup programs.
  • Copies files changed or created on or after a specified date—Also useful when using XCOPY as a substitute for commercial backup programs.

The options for XCOPY.EXE in Windows Vista/XP include the following:

XCOPY can be used to "clone" an entire drive's contents to another drive. For example, the following copies the entire contents of D: drive to H: drive:


Specifies the file(s) to copy.


Specifies the location and/or name of new files.


Copies only files with the archive attribute set, doesn't change the attribute.


Copies only files with the archive attribute set, turns off the archive attribute.


Copies files changed on or after the specified date. If no date is given, copies only those files whose source time is newer than the destination time.


Specifies a list of files containing strings. Each string should be in a separate line in the files. When any of the strings match any part of the absolute path of the file to be copied, that file will be excluded from being copied. For example, specifying a string like \obj\ or .obj will exclude all files underneath the directory obj or all files with the .obj extension, respectively.


Prompts you before creating each destination file.


Copies directories and subdirectories except empty ones.


Copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones. Same as /S /E. May be used to modify /T.


Verifies each new file.


Prompts you to press a key before copying.


Continues copying even if errors occur.


If destination does not exist and copying more than one file, assumes that destination must be a directory.


Does not display file names while copying.


Displays full source and destination file names while copying.


Displays files that would be copied.


Allows the copying of encrypted files to destination that does not support encryption.


Copies hidden and system files.


Overwrites read-only files.


Creates directory structure, but does not copy files. Does not include empty directories or subdirectories. /T /E includes empty directories and subdirectories.


Copies only files that already exist in destination.


Copies attributes. Normal Xcopy will reset read-only attributes.


Copies using the generated short names.


Copies file ownership and ACL information.


Copies file audit settings (implies /O).


Suppresses prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file.


Causes prompting to confirm you want to overwrite an existing destination file.


Copies networked files in restartable mode.


(Vista only) Copies the symbolic link itself versus the target of the link.

XCOPY D:\. H:\ /H /S /E /K /C /R


The FORMAT.EXE command deletes all existing files and folders from a system. It overwrites the current contents of the target drive unless the /Q (Quick Format) option is used. When /Q is used, only the file allocation table and root folder are overwritten. To retrieve data from a drive that has been formatted, you must use third-party data-recovery software.

In Windows Vista/XP, FORMAT.EXE includes a variety of options for use with floppy disks, hard disks, removable-media drives, and USB flash memory drives. These include the following:


Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon), mount point, or volume name.


Specifies the type of the file system (FAT, FAT32, or NTFS).


Specifies the volume label.


Performs a quick format.


NTFS only: Files created on the new volume will be compressed by default.


Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary. All opened handles to the volume would no longer be valid.


(Vista only) UDF only: Forces the format to a specific UDF version (1.20, 1.50, 2.00, 2.01, 2.50). The default revision is 2.01.


(Vista only) UDF 2.50 only: Metadata will be duplicated.


Overrides the default allocation unit size. Default settings are strongly recommended for general use. NTFS supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K. FAT supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K, (128K, 256K for sector size > 512 bytes). FAT32 supports 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16K, 32K, 64K, (128K, 256K for sector size > 512 bytes). Note that the FAT and FAT32 files systems impose the following restrictions on the number of clusters on a volume:

FAT: Number of clusters <= 65526

FAT32: 65526 < Number of clusters < 4177918

FORMAT will immediately stop processing if it decides that the preceding requirements cannot be met using the specified cluster size. NTFS compression is not supported for allocation unit sizes above 4096.

The following options apply to floppy disks only:


Specifies the size of the floppy disk to format (1.44)


Specifies the number of tracks per disk side.


Specifies the number of sectors per track.


The ipconfig command-line utility is used by Windows to display the computer's current IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway. The ipconfig /all command is used to show this and additional network related information (see Figure 13-37).

Figure 13-37

Figure 13-37 IPConfig/all displays complete information about your TCP/IP configuration.

To see other options, use the /? option after the command. If you're having problems seeing other computers on the network or connecting to the Internet on a network that uses server-assigned IP addresses, type ipconfig /release and press Enter; then type ipconfig /renew and press Enter to obtain a new IP address from the DHCP server on your network.


Windows can use the ping command to test TCP/IP and Internet connections for proper operation. ping is a more reliable way to check an Internet connection than opening your browser, because a misconfigured browser could cause you to think that your TCP/IP configuration is incorrect.

To use ping to check your connection, follow this procedure:

  • Step 1. Start your Internet connection. If you use a LAN to connect to the Internet, you might have an always-on connection.
  • Step 2. Open a command-prompt window.
  • Step 3. Type ping IPaddress or ping servername and press Enter. For example, to ping a web server called www.markesoper.com, type Pingwww.markesoper.com.

By default, ping sends four data packets from your computer to any IP address or servername you specify. If your TCP/IP connection is working properly, you should see a reply from each ping you sent out indicating how quickly the signals traveled back from the target and the IP address or URL of the target.

The lower the time in milliseconds (ms), the faster your connection. Connection speeds vary a great deal due to various factors, such as Internet network congestion, server speed, and the number of relays needed to transfer your request from your computer to the specified server. To check relay information, use the tracert command.


You can make, change to, or remove folders (directories) with the following commands as shown in Table 13-7.

Table 13-7. Folder Management Commands







Creates a folder (directory)

MKDIR \Backups

Makes the folder Backups one level below the root folder of the current drive



Changes to a new folder

CHDIR \Backups

Changes to the \Backups folder



Removes a folder (if empty)

RMDIR \Backups

Removes the \Backups folder (if empty)

Folders (directories) can be referred to in two ways:

  • Absolute
  • Relative

An absolute path provides the full path to the folder. For example, to change to the folder \Backups\Word from the folder \My Documents on the same drive, you would use the command CHDIR \Backups\Word.

A relative path can be used to change to a folder one level below your location. For example, to change to the folder \Backups\Word from the folder \Backups, you would use the command CHDIR Word (or just CD Word). No backslash is necessary.

To change to the root folder from any folder, use CHDIR \ (or just CD \). To change to the folder one level higher than your current location, use CHDIR .. (or just CD..).

System Management Tools

The following sections discuss the major system management tools included in Windows, such as Device Manager, Task Manager, MSCONFIG.EXE, REGEDIT.EXE, Event Viewer, System Restore, and Remote Desktop.

Device Manager

Windows Device Manager is used to display installed device categories, specific installed devices, and to troubleshoot problems with devices.

To use Device Manager in Windows Vista, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Click Start, right-click on Computer, and select Properties. This will display the System window.
  • Step 2. From there click the Device Manager link on the left side under Tasks.

To use the Device Manager in Windows XP/2000:

  • Step 1. Open the System Properties window in the Control Panel, or right-click My Computer and select Properties.
  • Step 2. Click the Hardware tab and select Device Manager.

To view the devices in a specific category, click the plus (+) sign next to the category name, as in Figure 13-38.

Figure 13-38

Figure 13-38 Device Manager with selected categories expanded.

To see more information about a specific device, double-click the device to open its properties sheet. Device properties sheets have a General tab and some combination of other tabs:

  • General—Displays device type, manufacturer, location, status, troubleshoot button, and usage. All devices.
  • Properties—Device-specific settings. Applies to multimedia devices.
  • Driver—Driver details and version information. All devices.
  • Details—Technical details about the device (added in Windows XP SP2). All devices.
  • Policies—Optimizes external drives for quick removal or performance. USB, FireWire, and eSATA drives.
  • Resources—Hardware resources such as IRQ, DMA, Memory, and I/O port address. Applies to I/O devices.
  • Volumes—Drive information such as status, type, capacity, and so on. Click Populate to retrieve information. Applies to hard disk drives.
  • Power—Power available per port. Applies to USB root hubs and generic hubs.
  • Power Management—Specifies device-specific power management settings. Applies to USB, network, keyboard, and mouse devices.

Figure 13-39 illustrates some of these tabs.

Figure 13-39

Figure 13-39 Selected Device Manager tabs: the Power tab for a USB hub (a); the Driver tab for an IEEE-1394 port (b); the General tab for an network controller (c).

Virtually all recent systems support Plug and Play (PnP) hardware with automatic resource allocation by a combination of the PnP BIOS and Windows. However, if you need to determine the hardware resources in use in a particular system, click View and select Resources by type (see Figure 13-40).

Figure 13-40

Figure 13-40 IRQ and DMA usage on a typical Windows XP system. ACPI power management enables IRQs above 15, and sharing of PCI IRQs 17, 20, 22, and 23 by multiple devices.

Troubleshooting problem devices with Device Manager is covered in Chapter 15.

Computer Management and the MMC

We've mentioned this component of Windows Vista/XP a few times already but it's worth mentioning again. Instead of hunting around for different utilities in different places in Windows, it's simpler to use the Computer Management console window because it has most of the tools you need in one organized two-pane window system. Here are the ways to open Computer Management:

  • Click Start, then right-click Computer/My Computer and select Manage
  • Navigate to Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, Computer Management
  • Open the Run prompt (Windows+R) and type compmgmt.msc (a personal favorite)

In Computer Management, you find the Event Viewer, the Device Manager, Local Users and Groups, Services, and disk tools such as Disk Management. Consider using it often.

Now, to make it better Windows Vista and XP offer you the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). This is the "master" console so to speak, and you can snap-in as many other console windows as you wish. Add to that the fact that it saves all the consoles you snapped in and remembers the last place you were working, and this becomes a very valuable and time saving tool.

To open it, open the Run prompt and type MMC. This will open a new blank MMC. Then, to add console windows, go to File and then Add/Remove Snap-in (or press Ctrl+M). From there click the Add button to select the consoles you want such as Computer Management, Performance Logs and Alerts, or ActiveX Controls. You can also change the "mode" that the user works in when accessing the MMC—for example Author mode, which has access to everything, and User mode, which has various levels of limitation. When you are finished, save the MMC, and consider adding it as a shortcut within the desktop or in the Quick Launch area, and maybe add a keyboard shortcut to open it. The next time you open it, it will remember all of the console windows you added, and will start you at the location you were in when you closed the program. By default, Windows Vista comes with version 3.0 of the MMC, and Windows XP comes with Version 2.0. However, you can download version 3.0 for Windows XP from www.microsoft.com. Just search for "Microsoft Management Console 3.0 for Windows XP."

Task Manager

The Task Manager utility provides a useful real-time look into the inner workings of Windows and the programs that are running. There are several ways to display the Task Manager including

  • Right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager
  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc
  • Open the Run prompt and type taskmgr
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager from the Windows Security dialog box. (Note This only works in Windows XP if you have turned off the Welcome Screen option.)

The Task Manager tabs include Applications (shows running applications); Processes (program components in memory); Performance (CPU, memory, pagefile, and caching stats). Windows XP adds a Networking tab (lists network utilization by adapter in use) and a Users tab (lists current users). Windows Vista adds a Services tab (displays the services on the computer and their status).

Use the Applications tab to determine if a program has stopped responding; you can shut down these programs by using the End Task button. Use the Processes tab to see which processes are consuming the most memory. Use this dialog along with the System Configuration Utility (MSConfig) to help determine if you are loading unnecessary startup applications; MSConfig can disable them to free up memory. If you are unable to shut down a program with the Applications tab, you can also shut down its processes with the Processes tab, but this is not recommended unless the program cannot be shut down in any other way.

Use the Performance tab to determine whether you need to install more RAM memory or need to increase your paging file size. Use the Networking tab to monitor the performance of your network.

The top-level menu can be used to adjust the properties of the currently selected tab and to shut down the system. Figure 13-41 illustrates these tabs. Figure 13-42 shows the newer Services tab in Windows Vista's Task Manager.

Figure 13-41

Figure 13-41 The Windows XP version of the Windows Task Manager's Applications (top left), Processes (top right), Performance (bottom left), and Networking (bottom right) tabs.

Figure 13-42

Figure 13-42 The Windows Vista version of the Windows Task Manager's Services Tab.


The Microsoft System Configuration Utility, Msconfig (available in Windows Vista/XP), enables you to selectively disable programs and services that run at startup. If your computer is unstable, runs more slowly than usual, or has problems starting up or shutting down, using Msconfig can help you determine if a program or service run when the system starts is at fault. To start Msconfig

  • Step 1. Click Start, Run.
  • Step 2. Type msconfig and click OK.

All versions of Msconfig have a multitabbed interface used to control startup options (see Figure 13-43). The General tab lets you select from Normal, Diagnostic (clean boot), or Selective Startup (you choose which items and services to load). You can also expand or extract files or launch System Restore from the Windows XP version of Msconfig.

Figure 13-43

Figure 13-43 Msconfig's General tab (Windows XP).

Other tabs control settings in Msconfig, System.ini (legacy hardware), Win.ini (legacy software and configuration), Boot.ini and services (Windows XP), startup programs, and other version-specific startup options. The Windows Vista version of Msconfig does away with the System.ini and Win.ini tabs.


To start Regedit, open the Run prompt, type regedit, and press Enter.

Changes made in Regedit are automatically saved when you exit; however, you might have to log off and lock back on, or restart the system, for those changes to take effect. Under most normal circumstances, the Registry will not need to be edited or viewed. However, Registry editing might be necessary under the following circumstances:

  • To view a system setting that cannot be viewed through normal interfaces.
  • To add, modify (by changing values or data), or remove a Registry key that cannot be changed through normal Windows menus or application settings. This might be necessary to remove traces of a program or hardware device that was not uninstalled properly, or to allow a new device or program to be installed.
  • To back up the Registry to a file.

Figure 13-44 shows the Registry in Windows Vista, with a modification being made to the MenuBar color, which isn't accessible within normal Windows display menus. Figure 13-45 shows the Registry in Windows XP, viewing the uninstall folder for Mozilla Firefox.

Figure 13-44

Figure 13-44 Using Regedit (Windows Vista).

Figure 13-45

Figure 13-45 Using Regedit (Windows XP).

Follow these steps to back up part or all of the Registry to a text file:

  • Step 1. Start Regedit (open the Run prompt and type regedit, and then click OK).
  • Step 2. Click File.
  • Step 3. Click Export.
  • Step 4. Select a folder for the Registry backup. (To back up the entire Registry, highlight My Computer/Computer at the top of the left window pane, or follow the method in Step 6.)
  • Step 5. Enter a name for the backup.
  • Step 6. Select All to back up the entire Registry.
  • Step 7. Click Save.

Event Viewer

If your customer is using Windows Vista/XP/2000, these versions of Windows generate several log files during routine use that can be useful for determining what went wrong. Many of these can be viewed through the Event Viewer. To view the contents of the Event Viewer in Windows Vista/XP/2000, right-click Computer/My Computer, click Manage and click Event Viewer. The Event Viewer captures various types of information, the three most important logs to know for the exam are: Application, Security, and System. In Windows Vista they are inside Event Viewer\Windows Logs; however, in Windows XP these are listed directly inside of the Event Viewer.

To view details about an entry in the Event Viewer, click on a log in the left window pane and entries will appear in the right window pane. To open the event and view more information, double click the event, or right-click it and select Event Properties/Properties. Figure 13-46 shows the Application event viewer on a Windows XP system being used to view the details of an application error.

Figure 13-46

Figure 13-46 Viewing the details about an application error using the Application Event Viewer. The left window displays other major components of Windows XP's Computer Management Console.

System Restore

Ever wish you had a "time machine" so you could go back before you installed a bad driver or troublesome piece of software? Windows Vista and XP feature a "time machine" called System Restore.

System Restore enables you to fix problems caused by a defective hardware or software installation by resetting your computer's configuration to the way it was at a specified earlier time. The driver or software files installed stay on the system, and so does the data you created, but Registry changes made by the hardware or software are reversed so your system works the way it did before the installation. Restore points can be created by the user with System Restore and are also created automatically by the system before new hardware or software is installed.

To create a restore point in Windows Vista, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Right-click Computer and select Properties. This opens the System Properties window.
  • Step 2. Click the System Protection tab.
  • Step 3. Click the Create button. This opens the System Protection window.
  • Step 4. Enter a name for the restore point and click Create.

To create a restore point in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Navigate to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. This opens the System Restore window (see Figure 13-47).
    Figure 13-47

    Figure 13-47 The main menu of the System Restore program in Windows XP.

  • Step 2. Click Create a Restore Point and click Next.
  • Step 3. Enter a descriptive name for the restore point, such as Before I installed DuzItAll Version 1.0 and click Create.
  • Step 4. The computer's current hardware and software configuration is stored as a new restore point.

Follow these steps to restore your system to an earlier condition in Windows Vista:

  • Step 1. Access the System Protection tab again, and this time click the System Restore button. This opens the System Restore window.
  • Step 2. Select either Recommended Restore or Choose a Different Restore Point.
  • Step 3. The Recommended Restore point will ask you to confirm. If you are choosing a different restore point, you will need to select the appropriate one and confirm.
  • Step 4. The system will initiate the restore and will automatically restart.

Windows Vista also allows you to undo a system restore if it did not repair the problem.

To restore your system to an earlier condition in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Go to the same location you did when creating a restore point.
  • Step 2. Click Restore My Computer to an Earlier Time and click Next.
  • Step 3. Select a date from the calendar (dates that have restore points are in bold text).
  • Step 4. Select a restore point and click Next (see Figure 13-48).


    Figure 13-48

    Figure 13-48 Choosing a restore point with Windows XP's System Restore.

  • Step 5. Close any open programs and save your work before you click Next to start the process; Windows will shut down and restart.
  • Step 6. The system will initiate the restore and will automatically restart.

If System Restore is not available, it might be turned off. Within Windows Vista you can enable or disable System Restore on any volume from the System Properties window/System Protection tab. Simply check or uncheck any volume that you wish to enable or disable. Within Windows XP, the state of System Restore affects all drives, you can only turn the utility on and off. This is done from the System Properties window/System Restore tab. You can also change the amount of disk space it uses here.

Be aware that System Restore is not necessarily the first step you should try when troubleshooting a computer. Simply restarting the computer has been known to "fix" all kinds of issues. It's also a good idea to try the Last Known Good Configuration. You can access this within the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu by pressing F8 when the computer first boots. Also, if System Restore doesn't seem to work in normal mode, attempt to use it in Safe Mode. Safe Mode is another option in the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu.

Be wary of using System Restore if you're fighting a computer virus or malware infection. If you (or the system) create a restore point while the system is infected, you could re-infect the system if you revert the system to that restore point. To prevent re-infection, most anti-virus vendors recommend that you disable System Restore (which eliminates stored restore points) before removing computer viruses.

Remote Desktop

Windows Vista and XP Professional include Remote Desktop, a feature that enables a user on that system to access the system remotely and use its desktop, programs, drives, printers, and other resources.

Windows Vista and XP Professional include the Remote Desktop server program (a subset of Terminal Services) to accept remote logins, but you can also use other Windows versions as well for the Remote Desktop client. You can download the Remote Desktop client software from Microsoft's website (www.microsoft.com); search for Remote Desktop Connection Software. It works with Windows Vista, XP (Home and Professional), Windows 2000, and older versions of Windows. The Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2, also available from the Microsoft website, enables MacOS-based systems to connect remotely to a Windows Vista or XP Professional system.

Windows Vista and XP Professional can handle only one remote connection at a time; if another user is currently logged on locally, he or she must log off to permit the remote connection.

Configuring Your Windows System to Accept Remote Client Connections

Windows Vista and XP Professional automatically runs the Terminal Services service, which is required for Remote Desktop incoming connections. To accept remote connections, you must also:

  • Step 1. Make sure the remote user has been added as a user for this computer and has a password. Use the User Accounts applet in Control Panel (Classic mode) to check this information.
  • Step 2. Configure your firewall to permit connections via TCP port 3389. If you use Windows Firewall, selecting Remote Desktop on the Exceptions menu automatically opens this port (see Figure 13-49). However, if you use a third-party firewall program or device, you might need to configure this setting manually. See your firewall documentation for details.
    Figure 13-49

    Figure 13-49 Configuring Windows Firewall to accept Remote Desktop connections.

  • Step 3. Open the System properties sheet, click the Remote tab, and select the Allow Users to Connect Remotely to This Computer option in the Remote Desktop portion of the dialog (Figure 13-50).
    Figure 13-50

    Figure 13-50 Enabling the system to accept Remote Desktop connections from a specified user.

  • Step 4. Click the Select Remote Users button to view the list of Remote Desktop Users. If the user you want to grant remote access to isn't on the list, click Add. On the Select Users dialog, enter the name of the user, and click Check Names. If the name is on the list of users, the server name is added.
  • Step 5. Repeat Step 4 until all remote user names are added. Click OK when finished.

Connecting Remotely

To start the connection process, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Remote Desktop Connection. The dialog shown in Figure 13-51 appears. Enter the name or IP address of the remote computer, and click Connect.

Figure 13-51

Figure 13-51 Starting a Remote Desktop session.

Provide a username and password from the list of authorized remote users and click OK when prompted. The remote desktop appears.

A tab at the top of the remote dialog displays the name or IP address of the remote PC, and provides options for minimizing, maximizing/windowing, and closing the session (see Figure 13-52).

Figure 13-52

Figure 13-52 Ending a Remote Desktop session.

Ending the Remote Session

You have three options for quitting the remote session:

  • To end the remote session but stay logged in, click the X in the remote dialog tab and click OK on the Disconnect Terminal Services Session dialog (refer to Figure 13-52).
  • To log out of the remote session, click Start Log Off, and click Log Off when prompted.
  • To disconnect, click Start, Disconnect, and click Disconnect when prompted.

Optimizing Windows

Understanding how to optimize Windows performance is also part of the A+ certification objectives. The following sections cover issues you might encounter on the exam and are likely to encounter in your work life.

Virtual Memory, Performance Monitor, and System Monitor

If you run short of money, you can borrow some from the bank (assuming your credit's in decent shape). However, there's a penalty: interest. Similarly, if your system runs short of memory, it can borrow hard disk space and use it as virtual memory. The penalty for this type of borrowing is performance: Virtual memory is much slower than real RAM memory. However, you can adjust how your system uses virtual memory to achieve better performance.

When additional RAM is added to a computer running Windows, it is automatically used first before the paging file.

The Windows Vista Performance Monitor and Windows XP System Monitor can be used to determine whether more RAM should be added to a computer.

  • To access the Windows Vista Performance Monitor, open the Run prompt, type perfmon.exe and press Enter. This opens the Reliability and Performance Monitor window, click the Performance Monitor node.
  • To access the Windows XP System monitor, open the Run prompt, type perfmon.exe and press enter. This opens the Performance console window. Click on the System Monitor node.

Many different types of performance factors can be measured with these programs. This is done by measuring objects. Objects include physical devices such as the processor and memory, and software such as protocols and services. The objects are measured with counters. For example, a common counter for the processor is % Processor Time.

To see if additional RAM is needed in a system, select the object called Paging File, then select the counters % Usage and Pages/Sec as shown in the following steps:

  • Step 1. Click the + sign or right-click in the table beneath the graph and select Add Counters.
  • Step 2. Choose Paging File as the Performance Object and then choose % Usage. In Windows Vista, simply add pagefile.sys.
  • Step 3. Choose Memory as the Performance Object and then choose Pages/Sec. In Vista, this is shown as a drop-down menu within the object. In XP it might be added already.
  • Step 4. Click Add.
  • Step 5. Click Close and then run normal applications for this computer.

If the Performance Monitor/System Monitor indicates that the Paging File % Usage is consistently near 100% or the Memory Pages/Sec counter is consistently higher than 5, add RAM to improve performance. Figure 13-53 shows an example of adequate memory within Windows XP's System monitor.

Figure 13-53

Figure 13-53 This Windows XP system has adequate memory at this time, as indicated by the low levels of usage of the Paging File % Usage and Memory Pages/Sec counters.

The performance of the paging file can be improved by

  • Setting its minimum and maximum sizes to the same amount.
  • Moving the paging file to a physical disk (or disk partition) that is not used as much as others.
  • Using a striped volume for the paging file. A striped volume is identical areas of disk space stored on two or more dynamic disks that are referred to as a single drive letter. Create a striped volume with the Windows XP Disk Management tool.
  • Creating multiple paging files on multiple physical disks in the system.
  • Moving the paging file away from the boot drive.

To adjust the location and size of the paging file in Windows, follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Open the System Properties window.
    • For XP: Click Start, right-click My Computer, and select Properties or open the Control Panel and click the System icon.
    • For Vista: Click Start, right-click Computer, and select Properties. Then click Advanced System Settings under Tasks.
  • Step 2. Click the Advanced tab (not necessary in Vista).
  • Step 3. Click the Settings button in the Performance Options box.
  • Step 4. Click the Advanced tab and then the Change button.
  • Step 5. Choose the initial and maximum sizes you want to use for the paging file and its location (see Figure 13-54). Click Set and then click OK to finish. (In Vista, you will have to deselect the Automatically Manage Paging File Size checkbox first.)


    Figure 13-54

    Figure 13-54 The Virtual Memory dialog box of Windows XP enables you to set the size and location of virtual memory

  • Step 6. If you make any changes to size or location, you must restart the computer for the changes to take effect.

Hard Disk

To optimize the performance of the hard disk, you can use the following methods:

  • Upgrade to a hard disk with a faster spin rate and larger cache buffer—Typically, newer SATA hard disks have faster spin rates and larger cache buffer sizes than older SATA or most PATA hard disks. To determine the spin rate and cache size for an installed drive, check the manufacturer's specifications for the drive.
  • Set up a RAID 0 drive array—A RAID 0 drive array is similar to a striped array, but uses a RAID-compatible host adapter on the motherboard or a host adapter card. A software-based version of RAID 0 can also be set up within Windows through the use of the Disk Management snap-in. Keep in mind that there is no fault tolerance involved with RAID 0, this technology is developed solely for speed. If one of the drives fails, you will lose all of the data in the array. Remember to back up your data!
  • If the system uses PATA drives, don't use a single PATA host adapter for two drives—Although PATA host adapters support two drives (primary/secondary, also called master/slave), data transfer between two drives on the same host adapter is slower than between drives on different host adapters.
  • Defrag drives regularly, and maintain at least 20% free disk space to enable easy defragmentation—The Windows disk defragmenter cannot run if there is less than 15% free disk space.

Temporary Files

The default location for temporary files in Windows versions prior to Windows Vista/XP is the TEMP folder beneath the default Windows folder (\Windows or \WinNT). Windows Vista and XP use \Windows for system temporary files, and XP uses \Documents and Settings\Username\Local Settings\Temp for user-specific temporary files. Vista uses \Users\Username\AppData\Local\Temp for user-specific temporary files.

The location can be adjusted with a pair of SET statements.

Temporary File Settings in Windows Vista/XP/2000

Use the Advanced tab on the System properties sheet to set environmental variables such as SET TEMP and many others. Here's how to make the change (you must be logged on as an administrator):

  • Step 1. Create a folder called TEMP in the root folder of the drive you want to use for your temporary files. You can use Windows Explorer/My Computer/Computer or the MKDIR (MD) command.
  • Step 2. Open the System properties sheet. You can right-click on My Computer and select Properties or open the System icon in Control Panel.
  • Step 3. Click the Advanced tab.
  • Step 4. Click Environmental Variables. A new window opens.
  • Step 5. Click TEMP in the System variables window and click Edit.
  • Step 6. The Edit System Variable window opens (see Figure 13-55). Clear the variable value (%SystemRoot%\TEMP) and enter the drive and folder you used in Step 1 (for example, E:\TEMP). Click OK.


    Figure 13-55

    Figure 13-55 Adjusting the location used for temporary files in Windows XP.

  • Step 7. Repeat steps 5–6, selecting TMP instead of TEMP.
  • Step 8. Click OK in the Environment Variables window.
  • Step 9. Click OK on the System properties sheet.


Many of Windows Vista/XP/2000's core functions are implemented as services, including features such as the print spooler, wireless network zero configuration, DHCP client service, and many more. Services can be run automatically or manually and are controlled through the Services node of the Computer Management Console. To open the Computer Management Console, right-click My Computer/Computer and select Manage. Then expand the Services and Applications node and click Services. You can also access the Services dialog from the Services applet in Control Panel's Administrative Tools folder (Classic mode); opening Services this way displays the dialog shown in Figure 13-56. The Services dialog lists each service by name, provides a description, status message, startup type, and whether the service is for a local system or network service.

Figure 13-56

Figure 13-56 The Services dialog.

To view the properties for a particular service, double-click the service listing. The General tab of the properties sheet shown in Figure 13-57 displays the service name, description, path to executable file, startup type, and status. You can also stop, pause, or resume a service from this dialog, as well as from the Services dialog (refer to Figure 13-56).

Figure 13-57

Figure 13-57 Viewing the General tab for the Print Spooler service.

Use the Log On tab if you need to configure the service to run for a specific user, the Recovery tab to specify what to do if the service fails, and the Dependencies tab to see what other services work with the specified service.

If a system cannot perform a task that uses a service, go to the Services dialog and restart the service. If a service prevents another task from running (for example, a third-party wireless network client might not run if the Wireless Zero Configuration service is running), go to the Services dialog and stop the service.


Most systems are configured to run programs at startup as well as services. In addition to starting some services at startup, Windows can also start programs automatically from these locations:

  • The Startup folder in the Start menu for all users—To view the contents of this folder, open the Run prompt, type %allusersprofile%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup, and click OK.
  • The Startup folder in the Start menu for the current user—To view the contents of this folder, click Start, Run, type %userprofile%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup, and click OK.
  • Registry keys, such as
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

Startup programs might wind up in the Task Bar or the systray, or they might be displayed in a window or full-screen. If you don't want a program loading at startup, you might be able to configure the program not to run at startup. If the program lacks an option for this, however, you can use the Microsoft System Configuration Utility, MSConfig.exe, to block the program from running at startup. For details, see "MSCONFIG.EXE," earlier in this chapter.


Windows offers several ways to fine-tune application performance. These include

  • Adjusting the balance between background services and application response
  • Adjusting the priority of a process belonging to an application
  • Stopping unresponsive applications
Adjusting the Balance Between Background Services and Application Response

Windows Vista/XP/2000 can be configured to use more memory for background services (non-active windows, printing, and so on) instead of the default (Programs—improves performance for the foreground application). You might want to do this if your Windows Vista or XP computer was acting as a file or print server for a small network. To make this change, use the following steps:

  • Step 1. Open the System Properties window and click the Advanced tab.
  • Step 2. Click the Settings button in the Performance box. This opens the Performance Options window.
  • Step 3. Click the Advanced tab.
  • Step 4. From here you can adjust for best performance of either: Programs or Background services by clicking the appropriate radio button.
Adjusting the Priority of a Process

The Windows Task Manager's Processes tab lists processes currently taking place by the name of the executable file. To adjust the priority for a particular process from the default (Normal) to a higher or lower priority, right-click the process, select Set Priority, and choose a priority from the listing (Figure 13-58).

Figure 13-58

Figure 13-58 Adjusting the priority of a running application.

Stopping Unresponsive Applications

You can also shut down an unresponsive application, preferably through the Applications tab of the Task Manager. A program listed as Not Responsive might start working again in a few moments. However, if it does not, select the program, click End Task, and Windows will (eventually) shut down the program.

If you are unable to shut down the program using the Applications tab, you can use the Processes tab's End Process button to stop the application's underlying process. For example Microsoft Word is an application, but its underlying process is winword.exe. However, you should use this method only as a last resort. Be careful when ending processes; make sure that you know the correct process name for the application you wish to terminate.

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