Microsoft Windows tips and tutorials


scientific calculator

Note to self: Always use the scientific calculator

Windows ships with two calculators. The normal one and a scientific one that can be enabled in the View menu of the calculator. The normal calculator offers basic functionality while the scientific one adds functionality that most users do not need. The normal calculator in Windows uses a small window which appeals to many users.

Windows cannot open this file

The message "Windows cannot open this file2 is always displayed when a user tries to execute a file with a file extension unknown to Windows. Windows is giving the user the option to search the Internet for clues on how to handle that file or pick a software from the list of installed applications of this computer.

windows sort order

Change the Windows File Sort Order

Windows XP has a very confusing way of listing files in directories. Let me give you a small explanation. How would Windows XP sort the files abc1, abc101, abc4, abc401, abc8 ? No, it is not like I have ordered them in the last sentence. The default order for those files would be abc1, abc4, abc8, abc101 and abc401. The reason behind this is that Windows XP considers the numbers to be just that which means that 101 is a larger number than 4 or 8.

system restore

Check and Manage System Restore

I recently visited a friend of mine who had a huge problem with his computer. His main hard drive was filling with data rapidly although he only had the operating system and some applications installed. It turned out that System Restore was using more than 12 Gigabytes of space on this drive alone.


Recover and display Windows Product Keys

You might have never entered a Windows or Office product key before in your life. If you did buy a preinstalled version of Windows for example it could already be activated by the default. The product key can be usually found on the Recovery CD that comes with the purchase of the hardware, on the hardware itself or on a booklet.

Display several hard drive properties at once

The hard drive properties window gives information about used and free space both in numbers and as a pie chart, offers a Disk Cleanup button, a way to change the drive description and it is the location where you turn drive compression and drive indexing on and off. If you have more than one hard drive you might want to get their information all at once instead of right-clicking the hard drives one at a time.

Move dllcache to another drive

My dllcache folder in system32 has a size of almost 450 Megabytes on my Windows partition. The dllcache is used to replace a system file (dll) that has been changed with the original one. It bothers me that this feature of Windows takes up so much space on my hard drive. It is even more serious in my case because I decided to have a rather small Windows partition, every byte counts if you know what I mean.

remove windows media player

Remove Windows Media Player Menu Items

Windows Media Player adds context items to the right-click menu of several multimedia files even if you do not use this player to play those files. It would be nice to get rid of those items in the context menu to decrease the size of the menu and have only options in there that are needed. There is however no obvious option to remove the three entries which means that we once again have to rely on the Registry to fix this issue.

Increase the size of Windows Calculator

The Windows Calculator does not increase its font size or appearance if your screen resolution is relatively large. It will always display the characters in an eight pixel font size which displays them ridiculously small if your use a large screen resolution.

windows display user accounts

Check the number of user accounts on your system

Did you know that your system might have more user accounts than you thought it would have. Think about it for a while and write down the number of existing user accounts. If that number is below four you have missed some. Let me explain to you how you can find out which user accounts exist on your system and how to delete or secure those that you do not need.

start menu

Start Multiple Applications from the Start Menu

Clicking on Start, All Programs, the folder of the software that you want to start and finally the software is the normal way to start applications using the Windows start menu. Unfortunately though it closes every time you have started a software from it which means that you have to follow the same path again if you want to open another application from it.

Customize the Open and Save Window

The open and save dialogs in Windows have the nasty habit of not remembering any of the changes that you made while using them. I prefer a wider window to be able to read all filenames, navigate more easily through the folder structure and have more details in sight all the time.

Blank out part of the screen

It is sometimes important to concentrate on a task at hand and blend out everything that is not related to it. This could be the case when reading an interesting article, editing a Microsoft Word document or playing a flash game. Everything around the needed area could be a distraction.

send to toys

Edit the Send To Menu

I never use the Send To menu in Windows. Never saw a reason why I should use it but I know that some love it to send files quickly to a defined folder or attach them to an email. As usual it is rather complicated to manipulate the Send To menu in Windows directly which is why users who would like to do so have to rely - as always - on third party developers.

Windows Steady State

Who needs Windows Vistas parental control if you have all the options in Windows XP as well if you download the Microsoft software Steady State which probably was not designed with parental control in mind but with user control in general on Windows XP systems. The major benefit of Steady State is that you can create user accounts, restrict those accounts plus define that all changes made with these accounts are undone after rebooting the system.

How to fix broken file associations

Did you ever have the problem that you wanted to change the file association of a certain file type but were not able to ? The normal way of right-clicking the filetype, clicking on Properties, then on the Change button next to the Opens With entry and browsing to the executable did not work for me because the executable was not added as the default software.


nCleaner advanced System cleaner

I'm currently using several tools to clean my system, change settings to increase security and privacy, control startup items and tweak system settings to improve performance. Softwares like CCleaner, Xpy, Autoruns and several others do the job just fine with the only minor issue that I have to open them if I want to change specific settings. It would be far easier to use one software to do all of those tasks.

Tidy up the Windows Explorer Menu

If you install many softwares you notice that some of them add entries to the Windows Explorer menu. The menu looks crowded after some time and it takes longer to find and click on the entries that you use often.

The software with the rather strange name MMM steps in and lets you rearrange all menu entries. This is done by offering a way to hide entries that you never ever use and a way to add entries that you rarely use to a submenu. My initial right-click menu had ten items listed of which I moved five to the hidden area making it look so much better afterwards.