Windows XP Setup Tweaks & Tips

Saturday, May 22, 2004
By: Matthew Doucette

Last Updated on:  December 3rd, 2006.

I have recently reinstalled Windows XP Home Edition. Previously, over the past two or three years, I had modified my Windows XP install with so many tweaks that it is now hard to remember all of them.  Therefore, during the recent reinstall, I made a huge list.  Please contact us if you have any useful tips to add to this list.

Warning:  Modify your computer at your own risk.  I do not hold any responsibility for damaged systems caused by tweaking.  Backup your data often.  Your computer data should be able to withstand your computer being completely destroyed.  If your data is important, back it up and back it up outside of your computer's current residence, in case of fire or theft.


Windows XP Setup:

Install Windows XP:

Clean up Desktop:

Organize Desktop:  

Increase Size of Window Borders / Make Windows Easier to Grab:

Remove background (speeds up computer):

Save energy:

Disable accidentally power off and sleep buttons on keyboard:

Protect untouched system (auto-log off):

Switch to Classic style Windows (may have noticeable performance increase on slow systems):

Switch to Classic style Start menu:

Remove unnecessary special effects (speeds up computer):

Set Smooth Font (ClearType) settings:

Set screen resolution: 

Maximize your refresh rate (Trust me, it matters):

Lock your refresh rate (as when you change into different resolutions, the maximum refresh rate is lost.  This is especially useful for gamers and web developers who change resolutions often):

Improve Start menu:

DO NOT turn off "System Restore":

Disable remote assistance (Thanks to Black Viper's Windows XP Super Tweaks for this tweak.)

Remove all unnecessary programs under "Add or Remove Programs"

Set up keyboard settings:

Setup mouse settings:

Setup homepage:

Switch to classic Windows folders:

Adjust system for best performance, within reason:

Uninstall Windows Messenger

Install firewall:

Run "Windows Update":

Run Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer V1.2:

Setup and test your security:

Download latest DirectX

Download latest graphics drivers

Adjust graphics card settings

Change folder settings

Use Google Toolbar to simplify your searches and block your pop-ups:

I believe, but am not certain, that the Google Toolbar sets the default search in Internet Explorer (IE) to Google.  (Contact us if I am wrong .)  For example, if you go to IE and type in "nba" and press enter, on my computer, it brings up  Back in the day, when you typed in "nba" and pressed enter, the browser would automatically try to connect to and/or  Slightly off topic, but an interesting tip from Joel Spolsky is, during the typing of a URL, pressing CTRL-Enter adds "http://www." and ".com" and then presses Enter for you.

Modify Internet Explorer toolbars (remove unwanted buttons)

Modify Internet Explorer:

Copy backups to your new system.

Increase max connections of Internet Explorer (registry hack).

Outlook Express settings:

Show all file extensions

Disable Outlook Express from opening all links in same window

Install Windows XP Powertoys

Change Tweak UI (a Windows XP Powertoy, explained above) settings

Install Steve Miller's PureText

Install Office XP

Setup your network and disable Windows Messenger (again):

Disable "Guest" account (Windows XP Home):

Remove unwanted "Startup" programs

Enable 'all file' searches (Thanks to Windows Network & .NET Magazine for this tweak):

Test 'all file' search (above):

Clean up "Start menu"

Clear up the Taskbar:

Clear and Delete "Quick Launch":

Clean up "System tray"

Security Center

Speed up your reboots:

Stop unwanted "Favorites" folders in Internet Explorer (IE):

Remove right click menu items from these commonly used programs:  (Perhaps a registry hack exists for extra fine-tuning programs of the context menu items.  Does anyone reading this know if this is true?  If so, please contact us .)

Remove right click menu items from WinRAR:

Remove right click menu items from Winamp:

Modify and Setup Microsoft Word:

Run certain tasks in low priority automatically:

Install UltraMon if you have dual monitors:

Additional Windows Updates to Consider:

Receive Email Notifications of Microsoft Windows Security Updates (or Instant Message Notifications or RSS feeds)

Double check all your settings after installing all your software. Some software may change back some of your changed settings.



Windows XP Maintenance:

Remove spyware from your computer.  The following information is described in more detail in our Anti-Spyware Software Suggestions article:

Check condition of your Windows files:

Verify your system files are digitially signed:

Manage your wanted (and unwanted) web browser add-ons (addons):

XP "Rebuild" Command:

"The Rebuild command--technically a software "switch" used with XP's Bootcfg tool--automatically searches a hard drive for valid startup information and files, letting you choose the correct ones. This has the effect of removing and repairing any references to whatever invalid, missing, or corrupt startup information was preventing normal booting." - Fred Langa


Microsoft Genuine Advantage – Diagnostic Site

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool



Discuss Windows XP tweaks and tips in our forums.



About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $190,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.