By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
The Windows registry is organised in the following way.
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT:Holds all file types and their associations
HKEY_CURRENT_USER:Holds the settings for the user that's currently logged in
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE:Holds your computer's configuration information-both hardware and software
HKEY_USERS:Holds the settings of all user accounts on your PC

Kill Apps Faster-I
If you're the impatient type and can't be troubled with the wait while Windows shuts down errant applications, there are two ways out for you-either make Windows shut down hung processes automatically, or reduce the time that Windows waits for before killing it.

To shut down applications automatically, open the registry editor (Start > Run, type "regedit" and press [Enter]), and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop. In the right hand pane, double-click "AutoEndTasks" and change the Value Data to 1 to enable automatic app kills. To disable the feature, change the Value Data back to "0".

Note: Keep in mind that if you want to apply this tweak-Windows might end up killing critical services before they have time to recover themselves, increasing the possibility of a system crash.

Kill Apps Faster-II
The second option is to reduce the time Windows waits for before showing you the "End Program" dialog box. Follow the instructions above to get to HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop and double-click on "HungAppTimeout" and change the value data to the time (in milliseconds) you're willing to wait for an unresponsive application. If you find applications that take too long to close when Windows is shutting down, you can also set the time that Windows will wait for before killing it. You'll find this value under "WaitToKillAppTimeout" in the same pane.

Kill Apps Faster-III
If you want to change the time that Windows waits before killing a system service when shutting down, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControl and double-click on "WaitToKillServiceTimeout" and enter a more acceptable value than the default 20000 milliseconds. 

Save Your Tweaks
If you're a compulsive registry tweaker and like to switch between different settings often (like showing and hiding the Administrator as above), you can save yourself some time and considerable inconvenience by using this simple method. Navigate to the key whose value you're changing. Go to File > Export and choose a save location and name for the exported registry file (extension: .reg). Open this file in Notepad. You will see "Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00" at the top, followed by the path to the key you just exported ("[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun]" for example). Leave these two lines alone, and delete everything but the value you want to keep. For example, in the "Kill Apps Faster-III" tip, all you need would be the "WaitToKillService Timeout" key-the rest can be removed. Save as many copies as needed with different values for the key. For example, we saved one file called showadmin.reg with "Administrator" as 1, and another called hideadmin.reg with the value as 0. To change the settings, just double-click these .reg files. No more running into Regedit all the time!

Now that you've saved tweaks in different files, you can also share them with friends! Just make sure that they're not too application or user-specific. The safest option would be to share tweaks that apply to Windows directly.

A Background Image For Explorer Toolbars
To display a background bitmap for Windows Explorer toolbars, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER SoftwareMicrosoftInternet ExplorerToolbar and create a new String value by right-clicking in the right hand pane and selecting New > String. Call it "BackBitmapShell". Double-click on it and enter the path of the image you want to use as a background. The image must be in the .bmp format.

Change Processor Performance Settings
Note: This tweak only applies to laptops using Intel SpeedStep or AMD PowerNow! Processor performance management.

To change the way Windows XP's inbuilt processor management works, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesP3Parameters and in the right-hand pane select New > DWORD and call it HackFlags. Enter the following values for the corresponding effect:

0 = disable native XP support
1 = use the settings inherited from Intel's software
5 = the system can support all processor modes even when running on battery.

Stop Paging The Core Windows System
On systems with at least 1 GB of RAM, you can configure the Windows core system to run completely out of memory. Keep in mind though, this will limit the performance of other applications and may even cause problems with applications like Adobe Photoshop, which depends on the Windows swap file directly. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Management and create a new DWORD, calling it DisablePagingExecutive. Set the value data to 1 to disable system paging, and 0 to return to its default setting.

Optimise Windows For Larger L2 Caches
By default, Windows XP is optimised for processors which have 256 KB of L2 cache memory. However, if your processor has more (verify this with your vendor), you should modify its settings to make better use of it. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory Management and in the right-hand pane create a new DWORD value and call it "SecondLevelDataCache". In the value data, enter the number for how much L2 cache memory your processor has (make sure you select the Decimal radio button when you do so). The changes will take effect once you restart windows.

Put My Computer Back On Top
Do you prefer the old Windows 98 desktop layout where My Computer was at the top rather than My Documents? Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTCLSID{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103} and double-click on "SortOrderIndex". To choose which icon goes at the top, use the following values:

Bring my Computer to its rightful location

48 (hexadecimal): My Documents
54 (hexadecimal): My Computer

If the setting doesn't work immediately, right-click on the desktop > Arrange Icons By > Type. Though you can achieve the same thing just by dragging the icons into whatever order you want, this tip will help you keep it that way even if you choose to automatically sort the icons by any parameter-Name, Type, Size, etc.

Change The Colour Of Encrypted Files
When you encrypt a file in Windows XP, its filename begins to display in a bluish green colour. To change this colour, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorer. If it doesn't already exist, create a new Binary value called "AltEncryptionColor". To change the colour, edit the value data for this binary value. The colour will be represented by RR GG BB 00, where RR is a number that denotes the value of Red in the colour, BB the value of blue and GG the value of Green. 

Send Outlook XP To The System Tray
Jealous of lucky Outlook 2003 users who get to hide Outlook in the system tray? Fear not. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice10.0OutlookPreferences and in the right-hand pane, select New > DWORD and call it "MinToTray". Set the value data to 1, reboot, and Outlook will now sit in the system tray when you minimise it. You won't get anything from right-clicking on the tray icon, though. To reset this to its prior condition, either delete "MinToTray" or set its value to 0.

Show Me The Admin!
When you install Windows XP, it creates a system administrator account (called, by some strange coincidence, Administrator), which will be visible on the login screen only till you create a new user account, after which it is hidden from you. To add the Administrator back to the login screen, open the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_LOCAL_ MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersion WinlogonSpecialAccountsUserList. Double-click on Administrator if it's there and change the Value Data to 1. If you don't see it, create it by right-clicking in the pane and selecting New > DWORD. Name it Administrator and then change the Value data to 1. The next time you start your system, you should see the Administrator in the logon screen as well.

Revealing the hiddenAdministrator

Set Programs to Run on Startup Only Once
You've probably encountered RunOnce if you've ever diagnosed your system for startup programs. Programs entered in the RunOnce key will, as the name suggests, run just once before being removed from startup. To add a program to the RunOnce category, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce. Right-click and select New > String value. The name of the value should be the name of the program you want to run, and the Value Data should be the path of that program.

Start Command Prompt From Directories
When you start the Windows Command Prompt, (Start > Run, type "cmd" and press [Enter]), it starts in your user directory. This registry tweak will let you start command prompt in any directory that you choose. Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshell. Right-click on the "shell" key and select New > Key. Call it Prompt. On the right pane for the Prompt Key, change the default value data to "Start Command Prompt Here" (without the quotes). Now, under the Prompt Key, create another key called Command. In the default value here, enter "cmd.exe /k cd %1" (again, without the quotes). You should now be able to right-click on any folder and start the command prompt from there.

Increase the USB Polling Interval
Windows constantly checks (polls) USB ports for connected devices. If you don't have any USB devices connected, you can increase the poll interval to save on resources and power. Laptops especially will be able to enter the power-saving mode faster. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlClass{36FC9E60-C465-11CF-8056-444553540000}�000, right-click in the right hand pane and choose New > DWORD. Call it "IdleEnable" and set the value data to 1. This will enable USB idling and will increase the polling interval.

The setting for the "start command prompt here" feature

The menu items in action

Disable the Windows Key
If you don't want to use the special Windows key, you can disable it in the registry. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlKeyboard Layout. If it doesn't exist, create a new Binary value (Right-Click > New > Binary Value) and call it Scancode Map. Double-click on the value and enter this value data:
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 03 00 00 00 00 00 5B E0 00 00 5C E0 00 00 00 00
Restart Windows for this to take effect.

Disable Windows CD Burning
To disable Windows' default CD burning function, use this tweak. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer (or the same key in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE if you want this to apply to all users) and create a new DWORD by right-clicking in the right-hand pane and selecting New > DWORD. Call it "NoCDBurning" and set its value data to 1 to disable CD burning. To enable it again, just change the value data back to 0 or delete the DWORD altogether.

Bring Windows to Front à la X-Windows
In X-based operating systems like Unix and GNU/Linux, you have the option of being able to bring windows to the foreground by just hovering the mouse cursor over them. Here's how you can do it for Windows XP too. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERControl PanelDesktop. You will find a binary value called "UserPreferencesMask". This is different for different people, so this part is a little tricky. What we need to do is add Hexadecimal 41 to the first Hexadecimal number in the value. For example, the "UserPreferencesMask" value in our test PC had the value "90 12 01 80". Start Calculator and select View > Scientific. Select the Hex radio button in the top row and add 41 to the first two numbers (in our case, 90 41, which gave us a result of D1). Now edit the "UserPreferencesMask" value data and replace the first two digits with the result you just got (ours now reads D1 12 05 80).

Enabling Active Window Tracking

The next step is to create a new DWORD called "ActiveWindow Tracking" (if it isn't already there) and set its value data to 1. Next, create (or edit) the "ActiveWndTrkTimeout" DWORD. When entering its value data, choose Decimal and type in how many milliseconds you want to wait before switching windows. Now restart Windows and voila!

End The Beeping
Do random Windows events cause your PC speaker to beep in that annoying manner? Shut it up permanently. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER Control PanelSound and double-click the "Beep" value. Change the value data to "No", and you won't hear a peep…er…beep again.

Joining an existing network

Enable Your Network Adaptor's Onboard Processor
If your network card has an onboard processor (you can find this out from the vendor's Web site), it can take off the load of network processing from your CPU. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEMCurrentControlSet ServicesTcpipParameters and create a new DWORD called "DisableTaskOffload". Set its value to 0 to enable offloading network processing onto the network card. Restart Windows for this to take effect.

Change Outlook XP's Restricted Files
Outlook blocks attachments with the following extensions by default:
ade, adp, asx, bas, bat, chm, cmd, com, cpl, crt, exe, hlp, hta, inf, ins, isp, js, jse, lnk, mda, mdb, mde, mdz, msc, msi, msp, mst, pcd, pif, prf, reg, scf, scr, sct, shb, shs, url, vb, vbe, vbs, wsc, wsf and wsh

However, if you want to allow any of the above file types, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice10.0OutlookSecurity and create a new string value called "Level1Remove". In the value data, enter the extensions that you want to allow, separated by a semicolon. For example, "exe;bat;pif" and so on. Do remember that these file types are often used to spread malicious code, so be careful when using this trick.

Optimise Your Hard Disk When Your PC Is Idle
This tweak will make Windows rearrange data on your hard disk when the PC is idle, so that applications will run faster. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionOptimalLayout and create a new DWORD called EnableAutoLayout (if it isn't already there). Set the value data to 1 and restart your PC. When you leave your PC idle now, Windows will optimise your hard disk.

Copy NTFS Permissions
If you copy files from one NTFS drive to another, it loses its permissions, inheriting the default permissions of the new drive. To make Windows preserve the current permissions, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer and create a new DWORD called "ForceCopyAclwithFile". Set the value to 1 to preserve the original permissions.

Set Disk Defragmenter Options
The Windows XP disk defragmenter doesn't really allow you much in the way of customising the defragmentation. To set a defragmentation method, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionAppletsDefragSettings and create a new key called Method under Settings. In the Method key, edit the (Default) string and set it to any of these options:

FULL - Defragment files, space and optimise programs.
FULLNOAPPLOG - Defragment files and space.
FILES - Defragment files only.
SPACE - Defragment space only.

To decide whether to run scandisk before starting the defragmenter, create a key called "scandisk" under Settings and set "(Default)" to TRUE or FALSE.

Disable Shut Down
If you don't want anyone to shut down your PC, you can disable the command altogether. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorer. In the right-hand pane, right-click and select New > DWORD Value and call it "NoClose". Set its value to 1 to disable shutting down the PC. 

Where did Shut Down go ?

Re-initialise the registry without rebooting
If you don't want to restart or log off to make a registry tweak work, try this instead:
Use [Ctrl] [Shift] [Esc] to bring up the Task Manager. Under the Processes tab, select "explorer.exe" and click on End Task. Note: This will kill any Explorer windows you have open. Explorer.exe will restart automatically because Windows can't run without it, an your new registry settings will now be loaded.

Shooting In RAW Format
If your camera has a RAW capture mode, it's a good idea to try it out. Here are some things you need to know.

What is RAW?
RAW is not really a single file format at all. Every camera manufacturer has its own native file format; all these formats are collectively referred to as RAW. For example, Canon RAW files use the .crw and .cr2 extensions, and Nikon cameras use the .nef extension. They are all unique as well proprietary-the files in these various formats are incompatible.

But no matter what flavour of RAW you use, the basic idea is the same. RAW files are uncompressed, perfect representations of what the camera's image sensor captures when you press the shutter release. RAW images are totally unprocessed. Contrast this with JPEG photos, where the camera performs tasks such as white balance adjustment, colour correction, and image sharpening.

Most importantly, RAW files preserve all the colours originally captured by the camera, usually 12 bits per pixel. When a picture is saved as a JPEG, the camera reduces the total number of colours to 8 bits per pixel. The higher colour fidelity of RAW makes for better photos, especially if you do a lot of editing on your images.

Disadvantages Of RAW
There are a couple of disadvantages to working with RAW, however. First and foremost is the time it takes to save each image on your camera. Most modern cameras can save even large JPEG images more or less as fast as you can shoot them. But RAW images are another story. On a typical 6-megapixel camera, for instance, each RAW image takes about 40 seconds to get saved to the memory card.

If you shoot in the RAW format, you will find myraid option by which you can edit your photograph.

File size is another consideration. Top-quality JPEG images could typically be just above 2 MB each, but their RAW counterparts are about 4 to 5 MB. If you have a smaller memory card, this is something to consider.

Fortunately, there's nothing particularly unusual about moving RAW files from the camera to the PC. Use whatever technique you prefer. But after the pictures are on your computer, RAW is a different story.

RAW-Compatible Software
In the past, most image editors didn't understand the RAW format, and it was also difficult to view, edit, and organise RAW photos. But thankfully, that's changed. No matter what popular commercial photo editor you use, you'll get RAW support if you upgrade to the newest version.

However, Windows XP doesn't understand RAW files. In your folders, RAW images appear as nondescript icons instead of thumbnail previews. And if you double-click on a RAW file, it won't open the Picture and Fax Viewer to display the image.

There is, however, a solution: Microsoft's free RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer. This PowerToy lets you preview, see thumbnails, and print RAW images as if they were any other file format that Windows understands. It also gives you the ability to see RAW images on the desktop without special RAW image management software. Download the PowerToy for XP from windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx.

Depending upon what image editor you use to edit RAW files, your experience will vary. Most programs allow you to make some initial adjustments to your RAW photo before loading it onto the editing canvas-more on this later.

Should You Use RAW?
If you need to spend money to experiment with RAW, think twice. JPEG, used with low compression, gives results that are surprisingly similar to RAW. RAW's real benefit comes in by making it easier to get high-quality results when you edit your photos on the PC. If you rarely spend much time editing your photos, using RAW may be more trouble than it's worth.

RAW Gives Richer Pictures
With a RAW file, the process of applying the required algorithms is given to your computer rather than to your camera. This means the conversion process can take advantage of the more powerful processor in your computer as opposed to the processor in your camera. And, because your computer's more powerful processor is being used, camera manufacturers have the option of using more powerful algorithms to process your photograph than could be used in the camera. This can have the effect of giving you richer, sharper pictures.

Pre-Edit In RAW
A great reason for shooting in RAW is the ability to make exposure, white balance and other edits to your photo before you even create the photo. Photo editing applications such as Photoshop handle most exposure and white balance editing on JPEG, TIFF and Photoshop files by removing data from the photo. To test this out, launch a photo in Photoshop, and open the Levels panel (Image > Adjustments > Levels) where you'll see a histogram for your photo. At the bottom of the histogram will be three diamond-shaped sliders. Move in the left and right sliders toward the centre. In most photos, this will have the effect of increasing the contrast of your photo. Click OK, and your levels changes will be accepted. Then reopen the Levels panel, and you'll most likely see the histogram with open vertical lines. These lines indicate missing information or data that has been removed from the photo in order to achieve the effect you saw on your monitor.

With a RAW photo, you can make these levels and other adjustments before you use the conversion algorithms. In Photoshop CS, this is done when you double-click on a RAW photo. Photoshop will present you with a panel with various exposure, white balance, contrast, saturation, shadow and other adjustment options in addition to a very large thumbnail of your photo. You can play with these adjustments and Photoshop will adjust the thumbnail photo to give you a very good representation of what the final photo will look like if you accept these settings. When you click OK, your editing adjustments are made to the algorithms that convert your RAW data to reflect the changes you want to make in the photo.

The most important thing to remember here is that your adjustments are being applied while your photo is being created. This means that no data is lost, and your photo will have all the tonal characteristics that are possible with that file. Because no data is lost when you adjust a RAW file, this gives you the ability to make exposure changes to your photo that are as wide as two f-stops or more. This is the reason many commercial photographers shoot in RAW.

Lenses For Digital Cameras
If you're planning to buy a lens for your digicam, how do you distinguish between the different kinds of lenses? Wide-angle or telephoto? What focal length and what speed? There are several questions you need to answer for yourself. Here's a brief primer.

Choosing The Focal Length
Focal length is probably the most important factor to be considered when choosing a lens: it determines the field-of-view of the photos you will be able to take with your camera.

The two main types of focal length are telephoto and wide-angle, and while telephoto lenses have a narrow field-of-view and are best suited for close-up shots and portraits, wide-angle lenses have a wider field-of-view which is perfect for indoor photography and landscapes.
Keep in mind that the performance of lenses differs from camera to camera.

Fast And Slow
When you hear about fast and slow lenses, people are referring to a lens' maximum aperture, which is the maximum amount of light that a lens can let in. A simple rule of thumb is that a fast lens lets in a lot of light, while a slow lens lets in less light, which defines how your photos will look.

Maximum apertures are measured in f-stop numbers, which are actually a ratio of the size of the lens aperture and focal length. The smaller the f-stop number, the more light is let in. An increment in the f-stop number doubles the amount of light let in, so f-1.4 lets more light than f-2.0.

This may seem confusing at first; the easiest way to make sense of it is to remember that fast lenses are best suited towards successful photography in darker lighting conditions, and slow lenses are targeted towards photography in brighter conditions.

Zoom Lenses
Unlike a fixed-focal-length lens, a zoom lens often gives you the diversity of a range of focal lengths all rolled into a single adjustable lens. This can be great if you often have to switch between various lenses for different shots, but it is important to remember that not all zoom lenses have a constant maximum aperture, and those that do are often larger and more expensive.

The maximum aperture can be reduced as you zoom in using a lens with a variable maximum aperture, but this may not be as important to some as the reduced cost and size of such lenses.

Add-on Lenses
Add-on or accessory lenses are targeted at compact digital cameras, and allow you to significantly lengthen or reduce the camera's inbuilt focal length while at the same time being able to automate camera functions including f-stop settings and focusing. These lenses can be excellent low-cost add-ons to your digital camera, with telephoto add-on lenses being able to increase focal lengths by up to 300 per cent, and wide-angle versions allowing for reduction in focal lengths of up to 30 per cent.

Above: A photograph that's clicked normally
Below: The same scene shot  using  a  fish-eye lens

A fish-eye lens is an extreme wide-angle lens that has an angle of view exceeding 100 degrees-sometimes more than 180 degrees-and which renders a scene as highly distorted.

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