If you're out to learn Windows XP, but you've just arrived here in this WinXP
series, be sure to click on the Library link
(on the TechTrax menu above) where you can view various tutorial series.
There you can find links to the rest of the articles in this Windows XP series.
Or type WinXP in our
There's lots to love about Windows XP. But in this article, I'll tell you
about some of the things that I find particularly cool. Besides telling you
about some of my favorite features in Windows XP, we'll also discuss some
of the security issues you'll definitely want to check out.
As Greg explained in his Firewall
article, it's critical these days to protect
If you're using Windows XP, you already have what you need on
your computer. But if you haven't enabled the Firewall feature,
you're sitting on the Internet naked! So if you haven't already purchased
some third party Firewall, get into your system and turn it on, for pete's
Click Start > Programs > Accessories > Communications
> Network Connections. There you'll see a list of all the connections
you currently have available.
Note! Microsoft is on the verge of releasing Windows
XP, Service Pack 2. You will definitely want to install
that update as soon as it comes out. I'm a beta tester for it.
There are some important security enhancements that you'll want
to have available to you, as well as other cool things. However,
note that once you install that update, the firewall settings
will move to a new Security
icon in your Control
You can read more about WinXP SP2 HERE,
where techies can also download the RC1 technical preview.
Depending on your settings, you should be able to easily see which connection
is your Local Area or Wireless Network. Select it. Once selected, you'll
want to change the settings for that connection to enable the Firewall, as shown
Note! If you don't see the same view as shown above,
displaying the Common Tasks along the left, you can turn this view
on through the Folder
Options icon in your Control Panel, as explained
below. Or...just Right click and choose Properties to
view the same dialog box that will appear as when you click the Change
Settings link in the image above.
To change the type of view displayed in your folders, click Start
> Control Panel > Folder Options. On the
General tab, click the option to Show
Common Tasks in Folders. Click
Ok to close out this dialog and your view will change
to look like the image above.
The Properties dialog box will appear. Click the Advanced tab
to access the Firewall setting. Click that option to enable your firewall.
Realize that if you currently have some network connections that share information
between computers, you may have disabled some of them by setting up this
defense. So click the Settings button if you need to make further adjustments.
If you need more details to customize your settings or want to read more about
Firewalls, click Start > Help and enter Firewall into
the Windows help dialog box.
The help dialog box will provide you with lots of additional information.
Even more info if you're currently connected to the Internet, as it'll supply
you with additional, current article links directly from Microsoft's web
If you connect to the Internet and do not have a firewall enabled, your system
can be overtaken in about 20 minutes by hackers! See this
article for that data. And read this
additional article, by Greg Chapman, to learn more about the damage
that can be done to your computer without you knowing about it, if you leave
Windows Auto Update
Windows provides the ability to have the system automatically check for updates
from Microsoft. You can then have the updates downloaded while you're working
away or sleeping. When they're ready, a notice will popup to inform you that
new updates need to be installed. Or you can even set it to install them
without bothering you.
Unfortunately, trying to find this setting is nearly impossible without
directions! And don't count on Windows Help for a road map this time...because
it just sends you to the Windows update scanner page on the Microsoft site.
Granted, that's a terrific site to use to scan your system for updates. You
can do this at this link: http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp.
But to set the automatic update options, you need to access the System
Properties dialog box in Windows XP. To do this, you can either right click on My
Computer and choose Properties, or hit the Windows
+ Break shortcut keys to display
There you will see the tab for Automatic Updates. It's fairly self-explanatory
and there's a link to get more information.
Personally, I prefer that the files are downloaded automatically and then
have a popup to let me know when it's time to do the deed.
Whichever option you choose, having updates downloaded automatically helps
protect you by ensuring that any updates are downloaded as soon as they are
available from Microsoft.
Single Click Option
There's a feature I really like in Windows, but trust me on this one, it is
definitelynot for everyone! If you don't learn to fully understand
how the Single Click option works, you can not only make yourself crazy,
but cause some havoc on your system. For those of you who know how to pay
attention to what you're doing, it's a pretty cool feature and will save
you lots of excess clicking.
I work on a computer nearly constantly. The less clicks I can get away with,
the better. And for mom, who only accesses the main icons on her desktop,
it's a convenient feature that saves her old fingers the extra workout.
What can make you nuts is the habit of clicking once to select a file. You
have to realize that if you change this setting, one click will now activate that
file, not just highlight it. To simply highlight a file, you need only hover
over it with your pointer. This can take some getting used to! Particularly
when you're trying to use the Ctrl key to selectively choose
or unselect various files. You will no longer hold down Ctrl and click on
a file to add or remove it from a collection of selected files...you'll hold
down the Ctrl button and just hover over that file to activate the click.
But once you get the hang of it...it's pretty cool. Just don't do this if
others regularly use your computer, because they might attempt to only select
an executable file to move or delete, but will end up running the file, instead.
This could have devastating results!
If you want to save yourself clicks, you can change this setting by accessing
the File Options icon in your Control
Panel. Once opened, check the Single
Click option as shown below, from the General tab.
If you decide it's too much for you to handle, come back to this dialog box
and reset it to the Double Click option.
Renaming Multiple Files
Did you ever wish you could rename a pile of files all at once? Say you have
a bunch of files with different names, but they're all related to one project.
How cool would it be to select all the files and rename them all to MyProject(1),
MyProject(2) with one simple change? Or even more common, how about having
a pile of photos with different names, but they're all related to the same
event. Wouldn't it be nice to have them all renamed to OurVacation2004(1),
OurVacation2004(2) and so on? But think of how long it would take you to
rename dozens of files!
Not if you are using Windows XP! You can rename hundreds of files with a couple
Here's a folder with some sample files. Notice that they all have different
If I want to give them all similar names, I don't have to rename each file.
I just need to select all the files and select one specific file in the group.
Right click to rename that single file.
But because I have all the files selected in a group when I rename that one
file...all the files will be renamed to this new name and each will
receive a successive numbering sequence to differentiate them from one another!
How cool is THAT!
Showing More Folder and File Details
Did you know that you can sort your files, quickly, by just clicking on the
title bars while files are displayed in Windows Explorer (or other displays,
including email in Outlook)?
Yup, those column headers are actually buttons. Just click to sort in ascending
or descending order for the category you've clicked.
Below you see a bunch of files in a folder. Notice that there are many different
types of files. If I wanted to find a specific file, one way to quickly locate
what I need is to click the Type column button.
After I sort by Type, notice that it's now much easier to find various types
of files. If I was looking for an HTML file in this folder, you can see the
search will be easier because, although this folder holds many files, there
are only three HTML files.
This is particularly useful when you need to find a file you recently worked
on. Just sort by date and your search will go much quicker!
But what if you needed to search a shared folder for just your files. How
could you tell which ones are yours? Well, if you right click along the top
column header in Windows XP, additional category names will be displayed.
You can click to add Author to the column categories and then click that
column to sort by names of the authors.
In fact, if you click the More... option at the bottom, a dialog box will
open with a pile of additional sorting columns you can add.
Realize that not all features will be available for all types, it'll depend
on the type of file and what information was originally saved with the file.
However, you can right click a file in your folder and click Properties,
in many cases, to add additional pieces of information to the file.
If you get greedy and pile up a bunch of headers, but then realize you don't
have enough screen real estate to display all the information you've added,
you can adjust the column width by clicking and dragging the dividers as
If you double click on that divider within the column portion of the display,
the width will default to the maximum size you need to display all the file text
in that column.
And if you're sitting here totally frustrated because none of these images
look remotely similar to what your Windows Explorer displays, know that you
must be in the Details view to get these options. So click the Views button
as shown below and choose Details.
One of the most useful features added to Windows XP, in my opinion, is the
new Compression feature!
Previously, you had to have some third party compression program in order
to stuff a bunch of files into a smaller container to email them. Now you
just need to select the files you want to compress, right click and choose
Send To > Compressed Folder.
The data will be compressed as much as possible and stuffed into a zipped
folder. You can then just email the folder.
When you receive a zipped folder, you need only right click it and select
Extract All. A wizard opens and walks you through the simple steps.
Much more convenient than having to figure out where you put that third party
compression program. I'm so spoiled with this feature at home that I feel lost
when I have to use the office Win2000 system that doesn't have this built-in
But even better, if your version of Window XP and your file system is set
to NTFS (NT File System) versus FAT32 (File Allocation Table), you can even
compress entire folders to give you more hard drive space.
Previous business versions of Windows, such as WinNT and Win2000, use NTFS
a better and more secure file structure. Previous home versions of Windows
used FAT32. Windows XP will support either type. So if you upgraded from
Win98 and didn't convert your file system, you'll have FAT32. But if you
upgraded from WinNT or Win2000, yours will be set to NTFS.
Note that you can read the Windows Help files to learn more about how to convert
your FAT32 system to the better NTFS system.
To find out what you have, open your Windows Explorer (hit the Windows + E
key combo for quick access). Select your C drive and right click. Choose
Properties. The drive property box will appear. There you can find out details
about your hard drive, including what type of file system it's using.
The image below shows my FAT32 system.
This laptop is running NTFS. Also notice that, at the bottom of the NTFS drive,
you have additional options to compress the entire drive.
Or you can select a folder, right click and choose Properties.
On the General tab, choose Advanced. There
you'll find more options for compression and archiving folders.
I've previously written a couple separate articles about other
features I particularly like. If you want to play around with some fun stuff,
check out these additional articles.