NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2002
For Inveterate XP Tweakers Only
by Carl Siechert
Co-Author, Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out

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One of the fun things about Windows XP and Windows 2000 is that there is so much tweaking you can do if you want to. You don't need to do any of the things that I described at a recent Pasadena IBM User Group presentation, but if you like peeking under the hood and making a few adjustments so things run just the way you like, you can. Here's a little more information about some of the topics I discussed:

Group Policy
Group Policy lets you make all manner of settings--everything from configuring the desktop to hiding certain drives to preventing the creation of scheduled tasks. These settings (and hundreds more) are stored in the registry, which you can edit directly.

But Group Policy is much easier to use than a registry editor. A few notes before you dive in:

**To use Group Policy, you must have Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000; it's not available in Windows XP Home Edition.

**To use Group Policy, you must be logged on using an account that's a member of the Administrators group.

**If your computer is not a member of a Windows 2000 Server domain, any settings you make in Group Policy affect everyone who uses your computer. (There is a crude workaround that lets you set up two groups of users- those who are affected by Group Policy settings and those who are not. For details, check out pp. 1074-5 in "Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out." [Caution: this is the first of several plugs for my books.])

Ready to do it? Start Group Policy by choosing Start, Run and typing "gpedit.msc". (If you end up using Group Policy very much, you'll want to make a shortcut to gpedit.msc.) Then, in the left pane, select a subfolder of Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates or User Configuration\Administrative Templates. (These next two folders and their subfolders house the most interesting policies, although you might want to check out the others as well.)

Select a useful sounding policy in the right pane, and an explanation of the policy appears. Keep poking around until you find something that interests you. To make a setting, double-click the policy name and then choose an option in the dialog box that appears. To make a setting, double-click the policy name and then choose an option in the dialog box that appears.

Pretty easy stuff, but you're exploring where few Windows users dare to tread. Unless you work hard to enable policies that, for example, prevent you from logging on, the settings under Administrative Templates are pretty safe.

Nonetheless, you should read the explanation carefully before you make a policy setting.

Want more information? For a complete reference to Group Policy in Windows 2000, visit http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/techinfo/reskit/en- us/default.asp

Look for Windows 2000 Group Policy Reference in the contents pane. Nearly all the information in this reference applies to Windows XP Professional as well, although it doesn't include the policies that are available only in Windows XP. Another good resource is the Group Policy Object Settings spreadsheet, which you can download from http://www.microsoft.com/WindowsXP/pro/techinfo/productdoc/gpss.asp"

Although the spreadsheet doesn't explain the settings, it lists all Administrative Templates policies and shows which ones apply to each operating system; it also provides a convenient way to record your own settings. You'll also find more information in "Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out" (Chapter 34) and in our new book, "Microsoft Windows Security Inside Out for Windows XP and Windows 2000" (Chapter 19). The latter book, which should be in stores in August, includes a number of specific recommendations about policies you can set to better secure your system.

I also mentioned the Services snap-in, which is included in the Computer Management console. To open Computer Management, right-click My Computer (on the Start menu or in an Explorer window) and choose Manage. In the left pane of Computer Management, select Computer Management (Local)\Services and Applications\Services. (Tip of the day: You can open the Services snap-in within its own console. You can find a shortcut to Services in the Administrative Tools folder, or you can simply choose Start, Run and type "services.msc".)

So which services should you turn off by changing their startup type to Manual or Disable? This Web site offers some good advice: http://www.blkviper.com/WinXP/servicecfg.htm

And (time for another plug) "Microsoft Windows Security Inside Out for Windows XP and Windows 2000" provides a brief description of every service included with Windows XP and Windows 2000 and offers recommended settings.

Copyright (c) 2002 by Carl Siechert. Reproduced with permission. Article reproduction coordinated by Steve Bass, Pasadena IBM Users Group. Reaching Carl Siechert is easy-his company site is http://www.swdocs.com Discussions, links, tips, and other good things are at http://communities.msn.com/WindowsXPInsideOut and, as you'd expect, you'll find links for ordering the book online.

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