Quick tricks for Win 2000

Windows 2000 was officially introduced by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in San Francisco on February 17. This launch was part of the Windows 2000 Expo at Moscone Center, where vendors demonstrated their wares for the Windows NT successor.

Sunbelt Software Distribution, an NT developer and information publisher, recently issued a survey of 1032 corporate customers running the latest beta versions of Win2000 Professional. Compared with NT 4.0 Workstation, 75 per cent said Win2000 was "somewhat", "much more", or "an order of magnitude" more reliable. As for Windows 95 or 98, 90 per cent said Win2000 was more reliable.

Over 50 per cent said Win2000 was "an order of magnitude" better at pre-venting crashes than Windows 9x (see www.sunbelt-software.com).

To help new Win2000 users find out what it can really do, my latest book, Windows 2000 Secrets (IDG Books), is now available. My co-authors are Bruce Brown and Bruce Kratofil of BugNet, the database of PC problems and work-arounds (see www.bugnet.com).

The new book is an unauthorised manual to tricks and undocumented features. Other books go deeper into heavy-duty Advanced Server administration topics, but Windows 2000 Secrets is for anyone who uses Win2000 Professional or Server and wants to know the hidden powers common to both products.

Meanwhile, I've put together some pointers so you can start taking advantage of them now. Most of the book's secrets take a page or two to explain. But I found a few quick tricks.

1) One-click access to powerful computer management. Windows 2000 includes a versatile tool called the Computer Management Console. Power users will want to become familiar with this feature. It deserves its own shortcut on the Windows Desktop, where it's just a mouse-click away. To do this, click Start, Settings, Control Panel. Open the Administrative Tools submenu, then right-click the Computer Management icon and click Create Shortcut. Drag the new shortcut that appears, called "Computer Management (2)," onto your Desktop. Select the icon and press F2 to rename the shortcut - or just to get rid of the "(2)." You can also drag this icon onto the Start button to place a convenient shortcut on the top level of your Start menu.

2) Safe Mode may be a big surprise. Sooner or later, some hardware problem will cause Windows 2000 to start up in "Safe Mode". This mode loads only a simple set of services so you can fix whatever part has gone bad. Unfortunately, USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices aren't loaded, for safety's sake. This disables any USB keyboards or mice you may have plugged into your system. For now, Idon't recommend USB keyboards or mice, which you'll need to troubleshoot your PC.

3) Get rid of folder windows, quick! If you have Windows Explorer's "Folder Options" set to open a new window whenever you look in a new folder, your screen will be filled with windows in short order. Rather than close each window individually, you can close all the folder windows by holding down the Shift key when you click the Close button.

4) Turn on your numeric keypad. Using today's keyboards, most people want the separate numeric keypad to be turned on at all times. But Windows 2000 defaults to leaving the numeric keypad off. You can turn the keypad on when Windows 2000 starts up by changing a single character in the Registry. Click Start, Run, then type regedt32 and click OK. In the Registry Editor that appears, select the HKEY_USERS window. Double-click the .Default folder to open it, then open the Control Panel folder, then select the Keyboard icon. Double-click "InitialKeyboardIndicators" label in the right pane, then change the digit 0 (zero) to 2. Click OK and close the Registry Editor. The next time you restart, the NumLock light will be on - even before you log in.

The NumLock state will be preserved on a per-user basis after that.

Send me your favourite quirks and undocumented features of Win2000. I'll send a free book to the first person who sends a tip I use.

Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows 2000 Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to brian_livingston@infoworld.com

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