Posts Tagged ‘registry’

Here's something I've been meaning to share for a while, but somehow never got around to it. It addresses a small instance of that growing trend, in graphical interfaces, of making stuff look cool and flashy at the expense of usefulness.

Before Windows Vista, the folder-tree in Windows Explorer consisted of dotted lines, with clickable boxes to open or close a sub-tree. Like this:

[Click picture to enbiggen]

Since then, they've been clickable arrow-heads with no lines. It's not a huge inconvenience not having them, but I like those lines. When you're nine-or-ten layers down into the directory-structure and the top-level directory has scrolled off the top of the chart, they give an at-a-glance indication of where you are in relation to that top level. And, having helped inexperienced users a fair few times, I can attest that the dotted-lines graphical representation is much more intuitive. The lines directly represent and imply a structure, whereas a staggered column of triangles merely looks, to many newbies, like an oddly out-of-whack list.

So, anyway, here's the thing I've been meaning to share for lo! these many moons; a way to get those dotted lines back. Unfortunately, it involves using a .reg file, which WordPress won't allow me to store for you to download, so I'll have to talk you through the (painless) process of making one.

First, open a fresh Notepad text-document.

Now paste this into it:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


(Note: don’t delete the blank second line.)

Now click FileSave as…

Make sure you're saving it to somewhere convenient.

Change the Save as type: drop-down to All file types

In the File name: box, type (or paste) Show_Folder_Tree_Lines.reg

Click Save and close the document.

Now find the Show_Folder_Tree_Lines file you've just made. Either double-clicking it, or right-clicking and selecting Merge should begin the process of adding the contents to the registry. You'll probably be presented with a security warning or two, followed by a dialogue asking if you really, truly want to add the information to the registry. Click whatever okays and yeses are necessary, and eventually you should be told that the "keys and values … have been successfully added to the registry."

It's so long since I added this that I forget whether a restart is needed before the change will be apparent, but other than that, you're done. You should now have a properly-represented folder-tree in Windows Explorer.

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Some Registry Tweaks

Backing Up Registry Items

The next few tweaks will involve editing the Windows registry. While these are perfectly safe if you’re careful, it would be a good idea to read this first…

First off, let’s take a look at the registry editor. To open this, go to the Start menu and click on Run, then type regedit in the Run dialogue box that pops up. When the Registry editor opens, you’ll see it has two panes, the right of which is blank at the moment, and the left of which contains some rather odd-looking mumbo-jumbo, with an expandable tree just like in windows explorer.

Without going into too much detail (I’m hardly an expert myself, I’ve just picked a few tidbits up here ‘n’ there over the years), messing indiscriminately with this thing could seriously ruin your day, so it’s always best to think about what it is you’re doing. If some website advises changing anything with ‘net’ in the name for instance, google it and have a look at several forums where it’s been discussed—bollixing up your connection to the internet, and thereby to any online help you might find, would not be a nice thing. With that in mind, let me stress that all the registry tweaks I’ve put on here are ones I’ve used myself, some through several installs of Windows, with no ill-effects. None of them claim to ‘make your computer run 10 times faster,’ they just make little aspects of it a little less annoying. Anyway, back to Registry editor…

I’m going to use the article immediately below, Speed Up The Start Menu, as a working example, so If you think you might want to do that, take a gander at it now, before reading any further.

Click the junction (a cross in a box in XP, a small triangle I believe, in Vista) in the tree next to HKEY_CURRENT_USER and its child branch will expand downwards, and one level in toward the right. Search down that child branch until you find Control Panel and expand that, then do the same down its children until you get to Desktop. Click on that and you’ll see a whole load of files in the right-hand pane. You should have a view something like this screenshot, although some of the individual items will likely be different. The folder-like items in the left pane are called keys, the files in the right pane are called strings, and as we’re going to be changing one of them, we’ll want to back it up first in case anything goes horribly wrong. (Not at all likely in this case, but a good habit to get into, nonetheless.)

Right-click the Desktop key and click Export. In the File name box, enter ResetStartMenuSpeed (it’s always good to give these things descriptive names—and this is a backup in case our speed-up tweak goes wrong), and make sure that the Save as type box is set to Registration files (*.reg). Now click Save. Go to wherever you saved it, right click the ResetStartMenuSpeed.reg file, or ResetStartMenuSpeed, if you’ve not got file extensions showing, and select Open With→Notepad. You should see something like this:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]
"Wallpaper"="C:\\Documents and Settings\\Daron\\Local Settings\\Application Data\\Microsoft\\Wallpaper1.bmp"
"OriginalWallpaper"="C:\\Documents and Settings\\Daron\\Local Settings\\Application Data\\Microsoft\\Wallpaper1.bmp"
"Pattern Upgrade"="TRUE"
"ConvertedWallpaper"="C:\\Documents and Settings\\Daron\\My Documents\\My Pictures\\Wallpaper\\body-standing03.jpg"
"ConvertedWallpaper Last WriteTime"=hex:80,2c,dc,73,34,3a,ca,01

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics]
"Shell Icon BPP"="16"
"Shell Icon Size"="44"

We don’t need all that, as the only string we’re changing is MenuShowDelay, so delete everything apart from that and the first two lines, so it looks like this…

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

…and save. Note the blank line between the first two lines. If that’s missing, it won’t work.

That’s the worst over now. Just locate the MenuShowDelaystring in the right-hand pane of Registry Editor, and modify it as described below, then exit Registry Editor. If the change you’ve made works out badly, or if you just plain find it annoying, just find the Reset….reg file you made for it, and either double-click it or right-click it and select Merge, then answer Yes to the ‘Do you really want to do this?’ query that pops up.

Speed Up The Start Menu

I have seen at least a couple of posts saying this applies to Vista and 7 too, but I can’t vouch for it

Do you ever notice that the Start and Programs menus quite often have quite a delay betwen you hovering the mouse over them and them opening? Here’s how to speed them up:

  • Open the Registry Editor, by going to Start→Run and typing regedit
  • In the left-hand pane, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\, back up the Desktop key (see above), then click on it to view its contents in the right-hand pane.
  • Double-click the MenuShowDelay string in the right-hand pane. (If you’re on Vista or 7 and you can’t find that string, then we’ll have to assume the posts I mentioned above were wrong – sorry!)
  • In the box that pops up you’ll see a number in the Value data box. By default it’s 400; changing that to a lower number will speed up the start menu. Be a bit cautious though, as setting it to zero, or near-zero, will result in menus opening and closing faster than you can keep the mouse on them. I’d suggest trying it at 200 for starters and experimenting until you find a speed you like.

That’s not quite the end though. If you followed my advice about backing-up the original file, you’ll know the procedure already—go back into regedit and make another backup, this time naming it SpeedUpStartMenu.reg, edit it down to the string you modified, like this…

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

…and keep it and any others you make on a rewritable disc or other external media (even a common-or-garden mp3 player can pinch-hit as a small portable data holder btw, and you can pick ’em up for nearly nothing these days). If you ever need to reset to the original speed, or to redo the speed-up, after a Windows re-install for instance, just double-click the appropriate file, or right-click it and select Merge, and it’ll be automatically added to the registry without you having to go through all that bother again. Nifty, eh?

Before we carry on…

A couple of things you may or may not have noticed:

If you want to try different values in strings like the one we used in our example, you don’t need to keep going back to the registry editor to do it. Just open the modifying file (SpeedUpStartMenu.reg in our example) and change the value, then merge it.

The second thing is rather in the way of a warning. If you go googling for tweaks, you’ll sometimes see people offering reg files for download on message boards and such, often in response to ‘How do I…?’ questions. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s always worth opening the file in Notepad and checking what string is actually going to be altered. It’s easily done, just run regedit and follow the path in square brackets that makes the second line of the file. While you’re there, it would be a good idea to make a Restore….reg file so that you can undo any changes. If they provide a restore file as well, check it to make sure it does restore the string to its default value (and if you’re a really suspicious type, check to make sure that it’s actually pointed at the same string—there are pranksters out there…)

You can make your own .reg files in Notepad, but as you have to check the default value and make a restore file anyway, it’s as easy to just make a copy of the restore file, rename the copy to reflect whatever affect the file has, and edit it in Notepad to change the value it imports.

Back Up The Whole Registry

To back up the whole registry you need to make a System Restore point or install Microsoft’s Guided Help program. As long as you have System Restore turned on, Windows will make restore points for you on a regular basis, but if you want to make your own, before trying something really potentially dumb, for instance, follow the instructions on Microsoft’s Help page on the subject, which also contains the download for the Guided Help program.

Automatically Close Non-Responsive Programs

If you’ve ever had to use Task Manager to close a program that has stopped responding, this one’s a godsend:

Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop and change the value of AutoEndTasks to 1.

Now Windows should close non-responsive programs automatically.

Hide The Search Bar In Internet Explorer

This works in XP and I’ve seen claims that it works on Vista, but I have no idea if it works on Windows 7.

If you have a search bar such as that from Yahoo or Google, or just plain don’t like having a search bar in the toolbar (and let’s face it, if like many you have Google or another search engine as your homepage, you really don’t need a search bar—there’s a huge one right there in the middle of the browser window), you probably won’t want the built-in search bar provided with IE.

Remember what I said about not bothering to make your own .reg files in Notepad? Well this one creates a file that didn’t exist before, so we don’t have much choice…

Open a new Notepad document and paste in the following. Make sure to leave the blank line between the first two lines, or it won’t work:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Infodelivery\Restrictions]

  • Click File→Save As.
  • In Save as type, select All files.
  • In File name type or paste HideIE7SearchBox.reg
  • Click Save.

That’s your .reg file made, now merge it in just the same way as those above.

To make a restore file, paste:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Infodelivery\Restrictions]

…into Notepad, then follow the same procedure as above, titling it ShowIE7SearchBox.reg, or some such. The ‘=-‘ at the end deletes the string.

Turn Off Balloon Tips

This one stops those annoying tips that appear with a pop sound down by the clock:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


And to restore them:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


Download The .reg Files

If all that’s left you still feeling a bit unsure about messing with the registry yourself, and as long as you trust me you can download the four reg files mentioned above from one of the links below:

Download Link One | Download Link Two

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