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d o n a t i o n s
My hope is that everyone who reads this site saves some money and gets a more reliable computer from the advice on it.

If you feel this site is worthwhile a donation will help cover some of the expenses.

Email and Paypal information is available in the 'contact me' link above.
s o u r c e
I don't normally keep copies of programs on this site - instead there are links to the download pages of the copyright owners. This means you always download an up-to-date version of the program. While I don't have any use for continual updating (change = trouble) it seems reasonable to start a new install with an up-to-date version.

The exception to this rule is if I can't find the original author's site.
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g r i p e s,    w h i n e s    &     c a v e a t s
After Service Pack Two, WindowsXP became usable and reliable. As screens increased in resolution XP even became good-looking, if you stretch a point. It worked the way it should have done when it was first released and for about a year we had a good operating system from Microsoft.

Then they released Vista.

I see no point in slowing down a computer that's working perfectly well by installing a new operating system. Especially one which bestows no significant benefits. Many existing victims of Microsoft agreed. The reason most people acquired Vista was that it was already installed on a new computer and they had little choice. Some of these unfortunates junked Vista, installed XP and were rewarded with a computer with much improved speed and a simpler user interface. Leaving aside the 'lack of drivers' fiasco and the unwanted 'features' such as digital rights, why spend money on a dog.

Enough ranting, the fact remains that XP will be with us until hardware arrives which is not (and cannot be) supported by XP. So here are some paragraphs which explain how to make it work so well that you'll not be looking for a replacement. Though if you have to buy a new computer you will get one whether you want it or not.

    H o w    t o    d o    i t
A reasonable amount of skill with an MS Windows operating system is required. If you are a complete novice I recommend reading 'Windows for Dummies' or an equivalent book and then practising, before tackling anything on this website.

In the procedures set out below a left mouse click/drag is required unless otherwise specified.
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x p    s e t u p
This is how to setup Windows XP to look good, be easy to use and respond quickly.

My main computer runs XP Professional Edition This is because I occasionally use it to write client/server websites. There are few other reasons to run XP Pro and XP Home Edition is smaller and faster.

You can get away with a lot less but this is what you need to run XP well:
   o   Processor: 3GHz Athlon or Pentium 4
   o   Memory: 2GB
   o   Hard Drive 1: 100GB (boot)
   o   Hard Drive 2: 500GB (data)
   o   Hard Drive 3: 500GB (backup)
   o   Graphics: x1650 Pro 512MB (with 2 output sockets)
   o   Monitor 1: 1920x1080 24" (main)
   o   Monitor 2: 1280x1024 17" (backup)

This gives enough grunt to run XP and lots of programs at the same time. It does a cold boot in 45s and a warm boot in 6s.

Here's a picture of my current screen layout, click on it to see a larger version.

The customised XP interface includes:
   o   Sliver color option
   o   Home-brewed desktop picture to match
   o   Stretched taskbar includes:
         ¤   Quick Access toolbar
         ¤   Media folders toolbar
         ¤   Frequent Access Files toolbar
         ¤   Virtual Desktop Controls
   o   Reduced caption bar
   o   Increased Icon Separation
   o   Only three icons on the desktop
   o   File suffices turned on
   o   Custom 'All Programs' menu

You can do the following procedures a bit at a time but personally I like to grab Windows by the scruff of the kneck and show it who's boss.

    S e t    s i l v e r    c o l o u r    o p t i o n
        right-click on desktop ->
        properties ->
        appearance ->
        colour scheme down arrow ->
        silver ->

    H o m e - b r e w e d    d e s k t o p    p i c t u r e    t o    m a t c h
If you'd like the left part of the picture shown above (rendered at 1920x1080 and saved as a .jpg), its available for download here.

Once you've got your chosen picture make sure its resolution matches your monitor's resolution. Then:
        open file browser ->
        find your picture's icon ->
        change view to 'thumbnails' ->
        right-click on the picture's icon ->
        set as desktop background

Don't use the XP 'stretch' facility - it makes a real mess of pictures.
        right-click on desktop ->
        properties ->
        desktop ->
        position down arrow ->
        center ->

    C o n f i g u r e    t h e    t a s k b a r
Stretch the taskbar
        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        if ticked, click on 'Lock Taskbar' to unlock it ->
        drag the top edge of the Taskbar upwards by two lines ->

Set auto-hide:
        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        properties ->
        ensure 'auto-hide' is ticked ->
        ensure 'hide inactive icons' is not ticked ->

The taskbar is now a useful size and it will appear when you move the pointer to the bottom of the screen.

    A d d    l i n k s    t o    t h e    T a s k b a r
The object here is to get icons off the desktop and organised. To the Taskbar I add the 'Quicklaunch' bar and two folders of my own links,'frequent shortcuts' and 'media shortcuts' to the taskbar.

Quicklaunch is used to hold programs. To add programs to Quicklaunch, right-drag the executeable (.exe file) onto the Quicklaunch bar and click on 'create shortcut'.

In one folder I create shortcuts to often used files (a jotter, an accounts spreadsheet or a book I'm writing perhaps). In the other I put shortcuts to my media folders; Art, Comics, Movies, Cartoons etc. Just put in links to the things you use most often otherwise you lose the advantage (10 per folder max). It puts the things you use a lot right in front of you, where they aren't hidden by open windows.

        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        hover over 'Toolbars' ->
        click on 'Quicklaunch' when the list appears ->

Make the shortcut folders:
        open windows explorer ->
        makes sure the focus is on 'my documents' ->
        file ->
        new ->
        folder ->
        make sure the focus is on 'new folder' ->
        type "00 frequent shortcuts" ->

        click on 'my documents' ->
        file ->
        new ->
        folder ->
        make sure the focus is on 'new folder' ->
        type "01 media shortcuts" ->

Add the shortcut folders to the Taskbar:
        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        hover over 'Toolbars' ->
        click on 'New Toolbar' when the list appears ->
        navigate to '00 frequent shortcuts' ->
        ok ->
        right-click on the vertical line to the left of the title ->
        untick 'show title' by clicking on it.

        right-click on a blank part of the taskbar ->
        hover over 'Toolbars' ->
        click on 'New Toolbar' when the list appears ->
        navigate to '01 media shortcuts' ->
        ok ->
        right-click on the vertical line to the left of the title ->
        untick 'show title' by clicking on it.

The shortcuts in the two folders will appear in the Taskbar.

Drag the vertical lines to arrange the icons to best advantage then lock the taskbar.

    R e m o v e    i c o n s    f r o m    t h e    d e s k t o p
Icons on the Desktop quickly get into a horrible mess. In addition to that they are covered up by the windows of running progams and you can't get at them easily. I move everything I want to use onto Quicklaunch on the Taskbar and delete the rest. For reasons known only to Microsoft its easy to delete all the desktop icons except for the trashcan.

To remove trashcan you need to download and install a Microsoft Powertoy called TweakUI from here.

While you're there a copy of 'Virtual Desktop Manager' will be useful later.
        Install and run TweakUI ->
        Desktop ->
        Untick all the icons ->

    V i r t u a l    d e s k t o p s
This allows you to group programs for different purposes.
        Install 'Virtual Desktop Manager'.

Once installed you get 5 small buttons on the Taskbar which allow you to switch between four Virtual Desktops. I dedicate one to news and weather, one to Skype and one to my current project. I've yet to find a use for the fourth. It makes for a much less cluttered desktop(s).

If you install this program you will need to assign desktop backgrounds to each virtual desktop. Here's how to do one.
        right-click on any of the 'Virtual Desktop Manager' buttons ->
        'configure desktop images' ->
        click on a desktop ->
        select or browse for your image ->

    S l i m    d o w n    t h e    c a p t i o n    b a r
Gives WindowsXP a (very slightly) sleeker look.
        right-click on Desktop ->
        properties ->
        appearance ->
        advanced ->
        active window caption bar ->
        set Font to Tahoma ->
        set Font Size to 8 ->
        turn Bold off ->
        set Active Title Bar size to 18 ->
        ok ->

    I n c r e a s e    i c o n    s e p e r a t i o n
Makes it much easier to use Control Panel and other icon-based areas.
        right-click on desktop ->
        properties ->
        appearance ->
        advanced ->
        Item down arrow ->
        Icon Spacing (Horizontal) ->
        set to 70 ->
        Item down arrow ->
        Icon Spacing (Vertical) ->
        set to 50 ->
        ok ->

    T h e    t h r e e    i c o n s
The only icons I have on my desktop are:
   o   Shared folder of the local computer
   o   Shared folder of the remote computer 1
   o   Shared folder of the remote computer 2

Respectively these act as quick-access to my local shared folder and as drag-&-drop hotspots to the shared folders on other computers on my local network.

        open Windows Explorer (or equivalent) ->
        contract 'My Documents' ->
        expand 'My Computer' ->
        make sure 'Shared folder' is shared on the local network ->
        right-drag 'Shared folder' onto the desktop ->
        create Shortcut ->
        rename to "LOCAL COMPUTER NAME - Shared"  ->
        drag to top left-hand corner of desktop ->
        expand 'My Network Places' ->
        expand 'Entire Network' ->
        expand 'Microsoft Windows Network' ->
        expand 'LOCAL NETWORK NAME' ->
        expand 'NETWORK COMPUTER' ->
        right-drag 'Documents' onto the Desktop ->
        create Shortcut ->
        rename to 'REMOTE COMPUTER NAME' ->
        repeat for all your remote computers ->

If you drag-&-drop a file on an icon for a remote computer it will be copied to that computer. Doube-click on the first icon to look at incoming files.

    T h e    t h r e e    l e t t e r    s u f f i x
Microsoft's idea of being helpful is to hide the three letter suffix appended to every file. These three letters define what type of file it is. If you can't see them how do you determine what program to use to open the file?

Hiding these letters has been default since WindowsXP came among us. Here's how to see them:

        open Windows Explorer (or equivalent) ->
        Click on 'Tools' ->
        'Folder Option's ->
        'View' ->
        Scroll down to 'Hide extensions for known file types' ->
        Untick it ->
        OK ->

If you drag-&-drop a file on an icon for a remote computer it will be copied to that computer. Doube-click on the first icon to look at incoming files.

    C u s t o m    'A l l    P r o g r a m s'    m e n u
One of the main usability problems with Windows is the mess created in the All Programs menu as applications are installed.

This can be sorted out so its quick and easy to find things. I use the following menu structure:
   o   Customising
   o   Development
   o   Games
   o   Graphics
   o   Internet
   o   Mutimedia
   o   Navigation
   o   Office
   o   Peripherals
   o   Security
   o   Startup
   o   Telephone
   o   Utilities

I'm not going to cover this in detail, suffice to say that a few minutes of organisation is worth an accumulation of many hour's of "Where the
¤¤¤¤'s that gone."

    open Windows Explorer (or equivalent) ->
    navigate to...
        C:\Documents and Settings\'USERNAME'\Start Menu\Programs ->
    move the contents of that folder to...
        C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs ->
    create folders with names in the list above in...
        C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs ->
    drag the links you want to keep into the new folders ->
    delete everything else

Note - In each finished folder right-click and then 'Sort by Name'.

    C o n c l u s i o n
I could witter on for hours about setting up but the essence of the matter is to get everything to where you can find it easily.

Once you've done that you need to make sure WindowsXP is running properly - see the next section.
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s p e e d    t e s t i n g
Does your computer have a problem?

Does it seem slow?

If your computer runs Windows Vista it won't seem fast no matter the hardware. I've yet to see a Vista installation which gives an impression of speed.

If you have a well-specified computer running WindowsXP which has no get up and go, here are a couple of quick checks.

    C a s e    t e m p e r a t u r e
If you have a desktop or floor standing computer place your hand on the computer's case.

If it feels warm you have a sticky fan.

    C p u    u s a g e    a t    i d l e
Check the amount of CPU cycles you are using with no applications running.

    Press [CTRL][ALT][DEL] ->

The figure under the CPU Usage window should bounce around between 0% and 4%. Significantly higher and you have a problem - the higher the number the bigger the problem.

If you have a high useage:

    Click the 'Processes' tab.

Look for the process which is using the extra cycles. If you can't identify that process you have a serious problem.

    I d e    b o o t    d r i v e    t e s t
If you have an IDE (PATA) boot drive look at the transfer mode Windows is using. Windows will try to use the fastest access mode it can. If it gets too many errors it will drop down a mode. There are six modes.

            Fastest mode - Ultra DMA Mode 5
            Slowest mode - PIO

How to check:

    Press [Windows][Break] to bring up System Properties ->
    Hardware ->
    Device Manager ->
    expand 'IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers' ->
    right-click on 'Primary IDE Channel' ->
    Properties ->
    Advanced Settings ->
    Check 'Current Transfer Mode:' for Device 0 ->

If Windows is using PIO to transfer data to and from your boot drive - its time to get a new boot drive.

    S a t a    b o o t    d r i v e    t e s t
If you have a SATA boot drive, as do I now, the alternative is to look at the raw SMART data log on the drive.

I use 'Hard Disk Sentinel' for this.

    run Hard Disk Sentinel ->

In the raw SMART data look at the these values:
   o   Raw Read Error Rate
   o   Seek Error Rate

If these numbers are non-zero you may have a problem. Its very difficult to interpret how bad the problem is though. The numbers are manufacturer's codes rather than the number of errors. HDS will try to guess for you but I'm not sure just how good the guesses are.

    B o o t    s p e e d    t e s t
WindowsXP Pro should boot from cold in about 45 seconds. A boot from Standby (Warm Boot) should take 6 seconds.

That's a complex system with four hard drives, a DVD, four SSDs 16 USBs, Scanner, Webcam, Printer, two sound systems, WiFi and about two hundred programs.

The same system should start MS Word 2007 in 7 seconds from cold and less than a second after that. The same times apply to MS Excel 2007.
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m a i n t e n a n c e    &    s e c u r i t y
As I may have mentioned before; maintenance and security are inseparable. If a computer is well maintained, its less vulnerable and malware is a major cause of slow computers. Most of the computer's I have bought to me as complete failures are cured when I run the procedure I describe below.

Every one or two months I do these things on my own computers (I often skip the last step):
   o   Internal physical cleanup
   o   Make backups
   o   Malware scan
   o   Virus scan
   o   Registry scan
   o   Check startup list
   o   Check Windows files integrity
   o   Check filesystem
   o   Remove unused drivers
   o   Check browser add-ons
   o   Defrag the boot drive

    C l e a n i n g    a    c o m p u t e r
Only do this when a reasonable amount of dirt has built-up. There is a chance of generating static electricity which can blow the chips in computers. On the other hand too much dirt will cook a chip which runs hot (like the main processor).

I suggest once a year for cleaning unless the household has a smoker or a hairy pet, in which case clean every six months.

I use a 12mm paintbrush with artificial (pointed) fibres. I hold it by the metal fibre clamp and try not to press too hard. Use a Vacuum cleaner with a plastic hose and nozzle.

The computer should be disconnected from all peripherals but plugged into the mains power with the mechanical switch on the PSU 'Off'. There should be no lights on inside the computer. If you don't have a mechanical switch on the back take the computer to a professional to be cleaned.

While you're working inside the computer try to keep touching the metal part of the case.

Check the fans for crud and make sure they spin freely. If they're stiff or 'coggy' take the sticker off the back and put one drip of light machine oil on the spindle. Spin the fan by hand until it frees up. Use toilet tissue to soak up excess oil and put the sticker back. If the fan doesn't spin freely after oiling get a new one.

Check the fins of the heatsinks. Clean any build-up of dirt with the brush.

Loosen any other big build-ups of dirt with the brush.

Vacuum all the loose dirt out of insides of the computer. Try not to touch the computer's components with the vacuum cleaner.

Put the side panel back on and you're done!

    M a k e    b a c k u p s
Everyone should have backups.

How you do it is up to you but in my opinion the only way to back up a hard drive is with another hard drive.

I use ViceVersa to copy my changed files from the boot drive to data drive one (dd1). Then I use the same program to copy changed files from data drive one to data drive two (dd2). dd2 is an exact replica of dd1.

I do this at irregular intervals, but never more than one month. If I'm working on a paid project I backup daily.

The advantage of a program like Vice Versa is that it copies only changes, which makes it much faster than copying and entire 500GB drive.

    M a l w a r e    s c a n
To the scans. Malware first because if you've got any, its the most difficult to remove.

    Run Malwarebytes' Antimalware
    Update the database
    Run 'Quickscan'
    Delete any detected files.

Watch out for false positives with this program. If you've got Windows Firewall and/or Update turned off (as i do) it will detect this as the work of malware. However its a good program for getting rid of sticky malware that would otherwise require the re-installation of Windows.

    V i r u s    s c a n
Avast runs several live intercept services so daily scans are not required. However ts a good idea to run a scan occasionally. Avast is the one program I allow to access the internet and run daily updates.

    Right-click the Avast icon in the system tray
    Start Avast antivirus
    Local disks
    Delete any detected files.

Not a lot to say here. Avast will do its job. I've yet to have any problems with it.

    R e g i s t r y    s c a n
I am currently using 'Eusing Free Registry Cleaner' for this. It is a simple program but it seems very thorough. In a year of use I have yet to find a problem with it.

    Run Eusing
    Scan Registry Issue
    Repair Registry Issue

And that's it. Takes less than 10 minutes.

    C l e a n    s t a r t u p    l i s t
The objective here is to find and remove unwanted programs which have been inserted into the list of programs started with windows. I use Anvir Task Manager Free for this.

I've always felt that its a bare-faced cheek when a company installs programs which steal my processor cycles and internet bandwidth without my knowledge. Most so-called auto update programs are used as market information tools. Rant over...

Simple procedure:

    Run Anvir
    open Startup tab
    remove programs you don't want

Remember when removing these programs that if you need them you can start them manually or put them back in the list. So don't worry too much about them.

    P r e v e n t    a u t o - u p d a t e s
A major cause of Windows taking a long time to boot is the 'auto-updating' program problem.

What happens is that as soon as Windows is running all the programs with 'Check for updates' enabled try to get on the internet at the same time. This causes what I like to call a program 'squabble' as they all fight for internet bandwidth and processor cycles. The result is that Windows locks up just after it boots. I've watched one of these lock ups last for 20 minutes. Then Windows worked normally.

There's no specific cure for this, you have to run round all your programs turning auto-update off. If you can't turn it off, try to find a replacement program. If you can't find a replacement, block the program with your firewall. Normally they give up quickly if they can't access the net.

The only program I give auto-update access to is my anti-virus program, Avast. Even that has a delay feature so it doesn't try to jump on the net as soon as it starts.

    W i n d o w s    f i l e s    i n t e g r i t y
All files can become corrupt or 'updated'. The files which comprise the MS Windows operating system seem more prone than most to this. However there is a simple fix built right into Windows. Its called System File Checker (SFC).

    insert your Windows Installation CD into your drive ->
    wait for the install window to appear and close it ->
    click on the START button on the Taskbar ->
    Run ->
    type "sfc /scannow" ->
    OK ->

A small window will appear as Windows checks its installed files for changes. If any files have changed, original versions will be copied from the install CD and onto the hard drive, replacing the changed files.

There's not much of a user interface. When SFC finishes its run successfully its window just vanishes.

You wind up with a nice fresh copy of Windows. I really don't know why this isn't publicised more.

    C h e c k    f i l e s y s t e m
Here we look at the way files are stored on your hard drive. If you have suffered any system stops or crashes while writing to the hard drive damage may have been done to your filesystem's addressing. Similarly with physical bumps. It is possible to repair or mark as unusable these areas of the drive.

    start Windows Explorer or equvalent ->
    shrink 'My Documents ->
    expand 'My Computer' ->
    right-click on drive c: ->
    properties ->
    tools ->
    check now ->
    start ->

If you finish the scan without errors, well and good.

If you have errors, run the scan again with both these options ticked:
   o   Automatically fix file system errors
   o   Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors

You will need to reboot the computer.

If at the end of this you still get an error message you need to get a new hard drive and copy your data onto it while you still can. Don't prevaricate.

    R e m o v e    u n u s e d    h a r d w a r e    d r i v e r s
This only really applies to Windows installations which have been running for a while and have undergone a number of hardware additions, USB connection movements and generally problematic periods.

My own installation of WindowsXP is about 5 years old and has been through quite a lot with me, including a transfer from another drive. I didn't know, but it had an amazing baggage of hundreds of old drivers.

How do you sort it out?

    Press [Windows][Break] to bring up System Properties ->
    Advanced ->
    Environment Variables ->
    'New' button below the System Variables panel ->
    'New' button ->
    In the 'Variable Name' box type "devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices" ->
    In the 'Variable Value' box type "1" ->
    OK ->
    OK ->
    Hardware ->
    Device Manager ->
    View ->
    Show Hidden Devices ->
    Expand branches in the device tree ->
    Look for the greyed-out (unused) icons ->
    right-click on each unused driver and click on Uninstall ->

I had nearly a thousand of these to get rid of.

    C o n c l u s i o n
My copy of WindowsXP has matured like old wine over the years.

Now it has a kind of slippery, greasy feel as the underlying hardware has got faster and I have become more proficient at getting the best out of XP. Everything happens faster than I expect.

                Gone are the days when I could make a cup of coffee while Windows booted.
                Gone are the days when I could drink it while Windows switched between applications.

And who wants them back?
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    f i r e f o x    c o n f i g u r a t i o n
Firefox is currently the most popular internet browser in Europe - and with good reason. Its quick and elegant and it doesn't crash. Most of all - it doesn't crash the operating system. There are a number of things which can be done to improve on the basic configuration without adding so much that it becomes slow:

   o   I set up Firefox so that its controls (not counting tabs) occupy only one line.
   o   Then I put my Bookmarks Toolbar on the next line.
   o   I suppress advertising and Flash because I don't like things flickering in my peripheral vision.
   o   I install one theme - really just because I like it.

    A d d - o n s
Add-ons provide extra functionality to Firefox. However the more stuff you add the slower Firefox will go. I find the idea of removing advertising and Flash pictures irresistable. I really do hate pictures flickering away in my peripheral vision while I'm trying to read something.

Adblock Plus - gets rid of unwanted advertising - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Adblock plus" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Adblock Plus window. ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->
    Restart ->
    Make sure 'Easylist(USA)' is selected ->

Flashblock - replaces Flash vids with an icon, click the icon to see the vid - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Flashblock" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Flashblock window. ->
    Install now ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->

Silvermel Theme - replaces Firefox fonts, icons and background with something much more classy - recommended:
    Click on: Tools - Add-ons ->
    The 'Add-ons' windows is displayed ->
    Click 'Browse all Add-ons' ->
    Firefox will display the Add-ons page in its main window ->
    Type "Silvermel" into the search box and press [Enter]->
    The search results are displayed. ->
    Click 'Add to Firefox' in the Silvermel window. ->
    Install now ->
    Install now ->
    Restart Firefox ->

    A r r a n g e    t h e    c o n t r o l s
The idea is to reduce the amount of vertical screen lost to Firefox's own controls while leaving it easy to use. This can be quite important with a small 'wide-screen' like a netbook.

Once Firefox is installed:

    Right-click on a blank part of the top toolbar ->
    Click on 'Customise'. ->
    A 'Customise Toolbar' (CT) window will appear. ->
    Drag the google search window into the CT Window. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a separator into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    Drag the icons from the navigation toolbar into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'History', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'Downloads', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag 'New Tab', into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a separator into the top toolbar. ->
    From the CT window drag a space into the top toolbar. ->
    Drag the Address Box onto the top toolbar. ->
    Click Done in the CT window. ->
    Right-click the now empty Navigation Toolbar. ->
    Untick 'Navigation Toolbar'.

You could also untick the Bookmarks Toolbar and hide the Status Bar but its probably easier to just to press [F11] on the keyboard and display Firefox in full-screen mode.

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    a v a s t    c o n f i g u r a t i o n
If left in standard settings any virus scanner will soak up CPU cycles just when you're waiting for something to happen. Ie it will take a fast computer and turn it into a slow one.

The trick is to configure it to do an effective job without increasing file load times.

What I do is allow Avast to scan only files which have an associated risk and then only when they are written to disk.

    S c a n n i n g
Optimise live scanning:

    Click on the blue avast icon in the system tray ->
    Standard Shield ->
    Customise ->
    Click 'Scanner (Basic)' ->
    Untick all boxes ->
    Click 'Scanner (Advanced)' ->
    Untick 'Scan files on open' ->
    Tick 'Scan created/modified files' ->
    Select 'Only files with selected extension' ->
    Tick 'Default extension set' ->
    OK ->

    D e l a y    u p d a t e
Put in a short delay so that Avast updates a few seconds after the computer boots.

    Right-click on the blue avast icon in the system tray ->
    Program settings ->
    Udate (Basic) ->
    Automatic ->
    Automatic ->
    Details ->
    Type "1440" into 'Auto update every' ->
    OK ->
    Troubleshooting ->
    Tick 'Check for full screen applications' ->
    Tick 'Delay Loading' ->
    Tick 'Disble rootkit scan' ->
    Untick the other boxes ->

Note that the Sounds option in the above window allows you to disable the inane little speech whenever Avast updates.

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Last update: 25th June 2010
Site & Contents Copyright © 2001-2010 Gerry Parnham BSc - All Rights Reserved

t h i s    p a g e
gripes, whines & caveats
xp setup
speed testing
maintenance & security
firefox config
avast config
u p d a t e s
I update this site on a regular basis, so what's here reflects my current kit.

If you find a broken link or a piece of freeware that no longer performs as I describe, please let me know. I'll sort it out. Mail me by clicking on the 'contact me' link at top left of this page.
p r o c e d u r e s
Microsoft have never had the faintest idea of how to design and explain a user interface, you only have to look at an Apple computer to see that.

I've always complained about how badly WindowsXP is set up when first installed. The icons are jammed together, the taskbar is locked in place and too small to use properly and to cap it off the main colour is bilious blue. This is caused by the fact that Microsoft is populated by engineers who designed Windows to be an engineers toy, then tried to make it easy to use by giving it big letters.

The best way to make XP easy to use is to run it on a large, high definition screen and then follow my setup instructions in the 'procedures' page of this website.
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