Windows Tweaks

Strange Windows tweaks & unusual work-arounds

On this page I'll be writing about strange tweaks I sometimes use to solve or "work around" a problem.

Needless to say, of course, that applying any of these tweaks is entirely at your own risk.
Make sure you have a tested full backup available before trying any of these unsupported tweaks.
And always experiment on "non-production computers" first.

 

 

Tweak 1: Security tab in XP Home

I have often wondered why on Earth did Microsoft decide to deliver Windows XP Home Edition with many unsafe security settings as defaults, and without the tools to improve security?

Well, that said, I didn't really bother until I found out that the laptop I wanted was available only with Windows XP Home Edition preinstalled.
"[vendor name] recommends using Windows XP Professional" and then that same vendor delivers XP Home only. Sounds familiar?

So for a while I used CACLS whenever I needed to change permissions for files or folders.
CACLS is a great tool for setting permissions unattendedly, but I wouldn't recommend for ad hoc use.

So this brings me to the tweaks I found to "restore" Windows Explorer's Security tab:

I. Boot to Safe Mode

The easiest way for ad hoc use is to boot the computer in Safe Mode whenever you need to set permissions.
When booted in Safe Mode, the Security tab is always available.
The disadvantage is, of course, that many services are disabled in Safe Mode. So you don't get the same functionality you have when booted normally until you reboot again.

II. Install Security Configuration Manager

A better solution is a tip by Gilles Pion on Doug Knox's site: install Microsoft's Security Configuration Manager Tool for Windows NT 4 & 2000 Server on your Windows XP Home Edition.
This work-around is not recommended by Microsoft, but it does seem to work on most systems (unless of course those who tried this and failed were no longer able to send their feedback Smiley)...

This work-around may (or may not) downgrade some system files. This may affect the NTFS file system.
Though no problems have been reported so far, do make a full backup (or at the very least create a system restore point if your local data isn't that important) before trying unsupported work-arounds like this!

III. Patch RSHX32.DLL

The most elaborate method I found was one by Reinhard Tchorz, explained by Axel Vahldiek in the July/August 2005 issue of c't Magazine.
I think it is also the safest method, and it can always be undone quite easily.
Too bad it was only published on paper, in the magazine, and not on the magazine's website. I hope I'm not infringing any copyrights by summarizing:

  1. When booting in Safe Mode, a registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Option (which doesn't exist when booted normally) will contain a DWORD value OptionValue=1
  2. In Safe mode, the Security tab is displayed by %windir%\System32\rshx32.dll, after checking if the OptionValue=1 registry value exists
  3. It would be possible to trick rshx32.dll by patching the part that contains the search string OptionValue, replacing it with a slightly changed search string like OptionValuf, and adding this OptionValuf value to the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Option
  4. However, it is uncertain whether or not other Windows processes may fail due to such a change in the DLL, and besides, the DLL is likely to be replaced with the next ServicePack or Security Update
  5. It is much safer to patch a renamed copy of the DLL
  6. This requires changing 2 registry keys pointing to this particular DLL
  7. The registry changes mentioned in list items [3] and [6] are the only changes that need to be undone to reverse the whole process

Did I mention you should make a backup before trying this?

A less intimidating alternative

At TackTech.com a simpler alternative is provided.
Willem Koster sent me this tip, accompanied by 2 .REG files that can be used to set and reset the required registry value.

  1. Set the registry value:

    REGEDIT4

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Option]
    "OptionValue"=dword:00000001
  2. Manage your file/folder security settings using Explorer's Security tab
  3. Reset the registry value:

    REGEDIT4

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Option]
    "OptionValue"=dword:00000000

Simple, and no reboots required.

Warning: Like all manipulations of the registry, there is always the risk of permanent damage to your configuration.
Use entirely at your own risk!
Make a backup before trying this, at least a SystemState backup, but preferably a full image backup.

 

Tweak 2: Large Harddisks in Windows 2000

When my wife's 120 GB harddisk crashed about 2 years ago, I replaced it with a 250 GB model.
Her Windows 2000 installation had problems recognizing the harddisk, so I settled for the 130 GB it did recognize and restored the image backups I had to the new disk.

Some time later, a collegue sent me a link to KnowledgeBase article Q305098, which explains how to make Windows 2000 (SP2 and earlier) aware of harddisk capacity over 137 GB.
So when I had to reinstall Windows 2000 again recently, I decided to give it a try.

First of all I made sure the BIOS was up to date and could handle these large capacity disks.
Then I added the registry value from the Knowledge Base article in the existing Windows 2000 installation, rebooted and checked the harddisk in Windows' Disk Management console. Sure enough, there was en extra 128 GB of unpartitioned disk space available.
I removed the extended partition with the logical drives and recreated the extended partition, this time using all available disk space. I created an extra logical drive to contain several installation files and, for the near future, the image backups of the system partition.

Did I mention you should make a backup before doing this?

The Windows 2000 installation CD was at SP2 level, so it still couldn't handle the large capacity during setup.
By keeping the primary system partition (C:) below the 137 GB boundary, this was no problem. After installing Windows 2000 I immediately added the registry value mentioned in the Q305098 KnowledgeBase article. After the reboot, Windows did recognize the extended partition and the first logical drive (that both started below the 137 GB boundary), but reported all disk space of logical drives beyond this 137 GB boundary as available empty space. For the time being I ignored this and installed SP4. I suspect it wouldn't have been wise to use any logical drive beyond the 137 GB boundary at that moment.
After the reboot, the lost logical drives reappeared as if by magic, including their data.

 

Tweak 3: Hotswap CompactFlash cards in Windows 7

I own a Canon EOS 50D camera, and take lots of pictures with the quality (resolution) set to maximum.
Copying the contents of my 32GB CompactFlash cards to my hardddisk may take a while, if I had a lucky day.
That is why I bought myself a Addonics SATA CF adapter plus Silicon Image hot-swappable SATA controller, which made copying much faster, since this CF card reader uses a SATA interface instead of USB 2.0.

That was back in the XP era.

After moving the hardware to my new Windows 7 computer, I discovered that the CF card reader was no longer hot-swappable.
After some experimenting I found that I could use the following command to allow hot-swapping again:

ECHO List Volume| DISKPART.EXE

It had to be run each time a card was inserted or ejected.
Well, at least it worked.

A couple of weeks later I read this article SATA: Hot Plugging Drives Under Windows 2000/XP, and found HotSwap!, which adds a nice GUI/tray icon.
Perfect! Works like a charm.

Thanks Kazuyuki Nakayama

Update: After a while, the solution described here failed to work in Windows 7.
I bought myself an USB 3.0 card reader, which after a while got some problems too. Later I found out a defective mouse was causing the problem, but by then I already tried tweak 6.

 

Tweak 4: Remove annoying HP ToolBoxFX popup ads

Since I installed HP LaserJet P2050 drivers and monitor software, I regularly get annoying popups with ads for HP care pack.
These popups appear randomly at startup.
Trying to change the (privacy) settings redirected me to a website, where I had to agree to terms that would be shown after entering the site, for which I had to agree to the terms I could not see.
I have seen better marketing!

The source of the popup ads is HP ToolBoxFX, which monitors the printer status.
As I did not want to completely remove all HP ToolBoxFX functionality, I started digging in the Run section of the registry, where HP ToolBoxFX is started.
Based on some experiments and on the feedback the program gave, I think the part marked red is the part that needs to be changed (i.e. removed).

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run]
"HP Software Update"="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\HP\\HP Software Update\\HPWuSchd2.exe\""
"HPPQVideo"="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\HP\\ScheduledLaunch\\HP LaserJet P2050 Series\\bin\\hppschlnch.exe\" -r SOFTWARE\\Hewlett-Packard\\ScheduledLaunch\\LJ_P2050_Series -f PQOptimizerVideo.xml -o RemindLater"
"ToolBoxFX"="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\HP\\ToolBoxFX\\bin\\HPTLBXFX.exe\" /enum:on /alerts:on /notifications:on /fl:on /fr:on /appData:on /tmcp:on"

For 32-bit Windows this will look like:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run]
"HP Software Update"="\"C:\\Program Files\\HP\\HP Software Update\\HPWuSchd2.exe\""
"HPPQVideo"="\"C:\\Program Files\\HP\\ScheduledLaunch\\HP LaserJet P2050 Series\\bin\\hppschlnch.exe\" -r SOFTWARE\\Hewlett-Packard\\ScheduledLaunch\\LJ_P2050_Series -f PQOptimizerVideo.xml -o RemindLater"
"ToolBoxFX"="\"C:\\Program Files\\HP\\ToolBoxFX\\bin\\HPTLBXFX.exe\" /enum:on /alerts:on /notifications:on /fl:on /fr:on /appData:on /tmcp:on"

While at it, I also removed the annoying HPPQVideo reminder.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run]
"HP Software Update"="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\HP\\HP Software Update\\HPWuSchd2.exe\""
"ToolBoxFX"="\"C:\\Program Files\\HP\\ToolBoxFX\\bin\\HPTLBXFX.exe\" /enum:on /alerts:on /notifications:on /fl:on /fr:on /appData:on
Note: Before editing registry settings, save them by exporting them to a .REG file first.
This will allow you to easily restore the original registry settings, if necessary.
And always make sure you have a verified backup available.

 

Tweak 5: Update OEM display driver

For several reasons, instead of buying a new one, I recently upgraded my 6 year old laptop from Windows XP to Windows 7.
Of course, I used the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor first, to make sure the upgrade would be possible at all.
It told me I should download a new version of the network driver, the rest would be no problem.

You may have guessed by now: of course there was an unexpected challenge.
Somehow, for some obscure reason, OEM manufacturers (i.e. most laptop builders) do not allow ATI's Catalyst driver to be installed on their computers.
So, even with the ATI driver known and "trusted" by the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, it could not be installed, leaving me with a 1280x800 screen displaying at 800x600.

Enter ATI Mobility Modder by Ruud Ketelaars.

This tool allows you to download an "ordinary" non-OEM version of an ATI driver, and then modifies it so it can be installed on your laptop.

Like most tools: read and follow the accompanying instructions, do not start blindly!

My laptop display now happily works at 1280x800.

Thanks Ruud!

 

Tweak 6: A fast CF card reader

All-In-One USB 2.0/eSATA dual 2.5/3.5 inch harddisk docking station
CF to SATA converter

For a while I have been the owner of a All-In-One USB 2.0/eSATA dual 2.5/3.5 inch harddisk docking station (see image at the right).
This piece of equipment worked miracles when I replaced my laptops' harddisks: no reinstall required, just press the button and copy the original disk's partitions to the new harddisk.

As a docking station, it comes with both USB 2.0 and eSATA connections; if I were to buy one today, I would probably opt for the USB 3 model.

Anyway, by adding an under 7 dollar Compact Flash to SATA converter (see image at the right) I can now use the docking station as a fast eSATA CF card reader.

 

Tweak 7: Run Windows 8 Metro Apps on Netbook PCs

Since an upgrade to Windows 8 only cost € 30,00 I thought I might as well take the plunge and upgrade my Asus EEE-PC 1008HA, my last surviving XP machine.

The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistent did a great job, and the upgrade was painless (though slow).
The Upgrade Assistent warned me that the EEE-PC's 1024x600 screen resolution was too low to run Metro Apps.
I figured I would find a Windows 8 compatible virtual 1024x768 screen driver, like the one it had in XP. If not, no big deal, I would just have to use a different RAW photo editor.

And I did find it!
Just download and install Internal_VGA_Intel_32bit_8.15.10.1912.zip, reboot, and change the screen resolution from its new 1152x864 back to 1024x768.
This was for my Asus EEE-PC 1008HA; for the Asus EEE-PC 1001PX "SeaShell" look at the Update section below.

Of course, you don't get more pixels on the screen, so everything may look a bit squashed, but at least your apps will run.

I also wrote a batch file (SwitchRes.bat) that toggles between 1024x768 and 1024x600.
Pin it to the Start screen and the Taskbar to swich easily.
The batch file requires Ian Sharpe's SetRes command line tool.

Thanks Ian

Notes: 1 Before installing the Intel driver, make sure it supports your Netbook's graphics card.
  2 I used this tweak successfully on an Asus EEE-PC 1008HA.
Unfortunately, it did not work on an Asus EEE-PC 1001PX "SeaShell".
Update: After applying the registry tweak for Windows 8.1 (Tweak 8, below) on my Asus EEE-PC 1008HA Netbook, I wondered if that could also solve the problem on a friend's Netbook, an Asus EEE-PC 1001PX "SeaShell".
At first it looked like it made no difference, until I downloaded and installed the older Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150, Version 15.12.75.50.7.2230/8.14.10.2230 for Windows 7* 32-bit driver (that's right, for Windows 7!).
I ignored the warning that this version is older than the one already installed, and it worked like a charm!

 

Tweak 8: Windows 8.1 update on Netbook EEE PC 1008HA

Upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1 was not as painless as upgrading from XP to 8.

First, it required me to uninstall VIPRE Anti-Virus before continuing.

Next I found out the hard way, when forced to create a Microsoft account to log in for the first time after the upgrade, that aborting meant a completely automated roll-back of the upgrade, no questions asked.
What I should have done, and did the second time, was open the "Create a new account" dialog, and then immediately scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and click "I want to keep my current account".

Then I found out I could no longer set the screen resolution to 1024x768 (Tweak 7), which is required to run Metro style apps, or in my case Canon's RAW photo editing sofware.
Brad Linder to the rescue.
It turned out there are several places in the registry where a binary value named Display1_DownScalingSupported should be set to 1.
Brad's computer had 2 entries, mine had 6 of them, probably because I tried to install a driver from the old Windows 8 installation twice.
Only one of these values not set to 1 prevented changing the screen resolution.
A simple command to find all occurrences of Display1_DownScalingSupported on your computer is (note the * instead of 1, in case more displays are involved):

REG Query HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM /f Display*_DownScalingSupported /s /t REG_DWORD

In my case the output looked like this, the value that needed modification highlighted in red:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}\0000
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x0

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Video\{0907E28F-9B81-4498-A1A9-73542D212802}\0000
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x1

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Video\{0907E28F-9B81-4498-A1A9-73542D212802}\0001
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x1

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class\{4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}\0000
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x1

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Video\{0907E28F-9B81-4498-A1A9-73542D212802}\0000
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x1

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Video\{0907E28F-9B81-4498-A1A9-73542D212802}\0001
    Display1_DownScalingSupported    REG_DWORD    0x1

End of search: 6 match(es) found.

After modifying this value and rebooting the netbook, I could set the screen resolution to 1024x768 again.

Thanks Brad

 

Tweak 9: Windows 8 update KB2919355 fails with error 80070002

When Windows 8 "Spring 2014" update (KB2919355) failed with error 80070002 on my EEE-PC netbook, the Windows Update help mentioned an interrupted internet connection as the most likely cause.
So I downloaded the entire package and started a local installation, just to have it fail with the exact same error code.
I spent hours trying to solve the problem but finally gave up, hoping a solution would become available in the near future.

A couple of months later (the netbook isn't used very often) I decided to give it another try: same error code, despite the addition of "clearcompressionflag.exe" to the update package.
Fortunately, this time my Google search did return a useful link: Andrey Tarasevich found the cause.
It turns out that moving the Start Menu subfolders "Administrative Tools" and "System Tools" (which I did a long time ago) causes the update to fail with the uninformative error message.
In my case, running the commands
MD "%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools"
MD "%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\System Tools"

was all that was needed to fix the problem, after that the update installed flawlessly.
After the update is installed, the folders may be removed again.

There may be other issues in other cases, check your %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log (this may take a while).
I used the command
FIND "C:\ProgramData" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log
to find out if more Start Menu subfolders were missing (there weren't).

It's simple, once you know how...

Thanks Andrey

 

Fixes and work-arounds for applications

 

 


page last uploaded: 22 October 2014, 15:20
Fileaze