Archive for July, 2010

Are your Windows XP Desktop icons missing ?

All of a sudden you find your Windows XP Desktop icons missing just when you were in the middle of something on your computer. Ever been in that situation ?
This Windows XP tips and tricks article explains what you can do when you find your Windows XP Desktop icons missing.
It’s pretty annoying, because usually when this happens, your taskbar and start button are gone too. That leaves you with nothing much to click on. The only thing that’s left to look at is your desktop wallpaper.
The best way to get back on your feet is by pressing ctrl-alt-del. That will bring up the Task Manager. (In some cases it brings up the Windows Security dialog, but you can click on the Task Manager button from there to go where we need to be.)
Once in the Task Manager, make sure you are on the “Processes” tab and then click on “File” in the Task Manager menu. Then select “New Task (Run…)” and type “explorer.exe” (without the quotes) in the “open” field. Then click ok and watch a new incarnation of your desktop come to life in front of your eyes.

Save time with fewer reboots

In a lot of cases you can elaborate this technique a bit and use it to avoid a reboot when you have made modifications in the registry. Generally you have to reboot your computer for registry changes to take effect. Now you can avoid reboots by killing and respawning the explorer.exe process.

After you have made modifications in your registry, make sure to save and close all documents that you are working on. Then bring up the Task Manager with ctrl-alt-del. Click on the “Processes” tab and look for the explorer.exe process. Single-click this process and click on Task Manager’s “End Process” button.
That will make your desktop icons, task bar and start button go away, the only thing that remains is the Task Manager. That allows you to select “File”->”New Task (Run…) from the Task Manager menu. Again, type “eplorer.exe” in the “open” field and click ok.
That will cause the new registry settings to be loaded without the necessity of a reboot.

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Synchronize files in Windows XP

Many people still use the “low tech” way to synchronize files in Windows XP. They copy them onto a floppy for transfer. Others hook their laptop into the network and manually copy files over the network.
There’s nothing wrong with that, except that there’s a much simpler way to synchronize files in Windows XP.

If you want to keep files synchronized between your laptop and your office environment, you’re much better off using something called “Offline Files” in Windows XP.
Offline Files automatically deals with situations where files are changed both on your laptop and on the network location. How would you manage synchronization when it’s possible that neither copy is in it’s original state ?

100% availability

The Offline Files functionality is extremely useful if you want to work with your files when they are not always available 24/7. Think of files on a network that periodically goes down for maintenance or files on a desktop pc that you want to access while traveling with your notebook.
Offline Files is designed to be an improvement over the Briefcase function from previous Windows versions.
The feature is only available in Windows XP Professional, not in Windows XP Home Edition. However, only the computer that needs to maintain and synchronize the Offline Files needs Windows XP Professional. The computer that stores the original files can be running any operating system.
You must first turn off “Fast user switching” to start using Offline Files to synchronize files in Windows XP. Don’t know if “Fast user switching” is enabled ? If your computer is part of a network with a domain, you don’t have to worry about it. Fast User Switching is not an option in domains.

Not part of a domain ? Do the following :

  • Click the Start button and select “Control Panel”
  • Open up “User Accounts”
  • Click “Change the Way Users Log On or Off”
  • Deselect the “Use Fast User Switching” checkbox and click ok

Now you’re all set to synchronize files in Windows XP.

  • Right-click the Start button and select “Explore”
  • From the Explorer menu, select “Tools”->”Folder Options”
  • Click the Offline Files tab and check the “Enable Offline Files” check box
  • Change the additional synchronization settings if needed

You can return to this dialog any time to delete offline files with the “Delete Files” button. Use the advanced button to setup how your computer needs to react when the connection to another computer on the network is lost.

Make the selection

Next, you need to select which networked files and folders you want available on your local hard drive :

  • Right-click the network file or folder that you want to cache
  • Select “Make Available Offline”

If this is the first time that you do this, the Offline Files wizard will allow you to set some extra configuration options. If you selected a folder that contains subfolders, you will need to specify whether you want to include these as well.

When you work offline

If you synchronize files in Windows XP like this, the files will appear as if they were online even when they are not actually available. You can access them the same way you usually do. If they are available via the network, you get the “live” copy; if they are not available, you get the offline copy. An icon in the notification area will inform you if you are working offline.

Connected to the network

As soon as you connect your laptop to the network again, you need to synchronize your files. Windows does it automatically for you if you have set the configuration options to automatically synchronize at logon and / or logoff.

You can also manually synchronize files in Windows XP :

  • Click the Start button
  • Select “All Programs”->”Accessories”->”Synchronize”
  • The “Items to Synchronize” dialog allows you to select which items you want to synchronize
  • Click the Synchronize button

When both your local copy and the network copy of a file have changed, Windows will ask what you want to do. When only one of the copies has changed, it will overwrite the un-changed copy.

Alternatively, you might want to …

Another way of accessing your files in your office environment is by using remote control software. Windows XP has its own built-in remote access feature, called remote desktop (RDP), but that is often limited when your office network uses a firewall.

This limitation can be overcome by using a third party remote access software like Citrix GoToMyPC. It works like a charm and passess through most firewalls, because it uses the standard http internet port to remotely access your pc.

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