Overhauling the stock utilities in Windows can make your system faster, smarter, and easier to use. But some downloads do more harm than good. Here’s how to resurrect your picture viewer if a third-party one trashed it. Plus, I’ll give you a one-click hibernation hack and two useful speed-boosting tips.
Picture Viewer Gone Missing
The Hassle: I installed a free image viewer, and it was awful. I uninstalled it, but now the viewer that came with XP has vanished. What can I do to get it back?
The Fix: You’re talking about XP’s Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, and it’s handier–and more versatile–than most people think. Check out Scott Dunn’s “Windows Tips: Windows’ Hidden Image Viewer” for cool tricks.
Back to your dilemma: You’ll need to re-register the viewer. From the Start menu, choose Run, type regsvr32 %windir%system32shimgvw.dll, and click OK.
If that doesn’t do it, open My Computer, select Tools, Folder Options, and choose the File Types tab. Depending on your programs, you may find a pretty long list. Scroll to a file association that you want to change, and select it. (Start with BMP, GIF, JPEG, and JPG; do each one individually.) Click the Change button, browse to Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, and click OK.
Who’s Got the Hibernate Button?
The Hassle: When my buddy wants to turn off his PC, a Hibernate button appears next to Standby, Turn Off, and Restart in the Turn Off Computer screen. How did he do it? I want one!
The Fix: Ready to jump through hoops? First read Microsoft’s article KB893056; afterward, request the XP hot fix, and then fiddle with the Registry (which you’ve backed up in advance, of course).
A quicker, cooler way is to stick a Hibernate icon on your desktop, avoiding the Start menu altogether. First, make sure that Hibernate is enabled: In Control Panel, click Power Options, choose the Hibernate tab, select Enable hibernate support, and click OK. Now from the desktop, right-click, choose New, Shortcut, type %windir%system32rundll32.exe PowrProf.dll, SetSuspendState in the ‘Type the location of the item:’ field, and click Next. Type Hibernate and click Finish. Finally, right-click your new Hibernate shortcut, select Properties from the drop-down menu, choose Change icon, and browse to my Hibernate icon (right-click the icon and choose Save As from the drop-down menu).
Learn more about shutdown states in the article “Gunk Busters!” (scroll down to “Standby or Hibernate?”).
Better Performance–And Desktop Searching
The Hassle: Windows Vista’s Indexer bogs down system performance as it constantly catalogs the contents of my hard drive.
The Fix: Indexing in Vista is almost as worthless as it was in XP. It takes a big gulp of resources and slows down your system. So I say disable it. From Add/Remove Programs, click Add/Remove Windows Components in the left panel, deselect Indexing services, and click Next.
Now, for a replacement, grab a copy of a great, free searching tool, Copernic Desktop Search (read more about Copernic in “Three Free Desktop Tools“).
Speed Up Your Apps With Actual Booster
I’m a sucker for any free utility that claims to speed up my system, so I risked hosing my PC and used Actual Booster for a month. Windows uses priority levels to determine how much CPU time an application gets (the default is ‘normal’). Actual Booster automatically sets the priority level of the program you’re using to full blast.
One thing to remember, though, is that when you’re multitasking, setting the priority to ‘high’ on one application takes processor time from those in the background. Also, if you have a brand-new, super-duper, quad-core PC, Actual Booster might not do much good. Yet on slower computers, and especially my dog-tired old notebook, I can see a big difference. One drawback: On some PCs, Actual Booster causes the mouse to stumble.