Category Archives: Windows

Windows registry explained simply

I can’t say I’ve ever seen the Windows registry explained well. It helps to think of the registry as a database. Microsoft loves databases, and they’ve been trying for decades to stuff as much database technology into Windows as they can. The registry was one of the earliest and most successful of those efforts.

Although it was controversial in the 1990s, the registry solved a very real problem. Windows 3.1 and earlier stored all of its settings in huge plaintext files called ini files. They were a tangled mess, and the more you used your computer, the slower it became. The registry made it a lot faster for the computer to find each setting it needed.

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Taming Windows 95/98/98SE/ME Out of Memory Errors

The symptom: If you install more than 512 MB of RAM in a system running Windows 9x (that’s any version of Windows 95, 98, 98SE, or ME), you get weird out of memory errors.

The culprit is a bug in Windows 9x’s disk cache. The solution is to limit the cache to use 512MB of memory, or less, which is a good thing to do anyway. Here’s how.

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The HP Elitebook 8440p and Windows 10

I got an HP Elitebook 8440p because I wanted something a little newer and faster than my old Dell E1505. It was certainly newer and faster, but it had a problem. Every morning it greeted me with a BSOD. That E1505 was getting older and it had its own quirks, but I don’t remember it ever bluescreening on me. Here’s how I fixed the bluescreens I got with the HP Elitebook 8440p and Windows 10.

Not only did it bluescreen, but the behavior seemed pretty consistent. Two days in a row, I woke the laptop up from hibernation, and about nine minutes later, it bluescreened.

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Xxcopy vs Robocopy

Part of being a system administrator is copying large quantities of files around, for any number of reasons. The traditional tools for this, Copy and Xcopy, have some limitations. For this reason, two companies extended Xcopy: Microsoft, with Robocopy, and Pixelab, with Xxcopy. Let’s compare Xxcopy vs Robocopy.

Microsoft includes Robocopy with recent versions of Windows. Even when it wasn’t included, you could get it as part of the Windows Resource Kit. Xxcopy is commercial software.

Xxcopy advantages

Xxcopy’s advantages are its similarity to Xcopy and its simpicity. I most frequently used its /clone switch, like this: xxcopy /clone source destination

So if you’ve just installed a new hard drive and want to move your old one to the new one, do this:

xxcopy /clone e:\ f:\

And then you can swap the drives.

The /backup switch is safer than /clone, as it doesn’t delete any files. Since I normally used it for one-time copies to blank media, there was no perceptible difference between the two.

It really just is an extended Xcopy. Sub in something more powerful for /s and off you go.

Xxcopy disadvantages

I stopped using Xxcopy when it stopped being free for commercial use several years ago. But it worked just fine then, and presumably still works just fine now, if you’re willing to pay for it or qualify for a free license.

Some organizations won’t approve third-party software without jumping through a lot of hoops, or at all. It may very well be easier to learn Robocopy than to install Xxcopy.

Robocopy advantages

Robocopy is just there, if you’re running a fairly modern version of Windows. It’s part of the operating system, so you won’t need any approvals, and there’s nothing to download or install. That’s a huge political advantage in most companies.

I also think Robocopy’s restart capabilities with the /z switch are a bit better if the copy gets interrupted. That was the reason I started using it.

Robocopy disadvantages

I have no idea why Microsoft changed the syntax. It’s robocopy source destination files. Well, I kind of understand. Perhaps it’s more powerful this way. But it’s a lot more confusing. It’s almost as bad as the infamous PIP command.

It’s very easy to delete files you don’t mean to delete, and to copy a bunch of stuff where you don’t intend to.

If Xcopy is a hand saw, Robocopy is a power saw with no safety features on it. If you’re a little bit afraid of it, that’s good. It means your brain works. To continue the analogy, Xxcopy is a power saw with some safety features.

That said, you can put safety features on it. The problem is you have to put the safety features on yourself.

 

Cleaning the Windows registry – and optimizing

Cleaning the Windows registry is a popular and controversial topic. Many pundits tell you never to do it. When I wrote a book about Windows back in 1999, I dedicated most of one chapter to the topic. But today the pundits have a point. Most registry cleaning utilities do much more harm than good. I don’t recommend you clean your registry, per se, but I do recommend you maintain it.

I don’t want to dismiss the concept completely out of hand. There’s a difference between a bad idea and a bad implementation. Registry cleaning and maintenance is a victim of bad implementation. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. So let’s talk about how to get the benefit while minimizing the drawbacks.

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Optimize Windows 10 for better performance

When I first installed it, I thought it was pretty pointless to try to optimize Windows 10. Of course, I installed it from scratch on a computer with an SSD and 16 gigs of RAM. Then I upgraded a couple of computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and I started to see why some people might not like Windows 10 all that much.

Upgraded systems almost always run slow, but I’d forgotten how much slower. And while you didn’t have to do much to Windows 7 to make it fast–that’s one reason people liked it–I find some Windows 10 optimization seems to be necessary.
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Fix a Windows boot loop with AHCI

My wife’s computer was stuck in a Windows boot loop. We’d get the Windows 7 boot screen, and it would display a single pixel of the Windows 7 logo, then reboot itself endlessly.

Any number of things can cause this, but in our case, enabling AHCI turned out to be the fix. Enabling AHCI also can be easier said than done, but I figured it out. She’s running Windows 7 (for now) but these same tricks should also work for Windows 10.

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