How to: Bring your Windows operating system up to speed

We bring you a handful of useful tips and tricks to get more out of your Windows OS

Windows has stood the test of time and is still the preffered OS of choice for many. The OS has immense support from developers and is the go-to platform for the best selling games and productivity suites today. But overtime, Windows tends to get clunky after a year or so. Here's a list of tips and tricks to speed things up along with a host of shortcuts and hidden features that you probably didn't know about.

Upgrade context menu using the option “Copy to folder” (Windows Vista/7)
Normally, you duplicate a file, in which you “Copy” it into the clipboard, then search for and open the target folder, and subsequently “Paste” from the clipboard into the target folder. You can simplify this process by upgrading the context menu for file by adding the command “Copy to folder”. A small change in the registry makes this possible. For this, click on “Start” and enter the term “regedit” in “Search programs/files”. The result shows windows directly in the Start menu. Right-click on the entry “regedit.exe” in “Programs”, which you can then execute as “Run as administrator”. You must possibly authorise this by selecting an account using administrator rights and entering the relevant password.

How to: Bring your Windows operating system up to speed

Easily add two useful commands to the context menu for files and folder through Registry entry


Navigate the tree structure on the left area to the key “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellex Context MenuHandlers”. Create the new sub-key “Copy To” using “Edit | New | Key”. Mark it and double-click on the value “(Standard)” in the right window area. Enter the GUID “{C2FBB630-2971-11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}” in “Value” in the dialog “Edit string”. Subsequently, search the key “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTAllFilesystemObjects shellex ContextMenuHandlers” and here, also create a new sub-key “Copy To”. Set the “(Standard)” value using the above given GUID.

Once you close the Registry editor from “File | Exit”, the context menus of files and folders is extended with the command “Copy to folder”. If in the future, when you select one or more files and choose the command “Copy to folder” from the context menu, a simple dialog appears, allowing you to select the target folder. In the end, you can “Copy” the files with a mouse click in this directory.

Note: If you create the key “Move To” in “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellex ContextMenuHandlers” and in “HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTAllFilesystemObjectsshellex ContextMenuHandlers” respectively and then save the “(Standard)” value using “{C2FBB631-2971- 11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}”, you add the command “Move to folder” in the context menu for files and folders. 

Determine custom theme for the Windows welcome screen (Windows 7)
You surely know the command “Set as desktop background” from the context menu for graphics files. But Windows 7 does not have any simple solution in its repertoire in order to change the background of the welcome screen. You can use the freeware Logon Screen to integrate this. For installation, double-click on the entry for the downloaded file and subsequently follow the instructions during the setup.

Windows OS speed up

With just a few clicks, determine in detail how your Win-Logon screen should appear from now on


You may possibly have to authorise these instructions by selecting a user account with administrator rights and entering the relevant password. It is best if you use the installation version “Custom Installation” and deactivate all additional options. Apart from the Logon Screen, the setup furthermore tries to install the program Incredibar as well as Linkury Smartbar. Stop this attempt by removing the relevant checkmark during the setup process. After the installation, you can find Logon Screen in “Start | All programs | Logon Screen | Logon Screen”. In each case, you need administrator rights to execute this tool. Logon Screen functions exclusively in Windows 7. You can influence the appearance of texts and buttons via “Advanced Display Settings” and can activate or deactivate different elements of the welcome screen. In addition, you can define a notification which displays the Windows before the log-in. Click on “Open” in order to select a new background for the welcome screen. In conclusion, click on “Apply” and exit the tool via the system button in the title bar.

Call up often used commands of the Control Panel directly into Start menu (Windows 7)
Specific Control Panel commands are used regularly. Thus, you want to integrate the familiar symbol directly into the Start menu for quick access. Drag and Drop lets you do this in the blink of an eye. For this, open “Start | Control Panel”. In “View”, either select “Small Icons” or “Large Icons”. Then you can click on the desired command and drag it into the Start menu while pressing the left mouse button. Repeat this process for all necessary commands.

View Boot menu in text form – as before (Windows 8)
The Windows Boot menu appears during installations with multiple operating systems from Windows 8 onwards in the style of the Modern UI – which executes another restart to start another operating system. One who wants to view the Boot menu in the usual text form can fulfill the desire using the Visual BCD Editor. You can download the tool from The program conceptualised for Windows Vista and 7 even functions fundamentally in Windows 8. You must possibly install the .NET framework during the first start, which the system inevitably handles automatically whenever necessary. After the next start of the tool, click on “bootmgr” on the left in the structure. In the list on the right, the entry “DisplayBootMenu” is missing.

Windows OS speed up

One who wants to avoid the graphical Boot menu can deactivate it using the parameter “DisplayBootMenu”


In order to add this, click on “New” and select the entry “DisplayBootMenu” in the next dialog in the combination field “Element”. Confirm it with “OK”. This new logic value is initially still off. Therefore, you mark it in the list and click on “Edit”. Then change its value to “True” and confirm the setting with “OK”. You likewise return to the graphical Boot menu of Windows 8 by changing the setting to “False” later on. The settings are saved upon closing of the Editor.

Protect hidden administrator account (Windows Vista/7/8)
Even if you neither view nor use the Standard administrator account in Windows 8, it is created automatically and thus represents a substantial security risk. The same also applies to Windows Vista and 7. As soon as the account is activated, it provides complete access to your system without asking for a password. However, for the activation, a start of the computer via CD or USB stick is necessary in order to activate the account using a tool like ntpasswd. You avoid this risk by activating the hidden account one time and then providing a password. Then you must once again hide the account. For this, enter “cmd” into the Start menu search field, then right-click on the displayed “cmd.exe” and select the context command “Run as administrator”. After confirming the User Account Control, the command line is opened. Here, type in the command “net user Administrator /active” and confirm with the Enter key. The successful execution is displayed in the dialog.

Now open the Control Panel and click on “User Accounts and Family Safety”, then on “Add/remove user accounts”. Now, additionally, the account “Administrator” should be visible. Select it and click on “Create password”. Enter a secure new password twice (at least eight characters with digits and special characters as well as mixture of upper and lower case), and in addition, enter a password hint in the accompanying field. You can ignore the warning about loss of EFS-encrypted files since you have not yet saved any files using this account. Confirm the process with “Create password”. Now close the Control Panel and again switch to the command line or reopen the dialog. Using the account “net user Administrator/active:no”, re-switch the administrator account to inactive and visible. Besides this, you can ensure a bit more security if you individually also change the standard account name “Administrator”. Since the automatic attack attempts for logging into this standard account comes down to nothing.

Display even Flash contents in the IE-10 app in Windows 8 (Windows 8)
There are two versions of the Internet Explorer 10; whereby the version started as app does not display Flash contents by default; instead, it only allows this for specific websites saved in a White list. If you need Flash for other websites, then you must start the browser from the Desktop or are redirected there by a note. But, the desired URLs may be enabled in the file “IECompatData” profile. For this, first input “%userprofile%” in the Windows-Explorer address bar and press Enter. Navigate further to the sub-folder “AppDataLocalMicrosoftInternet ExplorerIECompat- Data”. Then right-click on “iecompatdata.xml” and select the context command “Edit”. You can even edit the file using another XML editor. Search the start area and check the subsequent, alphabetically sorted entries. While a few standard websites are already contained, other known surfing destinations are missing. You can add additional websites line-by-line in the form “” and then save the changes. Since this White list is possibly overwritten in case of updates, you should create a backup copy of this or manage the appropriate entries parallel in a text file in order to be able to quickly add them again. In the end, you must delete the Browser cache. For this, start the app and press the key combination [Windows]+[I]. Click on “Delete” for this process.

Request WLAN password (Windows Vista/7/8)
In case of a computer connected via WLAN, you can request the WLAN key by right-clicking on the network symbol in the Info area of the task bar and open the “Open Network and Sharing Center”. Now follow the link “Manage Wireless networks”. In the next dialog, right-click on the relevant wireless network and select the context command “Properties”. Switch to the “Security” tab and then activate the option “Show characters”. The “Security key” shows the desired password.

Request the status of drives and SSDs in detail (Windows XP/Vista/7/8)
Data losses due to defective drives are very exasperating. In order to prevent it, you should check the status of the drive from time to time, which is easily possible in modern hard drive systems using the internal SMART values. This check is very rudimentary using the tools: In the Control Panel in “System and Security | Management | Computer management | Disk management”, identify the entry “Error-free”, since the SMART system has reported to Windows that there is no error.

Windows OS speed up

The Windows Control Panel display the current status of all drives in the Disk Management


However, the test is more accurate using the Freeware CrystalDiskInfo. During installation, take care that you deactivate the additionally provided foreign software. After the program starts, the tool automatically analyses all accessible drives including SSD drives. All drives are represented concisely with “Status” and current “Temperature”. Besides information about “Interface” and “Serial number”, you will find data about “operating hours” and “Startup operations”. Furthermore, in case of SSD drives, the “Host write processes” listed in terabytes is to be taken note of. The other area shows the SMART parameter read from the hardware. Using the command “Options | Additional Options | Hex-value | 10 [DEC]”, you switch to better readable decimal values.

In the list, the column “Hex value” shows the actual raw data, while in the case of “Current value”, the data is normalised in relation to a “Limit value”. In case of drives, occasionally, there emerges “Reallocated sectors”. This indicates user interface problems and a possibly imminent breakdown. Even if the drive itself evaluates the value as good (higher than limit value), you should carefully observe the development. The options to “Start with Windows” as well as a notification via e-mail can be set for the tool. A detailed evaluation of individual SMART values is difficult, though, and not required in most cases.

This article appeared in the April issue of CHIP Germany. To subscribe to the magazine click here or to buy a copy of the April 2013 issue, click here.

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