How To…

Notes from the Field

Our website’s most popular place to find step-by-step instructions on how to do just about everything with, for, and to your computer and home or business data network. Learn how your digital stuff works, how to fix things, how to find things, how to buy things, and how to make your computing life easier. Almost all of the information posted in this area comes from knowledge and solutions learned “in the field” by our own Geeks and technicians.

Some of our most popular HOW-TOs:

Has XP Been Activated?

(last updated April 23, 2007)

You installed XP and then can’t remember if you activated it. Go to Start->Run and enter the following: oobe/msoobe /a

How To Use Windows XP

(last updated April 6, 2007)

Computers can be confusing, but with a little guidance, this technology can be useful for even the most unexperienced of users. This article will discuss the Windows XP operating platform, and how to get the most out of its programs.


  1. Purchase a computer from a reputable dealer. It may have Windows XP already installed. If it doesn’t, you can purchase the operating system and install it yourself from a CD-ROM.
  2. Assuming the computer is now set up and the power is on, you can customize it. Right click on the desktop, and click properties from the ensuing menu. From there you can change your screensaver and wallpaper.
  3. Choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and a web browser. You have to pay for internet access, but the good news is most browsers (such as Firefox) are free.
  4. Visit Microsoft Update to check for security updates to your PC.
  5. Get an email address. Most ISP’s usually provide an email account. If not, you can get a free online Hotmail or Yahoo! account.
  6. Choose a messenger program, if desired. MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger are all popular.
  7. Play games. You can play games on the internet, but you have fun games like pinball, solitaire, and minesweeper right on your computer. To access the games, go to: Start, Programs, then click on Games.
  8. Paint pictures. Just go to start, programs, accessories, then paint to paint a picture. Save it, or print it by clicking “file”, and then choose your option.
  9. Calculate to your heart’s content. Go to start, programs, accessories, then click “calculator” to make calculations.
  10. Play your favorite music and video files with a media player. Windows XP comes with one, but you’ll probably want to download something of your own choosing. Be careful and do not download free music files as that is not only illegal but some of them may contain viruses that would infect your computer. GEEK911 charges $229 for virus and spyware removal from infected systems. Many of our competitors either charge more or those who charge less do not do a thorough job of removing ALL of the malware from infected systems only to be reinfected again in a few days or weeks. With this in mind, it is cheaper to pay for music and video files and get them from reputable sites like iTunes, Rhapsody, or Yahoo! Music Unlimited to name just a few.
  11. Stay secure. Windows XP has you covered on this one. Go to start, control panel, then “security center” to view the statistics on your firewall, virus scan, and automatic updates. However, you may want additional things such as parental controls or popup blocker. you can purchase additional security software at your electronics retailer. GEEK911 recommends AVG Internet Security and Trend Micro Internet Security. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions as technology is constantly changing and what’s #1 today may not be tomorrow. Remember, security is not a product, it is a process!
  12. Create documents with Microsoft Word. Click on the icon, type your paper, click file “save” to save or file “print” to print.
  13. Make charts and tables in a program called “Excel”. Enter your number data, highlight it, then click the “chart wizard” button in the toolbar.
  14. Create interesting slide show presentations with PowerPoint. Open it, create your first slide, then click “add new slide” to begin the next slide. Click “slide show” then “view show” to play it.


Go to start, programs, accesories, then “command prompt” to enter command line functions.


Be safe online.
Never give out pesonal information such as name, age address, or phone number.
Don’t give out your e-mail adress to strangers or you may get unsolicited email called “spam”.
Don’t mess around in the command prompt or C:\, or “Program Files”, or “Windows” folders unless you know what you’re doing.

How to Uninstall Windows XP and Revert to a Previous Operating System

(last updated April 5, 2007)

This article describes how to remove Microsoft Windows XP after an upgrade was completed successfully by using a qualifying upgrade path, including the successful creation of the Windows XP removal files (such as and during the initial upgrade.


  1. Restart your computer in Safe mode. To do this, press the F8 key while Windows is starting.
  2. Log on with an account that has administrative credentials.
  3. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Add or Remove Programs.
  4. In the list of installed programs, double-click Uninstall Windows XP.
  5. When you receive the following message, click Yes to start the Windows XP removal: “Are you sure you want to uninstall Windows XP and restore your previous operating system?”
  6. After Windows XP is removed, your computer restarts to the previously-installed operating system.


  • If sufficient space is available, the Windows XP removal files are automatically saved during the upgrade.
  • If the Windows XP removal files have been removed from the computer, you cannot use the removal that this article describes.
  • Any programs that were installed before the Windows XP upgrade will be preserved. Additionally, any programs that were installed after the Windows XP upgrade will not be available after you remove Windows XP. You may have to reinstall these programs.
  • To remove Windows XP, you must have upgraded from Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, or Windows Millennium Edition.
  • Note If you upgraded from Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Windows 2000, or Windows NT 4.0, you cannot remove Windows XP.


  • If Uninstall Windows XP is not in the list of installed programs, you must manually reinstall Windows 98 or Windows Millennium Edition. In this case, make sure that you back up all your critical data before you reinstall Windows 98 or Windows Millennium Edition.
  • If you want to remove Windows XP and return to Microsoft Windows 95, Windows NT, or Windows 2000, you must reinstall Windows 95, Windows NT, or Windows 2000, restart your computer in Safe mode, and then back up all your critical data before you reinstall Windows 95, Windows NT, or Windows 2000.
  • Applies to: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition

How To Make Windows XP Startup Faster

(last updated April 5, 2007)

Do you get frustrated while you wait around for your slow Windows XP computer to startup? Windows XP will automatically load and startup any program that is in the startup folder whether you intend to use it or not. This article will show you how to speed up the bootup process of your PC by removing the programs that bog it down.


  • Save any open work.
  • Shut down all applications.
  • Click Start->Run. In the text box labeled “Open”, enter msconfig and click “OK”. This will start the system configuration utility. (Remember: If you disable the necessary applications from the msconfig, the computer may not start properly. Hence, while using msconfig, keep a note of the applications which you want to uncheck to start while computer starts.)
  • Click on the “Startup” tab. You will see a list of all the startup programs that get loaded automatically when you startup your computer. The more items you have checked to startup, the longer it takes for your computer to startup.
  • If you don’t know what the listed programs do, visit and look up the program and its details. Uncheck the programs that you don’t want to start up and click “Ok”.
  • Restart your computer and you should notice that it starts up quicker.

Other Things You Can Do

  • Look under the “BOOT.INI” tab. You will see a box labeled “Timeout:”, and a numerical value. By default, it’s 30, which means 30 seconds of wait time before boot. This can be changed, and I suggest using 3 seconds. (Note: if you have more than one operating system, this means the wait time to startup to the highlighted OS. you might want a bit more than 3 seconds)
  • Delete the temporary files periodically from your computer to make the applications run faster. type %Temp% in the run dialog box by clicking on start -> run. and click on. You will see an open folder with so many files. click on Edit menu and click on Select all and then click on the File menu and select Delete. Note: Always confirm that the folder which is opened has a temp on the top of menu bar and the folder indicates that it is a temporary folder.
  • Always perform a disk defragmentation at least once in a month. start the disk defragmentation from the system tools available in the accessories from the start menu. it takes a longer time and it is advised not to run any applications in the computer including the screen savers, while running disk defragmentation.
  • Perform a scandisk to see that your computer hard drive is in healthy condition and it helps your computer run faster.


After you have done all this, another method you can do is to allow the computer to hibernate. Hibernation closes and opens Windows faster than normally.

  • Go to Start->Control Panel->Power Options. Click on the Hibernate tab.
  • Click on the box that says “Enable hibernation” to check it.
  • Click on the Advanced tab and change the Power buttons options if you want to hibernate by pressing the sleep button or the power button. Otherwise, holding the Shift key while in the Turn Off Computer menu will give you the option to hibernate.
  • Restart your computer every week or so to clear your computer.

The power can then be completely turned off, even at the socket so that no power is wasted.


Simply browse to the windows folder (Ex: C:\Windows) and under there you should see the prefetch folder. Go into the prefetch folder and delete all the files (Careful! It should look like this c:\windows\prefetch). We need to edit a registry key to tweak it. Open regedit and browse to this key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters

Under this key you should see a value named: EnablePrefetcher

It has 4 possible values:

0 – Disabled : The prefetch system is turned off.

1 – Application : The prefetch only caches applications.

2 – Boot : The prefetch only caches boot system files.

3 – All : The prefetch caches boot, and application files.

We don’t want to disable it entirely. This would actually make boot times *longer*. This is because this feature is also used to speed up the loading of boot files. That is why we are going to pick the number 2 option. It allows us to keep the advantage of caching system files, without continually clogging the system up with applications.

Set the value to 2 and reboot.

The 2nd time you boot it should boot much faster. Remember that the side effect is that launching individual applications once windows has loaded will now be slightly slower.


  • When installing new software choose not to add the program to the startup folder.
  • Regularly check to see what programs are running from your startup folder as malicious programs such as spyware may have installed itself without your knowledge.
  • If you accidentally uncheck a program, just retrace the steps above and recheck the program and restart your computer.
  • Adding more RAM to a Windows XP computer helps it boot faster, and since RAM prices are very low these days, it’s an easy way to boot faster.


  • Save any open work before making changes.
  • Shut down all applications before making changes.
  • Never uncheck anything from SYMANTEC/NORTON or any other security software doing so will cause adverse effects.

Installing Windows XP

(last updated April 4, 2007)

Installing Windows XP (Home or Professional Edition) can be very simple, even for those without much experience working with computers. This article assumes that you are installing Windows XP directly from a disc onto a clean, unpartitioned, unformatted hard drive, and that all computer components are installed and working correctly.


  1. Ensure that your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements to run Windows XP:

    – 300 Mhz Intel or AMD CPU (3.00 Ghz recommended)
    – 128 Megabytes of system RAM (1 Gb or 2 Gb recommended)
    – 1.5 Gigabytes of available drive space (on a 160 Gb or 300 Gb EIDE or SATA hard drive recommended)
    – Super VGA 800×600 Display Adapter (1024 x 768 or 1280 x 1024 32 Bit color with a 75 Hz refresh rate recommended)
    – CD or DVD-ROM (CD-RW or DVD-RW recommended)
    – Keyboard and mouse, or other pointing devices (wireless keyboard and mouse recommended)
    – Network Interface Adapter required for Internet and Network Connectivity (speed of 100 Mbps or 1000 Mbps recommended)

  2. Ensure you have a Windows XP Product Key. It is printed on a sticker on your software package. It is a string of 5 groups of characters (each 5 long), separated my dashes, resulting in 25 characters in all.

    It looks like this: HHHCF-WCF9P-M3YCC-RXDXH-FC3C6.

    When the software has almost finished installing, you will be asked for it.You need the product key to complete installing Windows.

  3. Insert the Windows XP Installation Disc and start your computer. When prompted to “Press any key to boot from CD,” press a key on the keyboard.
  4. The installation program will check your hardware, install default-set drivers, and load files necessary for installation. When arriving at the “Welcome to Setup” screen, Press ENTER to begin the installation process.
  5. Read the License Agreement, and press F8 indicating you agree to its terms.
  6. On the next screen, you are presented with a summary of the available partitions on your installed hard drives. At this point, you should see only one entry, “Unpartitioned Space.” It will be highlighted in grey. Press C on your keyboard to begin creating partitions for the drive.
  7. Enter the size in megabytes for the new partition. If you intend to install only one drive, enter the maximum amount shown. If you wish to create multiple partitions on a single drive, remember that Windows XP requires at least 1.5 Gigabytes of space, plus swap space, and areas for temporary files. A good rule of thumb is not to install Windows XP on a partition less than 5 Gigabytes, unless you wish to impact performance. When calculating, remember that there are 1,024 Megabytes per Gigabyte. Press ENTER once you have chosen your desired partition size.
  8. The system will create your new partition, and you will now be at the partition summary screen once again. Select your new partition, usually labeled “C: Partition 1 [Raw]” and press ENTER.
  9. Select either “Format the Partition using the NTFS File System” OR “Format the Partition using the FAT File System,” and press ENTER. NTFS is the preferred method, supporting a larger amount of disk space per partition than FAT, and including security features at the file system level. NTFS also includes system level compression. If your partition is larger than 32 Gigabytes, you must choose NTFS. However, with a partition less than 32 Gigabytes, you can choose FAT, and convert to NTFS later should you desire. Be aware that NTFS cannot be converted back to FAT.
  10. DO NOT use the “Quick” format method on a clean installation. During a Quick format, previous files, if any, are removed, but the drive is not scanned for bad sectors. This scan is what consumes the majority of the time taken when performing a full format. If there are errors on a disk at the physical level, it’s best to catch them now rather than later.
    The system will now format the partition. The length of time this process requires depends on the speed and size of the drive, and the type of file system you selected earlier. In most cases, the larger the partition, the longer the process will take.
  11. Windows will now start copying files from the installation disc and prompt you to reboot the computer when the process is completed. Press ENTER when prompted to reboot, otherwise it will do so automatically after 15 seconds.
  12. This is the most time consuming part. When the computer reboots, do not press enter to boot from the disc this time, rather allow the computer to boot from the hard drive. If you are greeted with the Windows XP Boot screen, all is well so far.
  13. Now the setup program will display various marketing information to you as it installs and configures itself to your system. The estimated time remaining is displayed in the lower left corner.

    Note: it is normal for the screen to flicker, turn on and off, or resize during this process.

  14. Sooner or later, a dialog window will appear, asking you to choose your Regional settings. Select appropriate settings native to your area. Click the “Next” button when that is completed.
  15. Enter your Product Key, (otherwise known as a CD or Install Key,) at this window. You will not be able to complete this process without a valid Key. Click “Next” to continue.
  16. If your computer is going to be on a LAN (Local Area Network) at home, or even just for kicks, give it a name.
  17. Select your time zone, and ensure that the date/time are correct. Click “Next” to continue.
  18. Leave “Typical Settings” selected for Network Setup, unless you have a specialized access device or protocol required. Refer to the documentation for that device for installation procedures.
  19. Setup will continue to install other devices and peripherals connected to your machine, give you marketing and capability information, then reboot as before.
  20. Congratulations! You’ve installed Windows XP. There are a few more additional set-up routines required, but you have completed the installation. Remove the CD from the drive.
  21. Upon Reboot, click Yes when you are informed Windows will be changing your visual settings to improve quality.
  22. In the next box, if you can read the text, press the “OK” button.
  23. A similar screen to Part 2 of the install process will appear. If your computer is connected to the internet, select your connection type. Press Next to continue.
  24. If connected to the Internet, Select “Activate Now.”
  25. After the Activation Process, a window will appear allowing you to select the users for the computer. Enter your name, and the names of others who will be using the machine. Press Next to continue.
  26. You will now be looking at the default Windows XP Desktop. Congratulations!


  • Setup takes a long time, so be patient. Watch a movie, talk with friends, but don’t stare at the machine. A watched pot never boils.
  • If you encounter any difficulties installing, Windows Setup will give you technical information about the error, which can help determine its cause. Check the troubleshooter on for assistance with common installation problems.
  • Don’t forget to set your boot priority in your BIOS. Most of the time, BIOS is set to read Floppy, HDD, and THEN CD-ROM. You will need to set your boot priority to load the CD-ROM before Floppy and HDD.


  • Do not install Windows multiple times on the same Partition, or on the same partition as another operating system.
  • Do not attempt to install Windows on a system that does not meet the minimum requirements.
  • Be sure to Activate Windows within 30 days of installation, otherwise the system will not allow you to log on until Activation is complete.