10 Ways to Jazz Up Your Windows XP Experience

10 Ways to Jazz Up Your Windows XP Experience

So, you’re sticking with XP until the next big thing, huh? No worries! There are a few nifty tricks you can try to make your XP look and feel a whole lot better.

1. Spice it up with the Zune theme!

Get your hands on the Zune theme right here:

This sleek theme gives your XP a cool black and orange makeover. And the best part? It’s a complete theme, unlike the “Royale” option that’s a bit rough around the edges.

Just take a peek at how it can transform your desktop:

Believe me when I tell you that you’re going to love this.

If you’re not interested in using this theme, the next best option is “Silver.” It’s already included in your XP and can be accessed through the Display icon located in the Control Panel under the Appearance tab.

Here’s how it appears:

I think Silver is hands down the best built-in theme in XP. The standard blue is too childish, and the “Olive Green” just doesn’t do it for me.

Both Zune and Silver are great options.

Just a quick note: Using the Zune theme doesn’t mean you need to actually own a Microsoft Zune music player or sign up for anything. It’s simply a theme, plain and simple.

2. Avoid using wallpaper or tiled wallpaper.

Honestly, having a full-screen wallpaper can actually slow down your system, especially if you have two (or more) screens. The reason for this is that XP has to constantly redraw the screen with a high-resolution graphic behind it.

If you opt to have no wallpaper at all, XP won’t have to redraw as much. And believe it or not, this holds true for any operating system, not just Windows. Even on Mac OS X and Linux, having no wallpaper speeds up the window and screen redraws quite a bit.

Alternatively, using tiled wallpaper (like the “Coffee Bean” option in Windows XP) causes much faster drawing compared to full-screen wallpaper.

TIP: If you’re looking for cool wallpapers, try doing a Google Image Search for wallpaper patterns. You’ll find plenty of interesting options to try out.

3. Utilize the ClearType Tuner Powertoy.

Let me tell you, this tool makes all your fonts look better and easier to read. It’s a complete no-brainer. I use it, it works, it’s free, and it’s absolutely awesome.

Just a heads up: Only people with LCD monitors should use this tool. If you’re using a CRT (aka “tubed”) monitor, stick with what you have.

4. Adjust the Active Title Bar to have a larger font.

When you increase the font size in the title bar area, it improves the appearance of all your apps and makes them easier to find.

Here’s how you do it:

First, go to Display Properties (you can find the “Display” icon in the Control Panel), then click on the Appearance tab, and finally, click the Advanced button.

It should look something like this:

Hey there! Take a look at the handy-dandy “Advanced” button nestled in the bottom right corner. Give it a click, won’t you?

See where it says “Message Box”? Give that a click too. The Item you’re looking for is the Active Title Bar.

Now let’s make some font adjustments. Set the font to the trusty Arial and make it a size 12. Want to make it bold? Easy peasy – just click on the little “B” button. Oh, right next to Active Title Bar, set that bad boy to 25. Seriously, always 25. Trust me, you don’t want those taskbar icons looking all squished and blurry. Yuck!

Feeling a bit confused? No worries, I’ve got your back. Just take a gander at the example below:

I want to mention that you don’t necessarily have to use Arial as your font choice. There are other good options available, such as Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Lucida Sans Unicode, or any other font that is installed on your computer.

However, it is important to keep the “size” setting next to “Active Title Bar” at 25 to prevent the taskbar icons from looking scrunched or pixelated.

Now, let’s move on to the fifth step. We need to adjust the font for both the “Message Text” and the “Menu” to Tahoma.

Tahoma is a font that comes pre-installed with Windows XP, and honestly, it is the best font for menus.

To do this, follow the same instructions as before. Click on “Message Text”, set it to Tahoma, and choose a size of 8. For the “Selected” option, use the same settings as well.

Once you’re done, it should look like this:

(Please note that under Item:, you should select “Message Box” – make sure to do the same for “Selected Items” from that same drop-down menu.)

For those of you with less-than-perfect vision, try using bold font for the menu and dialog text. It will make the menus in XP much easier to see and use.

6. Make the Icon item bold.

You can find this option in the same section as the ones mentioned earlier.

Here is how it will appear:

Hey there! So, I got this super cool item called “Icon.” It’s written in a fancy font called “Tahoma” and it’s size 32. Oh, and check this out – I can make the text even smaller with a font size of 8. Plus, if I click on the “B,” it magically turns the text bold! Pretty neat, huh?

And here’s the really awesome part – this cool formatting trick works in Windows Explorer too! It makes everything so much easier to read. Just take a look at this:

I noticed that the icons on your desktop have bolded fonts, and something similar happens in Internet Explorer, which actually looks pretty cool.

7. Try using a helpful screen saver.

Fancy screen savers use up a lot of your computer’s power and slow it down. I stopped using those a long time ago and decided to use the JKDefrag screen saver instead.

Now, whenever my computer goes into screen saver mode, it automatically starts defragging the hard drive. That’s really handy.

Here’s how you do it:

Step 2. Open the ZIP file and extract two files, JKDefragScreenSaver.exe and JKDefragScreenSaver.scr, into the main Windows folder (usually C:WINDOWS).

Step 3. Go to Display Properties in the Control Panel, click on the Screen Saver tab, and select JKDefragScreenSaver.

It should look something like this:

Alright, we’re on to step 4. I’m going to need you to click on Settings.

Once you’re in Settings, we need to make a few adjustments. First, set your screen saver to “Blank”. This will keep your screen from getting all muddled up when you’re not using it.

Next, find the option for the last defrag and set it to 4 hours. This will help keep your computer running smoothly by organizing its files every once in a while.

Lastly, we’re going to tackle the status bar. Set it to Full status bar. This way, you’ll always have a clear view of what’s happening on your computer.

Take a look at the picture below to see how it should look.

Hey there! Just a quick note – you don’t have to use the “Blank” screen saver, but it’s highly recommended because it doesn’t use up any CPU cycles.

If you choose this screen saver, JKDefrag will automatically defragment your computer whenever the screen saver comes on, unless it was already done within the last 4 hours.

In simple terms, you won’t have to worry about manually defragmenting your drive anymore, because it will be taken care of automatically. And trust me, a defragmented drive is a happy drive. 🙂

Here’s an extra tip for you:

From the Screen Saver tab, click on the “Power” button. On the new screen, you can set your monitor(s) to turn off after a certain amount of time (I suggest somewhere between 10 to 30 minutes). This will help prolong the life of your LCD monitor. No need to keep it on when you’re not at your computer, right?

8. Make your mouse cursor bigger.

On every XP computer I’ve ever used, I always set the mouse cursor to “Magnified” and turn on the pointer shadow.

It looks like this:

To find the “Mouse” icon, look in the Control Panel or go to the “Pointers” tab.

The default mouse pointer in XP is too small and can be easily lost. But with the “Magnified” option, it’s much easier to locate. Although this cursor set doesn’t have any fancy animations, trust me when I say that you won’t miss them. Being able to see the pointer is more important than having flashy effects.

Don’t forget to check the “Enable pointer shadow” option at the bottom. It really helps with visibility.

Other options:

For XP, black and inverted mouse sets also work well.

9. Make the mouse pointer show its location.

Even with a single screen setup, it’s still possible to lose track of the mouse pointer. To solve this, go to Mouse properties and select “Pointer Options.” Then, enable the “Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key” option.

This is what it looks like:

Alright, here’s what you gotta do: first, check the box at the bottom. After that, click on Apply and give your CTRL key a single tap. Once you do that, you’ll notice a cool animated circle appear around your pointer. Pretty neat, huh?

This feature is really helpful to have, especially if you have multiple monitors and tend to lose track of your mouse.

Tweak #10: Make the taskbar taller to display the day and date.

When you increase the height of the taskbar to two tiers, you’ll be able to see the date and day of the week. And let me tell you, it’s pretty handy to have that info right at a glance.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Right-click on an empty area of the taskbar. You’ll see a small menu pop up. Look for the option that says “Lock the taskbar.” If there’s a checkmark next to it, click on it to remove the check. If there’s no check, just leave it be and click outside the menu to close it.

2. Move your mouse to the top of the taskbar until the cursor changes into an up/down double-arrow.

3. Left-click, hold, and drag the taskbar up one tier.

That’s all there is to it! You should now be able to see the day and date on your taskbar.

If you decide that you don’t like the change, simply drag the taskbar back down to its original position.

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