Windows 7 beta tips, tricks and tweaks

Testing out the Windows 7 beta? Here are a handful of ways to get around the interface and make it act the way you want.

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Windows Explorer tips

Windows Explorer is the heart and soul of the Windows interface, and overall it works quite well. But you can make it better.

Set a new Windows Explorer launch folder

When you run Windows Explorer, it always opens to the Libraries folder. That's fine if you use Microsoft's default file organization, which designates Libraries as the overall container for your folders. But what if you don't? You might prefer to have Windows Explorer open to Computer or any other folder you choose. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar (it's the one that looks like a folder), and then right-click the Windows Explorer icon from the context menu that appears and select Properties. The Windows Explorer Properties dialog box appears.

Changing the default Explorer location

Changing the default Explorer location.

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2. You'll have to edit the Target field on the Shortcut tab of this dialog box in order to change the default location at which Explorer opens. If you want Explorer to open to a specific folder, simply enter the name of the folder, substituting your folder name for Folder, below, like this:

%windir%\explorer.exe c:\<i>Folder</i>

So to open Explorer to the folder named Budget, you would type this in the Target field:

%windir%\explorer.exe c:\Budget

If you want Explorer to open to special, pre-set locations, such as Computer, you'll need to enter special syntax in the Target field. Following is a list of three common locations and the syntax to use, followed by the syntax for the Libraries folder in case you ever want to revert to the default.

  • Computer: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
  • Documents: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}
  • Network: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}
  • Libraries: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe

3. After you've changed the Target field, click OK. Next time you launch Windows Explorer, it will open in the new location you've designated.

Show all your drives in Windows Explorer

Depending on your system settings, when you go to Computer in Windows Explorer, you may be in for a shock -- you may not see all your drives such as memory card readers if those drives are empty. If this disconcerts you, there's a simple way for you to see them even if there's nothing there:

Showing empty drives

Having Explorer show empty drives.

Click to view larger image.

1. Launch Windows Explorer and press the Alt button to reveal the top menu.

2. Select Tools --> Folder Options and click the View tab.

3. Under "Advanced settings," uncheck the box next to "Hide empty drives in the Computer folder." Click OK. The drives will now always be visible.

Protect the privacy of your Explorer searches

When you search through your PC from Windows Explorer, you can see the most recent searches that have been performed. If you share a PC and don't want others to see what you've searched for, you can turn off the recent searches feature:

Protecting search privacy

Protecting search privacy.

Click to view larger image.

1. In Explorer's Search box, type GPEDIT.MSC and press Enter to launch the Group Policy Editor.

2. Go to User Configuration --> Administrative Templates --> Windows Components --> Windows Explorer.

3. Double-click "Turn off display of recent search entries in the Windows Explorer search box" and select Enabled from the screen that appears. Then click OK. The recent searches feature will now be turned off.

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