Windows NT 4 Tips

Most of us find ourselves working with a Microsoft OS most of the time. Developers especially are likely to land up with Windows NT (or its successor Windows 2000). Let's not even talk about the other junk (Win9x/Win3.x/DOS) that MS dumps on us in the name of an OS. Since I've only had experience with WinNT 4.0, this is the OS that I'll be dealing with in these pages.

First off, be sure to apply the latest Service Packs (unless you have some really good reason for not doing it). I've been using SP 6a for some time now and the system has been working flawlessly for me. Do not blame the OS unnecessarily for bugs that have long since been fixed.

Next, to get the maximum out of your Windows NT system, be sure to check out the excellent set of articles on Tweaking Windows NT at Ars Technica. I will not needlessly repeat here all that is given there. Trust me, these tips will help you boost your system's performance tremendously!

That aside, proceed now with the rest of the article.

NOTE: I will keep adding to these tips as I keep discovering (and remembering) them, so be sure to check this page again after some time. Some of these are not my original ideas, though some have been discovered by me independently - friends and the InterNet have contributed significantly to a better experience on this OS for all of us.


  1. “Open Command Prompt Here”
  2. Power-off after shutdown
  3. Auto Filename Completion
  4. Remove Unwanted UnInstall Entries
  5. Remove Stupid Startup Programs
  6. Control the “Send To” Menu

“Open Command Prompt Here”

While using Windows Explorer, you sometimes wish you could go straight to the folder you are browsing, and open a command window in that folder. Ideally you would like to be able to right-click and say “Open Command Prompt Here” and be taken there directly in a command window. Some of the Windows Desktop tweaking programs let you do precisely this.

However, if you do not have any of these, you can enable this thing yourself by doing the following: In Explorer, open “View->Options”, go to the “File Types” tab, go to the “Folder” type under “Registered file types”, click the “Edit...” button, click the “New...” button, type “Open Command Prompt Here” in the Action text-field, and “cmd.exe” in the Application text-field, click all the “OK” buttons as they become visible...and you're done!

Power-off after shutdown

Users of Windows 9x and Linux (and maybe other systems, I do not know) can do a “power-off after shutdown”. This is immensely useful but is not available under standard Windows NT 4. Several add-on packages let you do this, but as far as I know, none of them are freely available.

However, I found a free (or so it seems) utility by HP called SoftPowerDown. This is supposedly for HP Vectra machines, but I've found that it works on most ATX-based PCs with APM BIOS support. You can use this utility to enable this feature with your Windows NT 4. Be sure to apply at least SP 3 before this though.

WARNING: I did not see it mentioned anywhere that you can use it only if you have an HP Vectra. However, I might have erred for all you know. Please check everything out properly before you use this software. For the record, I do have an HP Vectra so I do not have this problem.

Auto Filename Completion

Most of us developers who are used to bash under Linux or other powerful shells are also used to the immensely helpful feature there of filename completion: if you press TAB after typing in a part of a filename, the shell will complete it for you. Moreover, if you press TAB again and again, the shell will cycle through all the file names that match the partial name. Sadly, this feature is lacking (or so it seems) in the Command Prompt shown by Windows NT.

Not really! Now you can enable this feature in NT by doing the following: open regedit and look for the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor”, look for the value named “CompletionChar” and change its value to 9 (ASCII code for the TAB character), and you're done! That's all there is to it.

Remove Unwanted UnInstall Entries

I wish most of the software vendors wrote their uninstallers properly. Sometimes you find that the UnInstaller is not working and that you're forced to remove files manually. You have removed everything else, but that entry in “Add/Remove Programs” still remains. How do you remove that?

Well, open up regedit and search for the key “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall”. Now look at the sub-keys of this key, find the offensive entry and just delete it. Simple.

Remove Stupid Startup Programs

Some of the software vendors think they are smarter than the user and that the user should really be running their programs every time he logs on to the system. Some of these programs are put under the “Startup” sub-menu of the “Start” menu and so are easily removable if you feel they are not needed and are unnecessarily slowing down your system. But not some of the others...

You can now even remove these stoopid programs yourself. Open regedit and search for the key “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run”. Now just see the values listed under this key and remove all the programs that you don't want to be run every time you log on to the system. Got 'em, huh?

Control the “Send To” Menu

In Windows Explorer, you can right-click on a file or a folder and “Send” it to the floppy, “My Briefcase” or whatever. It is easy to manipulate the contents of this menu. If you've installed Windows NT in C:\WinNT (say), just go to C:\WinNT\Profiles\yourlogin\SendTo, where yourlogin is the login id by which you logged in to Windows NT. Now create a shortcut to your favourite program, say, Notepad, in this folder and this program will be visible in the “Send To” menu. With this feature for example, you can very easily open a file in Notepad by right-clicking on the file in Explorer, and saying “Send To”->Notepad. Easy and convenient, huh?