Running a command, applying changes and other Windows Techniques

If you frequently RUN Windows System Utilities and apply changes to your profile, then you may know most of the tips given here. If you are only starting out, then you definitely need to know these small tips that can make your life easier. These tips constitute a series. Please read all the series posts.

In this article, we will discuss the different ways by which we can RUN a Windows utility. In order to run a program directly (by typing its name in the RUN box) it should be in a folder specified in the PATH variable. We will come to the PATH variable in a later post. While one can always run a program by double clicking on it, there are always easier methods to do it. Using keyboard shortcuts is second nature to anyone who has been working with a computer for a reasonable amount of time.

The easiest and quickest way to run a program or command is to type it directly into the Start Menu of Windows 7. This trick will only work if the item is part of the start menu. For example, you can open the Command Prompt by typing “cmd” and pressing ENTER or you can open Microsoft Word by typing “Office Word” and pressing ENTER. Do remember the functionality is limited and the program that will start will be the first item that appears in the Search.

RUN a command using Quick Search
Running a Command using the Start Menu

Using WIN+R – Run

The most popular of all is the normal RUN dialog box method. You press WIN+R and then type in the command name into the box that appears. You can only run a program which can be found using the PATH system variable. (Type in “echo %PATH%” in a Command Prompt and see for yourself). You need to type the name of the program without the extension (the .exe part)

Running a command using the RUN dialog box.

Using the Command Prompt

You can run any command/program by typing in its name in the command prompt. The command prompt can be opened by typing “cmd” after pressing WIN+R or clicking on the “Command Prompt” icon under “START>>All Programs>>Accessories” The rules that apply for WIN+R applies here too.

Comamnd Prompt
Running a command from the command prompt.

From Task Manager

This is same as the RUN dialog method. You can see a similar box dialog if you open “File>>New Task” under task Manager. You can type in all the things you could do in a WIN+R dialog. Why do you need to use this method then? If Windows Explorer has crashed and you don’t know what to do, press ALT+CTRL+DEL and open the Task Manager. Now go to File>>New Task and type “explorer” and press Enter. Windows Explorer will open again. (Windows explorer is the program that you use to open My Computer or My Documents)

Running a command using Task-manager File menu

How to open TaskManager

TaskManager can be opened using multiple ways.

  2. Press ALT+CTRL+DEL and click on the Start Taskmanager button
  3. Type in taskmgr into RUN(WIN+R) dialog
  4. Right click on the Task bar and selectStart Task Manager

If you didn’t already know, you can close any program or system process using Taskmanager.

Restarting Windows Explorer to apply settings

Many of the Windows System changes require you to restart Windows. This can be avoided in most of the cases just by restarting Windows Explorer. Please make sure you have Taskmanager or Command Prompt open while closing windows explorer.

  1. Open Taskmanager
  2. Goto Processes tab
  3. Select explorer.exe from the list and press End Process
  4. Wait a second until it closes
  5. Now goto File>>New task, enter explorer and press ENTER

Another technique can also be used to close Windows Explorer. Press WIN+D to show the desktop. Now bring up the shutdown dialog by pressing ALT+F4. Press ALT+SHIFT+CTRL and click Cancel.

Open Shutdown options dialog box.
Press ALT+CTRL+SHIFT and 'Cancel' in the Shutdown Dialog

any command that can be used in Run box can also be used in the command prompt and the New task option of Taskmanager. In the next post, we will be discussing the programs and commands that can be run using these techniques.

Free parental control software for Windows, MAC and iPhone

The most popular article on this blog is about the time restriction parental control method in Windows. That article explains how you can restrict the login time for a user under Windows. The hot topic being parental control, I have decided to write about a software that is easy to use, allows you to block websites based on content and restrict the time people can use the internet! The best part is it is FREE and is available for Windows, Mac OSX as well as iOS.

K9 webprotection on iOS
K9 web protection screenshot from iPod

K9 web protection is an easy to use parental control internet restriction software from Blue Coat. It is free for personal use but you need to provide an email address to get the license key. I have used K9 for testing purposes and found it to be very impressive. You get to block web sites based on Categories, keywords, URLs or even URL keywords. The time that a user can browse the net can also be set.

I have tries only the Windows version. The iOS version is available from iTunes. More tips on using k9 as well as other tools to secure your computer will be updated on to my blog. Please subscribe to the RSS feed to keep updated.

K9 website | Download Page | FAQ

How to shutdown, restart, logoff using command prompt?

Windows provides a builtin command to shutdown, restart as well as logoff a user from the command promptne. This and many other options are provided by the “shutdown” command. In order to find out more options of any command, type :

shutdown /? – command name followed by a forward slash and a question mark.

in Command Prompt ( WIN + R » cmd – here are some more Windows Keyboard shortcuts. You can run any command from Command Prompt or typing the command with full option into the RUN Dialog ( WIN + R ) The main use of all these commands come in batch files and task scheduling. All of these commands are pretty easy to use, please read the article completely before complaining 😉

Basic form of “shutdown”

The most basic form of the command is :

shutdown -OPTION
shutdown /OPTION

Both perform the same thing – execute shutdown command with option OPTION. OPTION can take many values, only the ones of interest to us are mentioned here.

-l – Logs off the current user
-s – Shutdown the computer
-r – Restart the computer

-a – Aborts a current shutdown command execution

-t XX – if this is added with any of the above ones, you can specify after what time ( XX seconds ) the system should execute the OPTION.

A Simple example and a Screenshot

Here the OPTIONs specify that shutdown command should shutdown the command after 120 seconds.

RUNning “shutdown” command with options -s -t 120

shutdown -s -t 120

The screen result will be something like this :

Before shutdown, the logged in user is warned about the event and the time frame.

Canceling a shutdown

If you have given the time parameter -t XX you will have sometime before the command kicks you out. In that time, if you want to cancel the event just type :

shutdown -a -Abort a shutdown

shutdown Aborted – notification

Add a message

You can add a custom message with shutdown so that, instead of the time frame warning, the user will be presented with your message.

shutdown -s -t 120 -c “You are so screwed”

will present the user with the message – “You are so screwed” as below :

Custom message with “shutdown”

More about shutdown on Microsoft KB | Built in parental control in Windows XP

How to disable access to Drives using Disk Management

One of the visitors of SI, Joseph, recently asked in a comment to the post “How to disable access to specific drives with registry” how he could disable  access to a drive even for programs like Ashampoo which managed to override the registry trick. This is the trick you can use to prevent such sotware from accessing your drives. In one of the previous posts we had discussed how to Manage disk drives using Disk drive management console Object of Windows. We can use the Management Console to disable access to select drives also.

  1. Open the Disk Management Console

To open the Disk Management Console type “diskmgmt.msc” into the RUN dialog box and press ENTER.

Enter diskmgmt.msc into the RUN dialog and press ENTER
  1. Select the Drive

All the Drives in the storage devices connected to your computer will be listed here. Select the drive to which you want to prevent access and right click on it. Now select the option “Change Drive Letter and Paths..”

Right click on the drive and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths.."
  1. Remove the drive letter assignment

In the Dialog that opens, click “Remove” and then “Yes” if prompted for confirmation.

Remove the drive letter assignment.
  1. Hooray, you have disabled access to the drive

The change takes effect immediately. If it doesn’t, the try restarting windows explorer as explained.

The drive is removed from any sort of navigation..

The above mentioned trick will prevent everyone from accessing the drive for read or write purposes. Checkout the related posts for more…

Free Disk tools to analyse Disk usage graphically

Disk Usage Analyser(DUA) is a GNome ustility available for Linux. As the name indicates DUA scans the filesystem and finds out how much space is occupied by each directory and file. It then shows the usage along side a folder tree as a bar graph.When you click on a directory name, memory usage by each subfolder and files can be seen as an arc diagram on the right pane.

Left side shows a tree structure and bar graphs while the right pane shows the selected directories memory usage and its contents.
Left side shows a tree structure and bar graphs while the right pane shows the selected directories memory usage and its contents.

The Disk Usage Analyzer can be used to find out which directory or file uses how much space. It can be very helpful if you are trying to clean-up some Hard Disk Space from your PC. A similar tool for Windows is WinDIrStat at but this one is a little less visaully attractive one. For KDE users KDirStat might be a solution.

Add free online contact form to your web site

A Contact form is an essential form for any website. But if you are on blogger or a free host you wont be able to create one on yourself even if you know PHP. Although if you are running WP you can get plugin’s specific for that application. I use cForms for my contact forms.

So if you just need a frills free contact form you can place on your website you may try Contactify . It offers free contact forms as well as spam protection (word verification) for the service. You just need to copy paste the JavaScript they provide after you register.

Here is my sample contact form : Contact me

What are the hidden files and folders

This is a small list of folders and files which were displayed by the method mentioned on the previous post in this series.

Hidden folders and files in C drive of Windows
Hidden folders and files in C drive of Windows

Recycler : Recycler is aanother form of Recycle Bin. The Recycler folder contains a Recycle Bin for each user that logs on to the computer, sorted by their security identifier (SID).

System Volume Information : This contains the log files and backups of important System Files that are used for System Restore in Windows. (System Restore allows you to roll back all the settings and System Files to a previous time)

MSOCache : MSOCache is the folder that contains cached Office installation files. The folder is safe to delete.

NTLDR : This is the Windows NT boot loader. This is replaced by winload and Windows Boot Manager in Windows Vista

NTDETECT.COM : This file is used by Windows NT during startup to detect basic hardware required to boot the OS. This is used for Systems having BIOS.

Autoexec.bat : is most often used to set environment variables such as keyboard, soundcard, printer, and temporary file locations. It is also used to initiate low level system utilities.
These are the main folders and files in XP.

pagefile.sys : This is the actual pagefile, as the name indicates, of Windows. This file is used as virtual memory on your system.

hiberfil.sys : As the name indicates this is the file used for Hibernation. While hibernating the system stores all the content of the RAM to this file and shuts down. The next time you start your system the RAM contents are restored from this file.

Get access to all folders in Windows like Linux

On the last article we have discussed about seeing all the files that are part of Windows. Now lets see whether we can directly access these folders. As it turns out Windows by default will not grant you permission to the folder System Volume Information.

Denied access to C:System Volume Information

Thats because the folder contains important System Restore Point informations. So what do you do when you can’t touch your own property. well it is there that the Windows file sharing comes into play. It may sound a little weird at first but it is true. Lets see how.

Step 1 : Go to Tools>>Folder Options and select View tab.

Folder options View Simple File Sharing

Here scroll down to the bottom, you can see a check box named Use Simple File Sharing (Recommended), UNCHECK the box, click APPLY and OK. Now you are done with the settings part. So just take the Properties (ALT+ENTER) or RIGHT CLICK>>PROPERTIES) of System volume Information you can see a new tab named Security here. You can see that there will be a user named SYSTEM there and it has full permission (refer picture).

System user account permission

You need to add your User account as a user here and give full permission to your self in order to gain access. Click Add button and type in your user name and click Check Names your user name will be filled along with the computer name automatically.

Add new user to security access permission

Click OK. now just click on user name of yours and check Full control. Click Apply, OK and you are done.

Allow full control

You can get access to files that return an “Access Denied” error by using this method. are some Files and Folders which need some more work to open I’ll discuss it in next post. Till then try this and figure out what all were hidden from you.

View system files (super hidden) in Explorer

This is the first among a series of posts on administering Windows . It starts with how to see the files and folders that were hidden by Windows for some reason. The series is actually inspired from the one done by Samanathon on Starting your Day with a fresh Computer. He did a good job and I am a regular visitor of Saman’s Blog.

A Super Hidden or a Protected Syetem File is a file that is normally not shown in the Windows Explorer even if you have enabled Show Hidden files (Tools>>Folder Options>>View>>Show Hidden Files and Folders) in Windows Explorer). This is because if some of these files are deleted or changed Windows may encounter a fatal error. Some of such folders are :

  • C:Windowssystem32dllcache
  • System Volume Information – this is in all the drives
  • Recycler – which is also in all the drives

Super Hidden Files in C drive

So the first step involved is to make Windows show all the Super Hidden files. This can be done in two ways. One is directly through Windows Explorer Tools>>Folder Options and the other is through registry. So the former being easier and straight forward I’ll discuss it first.

1 . Through Windows Explorer

In Windows Explorer from Tools (Alt+T) menu take “View” tab in “Folder Options”.Make sure that you have selected Show Hidden Files and Folders and that you have unchecked Hide Protected operating system files options. Click Apply and then OK. This will enable you to see system files that had previously been hidden from your view.

Showing Super Hidden Files in Tools Menu

2 . Through Registry Editing

This is a little more complex.(It is recommended that you read the following posts before you go into the registry. Try this if you know Registry editing. Make a backup of the registry before you proceed.( The Introduction to Windows Registry , Know how to backup your registry )

Follow these steps..

1 . Run ( WIN+R ) regedit and open registry editor.

Super Hidden Dword in registry

Go to the Key HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindows

2 . In there you will see a Registry DWORD named ShowSuperHidden Make the value 1 instead of 0.

Dword Edit

3 . Now all you need to do is to restart Windows Explorer. to do so you can goto Start>>Shut Down and Click Cancel while holding down SHIFT+CTRL+ALT. Now press ALT+CTRL+DEL this will bring Task Manager. Take File>>New Task and type explorer and press Enter.

Now if you go to any drive you can see the previously Hidden files there. Note that you will still need to enable Show Hidden files option in Folder Option.

How to view all drives, Disk Management under Windows

The Disk Management object under Microsoft Management console can be used to Change Drive letter association, find unrecognized partitions or Mount a logical drive into a folder as in Linux.

If you want to prevent access to a drive, read 2nd tip in “Points to note” given after this post or read how to Prevent access to select drives using Registry.

One of the key differences between Windows and Linux is the tree structure used in Linux for filesystem. In Linux everything is a hierarchical leaf or branch of the Root “” directory. It was only recently that Linux started loading (mounting) drives other than the system drive automatically. (If you want to know more,  here is an article which will explain the Linux file hierarchy). To implement the Linux style tree structure in windows is pretty easy and is explained here.”

Open Disk Management object by typing “diskmgmt.msc” in START » RUN box or in Command Prompt. Here you can see all the Primary (Blue) and Logical (Green) partitions available on your system.

Disk Management Console object - screen shot.

You will be able to see the Linux partitions too. Select a drive and Right Click on it. Here you can see an option “Change drive Letter and Paths“. Under this option you can remove a drives letter change it or mount a volume into a folder.

Mounted Drives

Screen shot of my H and G drives mounted in a folder “C:Drives”

Some points to note here are …

1. You cannot remove the drive letter association of your system drive.
2. If you do not assign a drive letter or mount the drive to a folder on another drive it will not be accessible by any means in Windows.
3. You can’t add more than one drive letter to a drive.
4. To mount a volume the folder must be on a different partition.

Consider reading The post on Microsoft Management Console if you want to know more.