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System Properties \windows\system32\sysdm.cpl

View and modify many general Windows settings.

To Open

Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System

right-click on the My Computer icon Properties

Command Prompt control sysdm.cpl


The System Properties window contains settings that affect hardware, system performance, networking, and other Windows features. The tabs in this dialog are as follows:


This information-only tab displays the current Windows version, the edition (Home, Professional, Server, Advanced Server), the registered user, the speed of the processor, and the amount of installed memory (see Figure 4-94).

Figure 4-94. Get a quick overview of your Windows version, amount of installed memory, and registered user with the General tab

Computer Name

These settings affect how your computer is identified on your network, such as the computer’s name and whether or not you’re connected to a Windows NT domain system (referred to as a business network here). The Computer description field is for entering a comment only; it has no effect on any networking settings. See Chapter 7 for more information.


The Add Hardware Wizard and Device Manager are discussed elsewhere in this chapter. The Driver Signing Options dialog allows you to instruct Windows to accept or deny unsigned device drivers; see the Signature Verification Tool, discussed earlier in this chapter, for details.

Finally, the Hardware Profiles dialog allows you to set up multiple configurations of hardware, each with its own set of enabled and disabled devices. Use this feature if you’re unable to get two devices working at the same time or if you use a laptop with a docking station (and several devices may be unavailable at any given time).


In this tab, you’ll find a bunch of important Windows settings covering a wide variety of areas.

Performance Settings Visual Effects tab

Selectively disable several enhanced display features, such as shadows under menus and the animation of several screen elements. Depending on your system, especially the capabilities of your display adapter (video card), the disabling of some of these items may substantially improve system performance. It’s certainly worth experimenting with these settings, not only to make Windows more responsive, but to enable some of the cooler features that are disabled by default.

Performance Settings Advanced tab

In most cases, you’ll want both the Processor scheduling and Memory usage options set to “Programs.” However, if your computer is used as a web server, for example, you may experience better performance if you change these settings (see Figure 4-95).

Figure 4-95. Click Settings in the Performance section of the Advanced Tab to turn off some of the annoying eye candy that can slow down your computer

Click Change in the Virtual Memory section to adjust how Windows uses virtual memory, commonly known as your swap file. When Windows has used up all of your physical memory ( RAM) with programs and data, it stores some of that data on your hard disk to make room for other running programs. Since your hard disk is much slower than your RAM, this process (known as paging or swapping) can significantly impair system performance, which is why adding more memory to your system (up to a point) will make it faster. In most cases, you’ll want to leave these settings alone, but if you’re running out of disk space, you may want to limit how much of it is used as virtual memory. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of disk space, you might realize better performance if you click Custom size and then set the Initial size and Maximum size to the same value, thereby eliminating a potential delay when Windows resizes the swap file.

User Profiles Settings

This dialog displays a summary of configured user accounts. See “User Accounts”, later in this chapter, for more information.

Startup and Recovery Settings

The System startup section allows you to change settings in the boot.ini file, which contains the configuration for the Boot Manager. The Boot Manager is used when you have more than one operating system installed on the same system and wish to choose which one to use whenever you turn on your computer. Most users will have no use for this section.

The System failure section lets you control what happens when Windows encounters a serious error (known as the blue screen of death). Unless you’re trying to diagnose such a problem, you’ll probably never need to change these settings.

Environment Variables

See Chapter 6 for more information on the environment.

Error Reporting

Whenever a program crashes, whether it’s a Microsoft application, a component of Windows, or a third-party application, a window appears, prompting you to send a “report” to Microsoft. Use this page to completely or selectively disable this feature.

System Restore

The settings in this tab allow you to selectively disable the System Restore feature for the drives in your computer. See “System Restore”, later in this chapter, for details.

Automatic Updates

Windows can automatically and routinely activate the Windows Update feature (in the background) to see if any updates to Windows XP exist, and optionally, install them without prompting. See “Windows Update”, later in this chapter, for details.


These settings control the Remote Desktop feature (discussed earlier in this chapter). Unless you specifically want others to be able to connect to your computer using Remote Desktop, it’s strongly recommended that you disable both options on this page.


  • All settings in this dialog are also covered in Chapter 5.

  • If you’re looking for the Device Manager tab found in some earlier versions of Windows, it’s now a separate application; see “Device Manager”, earlier in this chapter. There’s also a shortcut in the Hardware tab.

  • The Advanced tab Environment Variables dialog allows you to set the default values for the system environment. This feature effectively replaces the autoexec.bat file used in Windows 95/98.

See Also

“Control Panel”

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