Sunday, July 25, 2010

Using XQDC X-Setup Pro in Windows XP

According to Tex and Eric, the bankruptcy of WUG has ended that organization's sponsorship of X-Setup Pro, a Windows tweaking utility.  Their message ends as follows:

You can still download the last version from MajorGeeks or BetaNews. The portable edition and the U3 version are available from MajorGeeks as well.

In case you lost your serial number use this one instead: XSA092-11TA9R-8K12YT
I had used this program years earlier.  I now installed and tried to run it in a Windows XP virtual machine (VM) in VMware Workstation 7.1 on an Ubuntu 10.04 host.  When I clicked on the "Classic" button, it immediately presented me with this error message:
C:\Program Files\X-Setup Pro\bin\xqdcXSPUI.exe (/START): Access is denied. (Win32 Error Code 5)
A search for precisely that error turned up nothing.  In a modified search, I saw an indication that "Access is denied" and "Win32 Error Code 5" mean the same thing.  Before researching that further with a refined search, it occurred to me to see whether it would happen again.  This time, clicking on Classic raised a Comodo Defense+ (firewall) dialog asking me if it was OK to proceed.  Allowing that, and another two or three after it, solved the problem:  the X-Setup windows opened.

I wondered whether X-Setup superseded Tweak UI.  Laptop (magazine?) rated X-Setup more highly than Tweak UI; but they observed that novices can get lost in X-Setup and may find Tweak UI more suitable for their needs.  My recollection, circa 2001, was that I had hosed my system with X-Setup once or twice.  I decided to use both for a while.  Following the tip from Tex and Eric, and consistent with a current effort to make Windows XP perform better in VMware Workstation, I decided to try using the portable versions of X-Setup and Tweak UI.

The most interesting feature of X-Setup, for me, was its Record function.  This feature made it possible to create distinct .reg files for each registry tweak.  So I could pick and choose the registry edits I wanted to use this time, and could run their "undo" counterparts if I didn't like the effects.

The explanations of various options in X-Setup were surprisingly articulate and lucid.  Those explanations did not conceal some degree of confusion in the structure of X-Setup tweaks, however.  There was redundancy; there were instances when I thought I had changed something and then came across something that looked very similar but yet had not been changed.

While there was no denying that X-Setup had a large number of tweaks, I found that they did not cover some registry edits I would have liked to see.  The authors readily acknowledged, as well, that some of the tweaks performed by some X-Setup plug-ins would not be captured in .reg files.  I found, in addition, that many of the tweaks I generated from within X-Setup were already set out on the Kellys-Korner and Elder Geek websites, among others.

After running X-Setup and making system adjustments, I found that the new Windows XP installation I had used it on was performing very slowly -- even though I had made sure not to make any changes that X-Setup had flagged as potentially dangerous.  Ultimately, this slowness and other problems led me to wipe my new Windows installation and start over.  I was not sure whether X-Setup was directly to blame for such problems, but I did make sure, the second time around, to proceed with caution.

Despite those caveats, X-Setup Pro did generate a number of useful scripts for me, and when used with suitable caution, it provided very helpful ways of improving my Windows XP installation.