Tuning, cleaning, and securing Windows for fun and profit

BEFORE DOING ANY DRIVERS......Do the below section first !

------------ pre driver clean up ----------------
Go into the control panel, and switch to classic view

In the system icon, go into the system restore tab and turn off system restore.  Ignore any whines.

Then under system, go to advanced.  Click Performance and check adjust for best performance
Don't exit out of this tab, go to the advanced tab on the right then click the change button at the bottom.  Set it like this.
Ignore any whines or requests to reboot. 
-----------end of pre driver clean up------------

Ok, now go ahead and install all the drivers your system needs.  Reboot when done if required.

Go back to the system and the first advanced tab.  Click error reporting, and disable it.  Then back under advanced, go into startup and recovery
and set it like this.

Under the control panel, find automatic updates, set it for the top option, and set the time value for a time you usually have the computer turned on.
Close out any open windows, and if you see a yellow icon in the system tray, click it, hit custom, download any critical updates EXCEPT  IE7 or the WGA bullshit (if it asks you if you want to see those 2 updates again, tell it NO) then yes to the prompt to restart.  If you don't see the yellow tab, don't worry about it for now.

After rebooting,  right click on the gray bar at the bottom of the screen, select properties, and set it like this.  Then tab over to start menu and set it to classic start menu.
Run the group policy editor by going to start, run, and typing gpedit.msc

Set it up like the following screen shots.      #1  #2  #3

Exit the policy editor and go to my computer on the desktop.  Go to view, and toggle the status bar and list.   Right click on the gray bar just above the go button and uncheck address bar and lock the toolbars. Optionally as well, click customize and set it however you want.

Go to tools, folder options.  Tab over to view and change the following options.  Ignore any whines you get.

Uncheck the following:
automatically search for network folders and printers
hide extensions for known file types   (Despite the BS "recommend" note that Uncle Bill has here, leaving this option on is a GREAT way for spyware and virus to hide)
hide protected operating system files  (Despite the BS "recommend" note that Uncle Bill has here, leaving this option on is a GREAT way for spyware and virus to hide)
use simple file sharing  (Despite the bs "recommend" note that Uncle Bill has here, turning this off gives you a LOT more control on file shares security)

Check the following:
show hidden files and folders

(here is some screen shots so you can see what i am talking about )

#1   #2

Hit the apply to all folders  button then hit ok  (ignore whines as per usual).

Go to start, run, and type regedit.  Once inside regedit, do a find for the following term "delegatefolders".  When it finds the search term, delete it.  Hit F3, and when it finds the second search term, delete it as well.  Exit.

Go to start, and delete the top two icons, windows catalog and set program access and defaults by right clicking and choosing delete.

Now go to the control panel and go into add or remove programs.  Select add / remove windows components.  Uncheck everything but the top option and hit next.  Ignore the whine to reboot.

Go to start, load windows update.  Then tools, internet options.  Go to settings under temporary internet files, set it to1.
In the main window, hit custom, answer yes to the whine, then hit the download and install button.  Hit close then continue. If prompted to Reboot do so.
Hit continue (may take a second to appear) if you don't need to reboot.  (Note: the Genuine Validation tool is ok to install)

Download all High Priority updates EXCEPT "Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications" bullshit and IE7 and IE8 (which has numerous flaws, and breaks a lot of things). Most of the stuff in Software, Optional is crap or worse (like DRM, Windows Search, Windows Media Player 11, etc), and should be avoided.

Use great caution if windows update wants to update any drivers as well.  Verify that the driver they offer is the newest one from the manufacter.  Sometimes the driver M$ suggests is 2-3 years older then the manufacter's latest or horribly broken.  Video card drivers often are the worst in this regard.  Go ahead with downloading and installing.  Reboot when done.  You may get further yellow icon prompts after rebooting (there are several fixes that require the huge batch of fixes to be installed first), install them when you get the chance.

Go back to control panel and go into administrative tools then services.
Set the following services to manual:

help and support
Remote Registry
wireless zero configuration  (if you have a wireless card in your computer, don't mess with this option)
SSDP discovery service      (set this to disable, as it sometimes starts even on manual)

Download and install Mike Lin's startup control panel
This is hugely useful for killing autoloading programs.  After you install it, it will put an icon in the
control panel
that lets you see what programs are starting up.  Most video and sound cards will want to run useless programs that eat up ram.  Kill em.

Go into the C:\windows directory, and nuke anything that starts with a $.  As usual, ignore sniviling whines from Uncle Bill.

Go ahead and reboot now.  After rebooting, start with software installs.