Good Preventative Medicine: Get To Know Your Computer
Before you install Win95, at DOS prompt type MSD and hit Enter; from the File menu, select Print Report. This will give you a complete record of the computer settings. Within Win95, check out MSInfo; usually found in Windows\MSApps\MSInfo. It gives a ton of info about your system and its components.
The DOS 6.2X Microsoft Diagnostic Program is on the CD-ROM. Look in: \Other\MSD\msd.exe
To print a copy of your system configuration summary, double-click the Systems icon in Control Panel, and then click the Device Manager tab (if you do this operation often, download this little zip file and unzip it to your desktop, then just click it whenever you want to launch the Device Manager). Click Computer, and them click Print.
Win 95 comes with a utility called MS-Info that tells you more about your computer than you ever thought possible. It lists detailed information on all your DLL’s, drivers, fonts, memory, hardware and much more. Just launch the Find Utility (Start\Find\Files or Folders) and search for the executable: Msinfo32.exe.
Right click on the My Computer icon and select Properties. By exploring the various tabs and settings, you can get details on all the devices installed on your system, plus memory and port settings.
To view available IRQs:
a. Right click on My Computer
b. Select Properties
c. Select the Device Manager tab
d. Double click on Computer
This will show which IRQs are currently in use.
You can also access your System Properties by using the right mouse button to click My Computer and then choose the Properties option from the context menu. If you have a keyboard with a Windows key, press Win+Break.
Installing Windows: Some Effort Now Save Grief Later
Even if you have a CD with the full version of Windows, you can still use it to perform an upgrade installation.
First, copy the Win98 (or Win95 folder) and the setup.exe file from your Windows CD to your hard drive.
Now boot into DOS mode.
Go to the Windows directory on your hard drive and rename Win.com to Win.old.
Finally, while still in DOS mode, run setup.exe from your hard drive.
When you install Win95/98, do a Custom Install instead of Typical. There are a number of worthwhile bells and whistles not included in Typical.
If you originally did a Typical installation of Win95, there may be some custom features worth adding. Open the Control Panel, double-click Add/remove Programs and select the Windows Setup tab. Browse through each of the categories by highlighting each one and clicking Details. Check any feature that you would like to add. For example, Quick View is worth installing, and is not part of the Typical installation. The full complement of games, additional wallpaper files and animated pointers are ‘Custom’, not to mention the Online Users Guide and the Windows Tour. You can always try them and delete them afterwards. Note though, that these additional features slow your system down a little. Not a problem if you have plenty of RAM and room on your HDD. But if you have an older system, with an older generation system board and CPU it might be noticeable.
Windows Goodies: Tools For Expanding Your Capabilities
The Windows 95 CD-ROM has a number of additional goodies on it, such as:
The Windows 95 Resource Kit, in a fully indexed Help file and in formatted Word files.
If you have room on your hard drive, copy the files to your hard drive and create a desktop shortcut icon. The files are:
F:\Admin\reskit\helpfile\win95rk.cnt (where F: is your CD-ROM drive)
There are similar files giving a tour to System Administration and for Mac users. Look in the same help file for them.
If you should ever need DOS 6.XX, it is on the Win95 CD. Look in: F:\Other\Oldmsdos
If you really want to tweak Windows, install the Windows Powertoys from your Windows CD. Find the file Tweakui.inf in \tools\reskit\powertoy, right-click and choose install.
Windows 98 comes with some great tools in form of the MS Windows 98 Resource Kit Tools sampler. To install it, insert the Windows 98 CD, open Windows Explorer, find the folder \Tools\Reskit and double-click the Setup.exe file to install it. Once that’s done, go to Start/Programs/Windows 98 Resource Kit/Tools Management Console to start it. In here you will find some great tools, such as MS File Information, QuikTray, ClipTray, TweakUI and more. To get the full version with even more stuff, you need to purchase the MS Windows 98 Resource Kit, available in any bookstore for around 70 bucks or less. It’s a mammoth 1700 page book with a CD containing the full version of the tools.
Using Windows: Tools For Understanding And Fixing Your OS
Need to find out what cab file on the Windows CD contains a certain Windows file?
From a DOS window, change to the directory containing the cab files (this would be \win98 on the CD ROM) and type Extract /a /d win98_22.cab (filename) | more
The /a switch specifies a search of all cabinet files starting with the one specified. The /d switch specifies not to extract the file, but to simply locate it in the cabinet files. The | more option lets you view the result page by page instead of scrolling faster than you can read.
Do you dislike how Win98 keeps the list of Programs on the Start menu in one column and makes you scroll if it doesn’t fit on the screen? Here’s how you can get the Win95 style multi-column menu back.
Go to Start/Run, type regedit and hit OK to start the Registry Editor. Drill down to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Right-click in the right pane and select New/String Value. Type StartMenuScrollPrograms and hit Enter. Right-click on the new string and select Modify. Now type the word false into the Value Data field and click OK. You might need to restart Windows for this to take effect.
Does it annoy you when you double-click on My Computer and it opens in a single pane view instead of the normal double-pane Explorer view? Here’s how to fix it:
Double-click on My Computer. Select View/Options and go to File Types. Scroll down to Folder, hi-lite it and hit Edit. At the bottom, in the Actions field, hi-lite explore and click Set Default. Click OK. From now on double-clicking My Computer will bring up the Explorer view.
In Win98, open Explorer. If you’re using the “View as web page” option, turn that off for a moment (uncheck it on Explorer’s View menu). Now navigate to your /Windows directory and click on View/Details. Click on the “Type” column heading. Scroll down to where the .TXT files are grouped together. Check it out: There’s well over 300K of raw text files there (the equivalent of 150 pages of typed text!) detailing all kinds of known issues, workarounds, web resources, tips, tricks, FAQs and other information related to making Win98 work with a huge range of hardware and software!
Another example: Navigate to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Information and then click on Tools. There you’ll find a collection of 10 very useful utilities. That one Tools menu is, by itself, a Power User’s gem.
You’ve added another hard drive or drive partition to your PC, but your system won’t recognize one or more of the new drive letters. Here’s a fix: Your CONFIG.SYS file (or CONFIG.DOS if you upgraded to Win95 or 98 from Win3x) might contain a command that reads LASTDRIVE=X, where X is the last letter that your system recognizes. If you find this command, edit the file and place REM (including a space at the end) at the beginning of the LastDrive line. That will render the line invisible to your PC at boot-up.
This problem typically occurs if you’ve used the My Computer tab in Tweak UI for Win95 to change the settings that control drive displays. You can also try enabling all your drives in the My Computer tab to fix the problem.
The new Win98 System Configuration Utility allows you to turn off any annoying auto-start programs using simple check boxes. You can get to it via Start/Run, type in Msconfig, and then click on the StartUp tab. Select the Startup tab, and you’ll see a list of all programs that start whenever Windows 98 starts. Deselect the one(s) giving you grief, click OK, and they won’t bother you again (unless you select them again in this dialog box).
Plan to reinstall Win98, but can’t find the Product Key (serial number), that goes with the CD-ROM? Go to Start/Run, type in Regedit, then click OK. In the resulting window, look in: Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Product Key: There you will find the 25 digit/letter product key.
Notice also that a few lines below it you can edit Registered Organization and Registered Owner.
By default, Win98 keeps the five most recent backups that Registry Checker creates. To increase the number of stored backups-which is always a good idea if you have available disk space-find the file SCANREG.INI, open it in Notepad and change the MaxBackupCopies= value from 5 to the number of your choice. For much more information on this subject please see our Back Up And Restore Your Registry In Windows 98 article in the How-To section.
To boot your system without loading the full Win95 environment, press one of the following Function Keys when the boot screen says “Starting Windows 95”:
|F8||Presents a menu of boot options such as Safe Mode, etc.|
|F4||Boots to an older version of DOS, if one is still on your hard disk.|
|F5||Boots in Safe Mode|
|F6||Boots in Safe Mode with Network Support|
There are two files that make up the Registry. The first, SYSTEM.DAT stores info about the system’s hardware configuration, including type of add-in boards, and the resources they require, such as interrupts, I/O ports or memory addresses. The second file, USER.DAT, holds settings related to your own preferences such as colors, wallpapers, screensavers, etc.
When you are making any changes to the Registry, you should first make a back up copy. To do that, open the Registry Editor (go to Start/Run and typing in regedit). Pull down the Registry menu and choose ExportRegistry File. Navigate to where you’d like to store the backup file, type in a name for the file, select All under Export Range, and click on Save.
Emergency Recovery Utility. There is a hidden program on the Win 95 CD to save your system settings the way you configured it. Before running the program, format a floppy disk, making sure to check the Copy System Files option in the Format dialog box. Then place the Windows 95 CD-ROM in your drive. Browse to the \other\misc\eru folder and double-click Eru.exe. Follow the directions from there. In case of disaster, reboot your system with the ERU-created floppy, and it will automatically restore some of your Win 95 settings.
If you use the Emergency Recovery Utility found on the Win 95 CD-ROM to create an emergency boot disk, be aware that some of the configuration files can be huge, making it impossible to fit them all on a floppy (and ERU cannot handle multiple floppies). When ERU shows all the files it will back up, click Custom to see the files it will skip. You can choose to skip other files, or you can make a note of the ones not being copied and back them up manually.
Don’t install the DOS Plug-and-Play configuration utilities that come with some ISA Plug-and-Play hardware. They can interfere with Win95’s startup or keep it from loading at all. Try plugging in the card and booting the system before changing anything. The system may identify the card.
To restart Win95 without a complete system restart, click the Restart Computer option on the Shut Down menu, hold down the Shift key and click on the Yes confirmation button. Win95 will now restart without rebooting the whole system.
Recovering from a hung computer; besides pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete, try Ctrl+Escape; this may bring up the Start Menu, allowing you to safely shut down your computer.
Disk Tools. Use the right mouse button to click a drive in My Computer, and then click Properties. Click the Tools tabs to use ScanDisk, Backup, and Defragmenter.
Here are some handy keyboard shortcuts for Windows:
|F1||View Help for a selected dialog box|
|F2||Rename the selected item|
|F3||Opens the Find Command in your current folder|
|F4||Drop the “folder selection menu” in Explorer|
|F5||Refreshes the contents of the current folder|
|Alt+F4||Quit a program|
|Backspace||Marches up the directory tree to the parent folder|
|Ctrl+X||Cut selected item|
|Ctrl+C||Copy selected item|
|Ctrl+Z||Undo the last operation|
|Shift+F10||Pops up the shortcut menu, just like right-clicking|
|Ctrl+Esc||Pops up the Start Menu|
|Ctrl+A||Select all items|
|Alt+Tab||Switch between applications|
|Alt+Tab+Shift||Switch backward between application|
|Alt+Esc||Switch open windows|
|Alt+Enter||Open properties for selected item|
|Shift+Delete||Delete selected item without placing it in the Recycle Bin|
|Win+Shift+M||Undo Minimize All|
|Win+F||Find Folder or Files|
|Win+Tab||Cycle through Taskbar Buttons|
When dragging and dropping, use the right mouse button, it will bring up a pop-up menu to let you indicate Move, Copy, Shortcut, etc. Left dragging works, but Windows does a default copy or move, depending on the situation. If you know the default is what you want to do, use the left mouse button.
Automate Diskcopy; create a shortcut on the desktop with Diskcopy a: in the command line (assuming that a: points to your diskette driver). Now, whenever you want to copy a diskette, just double-click on the new icon.
To change the sort order, click on the column headings.
Logow.sys and Logos.sys are the graphic screens shown during shutdown. They can be modified with Paint. Save a copy of each before you change them.
Empty the Documents item on the Start menu by clicking on the Start button, select Taskbar from the Settings menu. Click once on the Start Menu Programs tab and then on the Clear button.
Right-click on the Taskbar and select Minimize all Windows to clear your desktop.
You can quickly close any open dialog box by pressing the Esc key.
When navigating down a directory tree in single pane Explorer windows, hold down the Shift key when you click on a new target to open a full, two-pane Explorer view.
If you are looking for a specific document inside a folder, but don’t know its name, select the folder in the left pane of Explorer. Then select Find/File or Folders from the Tools menu. Click on the Advanced tag and type in a string of text from the document you are seeking. Click on the Find Now button.
To avoid getting lost in Help, go to Display History Window under the Options menu. It will show you a list of topics you looked at in the order in which you visited them.
The default size of the Recycle bin is 10% of that hard drive. Right-click on its icon, select Properties, and use the slider to make a more reasonable 2 to 4%.
To create a shortcut for an application using keyboard combinations, right-click on the application’s icon on the desktop, select Properties from the resulting menu, and click the Shortcut tab in the Properties dialog box. With the cursor in the Shortcut key edit box, enter a keystroke combination beginning with Ctrl or Alt or both. You cannot use the following in the combination: Esc, Enter, Tab, Space Bar, PrintScreen or Backspace.
For example, you can thus create a shortcut for Excel, so that when you press Alt+E+X, Excel will start. This works even if another application covering the entire desktop is open. You can also specify how the application should be opened on the desktop: As a button on the Taskbar, in a Full Screen, or in a Normal Window.
One click on the little speaker icon at the right end of the Taskbar allows you to change the volume setting. But, double-clicking on the same icon brings up a mixer program for your sound card, if the sound card supports that feature. (Sound Blasters do support it!).
Win95 takes over the Print Screen key. Instead of sending data to the printer, it sends it to the Clipboard, where it can be pasted into other windows, like Word or Paintbrush. Some keyboards make you hold Shift while pressing Print Screen. If you hold Alt while pressing Print Screen, Win95 sends the current window, not the entire screen, to the Clipboard. If you really want a printout of the screen, hold Shift and press Print Screen to send a picture of the screen to Clipboard. Paste the contents of the Clipboard into Paint and print from there.
To make a DOS program fill the entire screen, click on the DOS window to make it active and then hold down the Alt key and press Enter. To get back to DOS in a window in Win95, hold down the Alt key and press Enter again, to toggle the feature.
To disable AutoPlay CD feature, double-click the My Computer icon. On the View menu, click Options, then click the File Types tab. Click the Audio CD type, and then click Edit. In the Actions list, click Plan, and then click Set Default. When Play is in bold typeface, it is enabled, and when it is in regular typeface, it is turned off. To re-enable AutoPlay, repeat steps above.
In the Windows directory, there is a file Tips.txt which contains tips written by the Windows 95 developers.
Taskbar Clock. Hold the mouse pointer over the clock to see the date. Double-click the taskbar clock to set the system time, date and time zone. To remove the clock from the taskbar, use the right mouse button to click the Taskbar, then click Properties. Click the Taskbar Options tab, and uncheck Show Clock.
You do know that you can drag the Taskbar to any side of the desktop, don’t you?
You can add the following virtual folders to the Start menu. Right click the Start button and select Open. In the right pane of the resulting Windows Explorer window, create a new folder. Choose the folder you’d like to create from the list below and name it accordingly. Hi-lite the text below with no trailing space, press Ctrl+C to copy it, and then use Ctrl+V to paste the name.
To change wallpaper, colors, screensaver, color depth and resolution, right-click on the Desktop, then select Properties.
To change the font used in Explorer and on Desktop icons, right-click on the Desktop, choose Properties, and click on Appearance tab. Choose Icon from the list of items and select the desired font name and size.
When you double-click the Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, you get a list of all of the program that Win95 can automatically remove. If you want to remove an item from the Install/Uninstall list (an item that Win95 won’t remove, or that you have already taken off yourself). Open the Registry Editor (go to Start/Run and type Regedit and click Open); navigate your way to HKEY_LOCAL\MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall. In the left pane, with the right mouse button, click the folder (under Uninstall) that represents the item you want to get rid of and choose Delete. Close the Registry Editor, reopen Add/Remove Programs dialog box, and the item will be done.
A better version of Clipboard. You can install Clipbook, where you can save clippings and reuse them. To install it, insert the Win95 CD-ROM, and in the resulting window select Add/Remove Software. Go to the Windows Setup tab, click Have Disk, click Browse and navigate your way to \Other\Clipbook. With the Clipbook.inf file the only thing in the file name box, click OK twice. Check Clipbook Viewer, then click Install. You will now be able to open the program by selecting Start/Programs/Accessories/Clipbook Viewer.
Here’s a tip that will help you be more productive with IE4 or 5 right off the bat. With Outlook Express, you can send an entire Web page to a friend or parent while you are browsing! And, if your recipients have e-mail applications that can view HTML files, they won’t have to connect to the Web to view the page. To send a Web page:
1. Open a page in Internet Explorer 4.0 or 5.x
2. Click Mail on the toolbar and select Send Current Document
3. Click the address card icon next to the To: line, type in an e-mail address, and then click the Send button.
Printer Trouble? The Win 95 CD-ROM contains a printer trouble shooting program that may be able to help. Place the CD-ROM in your drive, browse to \other\misc\epts folder, and double-click epts.exe. The program will ask you what kind of problems you are having, then continue to ask questions and offer solutions until you solve your problem or give up.
Quick! Put it on a diskette. The quickest way to put a file or folder on a diskette is to right-click on it, select Send To from the context menu and choose 3½ Floppy (A).
How do you find hidden files (such as MSDOS.SYS)? Open My Computer, select Options… from the View menu, click on the View tab, choose Show All Files, press OK. While you are on that page, if you like to see the file extension when in My Computer (.exe, .dll, etc.) click on Display the full MS-DOS Path…
When you installed Windows 95, you entered your name and organization. You can change this registered user information using the Registry Editor. (As always, back up the Registry before making a change.) Click on Start/Run, type Regedit and click on OK to open the Registry Editor. Navigate your way to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion. In the right pane, you’ll notice Registered Organization and Registered Owner string values (among others). To change one of these values, right-mouse click on it, select Modify, and type new information on the Value data line. Click on OK and close the Registry Editor.
Do you frequently print using two different settings? For example, you might print a color document one minute, then a black-and-white, landscape-oriented page the next. Rather than changing these settings each time you print, trick Windows into thinking you have two printers, each with different Properties settings. Select Start/Settings/Printers; double-click on Add Printer; and then follow the instructions to reinstall your printer the same way you did the first time. When asked, opt to keep the existing driver, and then make sure to give this “new” printer a new name, such as “Landscape B/W.” When the setup is finished, the Printers window will display two different items representing the same printer. Adjust their properties to the settings you need (right-mouse click on the icon, select Properties, and so on) and, if you wish, create shortcuts to each on the desktop for easy access. From now on, just click and drag the document you want to print to your “printer” of choice. (Or, use an application’s Print command, and then select the printer you want to use in the resulting dialog box.)
Can’t figure out how to get a program to stop loading every time you start Windows 9x? There are three main places to look:
The Startup folder. Right-click on Start, select Open, double-click on Programs, then double-click on Startup. If you see a shortcut to the annoying program inside, delete it.
Your WIN.INI file. Select Start/Run, type sysedit and click on OK. Inside the System Configuration Editor, make the WIN.INI window active and look for a run= or load= line under the [windows] section. Remove the reference to the annoying program, and save your change.
The Registry. Select Start/Run, type regedit and click on OK to open the Registry Editor. Navigate your way to LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RUN. In the right pane, you’ll find programs that load when Windows 95 starts. Right-mouse click on the one giving you grief, select Delete, and close the Registry Editor. (As always, before editing the Registry, back it up.)
Windows can automatically create an emergency start-up disk. Go to the Control Panel. Double-click Add/Remove Programs; select the Startup Disk tab. Insert a disk into your floppy drive and click the Create Disk button.
Restarting Win95 is a four-step process (Start/Shut Down/Restart the Computer/OK). You can make it a one-step process by creating an icon on your desktop that restarts Win95. Open Notepad and type @EXIT. Close the document and give it a name with a BAT extension. Now stash the file away somewhere on your hard disk. Create a shortcut to the file by using the right mouse button to drag it to the desktop, and selecting Create Shortcut(s) Here. Right-click on the shortcut and select Properties. Click on the Program tab and select the Close on Exit box. Next, click on the Advanced button and make sure MS-DOS mode is selected and Warn before entering MS-DOS mode is not. Click on OK and on OK again. Give your new shortcut a unique icon and name. Whenever you double-click on the icon, Win95 will restart, no questions asked.
Shutting down the computer is also a four-step process (Start/Shut Down/Shutdown/OK).You can make it a one-step process:
First, create a new shortcut and add C:\WINDOWS\RUNDLL32.EXE User,ExitWindows to the command line. Name, save and store the shortcut in an easily accessible location (your QuickLaunch bar is a good place if you have Windows 98 or IE4’s Desktop Update). When you launch the shortcut in the future, Windows will shut down, no questions asked. (If an application is open, you will be asked if you want to save any open files.)
Give Your PC a Mini Tune-Up. Keep your system in shape by practicing a little preventative maintenance on your hard drive. About once a month, perform these steps, in this order:
Delete all files and folders with dates older than one week from C:\WINDOWS\TEMP.
Run ScanDisk (Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Scandisk) with the Standard radio button selected and the Automatically Fix Errors option enabled.
Empty the Recycle Bin.
Run Disk Defragmenter.
Is your Start menu getting so huge it scrolls off the screen or extends over several columns? Reduce the Start menu’s size and get organized at the same time. Right-click on the Start button, select Open, then double-click the Programs folder. Now right-click and choose New Folder to make your own custom subfolders, such as Games, Internet, Graphics, etc. Drag and drop existing program folders and program shortcuts into your new subfolders and that Start menu will look better than ever and lets you find things much more easily.
Here’s an easy way to change file associations. Click on a document to select it, then hold the Shift key while right-clicking on it; select Open with… from the context menu. In the Open With dialog, make sure there’s a check mark in the Always use this program to open this type of file box, then double-click on an application in the Choose window. Warning: Once you’ve done this, the box will be checked by default next time the dialog comes up.
In many applications you can drag scraps of text or graphics to the desktop for temporary storage. Select/highlight the text or graphic you want to save and drag it to the desktop with the right mouse button. Once you release the button, choose the Move Scrap Here command from the context menu. To reuse the scrap anytime in any other document, just drag it from the desktop into the text.
Do you have lots of data files scattered all over your system? Take the time to arrange them into one central data folder like My Documents (that’s what it’s for, in case you’ve wondered). That way, you’ll know where everything is at a moment’s notice; and even better, backups become a breeze.
It’s easy to assign a different letter to your CD-ROM drive. Under Win95, go to the Control Panel, double-click on the System icon, then click on the Device Manager tab (if you do this operation often, download this little zip file and unzip it to your desktop, then just click it whenever you want to launch the Device Manager). Locate your drive in the list, bring up its properties, and click on the Settings tab. In the section at the bottom of the dialog box, enter the desired drive letter in the boxes labeled Start Drive Letter and End Drive Letter (for a single CD-ROM drive, these letters will be identical).
Win98 comes with an improved Backup utility. If you want to use it for automatic backups launched by the Win98 Task Scheduler, you’ll need to make a change. Open the Backup utility (Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Backup) and click on the Open button. Click on the Options button at the bottom of the window and open the Report tab. Select the Perform an unattended backup option.
If you forget your Win95 password, just hit Escape at the password box, run Find (Start/Find/Files or Folders) and search for *.PWL in c:\Windows\ directory to find your PWL files. Delete the one with your name in front of it. Restart your system and enter a new password when prompted (Win95 will ask you to verify it).
Wish you could hide a few Control Panel items, to keep meddling fingers from messing with these settings? Tweak UI has an entire tab for just this purpose. Select the Control Panel tab, then scroll through the list of items, deselecting those items you’d like to hide from view. The next time you (or more importantly, anyone else) open the Control Panel, those “hidden” items are nowhere in sight.
Now, how do YOU access the hidden Control Panel items? Set up shortcuts to the hidden *.cpl files (as indicated on Tweak UI’s Control Panel tab) and store them in your secret location of choice. (Tip: Use Find to locate all *.cpl files in the Windows\System folder; then right-mouse-click and drag the “hidden” *.cpl file(s) to your location of choice, let go, and select Create Shortcut(s) Here.)
When you initially install Windows on your PC, a registry entry will be made that remembers the path to the Windows cab files. For example, if your CD-ROM drive was D: at the time of installation, Windows will always look for the cab files in D:\Win98cab\ first when you make changes to your Windows setup.
But what if your CD-ROM drive letter changed because you added another hard drive? Or what if you decided to store the cab files on your hard drive instead for easier access? How can you tell Windows to look there instead without having to manually change the path every single time?
This one is easy to fix with just a little Registry tweaking. Go to Start/Run, type Regedit and click OK. In Regedit, drill down to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Setup. Look for the string called SourcePath on the right, right-click it, and select Modify. Enter the new path to the cab files and you’re all set.
Thanks to Ray Cronin for compiling this great list of tips.