10 very annoying system defaults

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I was reading 10 seriously annoying default configurations at TechRepublic today and was inspired to come up with my own.

1. Windows Update

I love the idea of Windows Update, but its implementation drives me crazy. First, every update seems to require a restart of the computer. Coming from a linux background that is extremely frustrating, especially on a Windows server. No I can’t restart the Exchange server 3 times a week, thank you very much. Second, some updates are only visible after prior updates are installed, which compounds the restart problem. Third, there’s no way for 3rd party software developers to latch into this update process. This makes keeping a machine secure much harder, forcing admins to rely on tools from vendors like Secunia to keep their systems up to date.

2. User Account Control (UAC)

Much has been written about UAC, a feature of Windows Vista and later that prompts the user performing risky actions – like installing software. Unfortunately it prompted so much that many simply disabled the messages. I personally feel that UAC was one of the “features” that prevented mass adoption of Windows Vista. Thankfully Windows 7 gives you more granular control of the messages UAC displays.

3. Internet Explorer on Windows Servers

I completely agree with the author of the TechRepublic article. Internet Explorer on a Windows 2003 or 2008 server is virtually useless. Yes, you shouldn’t use Windows server for general purpose browsing, but with nearly all reference guides and support online there are times when you must use a web browser on the server.

Say you are in the server room, working on an Exchange server that’s not working. You need to research an error message from the system log so you hop over to Google. Instead of showing you the website you are prompted to add Google to the Trusted sites list. Click on one of the relevant links, add the site to your Trusted sites. Repeat this a few times and tell me that you don’t want to throw the server through a wall.

4. “Are you sure you want to empty the Recycle Bin?”

The whole point of the recycle bin is to prevent accidental file deletion. You have to interact with the Recycle Bin in order to empty it. Why confirm again that these are files need to be deleted?

5. ActiveX component install process

I know that ActiveX is a major security risk, but do I really need to confirm 3 different dialogs before it will install an ActiveX component in Internet Explorer 7 or 8?

6. Menus that change based on frequency of use

This came into vogue after Office 2000 implemented “Personalized Menus.”  The basic idea was that the Office apps had too many options and the average user could not get to the options that they needed quickly. So if an option was not used often, the software auto-hides the option for you. Yeah – great idea. Try walking a friend through a configuration change, only to discover that the menu option is hidden. Here is an idea – if there are too many options in a program, perhaps it is too complex and should be streamlined.

7. Hiding File Extensions

Why design a file system that requires the use of an extension to determine its file type, then design a file browser that hides those extensions. This is the first setting I change on any Windows machine I manage.

8. Hiding System and Hidden Files

If #7 is the first change I make, this one is number two by a few seconds. This one is even cross platform as the Gnome file browser also tries to “help” you by hiding these files from view.

9. Errors cause Copy / Move operations to stop completely.

Ever try to move a bunch of folders from one drive to another – maybe you are backing up your photo collection, maybe you are moving documents from one computer to another. If one file cannot be copied the whole process just stops. Now you have to figure out why the file copy did not work and start all over again. To solve this one, install a 3rd party file copier like TeraCopy.

10. Desktop Cleanup

Everybody uses the desktop a little differently, I tend to use mine as a scratch pad. I keep files that I am currently working on the desktop, and move them to other locations when they are no longer needed. The Desktop Cleanup wizard is like a maid that comes in behind you and starts putting files into random cabinets.

I know it seems like I was picking on Windows with this list, I know there are just as many annoying system defaults on other platforms, but these are the first ten I could think of. Chime in with your list in the comments section.

About Brian Wahoff


Brian is the Chief Technology Officer of EPC, Inc. He loves coding, reading, and all things baseball. He can be followed on G+ at: http://plus.google.com/100790194652208537537

3 Comments


  1. Sep 2, 2009
    12:10 pm

    Brent

    Your #9 is my #1 – all that other stuff can be fixed, this one has no alternative.

    Add on top of that the fact that “are you sure you want to move file X” stops the entire progress rather than putting it in a confirmation queue.
    Why not have a checkbox (similar to close this after download completes) that says “automatically move system files” and “automatically move read only files” and “… … …” so you can tell it to just copy and don’t ask any questions, and tell me about failures at the end rather than aborting.

    To make matters worse, you can’t turn off indexing on vista. Which, might sound like its own bullet point, but it is actually an extension of the above frustration. If you plug up your old XP drive to your new Vista box, and you try copying over 100 GB of junk, your new vista box has to index every single file as part of the copy process. Making an operation that would take 2 hours on XP or Ubuntu take 16+ hours on vista. Not something you want to wait for after a fresh install when you want to start using the box. You cant disable indexing, and, you can’t just set it up to copy overnight, because half hour into the operation, it will hit a read only file and wait…


  2. Sep 2, 2009
    2:16 pm

    Mark

    For # 9 you may also want to try Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier.

    “Recovers files from disks with physical damage. Allows you to copy files from disks with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data. The program will attempt to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together. Using this method most types of files can be made useable even if some parts of the file were not recoverable in the end.”


  3. Sep 2, 2009
    2:38 pm

    Brian Wahoff

    Mark: Awesome find. Definitely something I’ll add to my sysadmin toolkit.