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Top tips for improving Windows XP or Windows 7

Windows 8 hasn't exactly won over PC buffs since its launch back in August 2012. Its radical re-imagining of the traditional Microsoft desktop has seen many users opting to stick with legacy platforms as old as 2001's Windows XP, and the more recent Windows 7. To help you get the most out of your operating system before being strong-armed into making the switch, we've rounded up a few top tips for these older versions of Windows.

How to encrypt your files

Largely thanks to the 2013 NSA revelations, encryption is one of the hottest topics in the tech industry. The good news for users of Windows XP Pro and Windows 7 Pro is that it's easy to encrypt important files and folders, as opposed to relying on the more porous strategy of simply restricting user access.

First, navigate to the files you want to encrypt. Once selected, right-click and choose Properties, then click on Advanced and check the Encrypt Content box.

Now click OK, followed by Apply and you'll be prompted to specify whether you want to only encrypt the selected files, or secure additional sub-folders. Choose the appropriate option and Windows will work its magic - you'll know your files have been successfully encrypted as they'll turn green in the directory.

Note that this Encrypting File System functionality is not available on Windows Home editions.

How to disable autorun for discs

One effective way of reducing lag and improving performance on Windows XP and Windows 7 is to disable the autorun feature linked to your CD-ROM/DVD drive.

If you don't always need an immediate launch when inserting a disc into your computer, disable the feature by first diving into the Registry Editor (If you're not familiar with this feature, you access it by inputting 'Regedit' into the Run dialogue via the Start menu).

Once there, navigate to the registry key 'HKEY_LOCAL_ MACHINE\SYSTEM\Current ControlSet\Services\Cdrom' and double-click on 'AutoRun Dword.' Then, just change the numerical value associated with this setting to '0'.

Should you ever want to activate autorun again, just repeat the above steps and revert back to the original value of '1'.

How to remove text from desktop shortcut icons

More experienced PC users can improve the look of their Windows desktop by removing the text surrounding shortcut icons with this clever workaround.

Force Windows XP or Windows 7 to accept a text-free icon by first highlighting the appropriate shortcut. Then press the Alt key, type in the number 255 on the right-hand number pad, and hit Enter.

Unfortunately, things get a little bit tiresome at this stage, as to clear additional desktop icons of text you have to multiply the process to create unique values. So, to strip a second shortcut of text, you have to press Alt, 255 and Alt, 255 again. For the third icon, it's Alt, 255-Alt, 255-Alt 255, and so on.