Windows

Use screen savers to keep track of multiple Windows XP computers

If you use multiple Windows XP computers from a single monitor, here's how to work with the screen saver icon to avoid headaches and keep your systems straight.

If you regularly work with multiple Windows XP computers using a Keyboard Video Mouse (KVM) switch, you may get confused about which computer you currently have on the screen. But if you don't need all the features of the BGInfo utility, there is a simple method that you can implement using either the 3D Text or Marquee screen saver.

  1. Launch Windows Explorer and locate either the sstext3d.scr file or the ssmarque.scr file in the C:\WINDOWS\system32 folder.
  2. Right-click the file and select Send To | Desktop (create shortcut).
  3. On the Desktop, right-click the shortcut, select the Configure command, type the name of the computer in the Text box, and click OK.
  4. Drag the shortcut to the Quick Launch toolbar.

Now to find out the name of the computer you just switched to, click the screen saver icon on the Quick Launch toolbar.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

57 comments
jebinfo
jebinfo

If you have more computers than you can keep track of consider making a wallpaper file for each clearly stating the System name. When confusion sets in; Right click the task bar and select 'Show Desktop' to determine the system name and; Right click the task bar again and select, 'Show Open Windows' to get back to work.

blackv
blackv

start > run > cmd > hostname takes like 4 seconds or renaming my computer

Mond0
Mond0

As hard as we try to keep the Admin password confidential, there always seems to be that one user that can't resist. So, something that I use on workstations is a plain red desktop for the Admin log-in. This allows me to see (from quite a distance) if one of the users is being naughty.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'd rather temporarily give a user local admin privs than the admin p/w. With one he can only screw up his machine. With the other he can screw up any PC in the place.

meximelts
meximelts

hahaha.. you are correct Sir. I guess he felt he wanted to login locally and not on the domain.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Gives him all the privileges without compromising the password. Also, you can remove him from the group remotely if necessary. On the other hand, the boss is the boss.

meximelts
meximelts

He is the owner of the company, and you do not have time to create a local admin account for him. Even though he is a local admin already. HA!

sandras
sandras

when you can you can customize your desktop with what ever picture(s) you want.

Bmccroskey
Bmccroskey

my kvm has titles for the screens\computers. I use backgrounds, and add the name of the computer to lower left on the back ground as well. And that works for any windows computer.

UncleRob
UncleRob

I have a compaq kvm (my particular model handles up to 8 servers) and it keeps the server name located on the top center of the screen at all times so I always know what server I'm working on. To switch to another server I hit the prtscrn key on my keyboard which toggles the kvm menu and I can then select another server to switch over to and when I switch to the next server, it's name is displayed on my screen at all times. - No screensavers or bginfo screens to configure. This isn't new technology from what I can determine, this 8 port kvm which provides the onscreen display replaced my previous 5 port kvm (both by compaq) and both kvm's provided this functionality. My first compaq kvm was purchased in '98 and this current one I've had for 4+ years already.

luke.sonstegard
luke.sonstegard

Renaming your My Computer Icon is a good way to go, but what if the name of your computer changes? You will have to go in and change the name of the my computer icon, that is unless you want it to change automatically for you. Whenever we rollout a machine we go into the registry and change the value of the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}\LocalizedString\ to %computername%. You don't have to remember exactly where it's at in the registry. If you open regedit and search for My Computer, it will bring you right to it. Then wherever your my computer icon is displayed (Desktop, start menu, etc.) it will display the name of your computer, even if the name is changed or machine is imaged.

dherde
dherde

Then use zenworks or GP(or whatever M$ uses) and roll out a sweet reg hack.

christian.carlson
christian.carlson

If you ever change your My Computer icon's name, changing the reg key won't change what you see on your desktop. Go to this key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\CLSID\{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D} and change the value of the (Default) key so it's blank. Then refresh your desktop and you're good to go.

christian.carlson
christian.carlson

What do you have to do to make this take effect? I've changed the registry and then logged out and even rebooted. The My Computer icon doesn't change. EDIT: After further digging, I found out that any user that did not edit the My Computer icon manually will see the registry change. However, if you previously changed it, the reghack won't work. Any comments?

eanderson
eanderson

On every system I'm responsible for, I set the value of "LocalizedString" to "%ComputerName% (%UserName%). This easily identifies the computer I'm logged in to as well as the user name I'm using which can be different from server to server. Also useful for the help desk when correlating the caller and their network identity.

christian.carlson
christian.carlson

A better choice would be to rename the My Computer icon to the computer name. I have found that a simpler, and better, solution. Granted, if you can't see the desktop or Explorer (by running a full-screen app), you can't see it, but the same would go for BGInfo or if you changed your wallpaper.

TG2
TG2

Well there goes another good idea.. ;) if I thought of it, someone else has to have thought of it too.. :( As for renaming "My Computer" I would add a dash and the name "My Computer - Homer" I also have a shortcut to "my computer" in the classic start menu so that if I hit start ... there it is.. and this overcomes the "view on desktop" issue.. great minds.. and while a screen saver that goes active might be a nifty idea for while you're away, when you go from machine to machine its also possible you'll nudge the mouse just right to cause it to undo the screen saver too quickly, or for those of us with REAL passwords, make us have to type 16 character passwords repetatively when not needed? no thanks...

dkenny
dkenny

Our AD isn't always perfectly up to date, and we find ourselves asking users to tell us their computer name when we deliver support remotely. Renaming My computer could be very valuable (and less off-putting than nuking all our user's pictures of the grandchildren by forcing BGinfo on them). Thanks for the innovative thought.

ltilley
ltilley

Create name of computer Paint. Set your creation as the wallpaper on your server.

errormsg
errormsg

put a post-it on your KVM, telling you, what machine is connected to what port!!!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My KVM doesn't sit on the same shelf as the keyboard and monitor. It's on the bottom of the rack, out of sight since I don't need to look at it except when connecting new equipment. Even then I'm only looking at the back of it.

Labrat636
Labrat636

I don't like to use post-its - only for very temporary circumstances-

The Bobinator
The Bobinator

and mark it right on the monitor itself. That way you always know which monitor you're working on regardless which computer you choose.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You can mark them out with White-Out and write over them. Tres tacky, mon ami.

d.s.williams
d.s.williams

I think the tip was designed to suggest an elegant solution.

bellyware
bellyware

It's a nice way of finding the information you need, but if simplicity is your goal there are other (better?) steps that can be taken. The sugested wallpaper has it's disadvanteges too. You have to minimize all screens to get to the desktop. Not every application/popup screen allows you to. Alternatives: - create a shortcut to whatever you want (the screensaver for all I care) and give it the same name as the computer. Place it in the startmenu. Not way down in the menustructure, but right there in front of you when you hit the start button. Ready. - Create a folder anywhere you like and give it the same name as your computer. Using the contextmenu of the taskbar, add a toolbar and browse to the new folder. Minimize the width of the new toolbar by draging it's left side as far to the right as possible. Now you will have an extra toolbar that will only display the name of your computer on the taskbar. Bonus: you can add shortcuts to the new folder for frequently used programs/documents. Just a click on the '>>' in the toolbar and you'll see your 'extra start menu'. And I bet there are even better ways of doing this. Don't get me wrong: I like the idea in the original post.

RNR1995
RNR1995

What I do is create a folder in the all users\programs folder with the name of computer, populate that folder with your favorite programs, then send it to desktop as a shortcut, then uncheck the quick launch toolbar and make that folder my new toolbar, kill the show text, but keep the show title and drag it back to the left keep about 2 or 3 icons showing then lock it. What you end up with is a named toolbar in the lower left hand side with an always available launch spot.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Creating a folder named the same as your computer and then setting that folder up as a toolbar on the taskbar is a totally awesome method of displaying your computer's name in a very accessible location! Thank you for sharing your tip Bellyware!

Bee Jay
Bee Jay

I rename the My Computer Icon on all of my servers to read "My Computer [computername]", that way I always know what machine I'm working on and it does not require any additional resources.

WebDevByLoki
WebDevByLoki

Why not just have different colour desktops or different wallpapers... Then you don't have to do anything at all to see which computer your on... If you have the software, you could even create your own wallpaper and write the details about the computer your on, but that's going a bit far (unless you're setting up a workstation for someone)

prplshroud
prplshroud

Screensavers just suck up CPU and Memory. When the screen locks, just blank it. The easiest way to know what computer your on, is to make sure you have the "My Computer" icon on the desktop and change "My Computer" to the name of the computer.

Realvdude
Realvdude

Granted, if your running a third party screensaver that could be the case, but the windows screen saver relinquishes any resources it's using quickly back to the system when they are required. I use motion screensavers on my servers as a quick cpu acitivity indicator; if the star field is flying slow or the 3D text is rotating slow, then the server is pretty busy. Because our office space is open, I lock windows immediately after working with a server, and the screensaver does it if I forget. I have the servers set to power down the monitor after a couple of hours.

poco777
poco777

Great idea. I am going to expand on this idea for my home network and "tag" some of my icons to make network life at home a little easier. Wish I had thought of this one!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have a different wallpaper for each server, created in MS Paint. Nothing fancy, just a colored background with the server name in big characters. While it takes a couple of minutes to set one up, in the long run it beats having to start a screen saver to see what machine I'm on. I can still leave the blank screen saver selected. StarTech has a KVM model that lets you program the server name into it. When you switch active systems, it displays the programmed name for a few seconds.

seven2seven
seven2seven

they get stripped if you remote into your server.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Some remote tools will preserve the wallpaper, although there's usually a performance penalty. BeBoo's option of renaming the "My Computer" icon will work with a remote utility.

CRMatthews
CRMatthews

I just leave the "My Computer" icon in the upper right-hand corner of the desktop and rename it with the name of the server.

Griffo
Griffo

I did use wallpaper then switched to renaming MY COMPUTER on the desk top to the computer or server name simple and quick

JRLBell
JRLBell

I followed your instructions to the letter--well, in terms of copying .scr files as shortcuts to the desktop. However, the configure option only appears if you are using the XP desktop, not the "classic." This is part of MS's punishment for those of us who prefer the classic windows desktop. There is a much easier way to do this. Simply make a shortcut, any shortcut, change the name of the shortcut in the "general" tab and then, when you hover over the shortcut you'll see the name of the computer. For instance, I have a shortcut for my calc.exe in my quick launch. Since I know the icon for the calculator and I know what the calculator does, I simply change the name of the calc.exe shortcut to "Fred" and get rid of the text in the comment field.

Deejay54
Deejay54

I noticed that too. It will just open the text editor in classic mode.

seanferd
seanferd

Shortcut still brings up the scr

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

the registry tweak that renames "My computer" to "My computer - Machinename". I think I found it on here.

twoclones
twoclones

Yes. The Wallpaper is my method as well. Every computer on our network has a wallpaper with the computer name in the upper right corner. Admin user walpaper has huge "Admin ONLY" text in layered colors but I still have to take the keyboard with me to keep users from using the Admin user if I take more than 3 steps away :-(

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I didn't say my wallpapers had the server name. Our servers are sequentially numbered. My wallpapers are NASCAR Nextel Cup cars with the corresponding numbers.

Labrat636
Labrat636

You beat me to it Palmetto. lol Much easier to use to desktop - it's always there---Don't really need a screensaver on a KVM'd computer - I turn it off so that it isn't running when I connect to it-

sgt_shultz
sgt_shultz

you can use free bginfo (download.microsoftcom) to populate the desktop background with computer name, free hard drive space and lots and lots of info. but it won't be in huge letters easy to read from a distance. i liked your idea about that. thanks for posting

blarman
blarman

I've used it on over a dozen servers, as it can display a host of configurable data as a backdrop, including the name, storage space, used space, RAM, and other items. Nice tool.

Salmanassar
Salmanassar

errr... bginfo: you can just use a very large font (72 big enough for you?) I have it installed on all 2000, XP 2000 server and 2003 server machines here. Domain, Hostname and IP address. Simply love this (was in a technet article - long ago)

seanferd
seanferd

I can't imagine why it would do that.

SingerGuy
SingerGuy

I launch version 4.7 with a batch file that has this one line in it: C:\Progra~1\bginfo\bginfo.exe /iqC:\Progra~1\bginfo\bginfo.bgi /timer:0 It comes up immediately on all of my servers.

Lupster
Lupster

We have been using it on every computer we have. Multiple version of windows on multiple version of hardware and speeds. Never heard of Slow Login in issues. You might want to check what else is running. You might wat to check the permissions on the BGInfo files them selves. We found that the files created are auto matically given owner rights to the person that installed it, thus creating problems for others that login into the computer.

JMO2009
JMO2009

Make sure you update bginfo with the latest version. I've been using it for years without issue.

BeBoo
BeBoo

that does the same thing... You program the name and it appears in the upper right corner for about 10 seconds and disappears. I also renamed all the "My Computers" to the names of the server as well.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's even easier. I'm doing that first thing in the morning.