Windows Server

10 seriously annoying default configurations

Into every life, a little stupidity must fall. And sometimes, you just have to vent about it. Rick Vanover shares a few of the default configurations he finds especially frustrating and idiotic.... What are yours?

Into every life, a little stupidity must fall. And sometimes, you just have to vent about it. Rick Vanover shares a few of the default configurations he finds especially frustrating and idiotic.... What are yours?


We all have them: Stupid default configurations that we either have to change or live with. Some of them may seem pointless and irritating, although there's usually some situation where they make sense. Regardless, when configurations are wrong for us, they get under our skin more often than they help us get on our way. Here are 10 of the default configurations that aggravate me the most.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Keyboard failure, press F1 to continue

I know it has been fixed for a long time, but all former Compaq server administrators will remember this one. How silly of a message that the server would sit there with its tongue hanging out waiting for us to acknowledge this error with the object of the error. Truth be told, this was my motivation for writing the top 10 irritating defaults.

2: Windows Server 2008 interactive installation name

For Windows administrators who perform an interactive installation (where you boot from the CD), the default computer name is less than intuitive. To be fair, it is a standard name associated with boot environments, but the interactive installation removed the ability to set a computer name. I think we'll have to get used to names like WIN-IU7JC1B15RI. However, this can be configured with an installation answer file or Windows Deployment Services.

3: Microsoft Office Recently Used File List value of 4

There is nothing more irritating than using a new installation of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint (2003 or earlier) and seeing a deprived recent file list on the File menu. I change this right away by going to Tools | Options | General to access the option to increase the number of recently used files -- but the maximum is 9. Office 2007 finally loosened up this restriction, and you can set those apps to list as many as 50 of your most recently used files. The option is a little harder to find, though: Click the Office button and select Advanced in the left pane. Then scroll down to the Display section and enter the setting you want for Show This Number Of Recent Documents.

4: Windows Server 2008 using IPv6 and IPv4

I'm glad it's available for use in the product, but does anyone know anyone actually using IPv6? It surely is not a mainstream protocol in use. I believe it will be adopted sooner in other regions of the world, but I don't think it should be enabled by default yet. One good tool to get started in managing Windows Server 2008's network stack is the Netsh tool.

5: Folder does not exist. Do you want to create it?

This technically a safety step, but how frequently do we select no to this question? Further, this is usually not the last question of a Windows installation wizard, so there is an opportunity to go back in the installation and change the installation path. As a side note, it's a good practice to keep all of your installed applications in a designated area. For example, installing all applications and components not part of the operating system to a drive other than the C drive can manage the system drive space better. By using a different drive letter to contain the third-party installed software, storage provisioning for the C: drive can be standardized easier.

6: Voice-prompt-only service phone numbers

This one never ceases to amaze me. My previous job required quite a bit of travel. During weather or flight interruptions, I would often call the airline directly from my mobile phone rather than wait in the line equal to three aircraft's worth of passengers when I needed re-accommodation. The service numbers were usually voice-prompt driven, which makes no sense in an airport, as there are incredible amounts of background noise. I became an expert of saying "Yes" and "No" very loudly and gaining the awkward attention of my fellow passengers. Number entry dialing is often possible but hard to find if it is not mentioned.

7: The Windows beep device

This is annoying for many reasons. For one thing, it doesn't adhere to Windows sound volume settings for default configurations. This is especially irritating for administrators like me, who connect to multiple systems through tools like Remote Desktop and have the beep transferred as well. But the beep can be disabled. Simply go into Device Manager, choose Show Hidden Devices from the View menu, go to the Non-Plug and Play Drivers section, double-click Beep, and choose Do Not Use This Device (Disable) from the Device Usage drop-down list in the Beep Properties dialog box. After the next boot, beep is no more!

8: The entire default Internet Explorer browser configuration on Windows Server

Is it just me, or is the default installation useless? Even adding sites to the trusted sites list and local policies for the trusted sites doesn't allow proper behavior of some legitimate sites. Ironically, Windows Update will work with all of the installations required. I find myself installing an alternative browser, such as Opera, Firefox, or Safari. To be clear, I don't install it on every server -- simply on those where browsing functions are required and it makes sense to do so. As a side note, this is a good trick to getting crude Explorer functionality in Windows Server 2008 Core installations.

9: Windows Server 2008 default folder view

I sure love the folder view in Windows Server 2003, XP, and prior editions. But Vista and Windows Server 2008 have really messed with my mind. I'd like to get a show of hands: Who actually uses Documents, Pictures, and Music as favorite links? My favorite link is the folder and computer. Just let me see my file system. I know what I am doing, most of the time!

10: VMware vCenter Server's certificate store

The default installation of VMware's vCenter Server product is two years. For many people, there are quite a few surprises on day 730 of their server virtualization bliss. The good news is that you can correct this situation before it gets you. There are plenty of topics on the VMware Communities forums, as well as this whitepaper from VMware on the replacement process.

What annoys you?

And the list goes on. There are always going to be things that annoy us -- and some default configurations may get administrators downright mad. Do you have some software configurations that hit you the wrong way? If so, share them below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

289 comments
is tech
is tech

Network adapters set to turn off to save power by default. What IDIOT decided THAT was a good idea?!?!?!?!?

asaphome
asaphome

I HATE when Windows updates and it automatically changes my default email program to be Outlook, when I only ever use Outlook Express. I end up having to change this with EVERY update....

esarhaddon
esarhaddon

The one about IPv6 is ignorant! I use IPv6 every day. Get a life get with the program. It is people like you who still can't provide useful 64 bit drivers and we are getting ready for 128 bit procs to be released. If yo want to live in the past I have an old Casio calculator I will sell you really cheep.

bevg
bevg

MS Office issues Format painter needs a way to change selected aspects of formatting; for example, to change the FONT, or font size, but not to remove bold and ital. It goes too far. To put this another way, I don?t think the text-emphasis features (bold, ital, underline) should be counted as FORMATTING. In my mind, that is a different issue from formatting. They MUST bring back the ability to customize icons on the toolbars. Office 2007 took away two capabilities I frequently used. 1) Designing my own icons, usually for macros I create, but sometimes for Word?s standard commands; 2) Choosing a different icon for commands in their list. Some of their standard icons are VERY BAD; you just have to memorize what it stands for because the icon itself makes no sense. I can do better. Size does enter into it in some cases; they cram too much into some icons. On my netbook screen, a taskbar icon is about 1/8" square. One that currently torques me is the SORT command. They use the exact same icon for two different functions. How stupid is that! And then, they won't let me redesign the offending icon(s). Why would they REMOVE capabilities when they?re supposedly improving a product? This is a DISIMPROVEMENT. Another item: I think the user should be able to select what functions go on the popup menus (the right click context menu, and the formatting ?hover? menu). For instance, I constantly want to access capping options, and I do have it installed on my Quick Access Toolbar. But this is something that SHOULD be handier. In this same issue, I would like to be able to change the order of items on the right click menus, dropdown menus, ANY menus in fact, AND I want the capability of choosing what goes on these menus. For instance the formatting hover menu has ?styles? on it. I simply don?t use their styles and see no reason to start now. The cut command would be much more useful on the hover menu; currently it resides all the way at the TOP of the right click menu. One of my all-time dislikes in Word is the huge amount of screen real estate occupied by the Find and Replace box. On my netbook the (expanded) F&R dialogue box fills over 2/3 of my screen. NOT a happy camper here, folks?. I do minimize it to the half-size box, but even that is too big. I could design one in 50% less space. You have to keep moving that huge box around to FIND the text you're considering replacing; the Big Box always covers it up. Please notice I've minimized everything possible; I got rid of Word?s ?ribbon? on Day One, so only have one row taken up with toolbar icons.

jsbass
jsbass

The block startup program,and the page errors how do I get rid of the error.Please help.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

looking at this for some time now in relation to defaults. I can't think of a single thing I install that I don't tweak, if not immediately, then the first time I use it. In other words, there isn't a default software configuration that isn't annoying.

dwdino
dwdino

What is with the monstrous icons and text formatting of KDE and GNOME out of the box? At 1920x1200 it looks like 800x600 and modifying it is overly difficult.

The Daleks
The Daleks

In Windows Explorer and common Save and Open dialogs, Details view with standard columns of name, size, type and date modified give me what I need. So why the #$%@& do they keep changing to List view?? And why does Details view keep removing the Size, Type and Modified columns and displaying useless stuff like Tags and Rating? Yes, I know that Microsoft prides itself on "anticipating" what we want, but they're as wrong as a two-dollar fortune teller on the boardwalk. No amount of menu choices and registry hacks to change the display ever work for more than five minutes. Does anyone know the name of the asshat at Microsoft who decided to waste hours of my time, making me change the display over and over, all day long? I want to ring his neck! Grrrr! Excuse me, I have to go take my medication.

guy
guy

One thing I find really irritating is having to make selections and input stuff DURING an OS installation. Why the can't the thing ask me for ALL the required information at the beginning, so that I can get on a do other stuff and leave it to get on with the installation unattended?

tor
tor

yes, That Vista explorer screen is annoying, but how do you change it back to the classic view with a tree on the left?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

MS Office is a pretty annoying configuration all by itself.

Jeff.sergeant
Jeff.sergeant

have a default IP address (they can do DHCP, they just choose not to) The default IP address is the same as one of our domain controllers. The day we found that out was not a fun day!

dsinger
dsinger

windows 7,rc1,7100. Ram was disappearing, down in the 10's and 100's , red zone and there was no rhyme or reason for it. intel quad core, 4 gigs or ram. with system explorer saw backweb running continuously, which i can disable after i let it run for an hour or so (if that is ok) but the worst was windows media player network sharing service, which was using tons of ram and i was not sharing anything at all. That has been disabled and is no longer a problem. Will it cause any fault in operation? thanks, igimom

pgit
pgit

This one really burns my bridge. If you have updates set to download and alert, but let the user decide when to install them, it decides you want to install them on system shut down. WTF is up with that?! I can't tell you how many times I've needed to restart a machine for a driver or new app, whatever, and the goal is to get the machine back up as fast as possible... only to have the system tell you 'installing update 1 of 38...do not turn off your computer!' ~arg! that is so freaking annoying!

dogknees
dogknees

When clicking on a folder in the left-hand pane of Windows Explorer, I DO NOT want it to expand the tree, I just want it to display the content in the right-hand pane. Lord save me from the well-intentioned!

ving
ving

One of my pet peeves is configuring an applet, like Task Manager the way I like and use it, only to have to reconfigure each time I open TM because I cannot save my preferred configuration.

codragonmail
codragonmail

Dude im reading this on IE nothing that much better about firefox and others btw I would take anything over safari or opera next time opt out those two for chrome.

ps2goat
ps2goat

Just disable the internal speaker. I never connect it when I build my own pcs. Regardless of the OS or bios, it works!

Simon Neil
Simon Neil

This runs every time you start XP Pro, even on a brand new install - does anyone ever use it? It seems totally pointless.

dougjbarnes
dougjbarnes

Why, when installing new software, do you have to accept the license agreement. If you didn't you wouldn't be installing it in the first place, surely? Even more annoying is when you download MS patches to fix THEIR problems, and you have to agree before you can install the patch, sheer lunacy!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This was an issue at another place. When a file is copied from one directory too another it inherets the file permissions of the new directory. When a file is moved, it maintains the original permissions regardless of where it's being moved too. The result of this "feature" is that regular users move a file from personal to public directories but the file remains locked under personal permissions. And what fun it is, as an analyst, to be told the presentation is waiting in directory XYZ only to find that it can't be opened to update the relevant slides.

steve
steve

My number one annoyance with windows OS is the default behavior for an unknown file type. I have to edit files called .opt or .cfg or .log and the first time on every new machine I get "do I want to use a web service to find a program or choose from a list". Why not make the top one use notepad (selected) , then choose from a list, then web services, tho I've never had it find anything of use. I'm a backups guy and often find on windows boxes that others manage that there is not one language bar on the taskbar, but 4 or 5. One is too many.

santosh.ranade
santosh.ranade

Yes; In this part of the world also the fever of "Voice-prompt-only service phone numbers" has caught up. Not to complain if it were covering all aspects of service but that is something rare. Sometimes there are no appropriate sub-menus, no option to go back. I beleive there can be much improvement. These are implementation issues though.

enquiries
enquiries

I turn IPv6 off in all Vista machines i come across. I haven't seen it used once. Most people have never heard of it. It's going to be "project management - welcome to the 9th tier of Hell" to get the world to change over to IPv6 - still a long way off. It should be there but not ticked/active.

calhoun.andrew
calhoun.andrew

XP: Hide Known File Types - prevents new computer users from ever finding out about file types on their own. Vista: Always Show Menus (OFF) Who needs menus?

Melar
Melar

I don't know if anyone else has already said it, but pressing F1 to acknowledge a keyboard error is logical, as it indicates that the error (no keyboard present) has been resolved. Am I missing something?

haydonbeagley
haydonbeagley

Internet Explorer can don't been uninstalled Due to windows needs it so your tied to a slow, clunky and virus prone browser, and you have to use IE to use Windows Update, stupid really let me use the browser I want not what Microsoft say I have to use.

rgkrishn
rgkrishn

Either the system should understand all voice accents like a human or should not be forced on customers. Everytime I get a human they can understand every word I speak but many words are lost in voice-prompts phone service and after a while of fighting with it I keep repeating "operator" to get help. Am I the only one who feels these idiot devices will soon find their day in the courts becuause they do not comply with handicap laws of the land ?

morourke
morourke

Haha. Avoidance of Microsoft is the matter of avoiding annoyance. But not a laughing matter as RedHat et al have tried to be more 'for the masses' have managed to make the straightforward and trivial into a guessing game and sometimes just plainly wrong, but hey that's the 'fun' part, isn't ir? So this isn't considered a straw-man arg. Linux Enterprise and XFree86. Do you know anyone running other than 800x600(640)? Um, what?

clare.smith
clare.smith

1. Web Pages that ONLY work in IE. My husbands school uses a web program that only allows students to attach files to emails if they are in IE. It drives him nuts! 2. Color Scheme Office 2007: only 3 choices. Ok, so I'm a grrl, I'd like more color on my screen! 3. Palm's HotSync to Outlook: you still can't sync by category or date range! 4. Palm's contacts: you still can't sort by first name, last name!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

provides a masterpiece of ignorance.

seanferd
seanferd

Post the error codes and text for each error. Also explain what "The block startup program" means.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've KDE3.5 on 1280x1024 and KDE4 on 1280x800 fonts and icons all look ok. I've not tried on 1920x1200 resolution though I can't see why it would increase the screen element sizes. Can you pop in a theme meant for that size of screen which would include elements closer to your preferences?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You can run the installation against an install script which will answer all of the questions for you.

b4real
b4real

IE, Windows Explorer, behavior across versions of Windows... They can make their own list!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's a standard part of my admin startup folder. When a machine is initially setup, I drop the shortcut in the folder. I then open Task Manager, configure the settings, leave it on the network tab and hit the X to close it. Reopen it to confirm that the position and settings stuck. After that, it gets closed during shutdown/logout and opened during admin login without loosing settings.

pikaaaaaaaaaa
pikaaaaaaaaaa

But it's oh so fun to enable StickyKeys and give everyone around you the most annoying experience! Beep-bip-boop-beep-bip-boop! But on a more serious note, the internal speaker is very useful in diagnosing errors when the system cannot boot at all (including sophisticated sound devices). All you can do is stare at a blank screen and LISTEN to your computer failing. Disabling it on a software level is a much better alternative.

pikaaaaaaaaaa
pikaaaaaaaaaa

Whenever I accidentally "use the web service to find am appropriate program" it never finds anything useful at all, even when the filetype really isn't that obscure. It's just another window that only serves to add clicks (it wouldn't be quite as bad if "choose from a list" was the default). It'd be SO much better if I could redirect the useless web service with filext.com, or even google. Or why not just keep "Open with..." in the context menu so I could at least skip that step?

b4real
b4real

But, we'll soon have to start using it I guess.

cj.no.one
cj.no.one

I completely agree with that.

tarcisius
tarcisius

XP: #1 - Yes, hiding the extensions is the most annoying default! #2 - Searching for anything inside any file does not work. I don't want a database to accelerate searches. I want searches that find everything! Vista: Vista!

the_harper
the_harper

It's an old BIOS error. It doesn't indicate the problem has been resolved. It asks the user to press F1 on a keyboard that doesn't exist and prevents the computer from booting.

Ocie3
Ocie3

I don't know when Microsoft changed it, but about three or four months ago, on Patch Tuesday, I ran Firefox 3 to access Windows Update without any problems that I can recall.

Busboy2
Busboy2

Yea its stupid the way other programs use IE to run things I also hate Steam (Valve's Game Delivery system) for this.

suewhitehead
suewhitehead

*hiding file extensions *Language bar *Windows Picture and Fax Viewer as default for all picture files. It is so lame! NumLock has to be turned on to be able to use the number pad *Windows updates that have to have user input in order to be installed. Has anyone else noticed that if these installations have been downloaded but not installed, they often cause weird problems on the computer? *Desktop cleanup wizard

pdr5407
pdr5407

If you try to fix a Vista computer the UAC will pop up frequently enough that it gets annoying. And if the computer is slow it requires a long wait time before the [yes] box shows on the screen for each admin task.

guy
guy

For sure I can do it with a script, but wouldn't it just be easier if Microsoft put all the questions at the beginning?

cj.no.one
cj.no.one

I remember going through a string table in an old BIOS, and finding the error "CPU not found. Can't boot." Or something similar. How were they gonna display that message?

cj.no.one
cj.no.one

While I don't like that part of Steam, I do understand why they did it: would you rather have a working browser, or one that was written from scratch that's even more buggy than IE?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They probably could ask most of the questions at the start though I can see some questions changing based on what you choose to install. Other questions can't be asked and answered until underlying software is installed in place perhaps. It's not really my preferred platform. I suggested scripted installs encase you hadn't considered them. Once you get a default script written, there should be little need to change it after.

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