Restoring Search icon, getting rid of cookies

Ask Jim

Plugged In

October 26, 2006|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

A while back I lost the Search icon under the Windows XP Start menu. I would like to know how one goes about getting this icon again in the Start menu.

-- James Polk

I hope you will use this advice for good and not evil. There is a little-known tool for administrators in Windows XP that can create all kinds of mischief, including removing many familiar icons from a computer user's view. This tool is designed for administrators of business computer networks or eagle-eyed small-business owners to keep employees from doing things that the management doesn't want to permit, things such as searching the company's hard drives for sensitive information.

These alterations to withhold the features available for users are made through a Group Policy Edit control panel that doesn't appear among the control panels on most PCs.

To find this potentially dangerous tool and restore your search bar, click on Start and then select Run. Now type in "gpedit.msc" and click OK.

That brings up a box with a list of commands on the left and specific implementation of each command on the right. Go to the very bottom of the left display until you reach Administrator Components. Open the folder called Start Menu and Taskbar.

This gives a long list of specific settings to give or take away, stuff including the clock in the notification bar, the my music and my pictures icons under Start, the history list of past documents and, of course, the Search command used to find files and folders. Give this entry a click, and you will find an enable/disable check box.

One does need to have an unrestricted administrator account on the computer to make these possibly damaging changes for other users.

I read recently that one of your colleagues has 1,000 cookies on his hard drive. Wow. Does one ever delete these? I do this every night by going to Start and then Control Panel and Internet options.

I select Clear History and Delete Files under the General tab, and under the Content tab, under Auto Complete, I clear all passwords and forms.

But once a company online "tags" me, does it always have my computer? Will my deletion of cookies spare me?

--Sarah Hubert

You needn't fear browser meltdown if you click on that Delete All Cookies button under Tools/Options in your browser.

But the downside is that clearing away all cookies can make using many resources much more inconvenient, because you will lose all of your log information and other personal settings at frequently visited sites.

Sometimes online banks uses cookies for sign-ons, and there are e-mail accounts and sites such as MySpace, YouTube and Flickr that use cookies to track users.

When all of this stuff is purged, you probably will get tired of having to keep re-entering information and waiting for files to download. And, while you're doing that, of course, new cookies are added.

So, it's good to remember that cookies are pretty much a one-way street. When you go to a cookie's Web site, that site can read it, but if you don't visit that site, there is no way its operators can get permission to upload or download anything on your computer. The real vulnerability is that outsiders might get hold of your cookies and use them against you. Happily, except for the rankest amateurs, most cookie writers use encryption to deflect such spying.

To see your cookies, right click on Start and then select Explore. You will see an icon called Cookies under the Owner folder in the file finder this summons. Open Cookies, read them and maybe you will weep for joy seeing that they hold encrypted gibberish rather than readable information about you.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune. Reach him at

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