Some Notes on the Windows Operating System

(This is based on previous documents by Rich Pattis.   Modified by Scott McElfresh, August 2006)

Introduction This handout will introduce you to the Windows 2000 and XP Operating System and all the skills that you will need to use it for programming. Other Microsoft operating systems (Windows NT,  95/98, etc.) operate similarly. At the beginning of the course, when we are just starting to learn programming, practice these skills repeatedly, until they become intuitive. Because there are few skills, and because you will use these same skills over and over again while taking this course, you will soon master them.

Every semester about 500 students successfully complete this process. Please feel free to ask other students if you get stuck; and, if someone gets stuck and asks you a question, please try to help them. Mastering the use of the operating system is NOT an academic part of the course, so feel free to give and take help

Windows Terminology Here are a few important terms that you must know to be able to understand the rest of the information on this page.
Desktop The entire screen, which contains the Task Bar, Icons, and Windows.
Task Bar The horizontal bar that appears at the bottom of the Desktop. It always contains the Start Button and buttons for any minimized applications.

A control on the top right part of a Window that affects its size.
  • _ Minimize: Show window only on the Task Bar
  • [] Maximize/Midimize: Window fills/is-in Desktop
  • X Terminate: discard the window
    If a window is minimized, click it on the task bar and it will open and move to the desktop. When a window on the desktop is maximized, it fills the entire screen; when such a screen-filling window is midimized, it returns to its original desktop size.
  • Context
    Right Clicking on Windows, buttons, or Icons brings up a small window containing a list of operations; the user can select which operation (from the list) to perform by clicking it.

    Logging On The following instructions are for logging onto any machine running Windows XP in CMU's Clusters.

    When you arrive at a machine, you should see a Welcome to Windows box displayed.

    • Hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys and press the Del key (often written Ctrl+Alt+Delete); a Log on to Windows box will pop up.
    • In the User Name box, enter your Andrew username.
    • In the Password box, enter your Andrew password (it will appear as *'s).
    • Ensure the Log on to option box says ANDREW.CMU.EDU (Kerberos Realm); if it is showing anything else, select this option from this option box.
    • Click the button labelled OK or press the Enter/Return key.
    If you enter your username and password correctly, you will be logged on; otherwise repeat this process until you successfully logged on.

    Logging Off When you are finished working on a cluster machine, you should always log off. Before logging off, make sure to Backup all your files that contain useful information. Then ...
    • Drag and Drop all your folders/files from the desktop into the Recycle Bin icon.
    • Drag and Drop all your folders/files from c:\temp into the Recycle Bin icon.
    • Double Click the Recycle Bin icon.
    • Select File | Empty Recycle Bin.
    • Click Yes for Confirm multiple File Delete.
    To actually log off
    • Click Start and select Shutdown....
    • The What do you want the computer to do text field should show Log off username (where username is your username on Andrew); if this action is not selected, select it.
    • Click OK or press Enter/Return.
    At this point the machine will begin logging you off. To ensure that this operation is successful, you should wait until the Welcome to Windows box displayed.

    Viewing File Extensions File extensions are the the part of the file name after the period (e.g., the mcp in project.mcp or the java in It is often very useful to be able to see both file names and extensions. On some Windows operating systems (e.g., 2000), this is the default; on others (e.g., NT) you must follow the instructions below.
    • Open an Explorer window.
    • Select View | Options...
    • Click the View tab, if it is not already visible.
    • Ensure the box labeled Hide file extensions for known types is NOT checked (click it if it is checked to toggle it to unchecked).
    • Click OK
    You should now be able to see the extensions of all files.

    Renaming Folders and Files To rename a folder or file (if it is a file with an extension, the extension should remain the same: you will be warned if you accidentally change it);
    • Right Click the folder or file.
    • In its context menu, click the Rename option.
    • Type the new name (and the same extension) in the highlighted blue box.
    The folder or file should now have the name that you typed.

    Enabling Scrolling in the Console Window Java programs often input/output text in the console window. If scrolling is enabled on these windows, you can look at all the text printed. On some Windows operating systems (e.g., Windows 2000), this is the default (300 lines); on others (e.g., Windows NT) you must follow the instructions below. To allow [more] scrolling in this window, so that you can see a [longer] history of all your program's input/output, perform the following steps (you may have to perform these steps each time that you log on):
    • Right Click in the header (on the top of the frame) of the Console Window.
    • Click Properties.
    • Select the Layout tab.
    • In the Screen Buffer Size section, type 1000 (or an even bigger number) into the Height text field.
    • Click OK.
    • On the Apply Properties window, check the bullet marked Save properties for future windows with same title.
    • Click OK.
    The console window should now be scrollable (you should see the scrolling tab along the right border of the window)

    Zipping Files WinZip (the zipping/unzippng software) is already installed on all the computers in the cluster. If you want to install it on your own computer, follow this link to the WinZip web page to download a copy).

    Programming assignments must be turned in as single zip file that contains all the files inside a project folder. To zip all the files in a folder named F, for example, into a single zip file

    • Right Click the folder that you want to zip.
    • In its context menu, select the Add to option (note that the name of the folder, in this example F, always precedes the zip extension; do not use the more generic Add to Zip operation).
    A WinZip window will automatically appear and disappear from your screen (this might happen so fast that you do not see it). When finished you should see a new file on your desktop (or wherever the folder you zipped came from) with the same names as your folder (the folder will still be there too) and the zip file extension (so in this case, the zip file is named

    Unzipping Files To unzip all the files in a zip file, for example
    • Right Click the zip file that you want to unzip.
    • In its context menu, select the Extract to folder C:\...F option (note that the name of the zip file, in this example F, always appears at the end of the selection).
    When finished you should see a new folder on your desktop (or wherever the folder you unzipped came from) with the same names as the zip file (the zip file will still be there too; so in this case, the folder is named F).

    Transferring files to
    and from your AFS space
    One way of achieving this is to utilize the SSH software.  Computing services has help documents on this.  URL as of 8/26/2006 is: