Windows Tips: Toggle Your Screen Saver With a Single Click

(2K, XP)When I edit and burn my own DVDs, it's bothersome to navigate to my Display Properties dialog box repeatedly to switch my screen saver off so I don't end up with just a nice coaster. Deactivating my screen saver takes no fewer than four clicks. That may not seem like a lot, but it's a hassle to deactivate and restore all the time. Is there a way to create a desktop icon to toggle the screen saver on and off?

Jeffrey McCullough, Baltimore

It's helpful to turn off a screen saver before burning CDs or DVDs, running backup software, defragmenting a drive, or performing other PC activities. Unfortunately, Windows makes doing so unduly difficult. But you can create shortcuts for this purpose that you can access with a single click or keystroke combination.

First, create a Registry file that turns off your screen saver. Choose Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, Notepad. On the first line, type Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 and press Enter twice to add a line break. Then type [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop] and press Enter. Finally, type "ScreenSaveActive"="0" and press Enter (see FIGURE 1

Figure 1: Disable your screen saver with a single click by using this custom Registry file.
). Choose File, Save As and navigate to a convenient location (write down the path to the file; you'll need to know it later). Type a name like SaverOff.reg (be sure to include the three-letter file extension) and click Save. Now change the '0' to 1 and select File, Save As again. This time, type a name like SaverOn.reg and click Save.

The next step is to create two shortcuts that each merge one of these Registry files into the Windows Registry. Right-click the desktop and choose New, Shortcut. In the box, type regedit /s followed by a space. After the space, type SaverOff.reg preceded by the path to the file (see FIGURE 2

Figure 2: Type the path to your new screen-saver Registry file in the Create Shortcut Wizard.
). Note that the next tip describes a quick and easy way to add the file path without typing. Click Next and type a name for your shortcut--something like Turn Off Screen Saver. Click Finish. Finally, repeat these steps, but use the path to SaverOn.reg and give it a name such as Turn On Screen Saver.

At this point you have two desktop shortcuts--one for deactivating your screen saver and the other for activating it. To disable the screen saver, just launch your Turn Off Screen Saver icon. To enable it again, run the other shortcut.

Finding the desktop shortcuts could slow you down as you minimize windows (press Win-D to minimize everything, or click the Show Desktop icon in the Quick Launch toolbar). To activate the shortcuts via your keyboard, right-click the Turn Off Screen Saver shortcut and choose Properties. With the Shortcut tab in front, click in the Shortcut key box and press the key combination you want to use to turn off your screen saver. You can press a single function key (like F2), but it's better to use a key or key combination that you will not need in another application. You can select almost any key on your keyboard for this purpose, but if you choose something other than function keys, your shortcut must begin with Ctrl-Alt, Ctrl-Shift, Shift-Alt, or Ctrl-Shift-Alt.

While you're in the shortcut's Properties dialog box, you may want to use the Change Icon button to give the shortcut a distinctive appearance. Type %windir%\system32\shell32.dll in the box at the top to see a large number of icons to choose from (see FIGURE 3

Figure 3: Pick an icon for your screen-saver shortcuts in the Change Icon dialog.
). Once you've made your selection, click OK to close the Properties box for the shortcut icon. Repeat these steps for the other screen-saver shortcut, giving it a different key combination. You'll press one combination to turn the screen saver off, and the other to turn it back on. After you're done, you can place these shortcuts in any subfolder of the Start Menu folder.

You can disable or enable your screen saver with a single click of your mouse if you add the shortcuts to your Quick Launch toolbar (see FIGURE 4

Figure 4: Your shortcuts work with one click when put on the Quick Launch toolbar.
). If you don't see this toolbar on your taskbar, right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars, Quick Launch. Select both of the shortcut icons you created, click and hold down the right mouse button as you drag them to the Quick Launch area, release the button, and choose Move Here. If you don't see the shortcuts, you may need to drag the border of the Quick Launch toolbar to make it larger. If the toolbar border does not budge (in Windows XP only), right-click the taskbar and choose Lock the Taskbar to unlock it. Resize your toolbars, and then repeat the command to relock it.

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