Windows Control Panel Applets   March 14th, 2012

I was working on a machine earlier today that had seemingly lost a number of control panel applets.  Of course, just because the control panel applets were not visible doesn’t mean the features themselves had gone; so just how do you access an applet when seemingly it’s no longer there?  Well, the control panel itself only shows shortcuts to the actual applets, the applets themselves are located elsewhere.  Each applet is stored individually as a separate file, folder or DLL and can also be launched manually using the ‘Run’ command.

The locations of the applets can be found in the following locations within the registry:

  1. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Control Panel\Cpls
    This registry location contains the location of all .cpl files on the hard drive that are used within the control panel in string format.
  2. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\ControlPanel\Namespace
    Here you’ll find the location of the CLSID variables for all applets on the local machine not included as .cpl files; these are normally folders or shell applets.

It’s these locations that the control panel would normally use to locate the available applets and load them into the control panel.

In case you come across this yourself, here is a list of the commonly used applets:

  • access.cpl (Accessibility Options)
    Here you can configure and control a number of accessibility options on your machine; it contains a number of settings aimed mainly at users with disabilities or who may be experiencing hardware issues preventing normal interaction.  Some of the options that can be set are: the behavior of the keyboard (Sticky Keys, Filter Keys and Toggle Keys for example); behavior of sounds (Sound Sentry and Show Sounds); high contrast mode options; keyboard cursor and the ability to control the pointer with your keyboard.
  • hdwwiz.cpl (Add New Hardware)
    Here you can invoke the new hardware wizard, allowing you to scan your machine for hardware changes and install the appropriate drivers either from the manufacturers driver disc, or directly from the online Windows repositories.
  • appwiz.cpl (Add or Remove Programs / Programs and Features)
    Probably one of my most frequently accessed applets.  Here you can view and interact with installed applications on your machine in a number of ways.  You can for example uninstall or change existing applications on your system and manually install software from an optical drive or floppy/USB drive.  You can also view and change installed Windows components from here (for example enable the Telnet client).
  • control admintools (Administrative Tools)
    Here you can launch the administrative tools folder where you’ll be able to launch tools for various aspects of your systems administration including security, performance and service configuration.  Here you’ll also be able to access the event viewer.
  • wuaucpl.cpl (Automatic Updates)
    Here you can change how you would like your machine to handle Windows Updates.
  • timedate.cpl (Date and Time)
    Here you can change the date and time of your system clock, it also allows you to enter details of an Internet Time Server to automatically synchronize the clock; you can also change the time zone.
  • desk.cpl or control desktop (Display)
    Here you can change various display options on your machine; things such as the desktop wallpaper, the screensaver, the screen resolution and the system theme.  You can also change some advanced options such as which default icons will appear on the desktop, ClearType settings, and monitor settings such as colour depth and refresh rate.
  • control folders (Folder Options)
    Here you can configure how files and folders are shown in Windows Explorer; specifically it allows you to change a number of general settings for example, whether a folder will open in a new window or an existing one.  You can also change advanced settings such as whether system files and known file extensions should be hidden or in view.  You can also modify file type associations from this applet.
  • control fonts (Fonts)
    Here you can launch the font viewer which allows you to not only see what fonts are installed on your system but also install additional fonts.
  • inetcpl.cpl (Internet Options)
    Here you can change how your computer manages internet connections as well as enabling you to change various browser settings for Internet Explorer; this is the same applet you would normally launch from Internet Explorer directly.
  • main.cpl or control keyboard (Keyboard)
    Here you can change and test keyboard settings, including cursor blink rate and key repeat rate.
  • mlcfg32.cpl and mlcfg.cpl (Mail)
    Here you can configure your mail accounts using Microsoft Outlook. If you’re using Microsoft Office 2010 64-bit then use mlcfg.cpl otherwise, mlcfg32.cpl.
  • main.cpl or control mouse (Mouse)
    Here you can configure various aspects of how you interact with your computer using your mouse including visibility options such as pointer trails.
  • ncpa.cpl or control netconnections (Network Connections)
    Here you can edit and create network connections including DUN and LAN connections.  It’s a useful applet to help with troubleshooting connectivity issues and allows you to administer advanced network card properties.
  • powercfg.cpl (Power Options)
    Here you can manage your computers energy consumption and set things such as the delay before the display turns off, and the delay before your system enters standby; you can also decide what you would like to happen when you press the on/off button.

  Here you can also choose hibernation options and how you’d like your machine to interact with a UPS (if connected).
  • control printers (Printers and Faxes)
    Here you can display all of the printers and faxes currently installed on your computer, you can also look at all of the print jobs queued for each printer (you can also pause, cancel or change the priority of existing print jobs).  You can also view and edit preferences for your printers including sharing them on your network making them available to others.
  • intil.cpl (Regional and Language Settings)
    Here you can change the regional settings globally on your machine; you can change, for example, how numbers are displayed, how currency is displayed, time and date notations and language options (including the system locale).
  • mmsys.cpl (Sounds and Audio Devices)
    Here you can choose which sound events are used for various system events as well as choosing which input and output (audio) devices are used if more than one exists.  You can change various sounds card settings and configure whether to show the volume icon in the notification area.
  • sysdm.cpl (System)
    Here you can view and change a number of core system settings, for example you can do the following: display general information about your machine such as the amount of system RAM, CPU, Windows version and manufacturer information; change the computer name and join a domain; manage and configure hardware devices in Device Manager and, specify advanced features such as performance logs and virtual memory options.  Along with appwiz.cpl this is one of my most used applets.
  • nusrmgr.cpl (User Accounts)
    Here you can configure the local user accounts on your machine including username, password, and display avatar.  If you’re logged in with an administrator account, you can also change other’s account details and enable/disable the guest account.

Needless to say the above list is by no means exhaustive.  Depending on installed hardware and attached peripherals, there are also a number of hardware specific applets that will become available; you’ll be able to see what you have available on your machine by looking at the registry locations mentioned above.

I hope this list may prove useful, feel free to add any others you may use in the comments box below.





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    This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 at 8:42 pm and is filed under Blah, Microsoft, Technology Related, Windows 7, Windows Vista. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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