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:
- 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.
- 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.
Restoring Music From Your iPod to iTunes August 18th, 2011
I guess it was only a matter of time before I did something stupid.
I’m always advocating the need to take regular backups and ensure that you keep a copy of all of your important data; in fairness, I usually do and I did it’s just that I forgot to include my iTunes library in my backup routine. My only saving grace is that I still have all my music on my iPod.
Apple in all of their wisdom has made it surprising difficult to copy data from your iPod into your iTunes library from within iTunes itself, or rather they have made it impossible. You’d have thought that this would make perfect sense in terms of a feature but alas, no.
All is not lost however, there is of course a way to simply restore your music back into your library from iTunes, just follow this simple guide.
Caveat: I have used a machine that currently does not have iTunes installed to produce this guide; the recovered data was then placed onto an external hard drive before restoring to my main machine with iTunes installed. I did it this way to ensure that iTunes did not auto sync with my iPod when it was connected and wipe any data, I was just being cautious. You can of course follow the steps in this guide on the same machine as you currently have your iTunes on, but, you must ensure that iTunes does not automatically sync initially or you face the possibility of overwriting all of your music with nothing.
Notes: I have used a Windows 7 based machine to initially connect my iPod and backup the data (my iPod was originally formatted and used with a Windows machine). Then, my new main machine which contains my iTunes is a MacBook Pro; if your iTunes is on a Windows based machine some of the following steps will be slightly different i.e. you will not be able to use the OS X specific keyboard shortcuts and will need to find the options using the menus within iTunes itself, other than that the process is identical.
Firstly, on my windows machine:
- Connect your iPod to your computer using the sync cable.
- Navigate to My Computer; you should see your iPod connected as an external drive, double click on the icon.
- Next you need to un-hide hidden folders; Click on Organize followed by Folder and search items. Click the View tab and check the option to Show hidden files, folder, and drives.
- Click OK to return to the explorer window.
- You should now see a folder called iPod_Control, double click this.
- Copy the entire folder called Music to a backup location of your choice; in my case I copied this to an external drive.
- You can now disconnect your iPod.
Secondly, on my Mac:
- Load iTunes from the dock and navigate to iTunes preferences by pressing ⌘, and clicking on the Advanced tab.
- Check both options to Keep iTunes Media folder organized and Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library.
- Finally you need to import the music in the backup folder into your library, to do this press ⌘o and navigate to the folder containing the backup up data and click Choose.
Once you have done that, iTunes should automatically sort out the files for you and copy them back into your iTunes library.
Understanding Orphaned Delegates in Outlook April 25th, 2011
I’ve had a number of support queries at work recently relating to NDRs being generated when a user sends meeting invites in Outlook reporting that a mailbox does not exist. Confusingly, the NDRs relate to an account which not only was not invited to the meeting but also no longer exists within the organisation; an AD search for the mailbox yields no results. It turns out the reason for this is due to one of the invitees having a delegate whose mailbox has been deleted. If you have come across this issue before, you’ll know how tricky this can be to resolve.
In order to fully understand why this is happening, it’s important to know what happens behind the scenes when a user gives delegate access to their mailbox, not only will this help you to understand why this problem occurs, but it will also help to understand what actions need to be taken to resolve the problem.
Let’s assume you have an existing mailbox for user A who wishes to make user B a delegate. When the delegation is made the following takes place:
- The appropriate sharing permissions are placed on the relevant folder in user A’s mailbox, these of course will vary depending on which permissions were set using the delegation tool.
- If the checkbox for forwarding meeting requests is set, a special hidden forwarding rule is created in user A’s mailbox. As this is a hidden rule, you will not see the rule listed in Outlook.
- User B is added to user A’s publicDelegates attribute (or more commonly known as the send-on-behalf-of field), and user A is added to the publicDelegatesBL attribute of user B; this does not always happen depending on a number of circumstances, for example more recent versions of Outlook or when the person trying to set the delegation is not actually the owner of mailbox A.
So far so good, but let’s assume now that some time has passed and for whatever reason user B leaves your organisation and as such, their mailbox is deleted from within AD. Further, the System Administrator performing this action would have no idea of user configured delegations and AD itself would not intuitively make them aware of any which is where the fun begins.
Once the mailbox for user B is deleted their publicDelegatesBL entry in AD gets cleared out so there is no easy way to work out who they were actually a delegate for; we can now think of them as an orphaned delegate. Even more problematic, the hidden forwarding rule in mailbox A does not get updated; as with security group membership and other AD functions, you’d have hoped this would take place automatically but as this is a client side feature, unfortunately not.
Assuming that you can narrow down whose mailbox has the orphaned delegation, you can manually fix this issue by the using the MFCMAPI tool to delete the hidden forwarding rule but even this is not without issues as unfortunately if there are other delegates to that mailbox, the forwarding for them would break as well. So all of those delegates would need to be manually removed and subsequently re-added which would involve logging in manually to the mailboxes in question. This may be a simple task but as in the situation I was faced with, not so.
As you can see, the reality is that you may not be able to actually resolve this issue. In one of the situations I was faced with the originating user who received all of the NDRs (there were actually over 30 of them) had sent the meeting invite to a distribution list which itself, contained a number of other distribution lists. Using the MFCMAPI tool I would have had to of manually logged into somewhere in the region of 500 mailboxes to identify who had the orphaned delegates and then subsequently, had to recreate the delegate rules for the users who I ran the tool on. Needless to say on balance this was not an option. The MFCMAPI tool is an option in instances where a single user receives NDRs sending to another user, or small group of users but not when large distribution lists are involved.
So just how do you stop the NDRs?
The reality is that you can’t, however you can create an Outlook rule for the sender to prevent them receiving the NDRs by automatically forwarding the NDR messages (the generated NDR error for this issue is 5.1.1 so by setting this rule you would not stop other NDRs being delivered) directly to their deleted items or even permanently deleting the message at source.
I hope someone will find this useful. Enjoy.
Windows Live Messenger – Move To The System Tray October 15th, 2010
As much as I want to dislike it owing to all the bloat-ware and popups, I find that time after time I come back to Windows Live Messenger; it’s inevitable really. You see whilst I try and ask friends to join other networks as I much prefer the client, almost all of my friends as a singularity use Live Messenger. Of course, I could use another client such as the excellent Pidgin which has multi-platform support but as much as I don’t want to admit it, Live Messenger on balance suits my needs well (taking into account not only chat support, but also conferencing and file sharing, both of which I require regularly).
When you run Live Messenger within Windows 7 it permanently takes up space in the taskbar, now this may not sound like a huge issue but I associate applications running in the taskbar as open, forefront applications. I much preferred previous versions of Windows whereby Live Messenger would run in the background with a smaller less obtrusive icon in the system tray. It’s annoying that you cannot remove this icon without not only closing down Live Messenger but also, logging off.
Thankfully, I have discovered a way of overcoming this and moving the icon back to its rightful place, in the system tray:
- The first thing that you need to do is to find the actual file location of Live Messenger. To do this, open Task Manager (right click on an empty space somewhere along the taskbar and click Start Task Manager)
- Click in the Processes tab and scroll down to find msnmsgr.exe
- Right click msnmsgr.exe and click Open File Location
- Windows Explorer will now open in the folder where msnmsgr.exe is located
- You can now close down the running Live Messenger, right click on the Messenger icon in the taskbar and click Close Window
- In the Windows Explorer window, right click on msnmsgr.exe and click Properties
- In the Properties windows, click on the Compatibility tab
- Click to select Run this program in compatibility mode for and in the drop down box select Windows Vista (Service Pack 2)
- Click OK
- Close the Windows Explorer Window
Now all you need to do is run Live Messenger again. You’ll now find that when you click the ‘X’ it will minimise into the system tray as it used to and not take up space in the taskbar. Job done.
Recovering Deleted Files In Windows September 17th, 2010
A few days ago a colleague asked me if I knew of a way of recovering files without purchasing a dedicated file recovery solution. By all accounts he had some important reports which had ‘gone missing’, though of course he swore that he had not deleted them himself. My first question was simply why not restore them from a backup? I can’t stress enough to people the importance of backups, not only for important business documents but also for personal files such as photos and memories which you simply cannot replace. He looked rather abashed when he told me that he had not been following his backup schedule and the only copy of the reports was on his machine; or at least they were.
Well fortunately for him there is a way, and you won’t have to reach for your credit card either. Windows (see note below) has a little-known feature built in called “Previous Versions” which automatically stores copies of files historically, an integrated and invisible backup if you will; the files are captured using the shadow copy component of Windows.
Note: Shadow copy or using its correct term Volume Snapshot Service, is a component of Windows included with the following, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista (although only in Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions), Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 (although again, only in Professional and Ultimate editions). Although not included, it was also available for Windows 2000 and Windows XP. If you have one of the home user versions, there is also a way of recovering files but using a slightly different method.
So, to be able to restore a file or even an older version of a file you simply need to know which folder the file was in and then follow this guide (I am using ‘My Documents’ as an example):
- Go to your My Documents folder (in my case, Start>$USER>My Documents), then right click an open area on the screen and click Properties. Don’t navigate via one of the Libraries as this will confuse matters
- The Document Properties dialogue box will appear, click the Previous Versions tab and then double click the most recent date where you know or suspect the file to have been before it was deleted (Note: depending on the specification of your machine and the amount of data stored, this may take a little while, but don’t panic)
- A new Explorer window will now open which will show all of the files as they were in the directory at that time, you should now see the deleted files. To recover them, simply cut and paste them back into your current My Documents folder and go make yourself a congratulatory mug of coffee, safe in the knowledge you have just saved yourself money by not having to purchase dedicated file recovery software
That’s all there is to it, but please, don’t rely on this method as an alternative to a proper and up-to-date backup.
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