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.
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.
Let me know if you find this useful by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to sign-up for further guides using the option on the right. This way you’ll get the latest guides delivered directly to your inbox.
Why Is It Called Windows 7 October 22nd, 2009
There seems to be a lot of confusion over the new naming convention for Windows 7. Microsoft in all their wisdom seem to change direction each time a new version of Windows is released and each time, the name doesn’t seem to follow the previous. So, I thought I’d explain the logic behind why the latest version is called Windows 7.
Microsoft has decided to start calling this and future releases of their Windows operating system based on their version numbers. Versions previously known by other numbers (95 and 98) or name (Me, XP and Vista) used internal version numbers. XP was version 5.1 and Vista was version 6.0 for example.
So the story in the evolution of Windows so far is:
Windows 1 was released in November 1985, 2.0 in October 1987, and 2.1 (which was also known as Windows /286 and Windows /386) in May 1998.
Windows 3, which first introduced 32-bit capabilities came to market in May 1990, and came into its own with versions 3.1 in April 1992.
Microsoft then split off a ‘new technology’ version of Windows to compete with UNIX. It was influenced by Microsoft’s then partnership with IBM who created OS/2. The development of this new version began as OS/2 version 3. It shipped as Windows NT 3.1 in July 1993 and was a fully 32-bit operating system. It was also the first version of Windows that did not run as a shell on top of DOS. Windows NT 3.5 shipped in 1994, and 4.0 in 1996.
Windows 4 came out as Windows 95 in August 1995 and was the first consumer version with 32-bit support and pre-emptive multitasking. Windows 98 arrived in July 1998, and a second edition (Windows 98 SE) replaced it in 1999. Windows Me shipped in September 2000 and was the final consumer version of Windows 4; it was also a complete flop.
Windows 5 arrived as Windows 2000 in February 2000 and was a replacement for NT 4.0. The consumer version, known as Windows XP (or Windows 5.1), was released to manufacturers in August 2001 although not available on the retail market until October. The latest version is SP3. Windows Server 2003 (Windows 5.2) replaced Windows 2000 in April 2003, and its latest version is SP2. Microsoft released separate 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Sever 2003 in April 2005.
Windows 6 was named Windows Vista, released to manufacturers in November 2006 and reached the retail market in January 2007. Vista is also available in 64-bit editions. Windows Server 2008 is also another version of Windows 6.
So there we have it the story so far and today, we see the official launch of the 7th incarnation of the Windows family – Windows 7.
Makes perfect sense really doesn’t it?
Windows Vista Home Basic Edition – Enabling Aero September 19th, 2009
I’ve been asked by a few people who have gone out and bought a cheap laptop from the likes of Curry’s or Comet why they cannot get the ‘fancy look’ on their Vista installations. On probing deeper into the meaning of ‘fancy look’ I worked out that they were referring to the Aero theme. Obviously there was no point trying to explain to them that the machine simply did not have the specification that was required to run Aero on Vista, after all, if they had the capacity to understand this, they’d have brought a machine with a much better all round specification in the first place.
The Aero theme is not available in all editions of Windows Vista. The point I am trying to make here is that it is specifically not available in Vista Home Edition Basic. If you want the Aero theme, you have to buy a machine with a higher edition installed, a machine with a better spec and of course, a machine with a higher price tag!
However, read on.
It turns out that there is actually a way to activate the Aero theme to run on Vista Home Basic Edition, even though it is officially not included. A word of caution though, in most cases (although not all) Vista Home Basic Edition is the standard OS for low-end machines, enabling the Aero theme could be devastating to the systems overall performance. You can always reverse these steps if this is the case.
Caveat: Please make sure you fully understand the EULA before reading any further and using this method, making any functional change to the operating system *could* be considered illegal by Microsoft. I am not responsible for any legal issues that might arise by using this information.
So to enable Aero, you’ll need to do the following:
- From the Start button, type REGEDIT into the Search box, then press Enter to launch the Registry Editor (regedit.exe). Note here that if you have not previously disabled UAC you will be nagged to consent to the action you’re about to perform.
- Locate the following key in the registry – HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsDWM
- Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): Composition, Change the existing value to 1
- Modify the following value (REG_DWORD): CompositionPolicy, Change the existing value to 2
- Close the Registry Editor
- Open an elevated Command Prompt window. To open an elevated Command Prompt, click Start, click All Programs, click Accessories, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator. You can also type CMD in the search box of the Start menu, and when you see the Command Prompt icon click it to select it, hold CTRL+SHIFT and press ENTER
- In the Command Prompt window type: net stop uxsms and press Enter. Wait for the Desktop manager Session Manager service to stop, then type: net start uxsms and press ENTER. Again, wait for the Desktop Windows manager Session manager service to start.
- Restart your computer.
After restarting, login as normal and you should find that the Aero theme can now be activated.
Notes – I have tested this method using a clean install of Vista to ensure it works, I have not however tested it on an exisiting installation with existing data and software. Microsoft *may* have delivered a hotfix via Windows Updates to prevent this method from working.