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.
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.
Windows 7: My Thoughts A Year In August 18th, 2010
It’s been over a year now since Windows 7 RTM came to market, a year which unusually for a newly released Microsoft OS has been in the main, trouble free. The transition for many business users from Windows XP to Windows 7 has been easier than with previous incarnations, certainly surprisingly simple considering there is a decade separating the two operating systems which let’s face it in the ever changing world of IT, is a huge gap.
Overall Windows 7 has been a massive boost for Microsoft generally with the latest figures telling us that more than 150 million licences have already been either installed or at least sold. So what does this tell us (apart from the size of Microsoft’s bank balance)? Well, importantly it means that Windows 7 has now effectively overtaken the installed user base of Windows Vista during its first year of sale which let’s face it is huge for Microsoft although for us; not at all surprising given that Vista is far from perfect (or even good actually).
I was an early adopter of Windows 7 and moved my primary machine to Windows 7 Ultimate prior to the official release (I was fortunate enough to be given an official copy by Microsoft prior to the public release date) and was genuinely surprised by the ease of installation compared to prior versions; things like driver installation and compatibility checks are now fully managed by the system. Owing to Vista being – well – actually quite rubbish, I didn’t transition via Vista and came from using Windows XP on my machines. Windows 7 is definitely the most stable and robust all round operating system I have used to date for my day to day use, both at home and work.
It’s not all great though, on my T61p battery life is not as good as it used to be and there are a few other areas which have been made unduly complicated compared to Windows XP. But of course Windows 7 is designed appeal to all, including consumers who demand the fluid, GUI improvements and work arounds which I would historically have done manually via the command line; that’s not to say that this can’t still be done, in fact with PowerShell this is even more powerful than ever. Let’s not forget that we are still in the infancy of the OS though, with SP1 under development and due to be released soon I am sure some of these annoyances will be addressed making the OS even better.
Of course in the meantime, now manufacturers have more experience of Windows 7 too, updating the BIOS to the latest version will undoubtedly help with any hardware issues such as the increased battery drain, and updating drivers will iron out any system glitches, although they are few and far between.
For sure though, Windows 7 is Microsoft’s most polished operating system to date (although I do still remember Windows 2000 fondly; it just worked!) and it’s safe to assume there will have been some questions raised in the Microsoft hierarchy as to why Vista wasn’t anywhere near as successful. I’m sure some eye brows were raised.
I look forward to testing Windows 8 at an early stage – I believe the public release date is tentatively set sometime during 2012 – when it becomes available on TechNet, it is most likely to follow in the ilk of Windows 7 and will be Microsoft’s most ambitious project to date, really making full use of cloud and mobile computing whilst fighting off the ever nearer threat from Apple, Linux and most recently Google.
Microsoft finally seems to be heading in the right direction again.
How To Uninstall Linux And Remove GRUB July 16th, 2010
I’ve recently been using one of my machines in a dual-boot configuration running Windows 7 Ultimate alongside the latest Ubuntu LTS distribution, although decided that I wanted to revert it back into a dedicated Windows machine and ‘reclaim’ the disk space being utilised by Linux.
Of course there are a few ways of doing this; I’d normally only run a dual boot configuration on a test machine so wouldn’t be too perturbed by having to rebuild and start over, but this machine already had a lot of data and customisation and I didn’t want to start again and rebuild from the OS up. So how else do you set about removing Linux and GRUB? Well, the answer is actually quite simple.
Caveat: I cannot stress the importance of ensuring you have a full backup of all the data on the machine before proceeding. If you don’t have one, stop now.
Before going any further, you’ll need to dig out your original Windows 7 installation media as you’ll need this in the following steps, then once you are ready do the following:
- Restart your machine and enter the BIOS
- Somewhere in the BIOS menu you’ll find a setting to change the boot order of your machine, enter this and ensure that you have the DVD drive set at the top of the boot order
- Enter your Windows 7 DVD into the drive and restart
- Press any key on your keyboard when prompted to enter setup
- Select the appropriate language, time, currency and keyboard layout and click Next
- Click Repair your computer
- Click the option highlighting the operating system that you want to repair, in my case Windows 7 and then click Next
- On the following screen, System Recovery Options, click Command Prompt
- Once the command prompt opens on your screen type the following followed by Enter:
- You should now see ‘operation completed successfully’
- Restart your machine and enter the BIOS once again to change the boot order back to its original setting
- Now, restart your machine and you should notice that GRUB has been replaced with the stock windows boot loader and Windows starts to load without prompt
- Once back in the GUI, right click My Computer followed by Manage and Disk Management
- Right click the Linux partitions and remove them (simplified, you will have to click a few buttons here to acknowledge the steps)
- Right click the Windows partition and extend it into the space created by removing the Linux partitions (again simplified, just acknowledge the prompts as they appear)
- Job done
You should now find that GRUB and Linux are no more and you have a dedicated Windows machine once again, the whole process should take no more than around 5 minutes; far preferable to the hours it would have taken to rebuild the machine from scratch.
Note: the same method also applies for other distributions of Linux