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.
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.
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.
Speed Up iTunes January 27th, 2010
Love it or hate it, iTunes has become the de facto application for music handling on my machine; so much so that it has become one of those applications which I would say I couldn’t live without (OK, so perhaps that takes it a little too far but you see where I am going with this).
The problem is that iTunes is an application that Apple never intended to make for Windows; I guess you could say they became a victim of their own success and found themselves having to recode a Windows version as its popularity (and the popularity of the iPod range) grew. It works much faster in Mac OS X, which translated could be written as saying iTunes for Windows is a complete bloat ware that takes up far too much RAM and runs slower than it should, certainly this has become more and more apparent as iTunes has been updated and updated. The cynic in me would start to question whether Apple isn’t too serious about Windows and want to demonstrate to people that iTunes works much faster on Mac OS X because it is a better OS (thereby attempting to increase their sales of Mac hardware and OS X), but with a few simple steps it’s easy to speed things up a little and make iTunes for Windows a little more bearable:
Remove Smart Playlists
A lot of people will love the Smart Playlist feature, if you are one of them then you can skip this, otherwise removing them can make the application start-up speed up to 3 times quicker. If you like me would give up almost anything for speed, then simply remove all the Smart Playlists (the ones with the purple icon) and restart iTunes to feel the improved performance. If you don’t want to remove Smart Playlists altogether then editing them and disabling Live Updating will make a slight difference.
Disable Automatic Syncing
When a device is connected to a machine running iTunes, iTunes automatically starts syncing which I find quite annoying. It can result in your iTunes getting frozen for up to 30 seconds or more. Users don’t always connect devices such as iPods or iPhones for transferring songs; what if you only want to charge your device? In such cases automatic launching of iTunes and syncing doesn’t make sense and isn’t needed. To disable automatic syncing, simply select your connected device from the left sidebar and uncheck the Automatic Sync option.
Disable Options That Are Not Needed
A little bit of common sense if required here as there are various different options that you will come across in the Preferences menu and some may be needed depending on your individual setups, however a couple I would recommend would be to disable Crossfade Songs and Sound Enhancer under the Playback tab and Look for Remote Speakers Connected to AirTunes and Look for iPhone and iPod Touch Remotes under the devices tab. You can also disable Look for Apple TV under the Apple TV tab unless of course you have one! Most users will not need any of these options enabled and yet by default they are enabled adding to the burden, surely it would have made sense to ship iTunes in a more ‘lean’ configuration for the majority and allow the minority who own all these other devices (and let’s face it the kind of person who does is more than technically savvy enough to do this) to configure iTunes to their needs?
While browsing your playlists, you will notice that unnecessary columns are displayed by default (yes, I know it’s a Pop song thanks). Who wants to scroll all the way to the right and then back to the left to view all the columns? It is better to reduce this clutter by hiding those columns that are not needed. This can be done by right-clicking the column bar on top and then unchecking not-needed columns. Not sure if this makes a huge difference to speed or not but it means that you can customise your view to exactly how you want to see it.
Finally, although I haven’t tried this myself I read somewhere that by keeping the Preferences window open whilst songs are converting, the whole process will be quicker! Now there is logic to this; when you are converting a large collection of songs to ACC format, you will notice that after a few conversions the whole process slows down. This is because after each change the iTunes User Interface gets updated (which takes forever when converting large collections). So, how to speed up the conversion and disable the iTunes User Interface from getting updated? Go to Edit and select Preferences; now let it remain open until all conversions are complete!
I’m sure there are other ways to speed things up too, if you know of any leave a comment below and share your thoughts.