The Windows Control Panel is a central location for many of the operating system tools and utilities. In this video, you’ll learn about some of the most-used Control Panel applets.
The Windows Control Panel provides you with a number of really useful utilities. So in this video, we’ll go through some of the most popular control panel applets. The control panel on your computer can display the control panel applets in different ways. You’ll find an option in the upper right that says, “view by,” and you can change this from a category mode into a small icons or the large icon view that I show here. Each of these control panel icons are not standalone applications, so you may hear them referred to as control panel utilities or control panel applets.
Your Windows operating system has a built in internet browser called Internet Explorer, and you can make changes to the configuration of Internet Explorer in the Internet options applet. In the General tab, you’ll find information for setting homepage configurations, where your system starts up for the very first time, and how the browsing history is managed inside of your browser. If you click on the Security tab, you’ll find options for setting security settings by zone. So in your internet zone, you may want to have a different set of security settings than you might have on a local intranet network.
The Privacy tab will take you to a view that shows you information on how cookies are handled, if you’d like to enable or disable a pop up blocker, and how you would set up your InPrivate Browsing, for doing anonymous browsing over the internet. If you’re working on a larger network, you may want to click the Connections tab, and make any configuration changes to match a VPN or proxy configurations on your network. The Programs tab will show you information about your default browser, what your default applications might be, and you can set up file associations within here, as well. And the Advanced tab allows you to set very detailed configuration settings.
I also like this option at the bottom, to reset all of Internet Explorer’s settings back to the defaults. Another important control panel applet is the display applet. This is where you would set configuration settings for your display, such as the resolutions. These are especially important for LCD monitors that really look best when they’re configured to run at the native resolution. If you click the Advanced Settings link, it will launch the graphics adapter dialogue, and from here, you can configure properties of the graphics adapter itself, or simply list all of the modes of the resolutions and color depths that are supported by your graphics adapter.
All of the local user accounts on your computer are available under the user accounts applet. This is different than the accounts that are on an Active Directory server. Those are stored on your active directory servers themselves. But if you’d like to change the account name or the account type associated with an account, modify the password, add a different picture, or change the configuration settings for the certificates, you want to do that all from the user accounts applet.
Whenever you’re viewing files or copying files from one place to another in Windows, you’re probably doing that in the Windows Explorer. The Folder Options applet can configure settings for Windows Explorer, and you can change things such as, under the General tab, the Windows and how they react whenever you click them or open them. It can also change the way the folders are expanded, whenever you’re using Windows Explorer. If you’d like to modify how the files are viewed inside of Windows Explorer, you can go to the View tab. And from here, you can do things like view hidden files, hide the file extensions or show the file extensions, and many more options, as well.
And an important but sometimes overlooked tab is the Search tab. This will define how the search process works, whenever you’re looking for a file or part of a file name. And you can define whether Windows is going to use a particular index when searching, whether it will look through system directories, whether it will look inside of compressed files, and maybe you’d like to have Windows always search the file names and the contents, even though that might take a little bit more time during the search process.
The System applet gives me access to a number of different configurations for my operating system, but the main view shows me information about the version and the edition of Windows that I’m running at the moment. There’s also a performance option. If I choose my advanced system settings, I can make changes to virtual memory, and other settings, as well. So in the Advanced tab, I can make changes to how visual effects, processor scheduling, memory usage, and virtual memory are used by my operating system. So I can make changes to the size of my virtual memory, and I can tell it– the system exactly where I would like virtual memory to be stored.
By making these changes, I can really optimize how the performance will be for my operating system. The System applet also lets me define my settings for remote assistance and remote desktop. So you can configure whether you want an on demand remote assistance capability, and you can enable it and disable that. Or maybe you’d like to set up your system to be accessible all the time through remote desktop, and you can enable and disable all of the remote desktop settings in here, as well.
The System applet also gives you quick access to the system protection settings, so you can enable or disable System Restore, and define exactly how much space will be used by these restore points. Microsoft Windows also includes its own firewall in the Control Panel, under the Windows Firewall applet. Windows Firewall is integrated into the operating system, so if you’re concerned about someone accessing your system from the outside, you want to be sure to have Windows Firewall enabled on your computer.
The Windows power options applet allows you to configure how Windows is going to use power settings. This is useful on a desktop computer, but especially useful on laptop computers. One of these settings allows you to configure whether your laptop might go into a sleep mode, or whether it will go into a hibernate mode. Sleep mode allows you to store information in memory while your system is not running. That way, when you power back on, it’s able to start up very quickly. This does use a little bit of power, so if your power in your battery starts getting low, you can have the system automatically change itself into a hibernate mode instead.
Unlike sleep mode, hibernate mode doesn’t use any power. That’s because it takes everything that’s currently in memory, and writes all of those contents to your hard drive or your SSD. Then, when you power back on, it pulls all of those files off of your storage device, and puts them back into memory. This isn’t quite as fast as sleep mode, because it has to store all of those files in your storage device, when you’re turning off, and then has to copy them back into memory when you turn things back on. but it’s not using any power. So you get to decide whether you’d like to use sleep mode, which is faster and using a little more power, or hibernate mode, which takes a little bit longer, but doesn’t use any additional power.
Under your Programs and Features applet, you can see all of the applications that have been installed in Windows. You can see when they were installed, you can see the size of the installation, and you can see the version number of the app that’s installed. You can also enable or disable Windows features in here, as well. If you wanted to delete PowerShell or the XPS Viewer, you can do that all by turning on or off any of these Windows features. If you’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8, you have the option for configuring HomeGroup.
HomeGroup is not something that’s available in Windows Vista. HomeGroup allows you to connect all of the systems in your home so that you can easily share pictures, videos, music, documents, or printers and other devices. You have to make sure that the network settings within Windows are set for home. This can’t be a public network, for example, or a work network. This must be set up to be a home network. You would then enable HomeGroup, and make a note of the password. You then use this same password on everyone’s computer, and now everyone can easily share all of these resources.
The Devices and Printers applet gives you a nice, consolidated view of everything that’s out on the network. So you can see all of the desktops, laptops, printers, multimedia devices, Xbox devices, and anything else that might be running on your network. This is a very easy view of the network, and it’s much easier to navigate than going to Device Manager. From here, you can click on any of these devices, view the properties, and make configuration changes, all from the Devices and Printers applet. The Sound applet allows you to configure the input devices and the output devices for your computer.
You might have many different devices listed under playback and recording. You can also make configuration changes to these devices, change the output levels, and really get the sound exactly the way you’d like it. Wouldn’t it be nice if Windows was able to do its own troubleshooting? And to some degree, it can, through the troubleshooting applet. There’s some problems that can be easily fixed, and this might be a good place to start for doing troubleshooting. It’s going to automate some of the more popular problems that you’d run into, and it sets up a list of categories that you can use to drill down into your specific problem.
The resolution of these problems might require elevated access, however, especially if Windows has to disable or enable a particular resource on your computer. We use many different network settings on our computer these days. It’s not uncommon for one device to be using Bluetooth, 802.11, and ethernet networks, all at the same time. From the Network and Sharing Center, you can modify the HomeGroup settings, you can change any of the adapter settings for your network adapters, and you can modify the network addressing that is used on these network adapters.
If you’re having problems with a piece of hardware on your Windows device, you may want to start with the Device Manager applet in the Control Panel. This hardware needs a way to talk to the operating system, and it’s these device drivers listed in the Device Manager that are able to bridge this gap. This is where you can add, remove, or disable devices on your computer. And if you’re having a problem with a particular piece of hardware, you might want to look at the properties for that device. It may be able to tell you exactly the reason why it’s not able to use this hardware with the operating system.