Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hide Unused Applets with the Registry

Whether you're a fan of the new Control Panel or not, there's a lot you can do to make it more palatablelike hiding applets you never use, recategorizing the ones you do use, and displaying all applets in a simple-to-use cascading menu.

When I first started using XP, one of the things that annoyed me most was its new Control Panel. Yes, the big new icons for running applets are certainly pretty, but the Control Panel's several-layer organization forces you to click far too many times to get to the applet you want. And its clutter of applets that I rarely, if ever, use makes it even more difficult and confusing.

My first reaction was to click the Switch to Classic View button to do away with the new design, but the Classic View has its problems as well: its long, alphabetized list of thumbnails is just as difficult to navigate as the new Control Panel.

The solution? Start by cleaning up the Control Panel, hiding applets that you rarely, if ever, use. Note that when you hide the applets, you can still use them; you just won't see their icons in the Control Panel.

In this hack, you'll not only find out ways you can control the Control Panel, but you'll also see how you can apply that knowledge to create different customized Control Panels.

 Hide Unused Applets with the Registry
To hide unused applets using the Registry, run the Registry Editor and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\don't load.

The key, as its name implies, determines which Control Panel applet icons are not loaded into the Control Panel. You'll still be able to run those applets from the command line after you hide them (as explained later in this hack); you just won't be able to see their icons in the Control Panel.

To hide an applet, create a new String value whose name is the filename of the applet you want to hide. For example, to hide the Mouse Control dialog box, the String value would be main.cpl. See Table 2-1 for a list of Control Panel applets and their filenames.

Table 2-1. Control Panel applets and their filenames Applet

System Properties

Display Properties

Network Connections

Accessibility Options

Add or Remove Programs

Add Hardware Wizard

Internet Properties

Region and Language Options

Game Controllers

Mouse Properties

Sound and Audio Devices

User Accounts

ODBC Data Source Administrator

Power Options Properties

Phone and Modem Options

Time and Date Properties

Speech Properties

Create separate String values for each applet you want to hide, then exit the Registry. The applets will vanish from the Control Panel. To make a hidden applet appear again, delete its string value from this same registry key.

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