Windows

Create a custom Control Panel in Windows XP

If you admire the simplicity of Windows XP's Category View but prefer the Classic View, you may want to create your own custom Control Panel that combines the best of both worlds. Greg Shultz tells you how.

To simplify access to the tools in Windows XP's Control Panel, Microsoft created the Category View, in which the Control Panel's tools are organized into categories. If you're an old-school Windows user, you can still switch back to the Classic View, in which all of the Control Panel's tools are available. If you admire the simplicity of the Category View but prefer the Classic View, you may want to create your own custom Control Panel that combines the best of both views. Here's how:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select the Explore command.
  2. Go to File | New | Folder.
  3. Name the new folder My Control Panel.
  4. Right-click your new My Control Panel folder, select the Properties command, choose the Customize tab, click the Change Icon button, and select an icon that will differentiate this folder from all the rest on the Start menu.
  5. Open your new My Control Panel folder, and then open the original Control Panel and select Classic View.
  6. Drag and drop your favorite tools from the original Control Panel to your new My Control Panel folder.
  7. Close both your new My Control Panel folder and the original Control Panel.

Now when you need to use your favorite tool, just click Start | All Programs and at the top of the All Programs menu select the My Control Panel folder. You'll see your favorite tools in an easy to access drop-down menu.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

23 comments
techrepublic.com.com
techrepublic.com.com

using Tweakui can remove what you dont use from view... thats how I always custom my control panels especially when its for users that have no idea

ray.labrecque
ray.labrecque

Excellent. I immediately set up 5 of these Custom Control Panels (CCPs) to segregate my busy desktop, really like it. I do nave one question: I laid out each of the CCPs in what I felt was a logical format. Went rally well for a week, then in a different Windows Explorer window, I changed something in Tools/Folder Options/View and saved for All Folders. Poof, all my nice formatting was gone! Any way to 'lock' the locations and layout of individual Windows Explorer folder views (i.e. these nice CPPs...)? Thanks for ALL of the good articles, not just this one. I been using computers and Microsoft Op/Sys GUI's for almost 30 years and definitely learn something new every day! Thanks, Ray L.

dionysious6900
dionysious6900

That's a very interesting and useful tip. Not so specifically for making a new control panel, but for the whole concept of custom folders for utilities and applications. Like making the equivalent of system tools of your third party utility apps. Nice, thanks,

swas786
swas786

WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF CUSTOM CONTROL PANEL?

themaestroofemail
themaestroofemail

My method: 1. Go to the Start Menu Properties 2. Hunt for the option that says "Show Control Panel as a Menu" (works in both start menu views) 3. Select it Ta-da! Control Panel Menu!

ahawken
ahawken

Thought I was going to find out how to customise the actual control panel. I remember doing this back in the days of Windows 95

TechForLife
TechForLife

Why not just use quick launch? Although it's a nice tip to group your most common apps, I think having them on your quick launch gives you a quicker visual and quicker access. (1 cilck versus 2 or 3)

k1p2k1p2
k1p2k1p2

or folder of programs, as well. It's like having Mini Me's for your favorite groups of programs, instead of having to look through the entire list of programs installed all the time. Thank you. Morgan

plandok
plandok

I keep Control Panel handy to uninstall software and to change settings. The Windows "compulsory" one is full of icons which I never use. However, you can't delete certain ones because they seem to be protected by the operating system. Thus the control panel window is big and changes each time you install a program. Thus a custom one would have just the icons I need. Some of the other suggestions such as toolbars seem good too and I'm going to try them out when I have a chance.

ajcanal
ajcanal

Want everything you use and need the most on one quick pop-up toolbar, and a perfectly clean Desktop? Start by placing all the programs, files, folders or control panel icons you want on the Desktop. Keep it simple though, don't go overboard. Now right click on the main taskbar at the bottom of the Desktop and select Desktop. A check mark should be placed next to the name and the desktop Toolbar will appear at the bottom, within the taskbar. At this point you can drag the Desktop toolbar to the left side of your screen and pin it there. It will initially show large icons. Now, right click on the top of the pinned toolbar, select View and then select Small Icons. Right click on it again and this time select Show Text, Show Title and make sure that the Always on Top and Auto Hide are selected. The final step is to right click anywhere on the desktop where you don't have any icons. On the menu select View and then Hide Desktop icons. All the desktop icons will be hidden. They won't be deleted or gone, just hidden. You can always go back and show them again. Now you have a perfectly clean Desktop with a popup toolbar that all you have to do is move your cursor over to start any program, open any file, etc.. You can have widgets or notes on the Desktop and everything else in the popup toolbar on the left. Works on all versions of Windows, including Vista.

RobPatten
RobPatten

I too thought it would show you how to customise the Control Panel, rather than how to make a new folder on the Start Menu. Remember the days of Windows 3.1 where you could disable Control Panel applets using [b]control.ini[/b]? I'm sure these days it can all be done through Group Policy, perhaps a step by step walkthrough on that would have been more enlightening than showing us "professionals" how to make a folder.

plandok
plandok

I usually keep a Control Panel folder on my desktop as I always seem to have trouble finding it when I seriously need it. Instead of having to go to Start, I'm going to create the "custom control panel" on my desktop and without all the extra icons added by the OS and installed programs which WinXP won't let me delete.

cnitzken
cnitzken

Drag and drop it to your quick task bar :)

1bn0
1bn0

Then add it to the task bar. That way when you change computers, your computer dis. or you just want to use the tollbar but you are logged on to a different computer than your usual one, the toolbar is always accessible.

hds3onlineaccts
hds3onlineaccts

Just go to the System32 folder and either rename a given *.cpl file to, say, xxx.cpl.old, or else just delete it. I don't understand why you think XP won't let you do that.

Peter.Murschall
Peter.Murschall

Create Your Own Toolbar on the start bar ... Create a folder (e.g. under My Own files) where You put the desired links to the ".MSC" and/or the links from the control panel. RightClick on the Startbar, select Toolbars/New Toolbar and select the folder You've created just before. Voila ! Mit freundlichsten Gr??en Peter Murschall

plandok
plandok

Thanks for the idea dewitt.shank. I'm not a techie and had tried to delete certain icons in the control panel window. Couldn't. So assumed Windows was protecting them. I still wanted the Control Panel window but not some of the icons. So if *.cpl is the control panel window, that wouldn't help me. In all the years of reading semi-technical e-letters, no one had talked about *.cpl files so I have no idea what they were. And I know that indiscriminate file deletion, even .tmp files can be disastrous for poorly implemented software. So can installing poorly documented software like Ad-Watch which just eliminated all my cookies and passwords as a default setting. Firefox doesn't prompt when you accidentally press "delete all entries" in options. So I'm loathe to delete anything, no matter how annoying the build-up of crap, without being absolutely sure of what I'm doing. But thanks for your response.