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Control Panel is one of the most important areas in Windows for configuring your computer. Although many of the applets in Control Panel can be accessed from elsewhere, Control Panel is the central location for these tools. There are several ways to access Control Panel, and these vary depending on Windows version and configuration. Tutorial 2.1 explains three ways to access Control Panel. If none of these applies to the computer you're working on, please consult Windows Help.
Tutorial 2.1: Accessing Control Panel
Windows 9x, 2000, and XP with Classic Start menu: Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel.
Windows XP with standard Start menu: Go to Start > Control Panel.
All versions if so configured: Open My Computer and click or double-click Control Panel.
In Control Panel, applets are small programs that are used to configure individual components of the OS and hardware. Control Panel contains many applets. The applets and their names vary from version to version. Certain third-party programs install additional applets in Control Panel. This section covers pertinent applets not covered elsewhere in the book.
A wizard is a program that leads the user through various steps of configuring software or hardware by prompting for answers to questions. Wizards facilitate simpler configuration of hardware and software by making sure that all of the necessary components are properly configured and that none are missed. Many of the applets in Control Panel contain wizards. The disadvantage to wizards is that they sometimes can limit options available in traditional configuration screens. However, most components can be configured from traditional screens after the wizard has been completed.
The remainder of this section deals with the more important applets.
For XP users, if you reach Control Panel and find that it shows none of the applets described in the following paragraphs, click the Switch to Classic View link that should appear at the top of the menu on the left side of the screen. The default "Category View" is designed more for end users than for technicians.
Accessibility Options are aids for people with various disabilities. They are also available in most versions in Start > Programs > Accessories along with an Accessibility Wizard. This applet is fairly self-explanatory. Check here if you are experiencing unusual keyboard behavior such as ignored brief or repeated keystrokes, sounds such as beeps when certain keys are pressed, exceptionally large or high-contrast video, and so forth. Make sure the user doesn't need these settings before disabling them. If you do need to disable them to work on the machine and the user needs them, make sure to write down all settings and restore them before returning the machine to the user.
This goes by different names in the various versions of Windows. Its purpose is to scan the computer for new hardware components and to install the drivers for them. In the event that Windows doesn't automatically detect new hardware, compatible hardware can often be installed by following the wizard. This applet is becoming less important as Windows installs almost all Plug and Play hardware automatically. We cover this and related wizards, plus Plug and Play technology, in greater detail in the upcoming section on device drivers.
The Administrative Tools folder is available in 2000 and XP only, although there are versions of a few of the tools in 9x. This is a series of tools, most of which are not intended for the average end user. These tools are accessible by themselves, and many are accessible through one of them: Computer Management. Computer Management is also accessible by right-clicking the My Computer icon and clicking Manage from the menu that appears, and from the programs list in the Start menu if so configured. Computer Management is divided into the following three categories.
System Tools comprises a collection of tools allowing you to monitor performance and events, view information about hardware and software, and manage shared folders and user and group accounts.
There is another set of tools in all versions called System Tools. These are accessible from the programs in the Start menu and are discussed later in this chapter.
The pertinent tools in this folder vary between 2000 and XP and are:
Event Viewer: You might be directed by a support technician or article to use Event Viewer. For detailed information on Event Viewer, go to http://support.microsoft.com, click the link for searching Knowledge Base articles by number, and enter 308427.
Device Manager: We discuss Device Manager in detail later in this chapter.
Disk Management: Disk Management is the one very useful program here that isn't readily available elsewhere. It allows you to view a graphical depiction of the condition of all disk drives installed in the computer. Indicators show the type of partition (system, logical, primary, etc.), its condition (healthy, failed, formatting, healthy (at risk), etc.), file system (FAT, FAT32, NTFS), and other information. As long as the system is bootable, Disk Management allows you to repair some types of disk problems (of course, if the system isn't bootable, you won't be able to start Disk Management).
Management of hard drives at this level is rather complicated. To understand more, see reference books on Windows 2000. We discuss some disk restoration techniques in Chapter 6.
Services: Shown in Figure 2.3, this is the important subcomponent here. It allows management of services on the computer. A service is a small program or part of a program whose purpose is to support larger programs or OS components. Many services need to run for Windows and certain installed programs to operate. Some should start automatically with Windows, and some should be started manually only when called on by a program or OS process. If you get a message that says that something isn't working because a needed service isn't started, go to Services. Locate the service (hopefully the error message identified the particular service) and double-click on its line in the list. Here, as shown in Figure 2.4, you'll see controls that allow you to start the service manually, set it to automatic so it starts when Windows starts, set it to manual so it waits for a command to start, or disable it so it never starts. If you attempt to start the service and it won't start, it's time to troubleshoot. See Chapter 11, "Troubleshooting," for general troubleshooting information.
Figure 2.3: Services applet.
Figure 2.4: Configuring a service.
You can also use the XP version of MSConfig to set services to start or stop with Windows. We discuss MSConfig later in this chapter.
Known as "Add or Remove Programs" in XP, this applet is used most often for uninstalling programs. One mistake many Windows newbies make is to delete program files rather than uninstalling them. This can cause problems with the Windows registry (we discuss the registry in Chapter 11). This applet has several uses:
Installation of programs: This applet is no longer frequently used for installing programs. Usually, to install programs, you can simply insert the program installation disc and follow the prompts, or double-click on a program installation file icon and follow the prompts. If you do decide to use this to install a program, click the Install button on 9x or the Add New Programs button on 2000 or XP, and follow the simple prompts.
Uninstallation of programs: The Uninstall wizard is a very useful tool. It is a good idea to uninstall programs that are no longer likely to be used, in order to free up space on the hard drive. One common problem computers have is that their hard drives become nearly full. A computer might run badly or not at all unless the hard drive has enough free space to hold the swap file for virtual memory (we define these terms later in this chapter). Other reasons to uninstall programs are if they are causing problems on the computer or if installation of a new version of the program requires that the old version be uninstalled first. Click the name of the program in the list and follow the prompts. You might be asked while running this wizard to decide if certain files should be retained or deleted. Usually, your choices will be "Yes" (delete the file), "Yes to all" (delete all such files), "No" (retain the file), and "No to all" (retain all such files). Unless you are certain, it is safest to select "No to all." At the end, you'll usually get the message that not all of the items were deleted and that you should remove the remaining items manually. You can safely forgo doing so, although you might want to delete shortcuts. Shortcuts are small files that allow you to access other files. Most of the icons on the desktop are shortcuts, as are the programs listed in Start > Programs. If there are still shortcuts on the desktop for a program you have uninstalled, right-click the shortcut icon and click Delete.
If you absolutely must uninstall a program that doesn't show up in the list, you can locate the program's folder and delete it. First, make sure that the program's name isn't different from what you expect—for example, different components of McAfee products might be called McAfee or Network Associates. If it is truly not in the list, the program's folder is most likely in the root directory (main folder) of the main hard drive, but it could be on the desktop, the Program Files folder, or elsewhere. If you have error messages during boot or other problems after deleting the program folders, you can try to fix the problem using a registry cleaning program (see Chapter 11). If that doesn't solve your problems, reinstalling the program (assuming you have the installation media) might help until you can get assistance in properly uninstalling it. It is generally a good practice, however, not to delete programs unless you know how to deal with the aftermath.
Addition and removal of Windows components: Most people don't need every component that comes with Windows to be installed on their computer. Sometimes, you might need to remove an unused component to free up disk space. Other times, a user will need a Windows component that wasn't installed originally. This is where you make these additions and subtractions. On 9x, click the Windows Setup tab, as shown in Figure 2.5. In 2000 and XP, click the Add/Remove Windows Components button. This calls up a list of installable components, as shown in Figure 2.6. Note the check boxes next to each item. Empty white check boxes mean that none of the components in that category are installed or set to be installed. White check boxes with a check mark mean that all of that category's components are installed or set to be, and gray check boxes with a check mark mean that some of the components are installed or set to be installed. When you have selected a category, clicking the Details button provides a list of items in that category, and a description appears under the list. Make your decisions, click Next, and then follow the remaining prompts. In many cases, you'll be asked for the Windows installation disc. In 9x, rather than using the Windows CD-ROM, you often can navigate to the folder C:\Windows\Options\Cabs, where C: is the hard drive partition where Windows is installed. Cabs refer to Cabinet files. Cabinet files are highly compressed files, in this case containing all of the Windows installation files.
Figure 2.5: 9x Windows Setup tab.
Figure 2.6: XP Windows Components Wizard.
Creating an emergency boot disk (9x only): You might recall from Chapter 1, "Overview," that the emergency boot disk is an essential tool when the computer won't boot. This is where you create it; the wizard is straightforward. As we discuss in Chapter 11, 2000 and XP don't have this applet, although it is possible to make an emergency boot disk for these versions. Make sure you have boot disks for each version of Windows 9x you will be working with. See Chapter 11 for more information on boot disks.
Windows Update: Although present on all versions, it is accessible from here on XP only. We discuss Windows Update later in the chapter.
This applet has two useful tabs. The View tab has a list of items with check boxes. To see all folders and files that could be needed for repair, it's be very helpful to clear the following check boxes: "Hide file extensions for known file types," and "Hide protected operating system files [Recommended]." You might also want to select the "Show hidden files and folders" option button. It's probably a good idea to change the latter two settings back to their defaults before returning the machine to the user, however.
The other useful tab is the File Types tab. Have you ever noticed that when you double-click on a data file, Windows starts the correct program to open the file? This is where those file-program associations are stored. One of the best uses for this tab is undoing the unwanted file associations that certain applications, especially media players, make. Select the file extension you want to configure and click Advanced. Click the function in the Action list (usually "open" and/or "play," in the case of a media file). Click Edit, and browse for the program you want to perform this function. You might want to change the icon as well. Then, click OK. With a lot of luck, your file-program associations will remain the way you set them. Unfortunately, programs have a tendency to change these settings without your knowledge.
To select the program to play audio CDs automatically when you insert a CD in the drive, edit both the file type called Audio CD (with no file extension), and the file type described as "CD Audio Track," bearing the CDA extension. If you want to use the basic Windows CD player rather than Windows Media Player, you can usually find the program cdplayer.exe in the folder C:\Windows (or Windows NT in 2000)\System32, or C:\Windows.
This applet is fairly self-explanatory—it's used to configure game joysticks and other controllers. However, one point about game controllers must be stressed: follow the game controller manufacturer's instructions to the letter, especially if the instructions say to install the software before plugging in the device. Although installation is usually simple, an incorrectly installed game controller can be a nightmare to reinstall correctly. You might find yourself at the manufacturer's Web site or making a toll call for support if directions are not followed carefully.
Power options are settings related to A/C and battery power, standby and hibernation, and UPS (battery backup) configuration. Standby is the function that shuts off power to almost everything but the memory. When full power is restored, by moving the mouse or using the keyboard in most cases, or pushing the power button on some notebook computers, the computer is left in the same state it was in before it was placed in standby. All of the same programs will be open to the same places. Hibernation (also known as suspend) is similar to standby, but the entire memory is written to the hard drive and the power is shut off completely. Like standby, when power is restored (usually by pushing the power button), the computer returns to the same state it was in before hibernation. The options that appear in this applet depend on whether the hardware and BIOS support them—if they don't, the functions simply don't appear. For example, if there is no UPS installed on the computer, the UPS tab doesn't appear. Notebook computers tend to have the most functions in this applet because of the data loss that can occur if the battery were to die while files are open. Peruse the available tabs to see all the configurable properties here.
System is perhaps the most important applet in Control Panel. Accessible from here and also by right-clicking My Computer and clicking Properties, System has a number of useful components. Figure 2.7 shows the 9x version, Figure 2.8 shows the 2000 version, and Figure 2.9 shows the XP version. The different tabs are as follows:
Figure 2.7: System Properties in Windows 9x.
Figure 2.8: System Properties in Windows 2000.
Figure 2.9: System Properties in Windows XP.
General tab: The General tabs are nearly identical on all the versions, and contain some helpful information. The exact OS version plus installed service packs are identified. Service packs are significant updates to Windows OSs that are offered by Microsoft. We discuss them later in the chapter. Other information on this page are the name the OS is registered to with the registration code number, the general category of CPU and amount of RAM installed on the machine, and sometimes, contact information for the computer's manufacturer.
Computer Name (XP)/Network Identification (2000): These tabs contain network settings that are beyond the scope of this book, but if you will ever deal with networks, you should familiarize yourself with them.
Hardware (2000 and XP): This tab contains the Add Hardware Wizard (XP) or the Add/Remove Hardware Wizard (2000). They are the same wizards described earlier in this section under Add/Remove Hardware and are covered in detail in the next section. The other important function here is Device Manager, which is also covered in the next section.
Remote (XP only): This tab contains authorization settings for Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop. These should be enabled on any XP computer if you want to be able to view someone's computer screen from a remote location through a network or even over the Internet. Click the Advanced button and select the appropriate check boxes. We discuss Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop in Chapter 11.
Advanced (2000 and XP): The most important function is Startup and Recovery. Click the Startup and Recovery button in 2000, or the third Settings button in XP. The System Failure settings on the bottom part of this dialog box apply to the "blue screen of death." The blue screen of death, officially known as a stop error, can happen on XP and 2000 machines when something serious happens. Windows suddenly shuts down and the contents of memory are dumped into a file called memory.dmp located by default in C:\Windows [or Winnt]\System32. It is recommended to clear the "Automatically reboot" check box on 2000; it is important to be able to read the entire blue screen, and automatic rebooting doesn't leave the screen on long enough for anyone to write the entire error code. The error code consists of a cryptic statement such as KMODE_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL followed by several long hex numbers (we define hex numbers later in this chapter). If you get the dreaded screen, write down the entire error code and search for it either on Google™ or on Microsoft's Knowledge Base. More information on searching for error messages is available in Chapter 11. If you don't get useful information and want to get support from Microsoft, they'll ask you for the memory.dmp file so they can diagnose the problem by reviewing everything that was in memory at the time the stop error occurred. Note that this file can be very large. Figure 2.10 shows the 2000 Startup and Recovery page.
Figure 2.10: Windows 2000 Startup and Recovery settings.
Performance (9x only): We discuss the Performance tab in the Windows Performance section later in the chapter.
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