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Using the Windows XP Control Panel - Free Computer Tutorials

Posted by Jim Bernstein

There is more to using a computer than simply turning it on and checking your email or typing a document in your favorite word processing program. There are many other configuration changes that can be done to your computer that allow you to get the most out of your system. Fortunately Windows puts these tools in one place making it easy to find what you need to make most system changes that will need to be done on your computer.

The Control Panel in Windows XP is where many of your administrative and configuration tools are located. Other versions of Windows have a Control Panel as well but we will focus on Windows XP since it is a widely used version of Microsof'ts operating system. To get to the Control Panel click on Start and then Control Panel or Start, Settings, Control Panel depending on what Start Menu you are using.

Below is an example of typical Control Panel tools. Your icons will vary depending on what you have installed in your system. For example will not have an icon for the Intel GMA driver unless you have an Intel video card or a SigmaTel Audio driver unless you have a SigmaTel sound card. In general, you should have the same tools that you would on any other computer running Windows XP.

Now we will go over the functions of the various Control Panel icons so you can get an idea of what they are for and how you can use them to improve your Windows experience.

Accessibility Options - Here you can change settings for your keyboard, mouse, display and sound. Accessibility Options are covered in more detail here.

Add Hardware - This will open the Add Hardware Wizard which will search your computer for new hardware that you have installed when Windows does not recognize it on its own.

Add or Remove Programs - If you need to install or uninstall any software on your computer, this is where you will do it. You should always uninstall software rather than delete it from your hard drive. Add or Remove Programs is covered in more detail here.

Administrative Tools - This section of your Control Panel is used for administrative functions such as managing your computer, monitoring performance, editing your security policy and administering your computer's services. Administrative tools are covered in more detail here.

Automatic Updates - Here is where you tell Windows how and when to update itself. You can control whether or not it downloads updates automatically or at all and when you want them installed or to ask you before installing them.

Bluetooth Devices - If you are using any Bluetooth devices on your computer here is where you can add, remove and manage them.

Date and Time - This one explains itself. You can set your computer's date, time and regional settings here.

Display - The display settings allow you to change the way things appear on the screen. You can adjust items like the screen resolution and color depth. Here is where you can select your background wallpaper and setup your screensaver.

Folder Options - This is where you can adjust the way you view your files and folders from within My Computer or Windows Explorer. Folder Options are covered in more detail here.

Fonts - The Fonts applet allows you to add, remove and manage fonts on your computer. It will show you what fonts are installed in your system.

Game Controllers - If you use a joystick, steering wheel or any other type of game controller you can use this section to add, remove and troubleshoot the devices.

Internet Options - If you use Internet Explorer for your web browser you will go here to change settings such for history, connections and security among other things. Internet Options are covered in more detail here.

Keyboard - Here you can adjust settings such as how fast the keyboard will repeat a character when a key is held down and the cursor blink rate.

Mail - The Mail applet lets you adjust your properties for your Outlook or Exchange email settings.

Mouse - Here you can adjust your mouse setting for features such as double click speed, button assignment and scrolling. You can also change your mouse pointers and effects as well as view details about your mouse.

Network Connections - This item is where you can check and adjust your network connection settings. It will take you to the same place as if you were to right click My Network Places and choose properties. It will show all of your active network, dialup and wireless connections. There is also a New Connection Wizard to help you setup a new connection.

Phone and Modem Options - If you have a modem installed on your system and use it for dialup connections or faxing you can change the settings here. The Dialing Rules tab allows you to change settings for things such as dialing a number to get an outside line and setting up carrier codes for long distance and using calling cards. The Modems tab allows you to add, remove and changed the properties for installed modems. The Advanced tab is for setting up telephony providers.

Power Options - Here is where you adjust the power settings of your computer. Windows has built in power schemes for different settings such as when to turn off the monitor or hard drives and when to go into standby mode. You can even create your own schemes and save them. The advanced tab allows you to assign a password to bringthe computer out of standby and tell the computer what to do when the power or sleep buttons are pressed. If you want to enable hibernation or configure an attached UPS then you can do it here as well. This area can also be accessed from the display properties settings under the Screensaver tab.

Printers and Faxes - This area is where your printers are installed and where you would go to manage their settings. It's the same area that is off of the Start menu. There is an add printer wizard which makes it easy to install new printers. To manage a printer you would simply right click it and select properties.

Regional and Language Options - If you need to have multiple languages or formats for currency, date and time you can manage them here.

Scanners and Cameras - Windows provides a central place to manage your attached scanners and camera and adjust their settings. There is even a wizard to add new devices to make the process of installing a scanner or camera easier.

Scheduled Tasks - This item provides the ability for you to schedule certain programs to run at certain times of the day. For example if you have a batch file you want to run every night you can set it up here. You can also have it run a program at any scheduled interval you choose. There is a handy wizard to help you through the process.

Security Center - The Windows Security Center checks the status of your computer for the stats of your firewall, virus protection and automatic updates. A firewall helps protect your computer by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to it through a network or the Internet. Antivirus software can help protect your computer against viruses and other security threats. With Automatic Updates, Windows can routinely check for the latest important updates for your computer and install them automatically.

Sounds and Devices - Here is where you can adjust your sound and speaker settings. The Volume tab has settings to mute your system, have a volume icon placed in the taskbar and tell your computer what type of speakers you are using such as a 5.1 system. The sounds tab lets you adjust what sounds occur for what windows events. If you need to change what device is used for playback and recording you can do it under the Audio tab. Voice playback and recording settings are under the Voice tab. To troubleshoot your sound device you can use the Hardware tab. This is where you can get information about your particular sound device.

Speech Properties - Windows has a feature for text to speech translation where the computer will read text from documents using a computer voice that you can hear through your speakers. The type of voice and speed of the speech can be adjusted here.

System - If you have ever right clicked My Computer and selected Properties then you have used the System feature of Control Panel. This area gives you information about your computer's configuration, name and network status. You can click on the Hardware tab to view details about hardware profiles and driver signing as well as get to Device Manager. The Advanced tab lets you change settings for virtual memory (page files) and other performance settings. There is also an area to change startup and recovery settings if needed. If you want to enable remote access to your computer for Remote Desktop or Remote Assistance you can enable it here.

Taskbar and Start Menu - This is where you change the setting for your taskbar and Start menu. These settings are described in detail here.

User Accounts - If you need to manage your local computer users then here is where you need to go. You can add remove users and change the account types for users who log into your system. This feature is described in more detail here.

Windows Firewall - This is the same firewall setting described in the Windows Security Center section.

Wireless Network Setup Wizard - This wizard is used to help you setup a security enabled wireless network in which all of your computer and devices connect through a wireless access point.

See Next:
Windows 7 Control Panel Options

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