Why pay for tools to make your PC faster, simpler and more secure when Windows includes all the options you need? We explain how to find and use them
If it sometimes seems as though you spend more time fighting with your PC than actually doing anything useful with it, you are not alone.
Setting up a PC to work the way you, not Microsoft, want can be a frustrating experience, as many settings and controls are tucked away in places that aren’t always obvious.
The web isn’t always much help, either – you often get complicated technical solutions that involve installing software, changing the Windows Registry, or other obscure tweaks and fixes.
What much of this advice ignores is that the most important settings are already available in one convenient place – the Windows Control Panel.
The only problem is that it’s not always clear where find a particular setting, so unless you know where to look it can be as good as useless. In this article, though, we will explain where to find all the best options for improving your PC.
Set the controls
Microsoft has always allowed users to change many Windows settings via the Control Panel icon that appears on the Start menu. But even this doesn't help if you don’t know what setting you are looking for.
For example, which item in Control Panel is used to change the computer’s name? There is no ‘change the name of this PC’ item in Control Panel – instead it’s hidden inside another option (System Properties). So we will reveal where all the handiest options can be found.
For convenience, we have grouped our tips into five categories, depending on whether you want to make the computer faster, simpler, easier to use, more secure or more attractive. But first, please note that there are several ways to view and organise the Control Panel.
To make this article clearer to follow for the different versions of Windows, we have used the XP and Vista control panels in Classic view and the Windows 7 panel in Icons view, not the default Category view.
Before we get into the five main categories, the following three sections include some useful information about the Control Panel, creating shortcuts and start up and hibernation.
Manage the Control Panel
The Control Panel can be viewed either as a list of icons or as a list of task categories. In category view it can be hard to find a particular task, but you can see more related options. Icon view is much simpler and is the view you should use in order to follow all the tips in this article.
In XP, Classic view shows icons and Category view shows task categories. To switch, click ‘Classic view’ at the top of the task pane at the left of Control Panel. To return, click Switch to Category view.
To list items by description in Classic view, right-click an empty space and choose Arrange icons by, then Show in Groups. Right-click again and choose Arrange icons by and Comments.
In Vista, click the link under Control Panel Home labelled Classic view. Icons can be grouped by right-clicking an empty space and choosing Group by, and then Category.
Windows 7 simply has a ‘View by’ dropdown menu at the top of the main Control Panel page to switch between Category, Large icon and Small icon views.
Updating your subscription status