It’s time to personalise your Operating System. We walk you through the essentials of using and customising settings with the Windows Control Panel
You may be keen to change settings on your computer. While changes to display settings, colours and wallpaper are common, you may fail to take advantage of the configuration options found in the various applets within the Control Panel.
If you're a new user, the Control Panel offers the ability to change input device settings, add, remove and troubleshoot hardware and software, configure input devices like your keyboard and mouse, and much more. If you're a more experienced user, Control Panel can be customised to a greater degree through a series of Registry tweaks and third-party utilities such as TweakUI. Accessibility Options
Among the more obscure applets in the Control Panel is Accessibility Options. Although the purpose of this applet is to configure Windows settings so that the environment is friendlier to users with motion, visual, and hearing disabilities, settings found here can often to useful to any user. This applet enables you to control various keyboard, sound, display and mouse settings. For example, the Keyboard tab enables you to configure settings known as Sticky Keys, Filter Keys and Toggle Keys. These mean you can press key combinations such as [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [Del] one key at a time rather than simultaneously, ignore brief repeated keystrokes, or play a sound when you press any of the Lock keys. Toggle keys is especially useful if you tend to accidentally press [Caps Lock] and then type a paragraph of text before you even notice.
Other options found in this tool include the ability to display visual representations of system sounds, configure your number keypad to act as your mouse and change display settings to high contrast.Add/Remove
The Add/Remove tools in Control Panel will probably be among those you’ll visit most often. While the Add/Remove Hardware applet gives you access to a wizard environment used to add, remove, unplug or troubleshoot hardware, visits to Add/Remove Programs are far more common. This tool not only enables you to add, remove and change software, but also enables you to change installed operating system components (such as games or other utilities), and provides you with a graphical interface from which to create a bootable floppy disk.
Obviously, removing unused software with help to free up system components. However, creating a bootable floppy disk should be a priority for all users, since it will ultimately prove indispensable should your system be unable to boot.Display settings
The Display applet is a common tool that you’re probably already familiar with. Not only does it enable you to control various colour and desktop layout settings, but you also use this tool to configure screen savers, desktop wallpaper, visual effects and more. The most important options are those found on the Settings tab, since these enable you to control both the display resolution and colour depth used. If your display seems less than vivid, try either a higher colour depth or higher resolution. If these options cannot be changed, it’s likely that you’ve got the wrong video driver for your system installed – check the manufacturer’s Web site for an update.Keyboard and Mouse
The Control Panel also enables you to control a variety of external devices. Although the exact options available will differ depending on your version of Windows, the keyboard and mouse applets are a required visit.
For example, using the keyboard applet you can install additional languages, or control the keyboard delay and repeat rate. Change to a slower repeat delay if you have a tendency to hold down individual keys for too long and accidentally end up with multiple instances of a character onscreen. The mouse applet enables you to change a wide variety of settings, including the speed at which your mouse responds to double-clicks, the hand-orientation of the mouse (a definite visit for readers who are left-handed), and even change the Windows pointers used.Sounds
The fact that your computer plays sounds is great, but you may want to mute the volume permanently. Whether it’s more, less or different sounds that you’re after, a visit to the Sounds applet will solve your problem.
From this tool you can change and preview the sounds associated with events like a critical stop, exclamation, receiving new email and even the one played at Windows startup. One particular sound that you may want to be rid of is the clicking noise associated with accessing a file or folder. If so, go to the Windows Explorer section and set the sound associated with the Start Navigation item to None. Power Management
Regardless of whether you’re a desktop or laptop user, you’ll want to explore the Power Management applet. The settings that appear here will differ depending upon the power management standards (such as APM or ACPI) that your system supports. However, you’ll want to configure system standby settings, which control when your PC’s components go into a low power mode. Not only is this environmentally conscious, but not configuring system standby settings will ultimately lead to an unpleasantly higher utility bill for users who leave their PC powered on regularly.Regional Settings
The Regional Settings applet is used to control the way that Windows will display and sort dates, numbers, currencies, and time by default. For example, you might choose to change the default currency symbol or the way that positive and negative values are displayed.User settings
The Users applet on a Windows 98 system enables you to add additional users accounts to your PC, as well as control whether they are given a dedicated user profile. When users are created and given individual profiles, they can be granted access to their own dedicated desktop, My Documents folder, favorites and more.Control Panel add-ins
Beside the applets covered in this article, Control Panel provides access to Internet properties, folder options, as well as configuration settings for faxes, networking, printers, modems, and more. Furthermore, individual programs such as Norton Antivirus, QuickTime and others may also add their own dedicated applet, enabling you to configure related settings. Each of these is worth exploring according to your needs. Dedicated user profiles
Create dedicated users and profiles settings in Windows 98
1. Click Start, point to Settings, and then select Control Panel. Double-click the Users icon to open the Enable Multi-user settings wizard. Click Next. Enter a username for the new account and click Next.
2. At the Enter a new password screen, type in a password for the account in both the Password and confirm password text boxes, and click Next.
3. At the Personalized Items Settings screen, check the items that you want to be unique for this user account. Click Next and Finish. After you reboot your PC, log on as the new user to view the settings.Hide Control Panel applets
Save your settings by concealing Control Panel applets from other users
Although Control Panel enables you to customise a large number of system settings according to your preferences, it doesn’t take much for another user to ‘help’ you by changing these settings. Luckily, most users will head straight to Control Panel to make their changes. That’s good news for you, because it’s relatively easy to hide Control Panel applets using the Windows Registry, files like control.ini, and popular utilities such as TweakUI.
TweakUI is by far the easiest method of hiding individual applets. Once installed, the Control Panel tab enables you to simply check and uncheck the individual applets that you want displayed. While this method will hide the applet, it does not render it inaccessible, since it can still be opened by providing the path to the associated .cpl file.
If editing files or the Registry is more your style, on Windows 98 systems you can edit the contents of Control Panel by editing the control.ini file found in the Windows folder. In the section marked [don’t load], add entries for the individual applets, such as datetime.cpl=no in order for the Date and Time applet to be hidden.