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Windows XP and Vista expert tweaking guide

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Unclutter XP's Control Panel

Got a problem with Windows? There's no need to put up with elements that don't suit you. We've got the tools to help you get XP or Vista looking and acting just right.

Windows XP's Control Panel isn't exactly a model of simplicity – it's cluttered with many applets that you rarely, if ever, use. You can tweak it, however, to hide many applets.

To hide unused applets in Windows XP, launch the Registry Editor by typing regedit at the Start Search box or a command prompt. Go to Hkey_Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\don't load.

If the 'don't load' key doesn't exist, create it by choosing Edit, New, Key and naming it 'don't load'. The key, as its name implies, determines which Control Panel applet icons will be loaded into the Control Panel.

To hide an applet, create a new string value whose name is the filename of the applet you want to hide. For example, to hide the Mouse icon, the string value would be main.cpl. To create a string value, place your cursor on Hkey_Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\don't load, then select Edit, New, String Value and, for the value, give it the filename of the applet you want to hide.

You'll still be able to run those applets from the command line (and they may also appear in other places, such as XP's Common Tasks list on the lefthand side of the Control Panel window). You just won't be able to see their icons in the Control Panel.

You won't be able to hide every single Control Panel applet you find. Underlying the Control Panel is chaos; although many applets are .cpl files, some are links to folders or are controlled by .dll files. You'll only be able to hide applets controlled by .cpl files.

Create a separate string value for each applet you want to hide, then exit the Registry. To make a hidden applet appear again, delete its string value from this same Registry key.

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