Windows 7 Secrets (Part 1) : Got The Ultimate Control Panel

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Think you’re a Windows genius? Think again, as we present 20 lesser-known Windows features and hidden apps

Vista brought some cool new technology but was half-baked, and Windows 8 isn’t worth wasting ink to describe, but Windows 7 got it just about right. It has the feel of an executive saloon - Microsoft gave just enough care and attention to make for a smooth yet powerful experience.

However, under this veneer of luxury are quite a few hidden features offering power and flexibility. These can take the form of apps you won't find on the Start menu, or simple tricks that you can integrate into your workflow to shave a few seconds off your routines.

Depending on your level of expertise you may well have come across some of these before; if you consider yourself a guru, think of this article as a tick box exercise to see if we've mentioned your favorites. If we have missed something you find particularly useful, be sure to drop us an email mentioning what we’ve missed to [email protected]

Rename Files Quickly

If you’re working through a series of files and renaming them – newly imported digital camera images, for example don’t hit Enter after you’ve finished typing. Instead, tap Tab to instantly jump to the next filename, which will be automatically selected for editing. This works in all list and icon view modes of file browsing windows, although not on the desktop.

Switch Printers Automatically

Here's a tip if you use the same laptop at home and at work. Ever got frustrated when you try to print something at home and Windows automatically defaults to your office LaserJet? To avoid this you can make Windows set different default printers depending on which network your PC is connected to.

To set this useful feature up, get yourself to the Start menu, then click Devices and Printers. In the window that appears, select one of the printers and click the Manage Default Printers entry in the menu. This will open a dialog box with two dropdown lists – the first lets you select a network, and the second lets you select a printer to default to whenever you’re connected. Click Add when you’ve made your choices. Every network that you connect to can have its own choice - ideal if you're a ‘multi-homing’ worker!


Configure Startup

The savior of Windows administrators everywhere, msconfig.exe has been around since Windows 98 and originally offered a way to quickly configure startup programs and services. You can run it by clicking the Start button and typing msconfig into the search field, and when it appears you will notice that it offers you five tabs. General and Boot let you configure boot settings, while Service lets you set which background services and applications start when Windows does (be careful when configuring background services - always search online to make sure something that sounds useless isn’t actually vital). Applications that will be available on the startup menu appear under the Startup tab, but you’ll also see programs that have been configured to start by having had entries invisibility added to the registry. As such, msconfig is often a first port of call for those cleaning-up irritating malware infections.

Finally, the Tools tab lets you access a host of other administrative apps – the kind of thing offered in dialog boxes or configuration windows and which let you further configure certain aspects of Windows.

The ancient msconfig app lets you control what starts with Windows

The ancient msconfig app lets you control what starts with Windows

Got The Ultimate Control Panel

Talking of finding all the configuration options in one place: You might be used to enabling God mode in games but did you know Windows has one too? Just create a new folder somewhere, then rename it as follows:

GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01 C}

This will create a magical folder called GodMode. Similar to God mode in games, Windows’ GodMode allows you to cheat because it lists several hundred settings that you can tweak, plus useful help files. There's nothing here that you won‘! find scattered elsewhere within Windows but that's the point – GodMode brings everything together in organized lists for the sake of efficiency. Plus, considering that many windows features are ferreted away and rarely if ever see the light of day, GodMode is a pretty neat way of exploring what options are actually available. To get rid of the GodMode folder, just delete it.

GotMode Screenshot

GotMode Screenshot

Minimize With A Shake       

This is one of those features that’s bizarre, yet potentially life-saving: to minimize all but the current window, click and hold its taskbar and shake the mouse from left to right. Give it a try! It works in reverse too, and will maximize the windows you've just minimized in this way.

Monitor Your PC’s Reliability

Recent versions of Windows have brought with them the ability to detect and solve problems while this is often less than useful, an added bonus is that it will log problems and other incidents in a user-friendly way. You can view this data as a timeline using Windows’ Reliability Monitor: open the Start menu then type reliability into the search field. There should be only one result of the search, which you should click.

you can keep an eye on your PC's overall reliability using the Reliability Monitor tool

You can keep an eye on your PC's overall reliability using the Reliability Monitor tool

Critical events, such as apps quitting unexpectedly, are indicated on the timeline by a cross in a red circle. Warnings are indicated by exclamation marks in a yellow triangle. Events such as installing updates are shown as an I in a blue circle.

The blue line indicates your overall system stability on a scale from 1 to 10, where the latter indicates health. This scale is somewhat nebulous but, needless to say, if the blue line on your system is bumbling along at the 1-5 level then your system has a few issues you might want to look at.

Get More Right-click

If you hold down Shift before right-clicking a file, you’ll see a more detailed right-click menu offering many more options. Not only that but the sub-menus will be boosted too - the Send To menu will have many more options, for example.

“You might be used to enabling God mode in games, but did you know Windows has one too?”

Run A Web Server

Windows 7 comes with Internet Information Services (IIS), which is what Microsoft calls its web server software. In other words, if you're a web developer then everything you need to test sites is built in. You can activate llS by opening Control Panel, clicking the Programs link, and then click Turn Windows features On or Off. Then put a check alongside Internet Information Services. By default the FTP sewer is unselected, but you can also put a tick alongside that if you wish.

Windows 7 comes with Internet Information Services (IIS), which is what Microsoft calls its web server software.

Windows 7 comes with Internet Information Services (IIS), which is what Microsoft calls its web server software.

“If encrypting the entire drive sounds a little drastic, you can instead encrypt individual folders or even individual files”

Reboot and then visit http://localiost to see the IIS welcome screen. Document root can be found at C:\inetpub\wwwroot (replacing C: if necessary with the letter of the drive or partition

Windows is installed on). To learn how to install PHP and SQL, visit .

Retheme Online

Don’t like the built-in themes (i.e. wallpapers, color schemes and system sounds)? There are lots more official available just a download away – visit

Once you’ve downloaded the theme just click it once to install it. Interestingly for those who travel, you’ll find the equivalent of the United Kingdom theme for other countries.

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