Windows Management and Maintenance : The Windows 7 Control Panel (part 4) - AutoPlay

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4. AutoPlay

AutoPlay isn’t new to Windows 7. Its ancestor, Autorun, has been used to automatically start programs from a CD or DVD drive since Windows 95. In Windows XP, AutoPlay was extended to USB drives and other types of removable-media drives. AutoPlay is found in the Hardware and Sound category of the Control Panel and is also available in Classic view.

Windows 7 follows the lead of Windows Vista in how AutoPlay is configured. Rather than being configured on a drive-by-drive basis through the AutoPlay tab in a drive’s Properties dialog box as in Windows XP, Windows 7’s AutoPlay applet (see Figure 6) permits you to configure AutoPlay defaults for different types of media and multimedia files on a global basis.

Figure 6. Using the AutoPlay applet to configure global settings for automatically recognizing media and file types.

Unlike Windows XP’s AutoPlay, which was primarily designed for photos, music, and video files, Windows 7’s AutoPlay also includes support for various types of CD and DVD movie discs, including HD DVD, Blu-ray Disc movies, DVD-Audio, Video CD, and Super Video CD. This is made possible in part by Windows Media Player 12’s built-in support for DVD video and also enables you to use specialized players for certain types of video discs if you want.

AutoPlay also includes support for devices you connect to your system, as well as built-in devices. As in Windows XP and Vista, the exact programs available for any media or media file type vary according to the programs installed. You can also disable AutoPlay for particular media or media file types or globally.

Windows 7’s AutoPlay is safer than in its predecessors in two important ways:

  • Autorun.inf files on non-optical removable media drives (such as USB flash memory drives) are ignored by AutoPlay, so that users cannot be tricked into running malware from the drive.

  • If the media contains one or more programs, AutoPlay indicates that the programs will be run from the media.

5. Color Management

The Color Management dialog is designed to help you configure your displays, printers, and scanners to produce more accurate color. Color Management helps your display and printer to produce matching colors and photo editing programs to create or edit images that are optimized for web, print, or display purposes.

Color Management uses files known as color profiles to achieve these goals. Color profiles are provided by display, graphics software, and printer vendors, and you can also create your own by using calibration software.

Color Management has three tabs: Devices, All Profiles, and Advanced. Use the Devices tab to determine what (if any) color profile is in use for your displays, printers, and scanners. Use the All Profiles tab to display the color profiles installed on your system. Use the Advanced tab to select the color profile to use for various types of images and to calibrate your monitor.

6. Date and Time

Date and Time is a simple applet you’re sure to have used in the past to adjust the system date and time. That is, it adjusts the hardware clock in the computer, which is maintained by a battery on the motherboard. The system date and time are used for myriad purposes, including date- and time-stamping the files you create and modify, stamping email, controlling the Task Scheduler program for automatic application running, and so on. Date and Time is found in the Clock, Language, and Region category of the Control Panel and is also available in Small Icons/Large Icons views.


The Date and Time applet doesn’t change the format of the date and time, only the actual date and time stored on your computer’s clock.

When you’re a member of a Microsoft network domain, you should never need to set the clock. It is kept synchronized to the domain controller (Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Server 2008). Many network services, including authentication protocols and replication, require exact or close synchronization of all systems within the network.

If your system is part of a workgroup or just a standalone system, you can sync your clocks with an Internet time server. The Date and Time applet includes a third tab for doing just that. However, this capability is not available on domain clients. The ability to sync with an Internet time server through the Date and Time applet is reserved for workgroup members, standalone systems, and domain controllers.

The Date and Time applet can also be accessed by clicking the clock and selecting Change Date and Time Settings or right-clicking over the clock and selecting Adjust Date/Time. To set the date and time, follow these steps:

Run the Date and Time applet.

Click Change Date and Time.

Alter the time and date by typing in the corrections or by clicking the arrows. The trick is to click directly on the hours, minutes, seconds, or AM/PM area first, and then use the little arrows to the right of them to set the correct value. So, to adjust the a.m. or p.m., click AM or PM, and then click the little up or down arrow. After setting the month and year, you can click the day in the displayed calendar. Click OK.


You can also adjust the time and date using the time and date commands from a command prompt. For example, open a Command Prompt window (click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt), type time, and press Enter. This command displays the current time and a prompt to enter the new time, as shown here:

The current time is:
Enter the new time:

Enter the new time, or press Enter to leave the time as it is. The same process applies to the date. Type date and press Enter. The current date is displayed with a prompt to enter the new date, as shown here:

The current date is: Fri
Enter the new date: (mm-dd-yy)

Click the Change Time Zone button to adjust the zone. Why? It’s good practice to have your time zone set correctly for programs such as client managers, faxing programs, time synchronizing programs, or phone dialing programs. They may need to figure out where you are in relation to others and what the time differential is. Also, if you want your computer’s clock to be adjusted automatically when daylight saving time changes, be sure the Automatically Adjust Clock for Daylight Saving Changes check box is selected. Click OK.

Click the Internet Time tab. Click Change Settings. On this tab, you can enable clock synchronization with an Internet time server. Five known time servers are provided in the pull-down list, but you can type in others. If you want to force a sync, click the Update Now button.

Click OK to save changes and close the applet.

Dealing with Daylight Saving Time

If your system’s BIOS is also configured to automatically adjust for daylight saving time (DST), you may find that your system’s clock is set incorrectly when the time changes twice a year, because both the BIOS and Windows make the adjustment. You should disable your system BIOS’s DST adjustment and use Windows’ instead. There are two reasons:

First, it’s easier to configure time zones and settings from within Windows than from within the BIOS setup program.

Second, starting in 2007, DST in the United States begins the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November. A Windows update or the built-in Internet time synchronization feature will enable your system to know when DST starts and ends. If you leave your computer’s BIOS in charge of adjusting for DST, you will need to install a BIOS update—assuming that your PC’s manufacturer is keeping up with U.S. law on this topic. Wherever you live, keep in mind that Microsoft issues updates on a regular basis for time-zone changes around the world, so keeping your PC’s BIOS out of the time-zone adjusting business makes good sense everywhere.

When Internet synchronization is enabled, your clock is reset to match the time servers once each week. Internet synchronization should be configured only on systems with an active Internet connection. Clock synchronization does not initiate a dial-up connection. Plus, if there is a firewall or proxy server between your client and the Internet, the clock synchronization packets may be blocked.

Additional Clocks

Are you an eBay user? Do you need to know what time it is at headquarters? Whatever your reason for keeping an eye on other time zones, you can use the Additional Clocks tab to display up to two additional clocks.

Select the time zone (eBay runs on Pacific time, by the way) and provide a descriptive name to replace the default Clock 1 or Clock 2, and click Apply, then OK. When you hover your mouse over the date and time display in the notification area, the additional clocks are displayed along with the primary clock.

7. Default Programs

Default Programs can be found in the Programs category of the Control Panel, is also available in Large Icons and Small Icons views, and can also be opened directly from the Start menu’s right pane. It enables you to choose the default program you prefer for a particular file type, associate a file type with a particular program, change AutoPlay settings , and specify which programs are the defaults for web browsing, email, playing media, instant messaging, and providing Java Virtual Machine (JVM) support.

Set Your Default Programs

Select this option, and your default programs for web browsing, photo viewing, media playback, and so forth are displayed in the left pane. Select a program from the list, and select from two options listed in the right pane:

  • Set This Program as Default— Choose this option to use the selected program as the default for all file types and protocols it can open.

  • Choose Defaults for This Program— Choose this option to specify which file types and programs the application will open by default.

We recommend the second option. When you select it, each file and protocol type you can choose from is listed, along with the current default. To change all items listed to default to the selected program, click the Select All check box. To change only selected options, click the empty check box next to each item you want to change. Click Save to complete the process.

Set Associations

The Set Associations dialog box provides an easy way to change file associations from a single dialog box, rather than requiring you to right-click a file, select Open With, and choose a program. Set Associations lists the file extensions supported by applications on your system and the current default. Click a file extension to select it, click Change Program, and select the program from the list of recommended programs, or click Browse to find the program you prefer. Select the program and click OK to finish the process.

Set Program Access and Computer Defaults

Select this option, and you can select from up to four different configurations for web browsing, email, and other common activities:

  • Computer Manufacturer (available only on installations preinstalled by the computer manufacturer)

  • Microsoft Windows

  • Non-Microsoft

  • Custom

For maximum flexibility, choose Custom. In the Custom configuration, you can specify not only default programs but also whether to permit or deny access to non-Microsoft alternatives to the default web browser, email, media player, IM, and JVM programs on your system, such as Firefox or Opera web browsers, Thunderbird or Eudora email clients, AOL or Trillian IM clients, and so forth. Credit the existence of this feature to antitrust litigation against Microsoft for embedding IE and other technologies into the OS. In other words, this applet enables Windows 7 to play nicely with other vendors’ products.

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