Working With XP’s Control Panel System Applet

If you’ve been running Windows XP for longer than a couple of weeks, chances are good that you’ve already had at least some interaction with Control Panel. Control Panel acts as the central system configuration hub on Windows systems, and XP is no exception to this rule. Made up of different applets that allow you to control the configuration of your system from an intuitive graphical interface, using Control Panel to make configuration changes is generally much simpler (and safer) than alternatives like editing your system’s Registry manually.

While Control Panel includes a variety of applet to handle tasks ranging from the installation of new hardware to the configuration of accessibility options, one particular applet stands out from the rest – the System applet. The System applet is the primary tool used to configure a broad range of important and performance-enhancing system settings, so if you’re not already familiar with what it’s capable of, you’ll want to get up to speed. This month we take a closer look at the Control Panel System applet, reviewing the different settings it was designed to manage, helping you to make the best configuration choices for you and your system. By the time we’re finished, you’ll be much more in tune with everything that the System applet is capable of, and be that much more familiar with the ins and outs of making configuration changes with this powerful tool. Whether you’re looking to tweak and tune or simply understand more about how your system works, this mini-series has something for you!

While many of the tools found in Control Panel are aimed at configuring a very specific hardware or environmental element in Windows XP, the System applet is definitely an exception to this rule. Configurable elements and settings found in the properties of this applet include the ability to change your computer’s name, add it to a domain or workgroup, configure a variety of hardware and driver settings, enable Remote Assistance and Remote Access, change user profile settings, configure Automatic Update parameters, and change a variety of performance options.

Because the System applet allows you to configure such a wide variety of settings, the tool can be a little more confusing than it initially appears. Some of the tab sheets within its properties include buttons allowing you to dig deeper into a particular configuration area, some with a large number of available settings. To make things easier for you, we’ve grouped the subject areas within this article according to the tab they appear on, starting with Hardware. As we make our way through each you’ll learn that there’s much more to the System applet than may initially meet the eye.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.