Control Panel Items as Desktop Icons

Recent versions of Windows have ever more Control Panel items implemented as shell folders rather than as CPL modules. A consequence is that many can be placed directly on the desktop, as system objects with no shortcut overlay. Whether anyone should want to do this as more than an amusement, I don’t know, but the desire to give Control Panel items a higher profile than they have within the Control Panel is not unprecedented: see that the Start Menu for a new user has space on its right side for Connect To and Default Programs.

Placing a shell-folder Control Panel item on the desktop is as easy as creating a registry key

Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\NameSpace\clsid

The clsid placeholder provides a class ID (CLSID) as a sequence of numbers and hyphens enclosed in curly braces. Each Control Panel item has its own CLSID. A list is presented shortly.

An alternative is explicitly supported (by SHELL32) in which the CLSID is instead given as the default value of a subkey whose name may be pretty much anything:

Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\NameSpace\anything
Value: default
Type: REG_SZ
Data: clsid

Either way, adding to the first of the keys, under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, is typically easier because the key exists already. However, it has the effect of adding the icon to the desktop for all users. This may be what you want, but if not, add to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER branch even though you may have to build the tree before you can add the subkey.

After adding the key, you will typically have to refresh the desktop to get the key noticed. Just click on the desktop and press F5.

Applicable Items

The Control Panel items that are known to be implemented as shell folders in Windows Vista are:

Add Hardware {7A979262-40CE-46FF-AEEE-7884AC3B6136}
Administrative Tools {D20EA4E1-3957-11D2-A40B-0C5020524153}
AutoPlay {9C60DE1E-E5FC-40F4-A487-460851A8D915}
Backup and Restore Center {335A31DD-F04B-4D76-A925-D6B47CF360DF}
BitLocker Drive Encryption {D9EF8727-CAC2-4E60-809E-86F80A666C91}
Color Management {B2C761C6-29BC-4F19-9251-E6195265BAF1}
Connect To {38A98528-6CBF-4CA9-8DC0-B1E1D10F7B1B}
Default Programs {17CD9488-1228-4B2F-88CE-4298E93E0966}
Device Manager {74246BFC-4C96-11D0-ABEF-0020AF6B0B7A}
Ease of Access Center {D555645E-D4F8-4C29-A827-D93C859C4F2A}
Folder Options {6DFD7C5C-2451-11D3-A299-00C04F8EF6AF}
Fonts {D20EA4E1-3957-11D2-A40B-0C5020524152}
Get Programs {15EAE92E-F17A-4431-9F28-805E482DAFD4}
Get Programs Online {3E7EFB4C-FAF1-453D-89EB-56026875EF90}
iSCSI Initiator {A304269D-52B8-4526-8B1A-A1D6CECC8243}
Network and Sharing Center {8E908FC9-BECC-40F6-915B-F4CA0E70D03D}
Network Map {E7DE9B1A-7533-4556-9484-B26FB486475E}
Parental Controls {96AE8D84-A250-4520-95A5-A47A7E3C548B}
Performance Information and Tools {78F3955E-3B90-4184-BD14-5397C15F1EFC}
Personalization {ED834ED6-4B5A-4BFE-8F11-A626DCB6A921}
Power Options {025A5937-A6BE-4686-A844-36FE4BEC8B6D}
Printers {2227A280-3AEA-1069-A2DE-08002B30309D}
Problem Reports and Solutions {FCFEECAE-EE1B-4849-AE50-685DCF7717EC}
Programs and Features {7B81BE6A-CE2B-4676-A29E-EB907A5126C5}
Scanners and Cameras {00F2886F-CD64-4FC9-8EC5-30EF6CDBE8C3}
Speech Recognition Options {58E3C745-D971-4081-9034-86E34B30836A}
Sync Center {9C73F5E5-7AE7-4E32-A8E8-8D23B85255BF}
System {BB06C0E4-D293-4F75-8A90-CB05B6477EEE}
Taskbar and Start Menu {0DF44EAA-FF21-4412-82BE-260A8728E7F1}
User Accounts {60632754-C523-4B62-B45C-4172DA012619}
Welcome Center {CB1B7F8C-C50A-4176-B604-9E24DEE8D4D1}
Windows Anytime Upgrade {BE122A0E-4503-11DA-8BDE-F66BAD1E3F3A}
Windows CardSpace {78CB147A-98EA-4AA6-B0DF-C8681F69341C}
Windows Defender {D8559EB9-20C0-410E-BEDA-7ED416AECC2A}
Windows Firewall {4026492F-2F69-46B8-B9BF-5654FC07E423}
Windows Mobility Center {5EA4F148-308C-46D7-98A9-49041B1DD468}
Windows Sidebar Properties {37EFD44D-EF8D-41B1-940D-96973A50E9E0}
Windows SideShow {E95A4861-D57A-4BE1-AD0F-35267E261739}
Windows Ultimate Extras {4D1209BD-36E2-4E2F-840D-6C7FB879DD9E}
Windows Update {36EEF7DB-88AD-4E81-AD49-0E313F0C35F8}

Not all items are available in all Windows editions. The Connect To and Network Map items do not show on the desktop without the same additional preparation that is described in Unhide Two Network Icons in Control Panel for making them show in the Control Panel.