Removing Control Panel Icons

If you have icons in your Windows Control Panel that link to programs that no longer exist, that ‘cos

  • you removed the host application (this is a somewhat arcane condition as only a few app links persist in Control Panel after the actual app has been uninstalled)
  • the linked application expired (I haven’t encountered this condition as I’m wary of using trial ware. If it ain’t free or open source I’m not interested in being a guinea pig)
  • the installer crashed (this happened most often with the Microsoft Office 2013 aka Office 365 installer – the live download failed to complete yet a Mail icon that linked nowhere kept appearing. )
    PS: If you’re looking for a good free office suite, LibreOffice is great

But you don’t have to live with such broken interfaces any longer. It’s possible (if you didn’t know how already) to actually remove such going nowhere icons.

For Windows XP users I recommend Microsoft’s own TweakUI Power Toy. Find a download link is the hard part as XP nears its end of life. The Microsoft Downloads link I used when I last used XP (was it 2010?) is dead. But you can get a copy from C|Net, FileHippo, SoftPedia and PCWorld.

In Windows Vista and 7 onwards (including Windows 8.x), you need to directly edit the registry. In general Windows Registry Editing is not something you should normally attempt  unless all seems to be nearly lost and there’s no other way to try and fix what’s broken internally.

Do make sure before you begin any Registry editing to make a complete Registry backup (this can be done from within the Registry Editor aka regedit). And before you resort to such extreme measure do first try something like the free CCleaner that includes its own Registry Scan module. If CCleaner can’t find and fix your problem, then you have to engage the Registry.

Here’s what I found online for Windows 7 (works for Windows Vista too):

Control panel applets are usually stored in the Windows\System32 folder, and will have a .cpl extension.

Switch to Details View, sort by Type, scroll almost all the way down to the Control Panel item type, see if the tool is listed there.

There may be other related DLLs that were not removed, but removing the .cpl file if present should keep it from appearing in Control Panel.

For Windows 8.x, things get a little complicated. I’m a coward and just leave things be, errors and all, since an unstable Windows 8 is worse than a Windows 8 with clutter 🙂 Still here goes on how to resolve broken modern app shortcuts via Microsoft Answers:

Head to users/user/appdata/local/microsoft/windows/applicationshortcuts

Once there do a search for each file within application shortcuts using the search bar in the top right of the explorer, you might need to play with the search terms.

I used the following terms, camera, microsoft ((for skydrive)), bing, modern.

You need to delete the little white shortcut tile (I had to adjust security settings first and give myself permission to delete within the app shortcuts file, but Windows will guide you through it.)

For the chat app, just delete and reinstall the calendar/people/mail group and its gone.

Do let me know if you needed this trick. And if you did indeed, how my suggestions worked for you.

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