Monday, November 17, 2008

Network Connections in Vista

For those who have used previous versions of Windows (up to XP), you may have grown accustomed to being able to quickly open the Network Connections folder. It's the folder that displays all your dial-up connections, Local Area connections, 1394 connections and Wireless connections.

Someone in the Windows Vista development team was smart enough to decide to bury this folder, thinking the new Windows users won't need to have immediate access to this folder because of the new "Connect To" wizard and the "Network and Sharing Center."

How wrong of them! I definitely prefer to see things in the Network Connections folder and hate it that I have to open the "Connect To" wizard, then the "Network and Sharing Center" and finally the "Network Connections" folder. If you're like me, you'd want to create a shortcut somewhere. Here are four methods:

  • If you just want a quick and dirty solution, simply create a shortcut to "ncpa.cpl" or "C:\Windows\system32\ncpa.cpl". Beauty Tip: Change the icon to the first icon of netshell.dll.
  • You can create a "clone" of the actual Network Connections folder. Clone means it's not a simple shortcut but functions like a real folder. That means if you see it in any menu (e.g. Quick Launch menu), you can point to it to display your connections in a sub-menu.
    1. Open Network Connections folder.
    2. Right-click the address bar and select "Copy Address" (not Copy Address as Text).
    3. Open the folder where you want the clone to appear. (e.g. Quick Launch)
    4. Right-click an empty area and select "Paste Shortcut." You may need to refresh (F5) to see the icon.
  • The following method is for advanced users only. If you want to create a real shortcut to Network Connections (not to ncpa.cpl but to the actual Network Connections in Control Panel), do the below.
    1. First of all, create the clone as mentioned above.
    2. Open the cloned folder in Command Prompt and issue the "dir" command. You will see "target.lnk".
    3. Copy this file "target.lnk" using the "copy" command to a folder where you want the real shortcut to appear.
    4. Open the folder in Explorer and rename the copied shortcut to "Network Connections."
    If you right-click the shortcut and select Properties, you will see the difference.
  • The following method requires editing of Windows registry. Incorrect modification of registry may cause irreversible damage to Windows.
    To enable Network Connections in the Control Panel menu (Classic View), open Registry Editor (regedit) and browse to
    "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\don't load"
    Delete or rename the value called "ncpa.cpl"
    Additional Tip: Delete or rename "desk.cpl" to enable the "Display Settings" icon in Control Panel.
    Close Registry Editor and refresh Control Panel.

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