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Stupid Geek Tricks: Enable the Secret "How-To Geek" Mode in Windows 7

We haven’t told anybody before, but Windows has a hidden “How-To Geek Mode” that you can enable which gives you access to every Control Panel tool on a single page—and we’ve documented the secret method for you here.

Update: Do not use this on Vista. If you did, you can use Ctrl+Shift+Esc to start task manager, File \ Run and open a command prompt with cmd.exe, and then use the rmdir command to get rid of the folder.

To activate the secret How-To Geek mode, right-click on the desktop, choose New –> Folder, and then give it this name:

How-To Geek.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

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Once you’ve done so, you’ll have activated the secret mode, and the icon will change…

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Double-click on the icon, and now you can use the How-To Geek mode, which lists out every single Control Panel tool on a single page.

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At this point you might notice why this is a stupid geek trick—it’s much easier to use the default Control Panel than navigating through a massive list, and anybody that really calls themselves a geek will be using the Start Menu or Control Panel search box anyway.

In case you were wondering, this is the same as that silly “God Mode” trick that everybody else is writing about. For more on why it’s pointless, see Ed Bott’s post on the subject.

Alright, So It’s Not Really a Secret How-To Geek Mode

Sadly, this is nothing more than a stupid geek trick using a technique that isn’t widely known—Windows uses GUIDs (Globally Unique Identifiers) behind the scenes for every single object, component, etc. And when you create a new folder with an extension that is a GUID recognized by Windows, it’s going to launch whatever is listed in the registry for that GUID.

You can see for yourself by heading into regedit.exe and searching for {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} under the HKCR \ CLSID section. You’ll see on the right-hand pane that it’s the “All Tasks” view of the Control Panel, which you can’t normally see from the UI.

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You can use this same technique for other Windows objects by doing some digging around in the registry… for instance, if you were to search under HKCR \ CLSID for “Recycle Bin”, you’d eventually come across the right key—the one on the left-hand side here:

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So if you created a folder with the name “The Geek Knows Deleted Files.{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}”, you’d end up with this icon, clearly from the Recycle Bin.

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And it’s even a fully functional Recycle Bin… just right-click and you’ll see the menu:

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So here’s the quick list of the ones I felt like digging up, but I’m sure there’s more things you can launch if you really felt like it.

Recycle Bin: {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}

My Computer: {20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

Network Connections: {7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E}

User Accounts: {60632754-c523-4b62-b45c-4172da012619}

Libraries:  {031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}

To use any of them, simply create a new folder with the syntax AnyTextHere.{GUID}

Create Shortcuts to GUIDs

Since the GUID points to a Windows object launched by Windows Explorer, you can also create shortcuts and launch them directly from explorer.exe instead of creating the folder. For instance, if you wanted to create a shortcut to My Computer, you could paste in the following as the location for a new shortcut:

explorer ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

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And just like that, you’d have a shortcut to My Computer, which you can customize with a different icon, and a shortcut key if you so choose.

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Yeah, it’s a stupid geek trick, but it’s always fun to learn new things.

Note: The Control Panel’s All Items hack and the Libraries hack will probably only work in Windows 7. The others should work in any version of Windows.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/3/10

Comments (43)

  1. Flexstyle

    Nice post! I recently stumbled upon some similar posts, and apparently several folks with the 64-bit version of Windows killed their systems by using this hack. I’m not brave enough to try it, so I can’t verify this for certain, but it’s worth knowing.

  2. Vadersapien

    Nice trick! Saw it in the forums earlier…is this where you got the idea from?

  3. The Geek

    I’m using 64-bit Windows in all the screenshots.

    There’s also no way this could possibly kill your system. It’s just a folder/shortcut.

  4. Vadersapien

    @Geek – It will crash your explorer on Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

  5. The Geek

    @Vadersapien

    I’ll add a note to the post that I only tested it under Windows 7.

  6. Richard

    Nice tip. Thanks.

    Is there anyway to hide the GUID, the code in braces {} from appearing in the name?

  7. Tom

    @Geek – it killed Windows Explorer on my 64-bit Vista Home Premium. Can’t get it to come back. Can run tasks from Task Manager, but starting Explorer causes a crash every time.

  8. Stephen

    You can also use this technique, at least in XP, to make drop-down menus of the control panel, “My Computer”, “My Documents,” or anything else that you want. Just make the folder in your toolbars menu, use the appropriate GUID tag, then activate the toolbar on your taskbar.

  9. Benoit

    I can confirm it doesn’t work on Vista 64-bit and my system explorer is in an endless loop of crash and restart ! Any pointers to a solution ?

  10. Benoit

    I found a solution to fix my crashing explorer in Vista 64-bit. First with the task manager kill explorer.exe. Download ExplorerXP or any other file manager for Winodws and install it. Use the task manager to launch it and then delete the folder you created that is crashing your Windows Explorer. Launch explorer.exe with the task manager… end of story !

  11. Tom

    From Ed Bott’s page – someone posted a link on how to fix Vista 64-bit:

    Open task manager and run cmd.exe. Navigate to c:\Users\your username\Desktop and then run this command:

    rd “Master Control.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}”

    That will remove the folder causing explorer.exe to crash. It helped me.

  12. Murfman

    It will definitely crash 64-bit bit Vista.

  13. Andreas

    It’s not working on XP – perhaps because I’m local admin only? The shortcut names won’t shorten down (they continue to show the GUID), it’s not taking the icon and when I click it, Windows prompts me with its “Windows cannot open this file” popup.

  14. Elvis

    I seem to have problems adding a comment here, when I’m logged in. It says it lacks name and e-mail fields even though I’m logged in.

    Anyway, my comment on this article:

    Using Win7 64, and no crash has occurred.

    BTW brilliant hint.

    Would you consider creating an article on how to find those GUIDs?
    Are they all under “HKCR \ CLSID”?

    Is there a way to have a fully functional recycle bin on the taskbar, as in being able to right click on the recycle bin on the taskbar and choosing empty recycle bin?

  15. kingmangfx

    Noticed also that the brackets still show in the name of the folder, while the screenshots above show them hidden somehow. ?

  16. Mikey

    How exactly do you delete the folder using the rmdir command using vista? I cant seem to get it off. Please help me

  17. Peter Ehlert

    Dude! PLEASE make sure that you get some BIG PRINT on that “don’t do this on Vista” thing! It put me in a continuous loop of explorer.exe crashing and restarting… it was rather distracting to say the least.
    There was no way could I get the rmdir to work on that folder (worked fine on other folders)
    I ended up booted to a Ubuntu CD and used that file management tool to nuke that folder.

  18. The Geek

    I’ve added a much bigger comment to the top.

  19. The Geek

    @Mikey

    Open up cmd.exe from Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) using File -> Run. Then type in:

    cd c:\users\YOURUSERNAME\desktop
    dir
    rmdir THEDIRECTORYNAMEHERE

  20. Mikey

    the Folder is virtual invisible on my desktop. So, can i use the same name that the trick told me to copy? sorry for the hassle

  21. The Geek

    @Mikey

    Yes.

  22. Mikey

    @ The Geek
    Sorry but it isnt working at all. When i do it, the response is that it cannot find the path specified. what if i restore the computer to an earler date, will that help in anyway if not, i know your probably frustrated by now but please, i would really appreciate your help through solving this

  23. The Geek

    @Mikey

    Is your current folder the C:\users\Username\Desktop folder? You should put it into quotes, like this:

    rd “How-To Geek.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}”

  24. Odeho19

    I honestly don’t understand what people are having such a big hassle about this over. I’m on Vista Ultimate 32-bit, and I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WHAT SO EVER! This is just a neatly hidden, cool looking, (i.e. no moronic short cut arrow), short cut. This would be not much different than going to the Control Panel, (or any other Explorer Window for that matter), and right clicking in the address bar, and chosing to “copy address”, and then pasting it on the desktop. The only differences are the cooler name, and the better looking icon (minus the aforementioned “shortcut arrow”)

    Oh, and the other difference is that ALL the Control Panel options are now alphabetically listed. But everything works the same.

  25. Mikey

    there is progress… thanks man but the final thing is that when i run it it, the response is that it the process cannot access the file because it is in use by another process. I am figuring that other process is the looping error message from wndows explorer but how do i by pass it?

  26. The Geek

    Kill explorer from task manager and try.

  27. PJY

    Wow, you should nuke this post…. You should have a HUGE text saying NOT FOR VISTA. Change the title of the page to Windows 7 not just “Windows”

  28. The Geek

    @PJY:

    I very clearly have it in bold letters at the top of the article.

  29. marvin

    @ Richard et al

    You can hide the GUID as follows:

    – Usual caveat – don’t mess with the registry unless you know what you’re doing

    Start regedit, go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. Take ownership of this key, note your permissions then add Full Control. Create a new string value named “NeverShowExt” & leave its data blank. Reset your your permissions to their original values. You may need to log off and log on again before the GUID disappears.

  30. Vadersapien

    @Geek – Is there one of those GUID’s that show the start menu? I think it’d be quite useful for integrating into your own applications(dock/docklets etc.)

  31. paul

    After reading, Odeho19’s comment saying, “I honestly don’t understand what people are having such a big hassle about this over. I’m on Vista Ultimate 32-bit, and I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WHAT SO EVER!” I decided to give it a try. I am using the 32-bit version of Vista Enterprise on a “locked” work computer so I didn’t see much downside.

    Needless to say, I can report that the 32-bit Enterprise yielded the same results as the 32-bit Ultimate.

    Cool!!!!!!

    p.s. I tried the Windows 7 “Library” one for fun but that did not work. I would love to see similar capability in Vista that doesn’t require a registry hack of Admin privileges. :)

  32. Doctor

    agree @ Paul I have not issues with it whats so ever

  33. bryan888

    @marvin
    I can’t take the ownership of the key HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} It says : “Unable to save permission changes on {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. Access is denied.” Without the ownership of that key, I can’t create a new key! I am using Win7 Enterprise.

  34. Dwight Stegall

    You can rename that to anything you want.

    Geek Me.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

    God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

  35. marvin

    @ bryan888

    You will need to be running regedit as a member of the Administrators group. In the registry key Permissions dialog, click ‘Advanced’, then choose the ‘Owner’ tab and take ownership. If this fails, you will get a message “Unable to set new owner”, not the message you saw.

  36. Dot2Kode

    Works fine with 64 bit Windows 7 Ultimate..No crashes..Nice tip..Thanks!

  37. James

    Geek,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I installed that on my Vista 64 machine and it killed it with an infinite loop. I was thinking i’d have to re-install the OS and software to fix. You’ll detailed tips saved me countless hours of fuastration.

  38. Juan

    There’s also GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
    for windows 7

  39. markus

    Vista x64 users DO NOT USE THIS TWEAK!!!

    For Vista x64 users, make a shortcut and set it to point to: explorer.exe shell:::{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

    This is 100% functional.

  40. vgamesx1

    @The Geek…There is a much better way to do this.

    Goto my computer and at the addressbar type “All Tasks” and enter.
    also for a shortcut just click on the icon in the addressbar and hold and drag to your desktop or wherever.
    Now you have an All tasks like this hack but with no messing with the registry.

  41. David

    I found that I couldn’t perform the task because of an error about using symbols not allowed? I am using Win7 Pro 64bit 8GB

  42. Kendrick

    Cool article, was messing around with a whole load of things from the “regedit.exe” Quite fun indeed. Thanks ‘The Geek’!

  43. Deepika

    Loved this interesting trick…….. Keep posting… :))

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