Unlock Windows Potential: Control Panel Demystified

Tina Sieber 23-03-2015

If you want to be the master of your Windows experience, the Control Panel is where it’s at. While some people speculate that it may be replaced by the Settings app in Windows 10 7 Quick Tips & Hacks to Optimize Your Windows 10 Experience Windows 10 is more than an upgrade to Windows 8, it's an evolution. We've covered many of the big changes, but lots of minor things changed, too. Maybe we can teach you a new trick. Read More , it’s hard to imagine the Control Panel will ever go away. It may, however, join the Run menu and the Command Prompt as a power tool more or less exclusively employed by advanced users.


Control Panel Basics

The Control Panel hosts a collection of applets that let you adjust your computer’s settings. By default, you’ll see the category view. For a more comprehensive view of all applets, switch to large or small icons display via the View By: menu in the top right. The exact selection of applets depends on your hardware and version of Windows. The screenshots in this article were made in Windows 10 Technical Preview (TP).

Control Panel Category vs Icons View

Some features you can access include Windows troubleshooters (System and Security > Find and fix problems), desktop wallpapers (Appearance and Personalization > Change desktop background), or default programs (Programs > Default Programs).

How to Open the Control Panel

Microsoft has not shipped Windows with a keyboard shortcut Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More to the Control Panel since Windows Vista. If you’re still on Windows XP, Windows Key + C should bring it up. While the shortcut has vanished, many more routes still lead to the Control Panel.

In any version of Windows, you can launch the Control Panel through a system search. In Windows 7 and 10, just hit the Windows Key, type control panel, and hit Enter. In Windows 8 and 8.1, press Windows Key + Q to open the Search charm, enter your search query. From the Start screen, just start typing and the Control Panel should come up as an option.


Alternatively, open the Run menu by pressing Windows Key + R, then type control, and hit Enter.

In Windows 7, you’ll find the Control Panel in the Start Menu. In Windows 8 and 10, press Windows + X or — as of Windows 8.1 — right-click the Start button to open the power user menu 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor Windows 8 contains an almost hidden feature you need to know about! Press Windows Key + X or right-click at the bottom-left corner of your screen to open a menu you can now customize. Read More , and finally press P to launch the Control Panel.

In Windows 8 or 8.1, press Windows Key + I to open the Settings charm, TAB to the Control Panel in the Settings list, and hit Enter to open it. While you’re on the Start screen, expand All Apps, swipe or scroll over to the Windows System category, and open it from there.

When you open (File) Explorer by pressing Windows Key + E, you’ll find links to the Control Panel under Computer / This PC. In Windows 7, there’s an Open Control Panel button. In Windows 8 and 10, you’ll spot various shortcuts to Control Panel functions in the Computer tab. Where Windows 10 has an Open Settings icon, Windows 8 will display an Open Control Panel button.


Windows 10 Explorer

Unfortunately, Cortana in Windows 10 TP Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Is Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant as competent on the Windows 10 desktop as she is on Windows Phone? Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Let's see how she holds up. Read More is not yet able to open the Control Panel.

God Mode: Comprehensive List of Control Panel Applets

On the surface, the Control Panel is far less intimidating than the Command Prompt 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More . The graphical user interface makes it accessible. Once you enter, however, you’re sucked into a complex maze of nested dialogs and tabbed options windows.

To get a comprehensive overview of this complexity, i.e. a list of all applets contained within the Control Panel, enable God Mode 5 Windows 7 Features You Didn't Know Existed Windows 7 contains many little-known features. Here we highlight the more impressive ones that could boost your productivity and deepen your love for Windows 7. Read More . Copy the following line of text:

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

Then right-click an empty spot on your Desktop, select New > Folder, and paste the text from above in folder name field. If it worked, you should see the Control Panel icon and the folder name should have changed to God Mode. Opening the new folder will launch an Explorer window with a very long list of Control Panel applets. Thankfully, that list is searchable.

Windows 10 God Mode

Quickly Launch Control Panel Applets

There might be applets that you need over and over again. For me that’s managing power options Windows 7 Power Options and Sleep Modes Explained When Windows 7 launched, one of Microsoft's selling points was that it was designed to help your battery last longer. One of the main features users will actually notice is that the screen dims before... Read More or installed programs. A faster way to access applets than to go through the Control Panel or even God Mode, is to launch them via the Command Prompt 15 Windows Command Prompt (CMD) Commands You Must Know The command prompt is still a powerful Windows tool. Here are the most useful CMD commands every Windows user needs to know. Read More or Run menu (Windows Key + R). From here you can execute applets by calling up their respective CPL files.

Here are a few examples that will work in Windows 10, 8, and 7:


About Tech offers a rather long list of Control Panel commands, including a note on which version/s of Windows each one will work. Windows 10 is not yet included. Also check out their visual list of Control Panel applets.

Re-enable Windows Update in Windows 10 Technical Preview

You may know that Windows Update Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More disappeared from the Control Panel in Windows 10 TP. It has been moved to the Settings app (Windows key + I). The pity is that it lost some features. While you can still remove updates via Programs and Features How to Uninstall Programs on Windows 8 Looking to get a particular program off your computer? Whether it's a desktop or a modern app, here's how to do that on Windows 8. Read More > View installed updates, you can no longer prevent updates from being installed in the first place; this option is literally out of your control. You can, however, apply a registry tweak to bring the Control Panel version of Windows Update back, at least temporarily.

Press Windows + R to open the Run menu, type regedit, and press Enter to launch the Registry Editor. Navigate to HKEY_Local_Machine > Software > Microsoft > Windows Update > UX and change the REG_DWORD value of IsConvergedUpdateStackEnabled from 1 to 0.

Microsoft warns that this registry tweak could break Windows Update or prevent you from receiving future Technical Preview builds.

Get in Control

Its depth and complexity make the Control Panel so challenging to navigate. Relevant cross-links in the sidebar may seem like clutter, but they help you spot all of the hidden options. The easiest way to find an applet is to search for it, either in the Control Panel or in the God Mode folder. In any case, once you get familiar with it, Windows without the Control Panel is tough to imagine.

Which Control Panel features are you using on a regular basis? Could you imagine Windows without the Control Panel?

Related topics: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1.

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  1. Robert Diaz
    March 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    The quickest way I know of opening the control panel is Windows key+Break.

    • Tina
      March 27, 2015 at 8:33 pm

      That shortcut opens the System app. Great way to access the rest of the Control Panel. Thanks Robert!

  2. Alan
    March 27, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I use a Windows tablet on the road tethered to a phone. I turn off updates to save blowing my data. With Windows Update disappearing from Control Panel in Windows 10, and a lack of ability to turn them off I am now reluctant to upgrade to Windows 10 - even though I like the Preview.

    • Tina
      March 27, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      I can see how this would be a problem.

      Windows 10 will probably allow you to pause downloads (including updates I'm sure) on a metered connection. Can't find the option now, but have seen it before. Can't imagine they'll miss something like that.

  3. Gordon
    March 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Tina
    Surely the fastest way to access individual Control Panel/God Mode items is to use the Desktop toolbar?
    With the CP/GM icons on the desktop and the toolbar enabled (right-click on the taskbar>toolbars>desktop) you then have everything in a handy tree structure with one click.

    • Tina
      March 24, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Gordon,
      Yes, you could add the Desktop toolbar to the Taskbar. As you say, this has the added benefit of being able to expand all options in place, without having to open Explorer, i.e. an additional window. I obviously didn't think of that - thanks for the suggestion! :)

    • Gordon
      March 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      You're welcome, Tina.
      Incidentally, I'm a strong advocate of using the Programs toolbar too - in Windows 8.x with these two enabled there is no need for any third-party start menu replacement. In fact I'm so used to it that I use it in Win 10 TP as well in preference to the new start menu!