How To Open Control Panel

Access Most of Your Computer's Settings via Control Panel in Windows 10, 8, 7+

Screenshot of the Control Panel in Windows 10
Control Panel (Windows 10).

The Control Panel in Windows is a collection of applets, sort of like tiny programs, that can be used to configure various aspects of the operating system.

For example, one applet in Control Panel lets you configure the mouse pointer size (among other things), while another allows you to adjust all the sound related settings.

Other applets can be used to change network settings, set up a storage space, manage display settings, and much more.

You can see what they all do in my List of Control Panel Applets.

So, before you can make any of these changes to Windows, you'll need to open the Control Panel. Luckily it's super easy to do... at least in most versions of Windows.

Note: Surprisingly, how you open Control Panel differs quite a bit between Windows versions. Below are steps below for Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, and Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure.

Time Required: Opening Control Panel will probably only take a few seconds in most versions of Windows. It'll take a lot less time once you know where it's at.

Open Control Panel in Windows 10

  1. Tap or click the Start button and then All apps.

    If you're on a Windows 10 tablet or other touch-screen, and not using the Desktop, tap instead the All apps button on the bottom-left of your screen. It's the icon that looks like the small list of items.

    Tip: The Power User Menu is a much quicker way to open Control Panel in Windows 10 but only if you're using a keyboard or mouse. Choose Control Panel from the menu that appears after pressing WIN+X or right-clicking on the Start button... that's it!
  1. Tap or click the Windows System folder. You'll probably need to scroll all the way down the list of apps to see it.
  2. Under the Windows System folder, click or tap Control Panel.

    A Control Panel window should open.
  3. You can now make whatever settings changes to Windows 10 you need to make.

    Tip: On most Windows 10 PCs, the Control Panel opens in the Category view, which sorts the applets into [presumably] logical categories. If you like, you can change the View by option to Large icons or Small icons to show all the applets individually.

    Open Control Panel in Windows 8 or 8.1

    Unfortunately, Microsoft made it especially difficult to access Control Panel in Windows 8. They made it a little easier in Windows 8.1, but it's still far too complicated.

    1. While on the Start screen, swipe up to switch to the Apps screen. With a mouse, click on the downward-facing arrow icon to bring up the same screen.

      Note: Prior to the Windows 8.1 update, the Apps screen is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, or right-clicking anywhere, and then choosing All apps.

      Tip: If you're using a keyboard, the WIN+X shortcut brings up the Power User Menu, which has a link to the Control Panel. In Windows 8.1, you can also right-click on the Start button to bring up this handy quick-access menu.
    2. On the Apps screen, swipe or scroll to the right and find the Windows System category.
    3. Tap or click on the Control Panel icon under Windows System.
    4. Windows 8 will switch to the Desktop and open the Control Panel.

      Tip: Like in most versions of Windows, the Category view is the default view for Control Panel in Windows 8 but I recommend changing it to the arguably easier to manage Small icons or Large icons view.

    Open Control Panel in Windows 7, Vista, or XP

    1. Click the Start button (Windows 7 or Vista) or on Start (Windows XP).
    1. Click Control Panel from the list in the right margin.

      Windows 7 or Vista: If you don't see Control Panel listed, the link may have been disabled as part of a Start Menu customization. Instead, type control in the search box at the bottom of the Start Menu and then click Control Panel when it appears in the list above.

      Windows XP: If you don't see a Control Panel option, your Start Menu may be set to "classic" or the link may have been disabled as part of a customization. Try Start, then Settings, then Control Panel or execute control from the Run box.
    2. However you get there, Control Panel should open after clicking the link or executing the command.

      In all three versions of Windows, a grouped view is shown by default but the ungrouped view exposes all the individual applets, making them easier to find and use.

    The CONTROL Command & Accessing Individual Applets

    As I mentioned a few times above, the control command will start Control Panel from any command line interface in Windows, including Command Prompt.

    Additionally, each individual Control Panel applet can be opened via Command Prompt, really helpful if you're building a script or need quick access to an applet.

    See my Command Line Commands for Control Panel Applets piece for a complete list.

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