How to Open Control Panel

Use Control Panel to access most of your Windows computer's settings

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 storage space, manage display settings, and much more. You can see what they all do in our list of Control Panel applets.

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

Surprisingly, how you open Control Panel differs quite a bit between Windows versions. Below are steps for Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

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. Select the Start button.

  2. Type Control Panel.

    Not using a keyboard? Scroll to the bottom of the list of Start options and open the Windows System folder.

  3. Select Control Panel from the list.

    Screenshot showing Start menu in Windows 10, highlighting Control Panel

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, select the downward-facing arrow icon to bring up the same screen.

    Windows 8 Apps screen

    Prior to the Windows 8.1 update, the Apps screen is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, or you can right-click anywhere and choose All apps.

    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. Select Control Panel.

    Control Panel icon in WIndows 8

    Windows 8 will switch to the Desktop and open the Control Panel.

    Windows 8 Control Panel

    Like in most versions of Windows, the Category view is the default view for Control Panel in Windows 8, but we recommend changing it to the arguably easier to manage Small icons or Large icons view. Do that by selecting Category from the menu at the top of Control Panel, and then choosing an icon view.

Open Control Panel in Windows 7, Vista, or XP

  1. Open the Start menu.

  2. Select Control Panel from the list in the right margin.

    Control Panel in Windows XP Start menu

    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 choose 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 > Settings > Control Panel, or execute control from the Run box.

    Control Panel in Windows 7 Start menu

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

Other Ways to Open Control Panel Applets

Control command in Windows Command prompt app

As we 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, which is really helpful if you're building a script or need quick access to an applet. See Command Line Commands for Control Panel Applets for a complete list.

Another way to access Control Panel applets is by activate GodMode in Windows, which is a special folder that contains applets from Control Panel. It's not Control Panel itself but instead an easy access folder of the tools found in the program.

  • How do I open the Nvidia Control Panel?

    To open the Nvidia Control Panel, right-click any free space on your Windows desktop, then select NVIDIA Control Panel.

  • Where is the Control Panel on my Mac?

    In macOS, the Control Panel is called System Preferences. It can be found on the Dock and looks like a gray gear. You can also open it under Apple > System Preferences.

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