What is Control Panel and How to Open it in Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10)

With the Control Panel, you can control every important part of your system, so it’s imperative you know what it is and how to use it. You’ll find all that out today and how beneficial it can be to you too.

Oct 10,2019 • Filed to: Computer Troubleshooting • Proven solutions

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The Control Panel is the main section of your Windows where you can make configurations that alter how the entire operating system functions. Think of it as a hub where you can make changes to every nook and cranny of your Windows operating system.

The Control Panel enables you to modify virtually every part of your system, so external components like your mouse and keyboard and internal features like passwords, network settings, sounds and a lot more can all be altered here. You have to know what your Control Panel entails if you intend to know how to open and manipulate it. The tool has many functions too, of course, and you’ll know some of them today.

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Part 1: How to Use Control Panel

A little clarification before you continue. There’s a difference between “apps” and “applets”. The latter are tiny programs working within a larger application. You can think of an applet as the butler or maid of a larger application. Knowing this is important because your Control Panel is essentially a collection of these applets or components, so using it means utilizing one or many of these components to alter your system’s settings and achieve the desired end.

The applets are what make it possible for you to utilize power management, the sounds of your Windows, desktop backgrounds, speech recognition, software installation and removal (extremely important, obviously), parental control, etc. The sheer number of possible changes to your Windows via the Control Panel number into thousands, which of course can’t all be listed here (because frankly, even we don’t know all of them). So only a very few important ones will be listed out below for you:


Part 2: How to Open Control Panel

As a testament to how necessary your Control Panel is, it has been featured in every version of Windows, and we do mean every single version (even Windows 95, 98, ME and 2000!). Each new Windows build was accompanied by new applets too. Some applets were removed while others were taken to PC Settings in newer versions of Windows. The point is, other Windows components come and go, but your Control Panel is here to stay.

Microsoft has made it EXTREMELY easy to open Control Panel, so kudos to them on that. The more recent the Windows build is, the easier it is to launch and access the Control Panel. It will probably take you no more than a few seconds to open it. Once you become really acquainted it, it will take you even less time than that. Windows XP, Vista and 7 will kick this tutorial off.

Solution 1: Open Control Panel in Windows XP, Vista and 7

These 3 were bunched up together because they share the same method of opening Control Panel. The method is outdated, though, so it’s more suited to earlier Windows versions. The more recent methods will be discussed later on (with a heavy emphasis on methods for Windows 10). Come on, is there really a point in yapping about opening Control Panel for something as prehistoric as Windows XP? Nope.

  1. Click “Start” if you’re using Windows XP, or click the “Start” button if it’s Windows Vista or 7. Choose “Control Panel” from the list you see on your right. Voila, all done.

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If you’re using Windows XP and, for any reason, you don’t see the “Control Panel” option in your Start menu, it’s likely the menu may have been disabled due to customization or it’s been set to “classic”, so you need to fix that. Try this: Click on “Start”, then “Settings”. Then “Control Panel”.

Solution 2: Open Control Panel in Windows 8 or 8.1

Remember what was said up there about how easy it is to access Control Panel? Um… That was a bit of a white lie, but only when you’re using Windows 8. For some silly reason only known to them, Microsoft thought it would be a fine joke to make access to Control Panel in Windows 8 more difficult. They rectified their blunder in Windows 8.1 but it was still not as convenient as the prior or later versions of Windows.

  1. Press the “Windows” key to open the “Start” screen. If you’re using a touchpad, touch-screen or tablet, swipe up to change to the “Apps” screen. If you’re using a mouse, click on that tiny arrow that’s facing downward to open up the same “Apps” screen.

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  1. Still on the “Apps” screen, scroll to the right and look over the applications. Once you see the “Windows System” category, look under it and “Control Panel” will be there. Click it and Windows will redirect you to your desktop. “Control Panel” will be right there awaiting your eager mouse pointer.

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Solution 3: Open Control Panel in Windows 10

Windows 10 probably has the most methods of opening Control Panel, so it’s safe to assume Microsoft learned from their past mistakes and got their act together. Besides, almost everyone is running Windows 10 now, so it’s only logical to give it special attention, don’t you think? Tough luck, Windows XP. You can access Control Panel in Windows 10 via:

Option 1: Start Menu

  1. Press the “Windows” key to open the “Start” menu. Type in “Control Panel” in the search field and choose the tool once you see it in the results. That’s it for this method.

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Command Prompt

Command Prompt must be mentioned here too. It’s a tool that can get you out of the stickiest of situations even when your other Windows features fail. You can also launch the Control Panel via this tool. You can even launch most of the Control Panel applets via Command Prompt, but that’s something for another day.

  1. Press the “Windows” key to open the “Start” page once more. Type “cmd” in the search field and click “Command Prompt” from the search results.

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  1. Next, type control panel in Command Prompt and hit the “Enter” key on your keyboard.

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Option 3: Run

  1. Press these 2 keys together: “Windows” and “R”. The “Run” dialog box will open up. Type “Control Panel” in it and click on “OK”.

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Option 4: PowerShell

  1. Click on the “Start” button and choose “Windows PowerShell” to launch the tool. In the more recent version of Windows, you’ll have to scroll all the way to the bottom to see the tool.

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  1. In the PowerShell window, type control panel and press your keyboard’s “Enter” key.

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Option 5: Quick Access Menu

  1. Press the “Windows” and “X” keys to launch the “Quick Access” menu. Alternatively, you can right-click on the “Windows” icon on the lower left part of your screen to open up the same menu. Then just click on “Control Panel” from the menu and you’re all done.

NOTE: The very latest build of Windows 10 (version 1903) released in May 2019 has removed access to Control Panel via this method, but only the most recent build. The previous versions still support it.

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Option 6: Settings Panel

  1. Press the “Windows” and “I” keys, then click on “Control Panel” to open it.

NOTE: This feature was also removed in the latest build of Windows 10, but it still works for earlier builds.

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Option 7: File Explorer

  1. You can either press the “Windows” + “E” keys to start “File Explorer” or simply click on the “File Explorer” icon on your taskbar. Choose “Desktop” and then double-click on “Control Panel” to launch it.

NOTE: More recent Windows builds don’t always have the “Control Panel” shortcut under “Desktop”. In that case, refer to the alternative methods outlined in this post.

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Part 3: Control Panel Issues and It’s Fixes

Windows 10 is arguably Microsoft’s best Windows version to date, but that’s not to say it’s not without some bugs. Some of these bugs prevent your Control Panel from functioning the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes, the tool doesn’t even start, much less work.

Now, imagine what happens when you lose control over your Control Panel, which is what gives you near-total control over your entire system. What do you think will happen? Yeah, you’ll be in real trouble for sure. So, written down below for you are a few effective solutions to malfunctioning or buggy Control Panel.

Malware, spyware, and virus can all be culprits in this instance. They can cause many problems in your system which aren’t even restricted to your Control Panel. You can either use your Windows’ default anti-malware and antivirus program (Windows Defender) or download a third-party antivirus like Avast to scan your system and eliminate any threats.

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Have it at the back of your mind that Windows 10 has approximately 12 editions (and still counting!). Thus, it’s possible the version you’re running might not be the most recent one, meaning it’s lacking necessary updates and newer features. Your Control Panel could be buggy because you’re running outdated software that’s more prone to issues than its newer counterparts. You can get detailed steps to update Windows 10 in this post: How to Update to Windows 10 May Update.

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This problem is less obvious than the one above. It’s possible some of the applications in your system are affecting your Control Panel in some adverse way. Fix it by doing this:

  1. Open up “Task Manager”, then navigate to the “Startup” tab. Below it, you’ll see a long list of the programs that automatically launch themselves when your Windows starts.

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  1. Go over the list and ascertain if you really need all of them to launch with your Windows. If you don’t, disable those that aren’t productive or necessary. Be careful when doing this, though, lest you go and disable something that’s crucial to your system’s performance.

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  1. Press the “Windows” and “R” keys. When you see the Windows Run dialog box, type msc in it and hit “Enter”.

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  1. “Windows Services” will open up. Look over the services and make sure you see the “Software Licensing” service. If you don’t see it, something is amiss. Restart your system and the problem should be fixed.

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Closing Words

So, you’re finally done. You’ve successfully completed an insightful tutorial on what Control Panel is and the numerous ways you can access it; you even touched on how useful it can be to you. Of course, this post is by no means exhaustive.

There’s still much for you to know and learn about Control Panel, its applets and your entire Windows operating system itself. Rome wasn’t built in a day so you can’t learn everything in one go. Do yourself some good and pop back here whenever you feel like being enlightened anew, yeah?

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