Windows Control Panel – and how to find it

You might think that the Windows Control Panel has disappeared – it hasn’t

Control Panel iconThe Control Panel is a set of “utilities” (or “applets”) that have formed part of Windows since Windows 2 in 1987. The Control Panel allows changes to be made to how Windows looks and works (see the illustration at the end of this post for a list of the options in it).

So if, for instance, you want to install a new printer or change the resolution of your computer display, then the Control Panel has, for many years, been the place to go.

Control Panel - Windows 7
The Control Panel is always available from the righthand column in Windows 7
Beginning with Windows 8, however, we have had a competing set of “utilities” in Windows called “Settings”. Over time, more and more items have been added to Settings and a lot of people (myself included) have assumed that Settings would replace Control Panel entirely. And yet, here we are, almost seven years since Windows 8 was introduced and we still have both Settings and Control Panel. What is even more confusing is that there are places in Control Panel where you are suddenly moved to a “Settings” screen and vice versa. Try going to “User accounts” in Control Panel and then clicking on “Make changes to my account in PC Settings”. That’s right, you will suddenly be dropped into “Settings”.

In Windows 10, Settings is easy to find. Just click on the Start button (bottom lefthand corner of the screen) and click on the cogwheel that is just above the power button. In Windows 7, Control Panel is equally easy to find – just click on Start and Control Panel is listed as an option in the second column from the left.

Control Panel - access from Windows 10 Start Menu
Start typing “control panel” at the Start Menu to see options and access the Control Panel
So, where is Control Panel in Windows 10?

If you’ve never looked for it before, the chances are that you would look in the alphabetical list of programs visible after clicking on “Start”. Nope. It’s not there. For a while, it was accessible in Window 10 by right-clicking on the Start button. There is still a list of options that pop up when you do that (a hotch potch of items, actually), but Control Panel has mysteriously disappeared.

There are actually lots of ways that do still work in giving access to it, but there’s no need to learn more than one or two.

From the Start Menu, Control Panel is actually a sub-option within “Windows Settings” and can be accessed that way.

Possibly more easily, it can be accessed by starting to type “Control Panel” (without the quotes) in the search bar of the Start Menu. After typing just a few characters, it will appear just above where you are typing. Note that, once it has appeared like this, you can click on “pin to Start Menu”. Thereafter, there will always be a “tile” on the Start Menu that will take you to it immediately. Likewise, you could pin it to the task bar or you could “open file location” and copy a shortcut to it onto your desktop.

If you are of a mind to do a bit of exploring in Windows to see what options are available that you’ve never known about, then it might be better to have a poke around “Settings” than “Control Panel” (since my guess is that Settings is going to be around for a lot longer). If you are looking for something specific and can’t find it in Settings, then have a look for it in Control Panel.

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool old codger like me (who still regrets the passing of DOS) then the starting place for tweaking Windows will always be Control Panel (well, it will be for as long as I can still find it, anyway).

Control Panel
To see all Control Panel items, select “small icons” or “large icons” in the dropdown next to “View by” (top right)