14 ways to start the Control Panel in Windows (all versions)

What are all the ways for opening the Control Panel, starting with the obvious ones and ending with the geekier ways of doing it? To answer this question, we did a bit of testing and experimentation. We had to do that because, in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, the Control Panel is hidden when compared to Windows 7. In the end, we have managed to compile a list with fourteen ways of launching the Control Panel, in all modern versions of Windows. Let’s get started:

NOTE: This guide covers Windows 10, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1. Some methods work in all three versions of Windows, others just in one or two. For each method, we mention the Windows version in which it works. If you do not know the version of Windows that you have, read this tutorial: What version of Windows do I have installed?

1. Use search (all Windows versions)

One of the fastest ways to start anything in Windows is to use the search function. In Windows 10, click or tap inside the search box on the taskbar. Then type “control panel” and click or tap the “Control Panel” search result.

In Windows 7, open the Start Menu and type “control panel” in the search box. Then click on the Control Panel shortcut in the Programs list of results.

In Windows 8.1, switch to the Start screen, and start typing “control panel.” Before you finish typing the first word, the Control Panel search result should already be displayed. Click or tap on it.

2. Use Cortana (Windows 10 only)

In Windows 10, you can also talk to Cortana: on the right side of the search box from your taskbar, click or tap on the microphone icon to make Cortana listen to you. Alternatively, you can also use your voice to say “Hey Cortana,” if you enabled this feature in Windows 10. Then, say “Launch Control Panel.”

You might be tempted to use other similar commands, such as “Open Control Panel” or “Start Control Panel.” In our tests, they do not work as expected, meaning that the offer different results but never actually open the Control Panel. The only one that works is the one we have mentioned earlier: “Launch Control Panel.”

3. Use the Control Panel shortcut from the Start Menu or the Start screen (all Windows versions)

A slightly slower way of starting the Control Panel in Windows 10 is to do it from the Start Menu. Click or tap on the Start button and, in the Start Menu, scroll down to the Windows System folder. There you will find a Control Panel shortcut.

In Windows 7, you can find a Control Panel link directly in the Start Menu, on its right side.

Alternatively, you can also navigate to “All Programs” and open the “System Tools” folder. Inside it, there is another Control Panel shortcut.

In Windows 8.1, switch to the Start screen and open the Apps view by clicking or tapping on the small arrow from the bottom of the screen. In the “Windows System” folder there is a shortcut for Control Panel.

4. Create a shortcut and pin it on your desktop (all Windows versions)

You can also create a shortcut for Control Panel and pin it to your desktop. If you do not know how to do that, read this guide: How to customize the Desktop: Add or remove standard shortcuts.

5. Pin the Control Panel to the taskbar, Start Menu or the Start screen (all Windows versions)

To be able to access the Control Panel quickly you might want to pin a shortcut for it, in a place where you see it without effort. Some places where you should consider pinning it are the taskbar or the Start Menu.

To do that in Windows 10, search for the Control Panel like in the first method. In the list of results, right-click or press and hold the Control Panel search result and then click or tap on “Pin to taskbar” or “Pin to Start,” depending on what you prefer.

In Windows 8.1, search for the Control Panel like in the first method from this guide. Then, in the list of results, right-click or press and hold the Control Panel search result and choose “Pin to taskbar” or “Pin to Start,” depending on what you want.

6. Use the Control Panel shortcut from our collection (all Windows versions)

We have assembled the most extensive collection of shortcuts for Windows. Download and extract it, and inside, you will find the shortcut for the Control Panel in the Administration Tools sub-folder for your Windows version.

7. Use the Run window (all Windows versions)

Press the Win + R keys on your keyboard, to open the Run window. Then, type “control panel” and hit Enter or press OK.

8. Use Command Prompt or PowerShell (all Windows versions)

If you like Command Prompt or PowerShell, you should know that the command for starting the Control Panel is “control panel.” :)

Type this command in a Command Prompt or PowerShell window, and then press the Enter key on your keyboard. This immediately launches Control Panel.

9. Use Task Manager (all Windows versions)

One other way to open Control Panel is to use the Task Manager. Launch Task Manager (a quick way to do it is to press the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keys on your keyboard). If you use Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 and the Task Manager opens up in its compact mode, click or tap on “More details.” Then, in all Windows versions, open the File menu and click or tap on “Run new task.”

In the “Create new task” window, type “control panel” and press Enter or OK.

10. Start Control Panel from Windows Explorer or File Explorer (Windows 7 and Windows 8.1)

An ingenious way to start the Control Panel is to use the Windows Explorer. Go to Computer and then click on the “Open Control Panel” button from the top side of the window.

Similarly, in Windows 8.1, open File Explorer and select “This PC” on the left. Then open the Computer tab from the ribbon menu at the top of the window, and click or tap on the “Open Control Panel” button.

11. Run control.exe (all Windows versions)

The executable file for the Control Panel is control.exe. You can find it in the Windows folder, in the System32 sub-folder. Double-click or tap on it and Control Panel is launched immediately.

12. Use the WinX menu (Windows 8.1 only)

This method works well for most Windows 8.1 PC users: press the Win + X keys on your keyboard and then click on the Control Panel shortcut in this menu.

NOTE: This method used to work in the first versions of Windows 10, but this changed since Windows 10 Creators Update. Before that, the WinX menu included a Control Panel shortcut. If you want to get it back, you can follow the steps from this tutorial: Add the Control Panel and the Command Prompt to the WinX menu, in Windows 10.

13. Use the Settings charm (Windows 8.1 only)

Another way to open Control Panel in Windows 8.1 is to use the charms. Press Windows + I to view the Settings charms. On a device with a touchscreen, flick from the right side of the screen and press Settings. In the Settings charm, you can find several entries, including a shortcut for Control Panel.

14. Add the Desktop toolbar to the taskbar (all Windows versions)

This last method is less intuitive, but the result might please many users. Go to the Desktop and right-click or tap and hold on the space on the taskbar. Then, go to Toolbars and select Desktop.

This adds a Desktop toolbar to the right side of the taskbar. Click or tap on it and then go to Control Panel.

What is nice about this toolbar is that it displays the main sections and shortcuts from the Control Panel. It can be a productive tool for many users.

Which method do you prefer?

These are all the methods we know of starting the Control Panel in Windows. Some of them are easy, while others are cumbersome to follow. We hope that you found this list helpful and, if you know other methods, do not hesitate to share them in the comments section below. We promise to update the list as soon as possible.