Control Panel (Windows)

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Control Panel under Windows 8

The Control Panel is a part of the Microsoft Windows graphical user interface which allows users to view and manipulate basic system settings and controls via applets, such as adding hardware, adding and removing software, controlling user accounts, and changing accessibility options. Additional applets can be provided by third party software.

The Control Panel has been an inherent part of the Microsoft Windows operating system since Windows 2.0,[1] with many of the current applets being added in later versions. Beginning with Windows 95, the Control Panel is implemented as a special folder, i.e. the folder does not physically exist, but only contains shortcuts to various applets such as Add or Remove Programs and Internet Options. Physically, these applets are stored as .cpl files. For example, the Add or Remove Programs applet is stored under the name appwiz.cpl in the SYSTEM32 folder.

In recent versions of Windows, the Control Panel has two views, Classic View and Category View, and it is possible to switch between these through an option that appears on either the left side or top of the window.

Many of the individual Control Panel applets can be accessed in other ways. For instance, Display Properties can be accessed by right-clicking on an empty area of the desktop and choosing Properties.

The classic view consists of shortcuts to the various control panel applets, usually without any description (other than the name). The categories are seen if the user use "Details" view.

The category view consists of categories, which when clicked on display the control panel applets related to the category. In Windows Vista, the category used applets below the name of the category.

List of Control Panel applets[edit]

The applets listed below are components of the Microsoft Windows control panel, which allows users to define a range of settings for their computer, monitor the status of devices such as printers and modems, and set up new hardware, programs and network connections. Each applet is stored individually as a separate file (usually a .cpl file), folder or DLL, the locations of which are stored in the registry under the following keys:

  1. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Control Panel\Cpls
    This contains the string format locations of all .cpl files on the hard drive used within the control panel.
  2. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\ControlPanel\Namespace
    This contains the location of the CLSID variables for all the panels not included as cpl files. These are commonly folders or shell applets, though Windows Vista allows physical programs themselves to be registered as well. The CLSID then allows items such as the icon, infobox and category to be set and gives the location of the file to be used.

The control panel then uses these lists to locate the applets and load them into the control panel program (control.exe) when started by the user. In addition to using the control panel, a user can also invoke the applets manually via the command processor. For instance, the syntax "Control.exe inetcpl.cpl" or "control.exe /name Microsoft.InternetOptions" will run the internet properties applet in Windows XP or Vista respectively. While both syntax examples are accepted on Windows Vista, only the former one is accepted on Windows XP.[2]

Standard applets[edit]

Accessibility Options (Access.cpl)
Allows users to configure the accessibility of their PC. It comprises various settings primarily aimed at users with disabilities or hardware problems.
  • The behavior of the keyboard can be modified, this is aimed at people who have difficulty pressing key-combinations, or pressing a key just once. (StickyKeys, FilterKeys and ToggleKeys)
  • Behavior of sounds can be modified. (SoundSentry and ShowSounds)
  • High contrast mode can be activated.
  • The keyboard cursor can be customized.
  • The pointer can be controlled using the keyboard. (MouseKeys)

Note that in the next generation of Windows, the Ease of Access control panel superseded the simple access.cpl control panel in previous versions.

Add New Hardware (hdwwiz.cpl)
Launches a wizard which allows users to add new hardware devices to the system. This can be done by selecting from a list of devices or by specifying the location of the driver installation files.
Add or Remove Programs (appwiz.cpl)
(Renamed "Programs and Features" in Windows Vista and later)
The Add/Remove Programs dialog allows the user to manipulate software installed on the system in a number of ways;
  • Allows users to uninstall and change existing software packages, as well as indicating how much space individual programs take and how frequently they are used.
  • Allows users to manually install software from a CD-ROM or Floppy Disk, and install add-ons from Windows Update.
  • Allows users to change which Windows components are installed, via the Windows setup Wizard, which includes Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger
  • Finally, it allows users to specify the default applications for certain tasks, via the 'set program access and defaults' wizard, such as internet browsers, media players and email programs and whether access to these programs is available
Administrative Tools (control admintools)
Contains tools for system administration, including security, performance and service configuration. These are links to various configurations of the Microsoft Management Console such as the local services list and the Event Viewer.
Automatic Updates (wuaucpl.cpl)
This is used to specify how the Automatic Updates client (wuauclt.exe) should download updates from the Microsoft Update Website, by default this is set to download and install daily, however this can be changed to a more suitable frequency. This also allows the user to specify whether to ask permission before downloading and/or installing updates or to simply switch off Automatic Updates all together.
Date and Time (timedate.cpl)
Allows user to change the date and time stored in the machine's BIOS, change the time zone and specify whether to synchronize the date and time with an Internet Time Server and which server to use.
Display (control desktop) (desk.cpl)
XP Display Properties.png
Allows the user to change the display characteristics of their computer;
  • Allows users to change the desktop background (wallpaper) to a picture of their choice and specifies how it should be shown.
  • Allows the user to change or disable the screensaver, and specify how long it takes to activate and whether to ask for a password on resume
  • Allows the user to specify the color styles of all elements within the system, primarily whether to use the Windows XP / Vista styles (blue by default in XP) or to use the classic Windows 98 / Me styles, this also allows the user to change the My Computer and Recycle Bin icons.
  • Allows the user to change the screen resolution and colour quality, and provides trouble shooting advice for displays.
Folder Options (control folders)
FolderOpt.png

This item allows for configuration of how folders and files are presented in Windows Explorer. More specifically it allows the user to specify general settings like whether folders open in a new window or the existing window and whether the common tasks pane is shown, as well as more advanced tasks such as whether windows should hide critical system files and whether to show file extensions. It is also used to modify file type associations in Windows; i.e., which program opens which type of file and other settings like actions for each file type and the file extension.

Fonts (control fonts)
Displays all fonts installed on the computer. Users can remove fonts, install new fonts or search for fonts using font characteristics. Note that "explorer \Windows\Fonts" has the same effect.
Internet Options (inetcpl.cpl)

Allows the user to change the way the computer manages internet connections and browser settings for Internet Explorer, it has several tags specifying different attributes;

  • General - This specifies the homepage and color schemes and allows the user to delete internet usage history.
  • Security & Privacy - These specify whether the computer should allow websites to undertake certain processes and download cookies, this panel also gives access to the inbuilt pop-up blocker (Windows XP SP2 and later) and the phishing controls (Internet Explorer 7).
  • Content - Allows the parental controls and auto-complete to be configured and also specifies how to deal with certificates.
  • Connections, Programs and Advanced - These give access to other aspects of internet settings such as the default modem connection and email client, proxy settings and other advanced configurations.
Game Controllers (joy.cpl)
Allows one to add, display, troubleshoot, and use advanced settings on joysticks and game controllers.
Keyboard (control keyboard) (main.cpl)
Lets the user change and test keyboard settings, including cursor blink rate and key repeat rate.
Mail (mlcfg32.cpl) (mlcfg.cpl)
Mail allows for configuration of the mail client in Windows, usually Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Outlook Express cannot be configured with this item; it is configured through its own interface. mlcfg.cpl is used for 64 bit office applications first available with the Office 2010 release.
Mouse (control mouse) (main.cpl)
Mouse allows the configuration of pointer options, such as the double click and scroll speed, and includes visibility options such as whether to use pointer trails and whether the pointer should disappear when typing. This also allows the user to specify the pointer appearance for each task, such as resize and busy.
Network Connections (control netconnections) (ncpa.cpl)
Networkconn.png

Displays and allows the user to edit or create network connections such as Local Area Networks (LAN) and internet connections. It also offers troubleshooting functions in case the computer has to be reconnected to the network.

Phone and Modem Options (telephon.cpl)
Manages telephone and modem connections.
Power Options (powercfg.cpl)
Includes options to manage energy consumption such as;
  • Specify how long it takes to switch off the display and hard drives and how long it takes for the system to enter standby, if at all.
  • To decide what to do when the computer's on/off button is pressed, such as whether to shut down or to enter standby.
  • Whether to allow Hibernation (some systems become unstable when restarting).
  • Allows the user to configure UPS (if available).
Printers and Faxes (control printers)
Displays all the printers and faxes currently installed on the computer, and has two main uses;
  • Firstly, it shows all the jobs queued for each printer, the file size and status of each job and which user they belong to, it also allows each job to be paused, canceled or moved up or down the list.
  • Secondly, it allows the user to set the printing or faxing preferences, such as paper size and quality via the manufacturers own preferences pane and also specifies how to share the printer across a computer network, the device drivers, ports etc.
Regional and Language Settings (intl.cpl)
Various regional settings can be altered, for instance:
  • The way numbers are displayed (e.g. decimal separator).
  • How Currency values are displayed, including the currency symbol.
  • Time and date notations, such as the date separator and whether the clock should be in 12 or 24 hours.
  • Cultural location of the user's computer (The time zone is set in Date and Time).
  • Language;
    • Input language.
    • Keyboard layout (mapping between key strokes and characters).
    • Display language for Menus and Dialog Boxes.
  • Whether files necessary for Asiatic language support must be installed.
  • Installed code pages.
Security Center (wscui.cpl)
Renamed "Action Center" in Windows 7
First added in Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Security Center gives the user access to the inbuilt Windows security components, as well as providing information about any existing antivirus software such as McAfee or Zone Alarm. It includes access to Windows Update, where users can specify whether the computer should check for updates regularly (also available through the Windows Update panel), and options for managing internet security settings. It also includes links to internet articles about PC security and current virus threats and notifies the user when the PC's security is compromised.
Sounds and Audio Devices (mmsys.cpl)
This panel contains various audio-related functions;
  • Change the speaker volume and type and specify whether to show the volume icon in the notification area.
  • Change the sounds played for the system or specific programs when a certain event occurs, i.e. Windows Startup or Critical Stop.
  • Change default devices for music playback, recording, voice recognition, MIDI etc.
  • Change the Sound card settings and whether to use Hardware acceleration.
  • Display the audio devices installed on the computer, and allows them to be configured.
Speech (Sapi.cpl)
This applet has two main functions, the first is specify settings for Speech synthesis, allowing the user to select the voice the computer should use to narrate text and how fast it should read. The second is to specify settings for Speech recognition, allowing the user to set up different profiles detailing how the computer should deal with an individual's dialect, for instance;
  • The amount of grammatical errors in a person's voice (punctuality sensitivity).
  • The speed at which the person speaks, and the time delay between words.

This also allows the user to access the voice recognition training wizard, in which an individual 'teaches' the computer to recognize a person voice interactively using the microphone.

System (Sysdm.cpl)
This is used to view and change core system settings, a user can for instance:
  • Display general information on the user's machine such as the amount of RAM, CPU speed and type, the version of Windows the system is using and the manufacturer.
  • Edit the computer name in a network workgroup.
  • Manage and Configure hardware devices, and view information such as the manufacturer, user access and driver version of any hardware device installed on the system via Device Manager.
  • Enable/Disable system features such as automatic updates and System restore monitoring.
  • Specify advanced features such as performance logs, virtual memory settings and roaming profiles.
Taskbar and Start Menu (rundll32.exe shell32.dll, Options_RunDLL 1)
Allows the user to change the behavior and appearance of the task bar and Start Menu;
  • Specifies whether to use Windows XP/Vista or Classic 9x/Me styles on the taskbar and start menu.
  • Whether the taskbar should Auto-Hide.
  • Whether to show the clock in the notification area.
  • Allows the user to manage the tray icons.
  • Advanced options such as whether to show Printers & Faxes in the start menu and whether to display My Documents as a menu or as a link to a new window.
User Accounts (nusrmgr.cpl)
This allows the user to configure their account and other accounts used in the system, should they have sufficient privileges. They can change their username and password, their picture (if enabled) and their .net passport. If the current user has an administrators account they can also add, delete and modify other user accounts as well as make changes to core system settings. This panel also specifies whether the guest account should be active and whether to use the Welcome screen while Windows loads.

Peripheral devices[edit]

These are options in the control panel that show devices connected to the computer. They do not actually offer a direct interface to control these devices, but rather offer basic tasks such as removal procedures and links to wizards (Printers & faxes is the exception).

Such Applets include;

Other Microsoft-distributed applets[edit]

Bluetooth Devices (bthprops.cpl)
Available with Bluetooth enabled systems running XP SP2 or later, this enables users to configure a Bluetooth connection, showing a list of all Bluetooth devices interacting with the system, an addition to the following items;
  • Allowing users to create incoming and outgoing 'virtual' COM Ports, which allow devices to have dedicated connections to the system.
  • Allowing users to specify general Bluetooth characteristics such as whether the computer is discoverable and the computer's name which is broadcast.
Color (color.cpl)
Enables a more advanced control of color settings within Windows than is available in 'display', suitable for developers and visual specialists it allows users to create and load International Color Consortium compliant color profiles, associate screen color with printers and cameras and view a 3D graphics plot of the color gamut. By default this applet is not installed, however it can be installed for free from the Microsoft Website.
Infrared (irprops.cpl)
Similar to the Bluetooth applet, this is used to configure how the computer manages any wireless infrared ports installed, including options such as connectivity and security.
CSNW (nwc.cpl)
The Client Service for NetWare applet is used to select a default tree and context in a Novell Directory Services (NDS) environment, or the NetWare server used most frequently in a non-NDS environment.

Requirement: Installing the Client Service for NetWare.

Software Explorers
Part of Windows Defender, allows users to view detailed information about software that is currently running on the computer that can affect the users' privacy or the security of the computer.

Third-party applets[edit]

Third-party software vendors have released many applets. Although it is impossible to mention all of them, some of them are listed here:

IconFile nameDescription
AC3 Filterac3filter.cplConfigures speaker configuration and other parameters of the AC3 decoder filter.
Adobe GammaAdobe Gamma.cplFor altering the screen display with Adobe Systems Imaging Software such as Photoshop.
Adobe Version Cue CS2VersionCueCS2.cplTo configure Adobe Version Cue.
Application pathsapppaths.cplSets application paths, start-up commands and system services, coded by Gregory Braun.
Autodesk Plotter Managerplotman.cplAdds, remove and changes plotters properties for AutoCAD products.
AvantGo Connectagcpl.cplSynchronizes mobile versions (called "channels") of websites to a smartphone or PDA, see AvantGo.
Avira AntiVir PersonalEditionavconfig.cplConfigures Avira Antivirus program.
BACKPACK Finderbpcpl.cplTo configure the Micro Solutions BackPack CD driver.
BDE Administratorbdeadmin.cplTo configure the Borland Database Engine.
Boot Camp Control PanelSetting for Mac OS X based computers.
ClearCasecc.cplTo configure IBM Rational ClearCase.
Color Settings3dcc.cplChanges the look and feel of Windows.
Compaq Diagnosticscpqdiag.cplTo view information a computer's hardware and software configuration, legacy application.
Control Panelcontrolp.cplControl Panel Customization Toy, coded by Ali Lokhandwala.
Control Version Systemcvsnt.cplControl Panel Customization Toy, by Brian Berliner. david d 'zoo' zuhn, Jeff Polk, Tony Hoyle
Creative Element Power ToolsTo configure Creative Element Power Tools, a free-to-try program providing access to additional Windows tools.
Corel Versionsverscpl.cplConfigures Corel versions.
DANSdanetsvc.cplConfigures the Shaffer Solutions DiskAccess Network Services, NFS client for Windows.
DiskAccessdacfg.cplConfigures how the Shaffer Solutions DiskAccess makes connections to remote NFS servers.
Flash PlayerFlashPlayerCPLApp.cplFor changing settings for the Flash Player.
Folder sizeFolderSize.cplFolder Size for Windows shows the size of folders in Windows Explorer.
FirebirdSQL Service Managerfmmgr.cplConfigures Firebird (database server) service options.
HP Jetadminjetadmin.cplHP Jetadmin configures and monitors HP printers.
HP LockHplock.cplA Windows 95 utility to lock the PC keyboard, mouse and on/off switch in one click on legacy HP Vectra.
IconPackageripcpl.cplTo customize Windows icons and cursors, see IconPackager.
ImDisk Virtual Disk Driverimdisk.cplAdministration of ImDisk Virtual Disk Driver.
InstallShield Update Managerisuspm.cplThe InstallShield Update Manager allows users to receive program updates and messages from software makers who use the service.
Intel Extreme Graphicsigfxcpl.cplTo change advanced settings on systems using Intel GPUs.
IP Office Voicemail Proims.cplTo configure Avaya IP Office Voicemail Pro.
Javajpicpl32.cplFor changing settings with Java Runtime Console.
JInitiator 1.x.y.zplugincpl1xyz.cplTo configure Oracle's JInitiator, note x.y.z are version numbers.
MSConfigMSConfig.cplLaunches the Microsoft System Configuration Utility.
MultiSitems.cplTo configure IBM Rational ClearCase Multisite.
Nero BurnRightsNeroBurnRights.cplFor specifying who is allowed to use the CD burner with Nero.
nVIDIA Control panelnvidia.cplTo change advanced settings on systems using nVIDIA GPUs.
Pointer Devicestbctlpnl.cplTo configure the Touch-Base Universal Pointer Device Driver (UPDD).
QuickTimequicktime.cplFor specifying settings of the Apple QuickTime Player.
RealPlayerprefscpl.cplTo configure the RealPlayer preferences, older versions.
Realtek AC97 Audio Control Panelalsndmgr.cplTo configure the Realtek audio controller.
RESTrick Control Panelrest2.cplWindows Tuning and system restrictions setup, by Rtsecurity.
Safarpsafarp.cplSafarp is a small and fast alternative to the Add or Remove Programs applet.
Send To Toyssendtotoys.cplTo configure the Send To right click system menu in Microsoft Windows.
Services and Devicespserv.cplFrom p-nand-q to manage Windows services and devices and uninstall applications.
SNTP Servicesntpserv.cplFrom Dillobits Software, to manage the SNTP client service.
Startupstartup.cplControl programs that run at system start-up, coded by Mike Lin.
Symantec LiveUpdates32lucp2.cplConfigures the Symantec LiveUpdate update service.
System InformationSancpl.cplLaunches SiSoftware Sandra utility.
System Info for Windowssiw.cplLaunches the SIW application.
Trust-No-Exetrustnoexe.cplConfigures the Beyond Logic Trust-No-Exe executable filter.
VMware ToolsVMControlPanel.cplTo configure VMware Tools.
WIBU-KEYwibuke32.cplTo configure the WIBU-KEY Software Protection.
Winlogoswnlgo.cplTo change the Windows start-up and shutdown screens in Windows 98 or ME, coded by Ali Lokhandwala.
X-Setup ProxqdcXSPApplet.cplLaunches X-Setup Pro, a Windows tweaker application.

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]