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Control Panel \windows\system32\control.exe

The central interface for most of the preferences, hardware configuration, and other settings in Windows XP.

To Open

Start Control Panel (when using the new Windows XP Start menu)

Start Settings Control Panel (when using the classic Start menu)

Windows Explorer navigate to the Desktop\My Computer\Control Panel folder

My Computer Control Panel[8]

[8] Control Panel only appears in the My Computer window if the “Show Control Panel in My Computer” setting is enabled in the Control Panel [Appearance and Themes] Folder Options View tab. Regardless of this setting, however, Control Panel appears under the My Computer branch in Explorer.

Command Prompt Control


control [filename.cpl] [applet_name]

control [keyword]


The Control Panel has no settings of its own; it’s merely a container for any number of options windows (commonly called applets or Control Panel extensions), most of which can be accessed without even opening the Control Panel folder. Unfortunately, the Control Panel can look vastly different from one computer to another, based on preferences scattered throughout several dialog boxes. Furthermore, the default settings vary (depending on how Windows XP was installed) (see Figure 4-17). In order to simplify notation in this book, I’m making certain assumptions about your preferences. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the various options described below so that you won’t be confused when a setting in the Control Panel is referenced.

Figure 4-17. The category view of the Control Panel (top) is more inviting but also more cumbersome than the standard Control Panel (bottom)

There are several different ways to access the Control Panel and its contents:

Start menu

The way the Control Panel appears in the Start menu depends on several different settings, resulting in no fewer than five different possibilities.

If you’re using the new Windows XP-style Start menu, right-click on the Start button and select Properties. Click Customize, and then choose the Advanced tab. In the Start menu items list, there are three possibilities for the display of the Control Panel: “Display as a link,” which opens the Control Panel folder when clicked, “Display as a menu,” which skips the folder and displays the contents as menu items, and “Don’t display this item,” which hides it from the Start menu altogether. If enabled, the Control Panel entry appears in the second column in the Start menu (see Figure 4-18).

Figure 4-18. The Control Panel can be accessed through the Start menu; you’ll never see categories here

If you’re using the Classic Start menu (a simpler, cleaner layout, resembling earlier versions of Windows), go to Start Settings Taskbar and Start Menu Start Menu tab, and click Customize. By default, the Control Panel entry, which also appears in the Settings menu, opens the Control Panel folder. If, instead, you want a menu to appear, turn on the “Expand Control Panel” option in the list of “Advanced Start menu options.”


The Control Panel appears as another folder under the My Computer branch. Whether or not the Control Panel icon is configured to be displayed in the My Computer window, it will appear here. Select the folder to display its contents.

My Computer

Double-click the My Computer icon on your Desktop; if it’s not there, select My Computer from the Start menu. If the Control Panel icon does not appear in the My Computer window, it can be added: go to Tools Folder Options View tab and turn on the “Show Control Panel in My Computer” option.

Command prompt

At any command prompt, type control to open the Control Panel. See “Command-line usage”, below, for information on opening specific Control Panel applets from the Command Prompt.


In addition to accessing a particular entry by first opening Control Panel, it’s possible to open a specific applet directly, either with a standard Windows shortcut, or with one of the many links built into the Windows interface. For example, “Folder Options” is also available in the Tools menu of Windows Explorer, and “Internet Options” is available in the Tools menu of Internet Explorer. To make a standard Windows Shortcut to a Control Panel applet, simply drag the desired icon from the Control Panel folder onto your Desktop or into any folder. Then double-click the icon to open the applet, skipping the Control Panel folder altogether.


A new, optional feature in Windows XP divides the contents of the Control Panel into discrete categories. Unfortunately, these categories are used only under certain circumstances. In other words, depending on how you access the Control Panel (see above), you may or may not have to make a category selection before you can open the desired applet.

If you have Explorer’s “Show common tasks in folders” option turned on (Explorer Tools Folder Options General tab), a separate pane will appear to the left of the contents of any folder, containing links and some summary information. In the case of the Control Panel folder, the first entry in the tasks pane (named either “Switch to Classic View” or “Switch to Category View”) allows you to turn categories off or on, respectively. If, on the other hand, the “use Windows classic folders” option is selected (as opposed to the “common tasks” option, above), categories will never appear in the Control Panel. Furthermore, regardless of these settings, categories will never appear when the Control Panel is viewed as a menu through the Start menu.

In addition to containing the icons for most of (but not all) the standard Control Panel applets, the categories have additional links based on the task to be performed. Essentially, these links point to the same icons, only using different language. For a more comprehensive task index than is possible with categories, see Chapter 5.

Since categories are simply an extra, and basically unnecessary, step, you may wish to turn off the category view. This makes the Control Panel easier to use (since you won’t have to hunt for applets), allows you to access all Control Panel settings, and ensures that the applets are presented consistently, no matter how you open the Control Panel. See Table 4-9 for the categories in which each applet can be found (where applicable). Note also that two applets, Fonts and Add Hardware, are not found in any category; see Notes, below, for details.

Regardless of the setting you prefer, it’s important to understand the notation adopted throughout this book. For example, the following instruction shows the category name in square brackets (commonly used to denote an optional step or parameter):

Go to Control Panel [Appearance and Themes] Display

If you are using Control Panel categories, include the step in brackets; if you have categories turned off, ignore the bracketed step.

Command-line usage

This section explains how to use control.exe from the command line, most notably for creating Windows shortcuts to specific Control Panel applets. Note that most, but not all, applets can be launched from the command line; see Notes for a workaround. Control.exe supports two command-line methods (see Usage, at the beginning of this section), but no method covers all applets. Control.exe accepts the following parameters:

filename .cpl

The filename of the .cpl file (found in \Windows\System32) containing the applet you wish to open. For example, type:

control main.cpl

to open the Mouse Properties dialog. If there’s more than one Control Panel applet contained in the .cpl file, and the one you want is not the default, you’ll need to specify the applet_name (see below) to open it.


The formal name of the applet you want to launch, spelled and capitalized exactly as described in the table below. This parameter is necessary only if there’s more than one applet contained in a given .cpl file. If you omit applet_name, the default applet in the specified .cpl file will be used. For example, type:

control main.cpl Keyboard

to open the Keyboard Properties dialog. Note that the main.cpl file is the same file as the one in the previous example, but the use of applet_name allows applets other than the default to be opened.

For some tabbed dialogs (but not all), you can also specify the specific tab to open by including a space and then a comma after the .cpl filename (the preceding space is required), and then a number. Specify 0 for the first tab (or omit the tab completely), 1 for the second, and so on. For example, type control sysdm.cpl ,3 to open the System Properties window to the Advanced tab.


Keyword is an alternate way of opening a specific Control Panel applet from the command line. Instead of using filename .cpl and applet_name, simply include one of the following names: admintools, color, date/time, desktop, folders, fonts, international, keyboard, mouse, netconnections, printers, schedtasks, telephony, or userpasswords.

See Table 4-9 for a list of all available Control Panel applets, the category in which they can be found, and how to open them directly from the command line.

Table 4-9. Control panel applets
Applet name Category Command line
Accessibility Options Accessibility Options control access.cpl
Add Hardware n/a (see Notes) control hdwwiz.cpl
Add or Remove Programs Add or Remove Programs control appwiz.cpl
Administrative Tools Performance and Maintenance control admintools


explorer "\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Administrative Tools"
Date and Time Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options control timedate.cpl


control date/time
Display Appearance and Themes control desk.cpl


control desktop


control color (opens the Appearance tab automatically)
Folder Options Appearance and Themes control folders
Fonts n/a (See Notes) explorer "\windows\fonts"


control fonts
Game Controllers Printers and Other Hardware control joy.cpl
Internet Options Network and Internet Connections control inetcpl.cpl
Keyboard Printers and Other Hardware control main.cpl Keyboard


control keyboard
Mouse Printers and Other Hardware control main.cpl


control mouse
Network Connections Network and Internet Connections control ncpa.cpl


control netconnections
Phone and Modem Options Printers and Other Hardware control telephon.cpl


control telephony
Power Options Performance and Maintenance control powercfg.cpl
Printers and Faxes Printers and Other Hardware control printers
Regional and Language Options Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options control intl.cpl


control international
Scanners and Cameras Printers and Other Hardware n/a
Scheduled Tasks Performance and Maintenance control sticpl.cpl


control schedtasks
Sounds and Audio Devices Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices control mmsys.cpl
Speech Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices control speech
System Performance and Maintenance control sysdm.cpl
Taskbar and Start Menu Appearance and Themes n/a
User Accounts User Accounts control nusrmgr.cpl


control userpasswords

All of the applets mentioned here are discussed elsewhere in this chapter. Additionally, all the settings in all Control Panel applets that come with Windows XP are documented in Chapter 5 (arranged alphabetically). Rather than being listed by their location in the interface, settings are arranged alphabetically. That way, you’ll be able to find the setting you need without having to figure out where Microsoft decided to place it.


  • Those items with “n/a” in the Command line column of Table 4-9 can’t be launched from the command line using control.exe. However, it’s still possible to launch these (and any other) applets from the command line using a Windows shortcut. Simply drag the desired icon onto your Desktop or into a folder to create a shortcut. Then, to launch the shortcut from the command line, just type its full path and filename, including the .lnk filename extension. For example, to launch a shortcut named “Taskbar and Start Menu” (presumably linked to the applet of the same name), stored in your Stuff folder, type the following to open it:

                               \stuff\Taskbar and Start Menu.lnk

  • Three Control Panel applets are not in categories, but appear on the top level: Accessibility Options, Add or Remove Programs, and User Accounts.

  • Neither Fonts nor Add Hardware are listed in any category, and if you’re viewing the Control Panel in Windows Explorer, there’s no way to activate either applet without disabling the category view altogether. However, if you have the “Show common tasks in folders” option turned on (Control Panel [Appearance and Themes] Folder Options General tab), and you’re viewing Control Panel in a single folder window (no folder tree on the left), Fonts and Add Hardware appear as one of the tasks on the common tasks pane in the “Appearance and Themes” and “Printers and Other Hardware” categories, respectively.

  • In previous versions of Windows, control.exe had a property_tab parameter, which allowed you to jump to a specific tab in a tabbed dialog. This parameter appears to be ignored in Windows XP, although you may find some older third-party applets that still support it.

  • If you’ve configured Control Panel to open as a menu in the Start menu, you can open the Control Panel folder by right-clicking on Control Panel and selecting Open or Explore.

  • Some applications, software drivers, and hardware drivers come with their own applets, so you may have additional applets in your Control Panel not listed here. Also, depending on your version of Windows XP (Home or Professional), as well as any installed optional components (via Control Panel Add or Remove Programs), some of the items listed here might not be present in your Control Panel. See the specific entries, elsewhere in this chapter, for details on each of the applets mentioned here.

  • Selective Control Panel icons can be hidden with TweakUI (see Appendix D).

  • If you’ve upgraded from an earlier version of Windows and several Control Panel applets appear to be missing, open the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel and delete the don't load key entirely.

See Also

Chapter 5

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