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Opening the Control Panel

The Control Panel is opened by clicking Start > Control Panel:

Figure 1: Start menu with control panel selected.

Control Panel Overview

The Control Panel contains an address bar and search box like many other folders. The different commands are categorized into eight groups:

Figure 2: Control panel with the 8 headings.

At-a-Glance: Control Panel

  • Click Start > Control Panel
  • Provides commands to modify and customize almost everything Windows does.

Control Panel sections:



System and Security

This section deals with the overall operation and stability/security of Windows 7. Here, you can open the Action Center, check system settings, manage Windows Update settings and power consumption options, and access other administrative tools.
Action Center
Windows Firewall
Windows Update
Power Options
Backup and Restore
BitLocker Drive Encryption
Administrative Tools

Network and Internet

Use this option to modify how your computer will interact with others if you are on a network. Manage network settings, set up and use the Homegroup network to interact with other Windows 7 computers, and modify Internet Explorer 8 settings.
Network and Sharing Center
Internet Options

Hardware and Sound

This option allows you to modify settings for all hardware connected to your computer. This can include printers and scanners, mice, keyboard, speakers, digital cameras and audio devices, game controllers, and modems. You can also modify AutoPlay options for removable media, adjust sound and power usage options, and change display settings.
Devices and Printers
Power Options


Install or uninstall third-party programs, set which programs will be associated with which file type, and manage gadgets.
Programs and Features
Default Programs
Desktop Gadgets



User Accounts and Family Safety

Manage users on your computer. These options are useful if the computer is to be used at home or in an office setting where many people will share the same computer. Use Windows CardSpace and the Credentials Manager to manage personal data.
User Accounts
Parental Controls
Windows CardSpace
Credential Manager

Appearance and Personalization

Adjust the look and feel of your computer here. Manage how the Start menu looks, adjust a number of visual elements, customize how a folder displays its contents, and view fonts that are installed on your computer.
Desktop Gadgets
Taskbar and Start Menu
Ease of Access Center
Folder Options

Clock, Language, Region

Use this option to change the date and time, change the language pack that is installed on your computer, or change other regional options such as currency and number formats.
Date and Time
Region and Language

Ease of Access

Windows 7 includes a number of different options for users who are differently abled. Enhanced contrast, text-to-speech options, and user input options allow almost anyone to have full access to Windows
Ease of Access Center

Additional Options

If you have some hardware or software on your computer that can directly influence the day-to-day operation of your computer, you may see additional options in the Control Panel.

Some options are repeated in the different categories.

Navigation Basics

When you open the Control Panel, all of the primary categories of options are listed in green, with the most commonly used category options in blue. For example, consider the Hardware and Sound option:

Figure 3: Hardware and Sound heading.

When you click a category, a navigation pane will appear on the left side of the window. This pane shows you where you are in relation to the other categories. Notice that the address bar now shows the category name as well:

Figure 4: Hardware and Sound in navigation pane and address bar.

Clicking the actual Hardware and Sound link will open all category options, as shown in the diagram below. If you clicked the blue "Add a device" link, you would be taken directly to the sub option in the red box:

Figure 5: Devices and Printers heading with Add a device selected.

Sometimes when you have clicked a link to view the details of a category or clicked a sub option, you will see some related Control Panel options:

Figure 6: Related control panel options.

Beside the address bar at the top of the window are Back and Forward navigation buttons. You can also return to the home screen of the Control Panel by clicking Control Panel Home:

Figure 7: Forward and back navigation buttons.

You might have noticed that some Control Panel sub options have a small Windows Shield icon beside them. The options can only be modified by computer administrators and may be password protected:

Figure 8: Windows shield icon.

Changing the View

For a complete listing of all sub commands in the Control Panel, click the "View by" combo box and select either Large or Small icons:

Figure 9: View by options.

This will list all commands that do a specific thing with your computer. (You may see more or fewer icons on your computer.)

Figure 10: All control panel items.

This view simply removes categorization and alphabetically lists all commands. Depending on your comfort level with the options in the Control Panel, you may find it faster to not have to navigate through the categorization options. In fact, some of the options shown above are not visible under the Category view. To revert back to the standard Control Panel layout, change the "View by" combo box back to Category.


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