Learn These Handy Shortcuts to Get Around the Windows Control Panel

Ever since Vista, Windows’ Control Panel has been a little difficult to navigate. Windows 10’s new Settings app is better, but not as feature filled. Here’s an easier way to get to the page you want: Use these shortcuts and the Windows Run menu.

Why These Shortcuts Save You Time

One of the first things most people do when booting up a new computer (or after a fresh install of Windows) is head over to the Control Panel to make changes to the way Windows looks, the way their mouse and keyboard functions, and to otherwise personalize their Windows experience. This is usually, thanks to the way Microsoft shuffles the location of things within the Control Panel, when people immediately (and understandably) start complaining about how they can’t find anything.

While we’re sure there’s a design reason behind something as trivial (but annoying) as moving the location of the “Power Options” or “Time and Date” menu between Windows versions, it’s incredibly annoying when you navigate the Control Panel in what should be a familiar route, only to find you can’t locate the thing you’re looking for.

Now, in fairness to Microsoft, even though they move stuff around all the time they have done a pretty good job making it relatively intuitive to type search terms into the search box in the Start Menu to find them (even if where those items end up being is different from where you recalled). Nonetheless even then it can be a bit of a guessing game to get to exactly where you want to go. Plus, these will work great if your Start menu is borked for some reason.

Fortunately there’s a handy little geek trick (and we like geek tricks) you can call on that makes it entirely irrelevant where the item you’re looking for is buried in the Control Panel (or even what the menu it’s buried under is named). Unbeknownst to most people, the Control Panel is merely a big panel of shortcuts pointing back to a collection of individual Control Panel tools parked in the Windows directory. Every one of these tools, all of which end in the file extension *.cpl, is directly accessible via the Run Dialog box and command line.

Even better, there is very little change in names of these files over time–many of the *.cpl entries haven’t changed since the days of Windows 95. If you get in the habit of jumping to the Control Panel entry you want with the shortcuts, then it doesn’t matter if the entry moves significantly between Windows 7, 8, 10, and whatever updates come with Windows 10 or further Windows iterations–you’ll never waste time looking for entry you want again.

How to Use Control Panel Shortcuts

To use the *.cpl Control Panel shortcuts all you need to do is simply type the shortcut for the Control Panel tool you need into either the Run Dialog box (accessible in Windows via Win+R) or into the Start Menu command box (available on the Start Menu of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10).

Although we’re listing the *.cpl shortcuts for Windows 10 in this article, the majority of them, as we noted above, are backwards compatible. For reference (and a bit of historical fun) here are the Microsoft help files pertaining to Control Panel shortcuts for Windows 95/98 and Windows XP. You’ll find nearly all of them in our list.

You can run any of these commands either by typing them into the Start Menu search bar, pressing Win+R to open the run dialog box and entering them there, or even from the command line by using the command “control [shortcutname.cpl]”. In very rare cases, the shortcut will only work via command line (noted below by the inclusion of the “control” prefix in the command listing.

  • control access.cpl: Accessibility Options
  • appwiz.cpl: Add/Remove Programs
  • bthprops.cpl: Bluetooth Devices
  • timedate.cpl: Time/Date Properties
  • desk.cpl: Display Properties
  • inetcpl.cpl: Internet Properties
  • joy.cpl: Joystick Properties
  • main.cpl: Mouse Properties
  • main.cpl keyboard: Keyboard Properties
  • mmsys.cpl: Multimedia/Sound Properties
  • ncpa.cpl: Network Connections
  • powercfg.cpl: Power Options
  • sysdm.cpl: System Properties
  • wscui.cpl: Windows Security Center
  • firewall.cpl: Windows Firewall
  • hdwwiz.cpl: Device Manager
  • intl.cpl: Windows Region Settings
  • telephon.cpl: Phone and Modem Settings
  • tabletpc.cpl: Tablet Settings (unavailable on non-tablet PCs)

In addition to the above shortcuts, there are a few command line tricks that will take you directly to relevant folders like “control printers” to jump to the Printers folder and “control fonts” to jump to the fonts folder.

By and large, we managed to get by these days with using the actual Control Panel (or, more frequently, the search function within the Start Menu) but with a little effort to memorize a few key terms, you can zip right to where you want to go with ease.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.