How-To Geek

Restore Missing/Hidden Items in Windows 7 or Vista Control Panel

Have you ever wondered where the Display Settings icon or Network Connections folder went in the Control Panel’s Classic View? For that matter, why can’t you search for them using the start menu search? Because they are prohibited from loading in the registry – that’s why.

Look ma, no display settings!


To resolve this deliberate oversight, open up regedit.exe using the start menu search box, and then browse down to the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\don’t load

Once you are there, you will see a number of items in the right-hand pane. Make a backup of that key with the export function, and then delete away.


desk.cpl is the Display Settings wizard, and ncpa.cpl is the network connections folder. I’m going to delete those two, and now if you hit refresh on your control panel (or re-open it) you’ll see the items restored in your Control Panel:


You can even now find them when you search using the start menu search box, which really makes me happy.


Note that you can also hide control panel items using the same key if you choose.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/1/07

Comments (39)

  1. anandan

    my windows vista is giving a error message: windows control panel has stopped working, it says control.exe file is currupted. what is the solution for this.

  2. Charles hutchings

    I have lost the clock from gadgets, can anyone please hekp me?

  3. Matt

    Very nice, thank you. Don’t know why they disabled it in the first place.

  4. Kevin

    I have a laptop with Vista Premium Home Edition and the icons in my control panel are missing and the laptop is not recognizing the printer. Microsoft has provided two “hotfixes” which have not resolved the issue (KB Article Number(s): 929637 (x64 and i386)). Will your solution fix the problem?

  5. Sofia

    I am having the same problem as “Kevin.” I tried the hotfixes but did not work. When I try to print it asks if the printer is available.

  6. Dave Miller

    Whoo, now I can get to Network Connections without going via Network and Sharing Center again!

  7. Catherine

    Thank you very much. It worked and solved my problem.

  8. Oliver

    Thank you soo much, has been bugging me for weeks!

  9. emy

    ok i did all that and that was great to know where all that was but … ex cept i couldnt find the things u said in there there was no cpl or whatever in display my display is fine but in display the desktop and screensaver setting and to change that has disapeared and none of ur solutions help me. grrrr . please help me

  10. Joe

    I tried your solution of missing conntol panel. It did not work for me. It may be caused by “cannot find c:\winnt\shell.exe”. Also when I did the registery not all those names were on the right side.

    Can you help.

    Thank you


  11. Cascade

    hey. i removed my vista central control the ‘ati’ or something. can anyone aide me please? the image and the views on the desktop is being enlarged by it self. and i can’t work it out. it’s been troublesome. i’ve tried to restore it any possible way. but all my efforts has been in vain.
    i need some aide please.
    thank you.

  12. mingray

    my vista have similar problem. I’ve tried this and restore my 4 missing items, but there is still more than 10 items are missing even “Windows Update” now. Is there another way to solve this problem?

  13. Ann Marie

    This operation is cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your systems administrator. I get this message every time I try to access the control panel or change something on my vista run laptop. I no longer can find or access the control panel at all. How do I get it back.

  14. Spacegold

    I must be missing something here. Is there more to display settings than can be accessed through the “personalize” item in the desktop right click menu?

  15. Danny

    The “Indexing Options” icon is missing from my control panel. How do I replace it? Indexing is working fine.

  16. Dylan

    I have the same problem as Danny. Using your described method fixed some of my issues, but the “indexing options” is still hidden

  17. rachel

    In my music file if i select the large icon view I can no longer see the album titles, how do i get them back??

  18. tommy

    How about the other missing item ? for example the “Folder Option” missing in the control panel, which .cpl to delete in Registry Editor to retore ?

  19. Heather

    I did what you said, except I was unsure what “export function” meant. I deleted the two from the “don’t load” folder. The display settings and network connections are not in my control panel. Can you please help me?

  20. Zakaria

    I did everything step by step but it didn’t work. I even deleted all of them and not just two.

  21. Rodrigo

    If your Control Panel icons are missing, try to start “Software Licensing” service.

  22. Thomas

    I just got a laptop 4 months ago and i tried hooking up microsoft outlook 07 to the net microsoft exchange online through my company. but i can’t find my mail icon in controll panel. I have vista home premium. Could someone help a brother out?

  23. Chris

    Thank you for your insight. I am wondering if there is a similar fix to setup a microsoft exchange server. I keep getting the error form Outlook that the setup needs to be completed in control panels, however there is no mail icon in control panels to do this. How would I accomplish getting the setup to work in outlook?

    Thanks eternally!

  24. Dotnetshadow

    @Danny, Dylan

    Indexing options missing in control panel
    I too had this problem, this can be easily solved by regedit:

    Go to:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\Cpls

    Add New Expandable String Value (REG_EXPAND_SZ)
    Name: SearchAdmin
    Value: %SystemRoot%\System32\srchadmin.dll

    Open control panel again and the option returns

    Hope that helps


  25. Faton

    hi i have laptop with window vista and i need to
    Restore how to restore backup mabe 5 month i need help thank you vipertomy23(at)

  26. Paul

    Where are the timer settings for display? They were there in display in XP

  27. craig

    This did not work for me.. What’s next?

  28. craig

    My control panel window is still empty. What can I do to fix this>

  29. Poonam

    I have a similar problem with my Windows Vista Home Premium vaio laptop.I tried the above solution but it didn’t work for me.I still have the following problem:
    1.Network and Sharing center does not open.
    2.control panel opens with a emplty window.
    3.Start Menu–>All Programs does not open.
    4.control panel does not open at all.
    5.regedit works only in safe mode.

    Above problems occurred in the same order.
    How do i fix this ?

  30. firedemon7

    You could just completely remove the Don’tLoad reg key. It does the same and stops things disappearing again for longer.

  31. Lurlock

    Any way to make Display Settings appear on right-click on the desktop like previous Windows versions? I know you can get there via Personalize, but it’s an extra click, and it plays havoc with my dual monitor setup. (I use a laptop and half the time I work with an extra monitor, half the time I don’t, so I’m changing this all the time, hence my annoyance at even one extra click being required, especially since that Personalize window often shows up off the edge of the desktop when I don’t have that extra monitor plugged in, so then I gotta do that Alt-Space, ‘M’, arrow key, then move the mouse trick to get it back on the main screen – pain in the…)

  32. hovis

    This stage i dont know wot to do-
    Once you are there, you will see a number of items in the right-hand pane. Make a backup of that key with the export function, and then delete away.

    how do i make a backup and what do i need to be deleting??? please help

  33. Hale

    I have tried everything that you suggested to restore Network Connections to Control Panel. Regedit wouldn’t allow me to delete ncpa.cpl and desk.cpl stating “Unable to delete all specified values”. I used Run\ncpa.cpl and that got me there but, it doesn’t have a “Wireless Network tab” nor a “Advanced tab”. At one time I actually had the icon on my Desktop (can’t remember how I got it) and then, one day it vanished. I just got this “Acer Ferrari 200” with Windows 7 and I’m sick of it. Wish I could get one with Xp. If you can provide me with more info I’d greatly appreciate it.


  34. BrOtHeR

    For all that have problem that ” cant delete ” the specified values. Log as Administrator and Right Click to ” Dont Load ” value then Permisions – then click to FULL . then u can delete anything u like. cheers.

  35. Anthony

    Thank you!

  36. abigail besas

    where can i find the add hardware? pleass!!

  37. pradeep

    my control panel is not working

  38. Patrick --

    Thank you so very much! My mother-in-law phoned us up to report that she was playing “Monster Bash” again and lost her display settings in Vista — again! I used to tech support calls at Sprynet/MindSpring and had NO idea where the display icon could have gone until I found your article. The very idea of a Reg key “Don’t run” is embarassing.

  39. Crookedway

    Eureka Eureka!
    Just search for whatever you are looking for using the search box at the bottom of the programs when you click the START button. You will see whatever is hidden.

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