Executing Control Panel Items

There are two ways to open a Control Panel item:

  • The user can open Control Panel and then open an item by clicking or double-clicking the item's icon.
  • The user or an application can start a Control Panel item by executing it directly from the command line prompt.

An application can open the Control Panel programmatically by using the WinExec function.

WinExec("c:\windows\system32\control.exe", SW_NORMAL);

The following example shows how an application can start the Control Panel item named MyCpl.cpl by using the WinExec function.

WinExec("c:\windows\system32\control.exe MyCpl.cpl", SW_NORMAL);

When a Control Panel item is opened through a command line, you can instruct it to open to a particular tab in the item. Due to the addition and removal of certain tabs in some Windows Vista Control Panel items, the numbering of the tabs might have changed from that in Windows XP. For instance, the following example launches the fourth tab in the System item on Windows XP and the third tab on Windows Vista.

control.exe sysdm.cpl,,3

This topic discusses the following:

Windows Vista Canonical Names

In Windows Vista and later, the preferred method of launching a Control Panel item from a command line is to use the Control Panel item's canonical name. A canonical name is a non-localized string that the Control Panel item declares in the registry. The value of using a canonical name is that it abstracts the module name of the Control Panel item. An item can be implemented in a .dll and later be reimplemented as a .exe or change its module name. As long as the canonical name remains the same, then any program that opens it by using that canonical name does not need to be updated.

By convention, the canonical name is formed as "CorporationName.ControlPanelItemName".

The following example shows how an application can start the Control Panel item Windows Update with WinExec.

WinExec("%systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate", SW_NORMAL);

To start a Control Panel item with its canonical name, use: "%systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name canonicalName"

To open a specific sub-page in an item, or to open it with additional parameters, use: "%systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name canonicalName /page pageName"

An application can also implement the IOpenControlPanel::Open method to launch Control Panel items, including the ability to open a specific sub-page.

For a complete list of Control Panel item canonical names, see Canonical Names of Control Panel Items.

New Commands for Windows Vista

On Windows Vista, some options that were accessed by a .cpl module on Windows XP are now implemented as .exe files. This provides added security by allowing standard users to be prompted to provide administrator credentials when trying to launch the files. Options that do not require extra security are accessed by the same command lines that were used in Windows XP. The following is a list of commands used in Windows Vista to access specific tabs of Control Panel items:


  • Font size and DPI: %windir%\system32\DpiScaling.exe
  • Screen resolution: %windir%\system32\control.exe desk.cpl,Settings,@Settings
  • Display settings: %windir%\system32\control.exe desk.cpl,Settings,@Settings
  • Themes: %windir%\system32\control.exe desk.cpl,Themes,@Themes
  • Screensaver: %windir%\system32\control.exe desk.cpl,screensaver,@screensaver
  • Multi-monitor: %windir%\system32\control.exe desk.cpl,Monitor,@Monitor
  • Color Scheme: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageColorization
  • Desktop background: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper

Note  Starter and Basic Editions do not support control.exe /name Microsoft.Personalization command.


  • Performance: %windir%\system32\SystemPropertiesPerformance.exe
  • Remote access: %windir%\system32\SystemPropertiesRemote.exe
  • Computer name: %windir%\system32\SystemPropertiesComputerName.exe
  • System protection: %windir%\system32\SystemPropertiesProtection.exe
  • Advanced system properties: %windir%\system32\SystemPropertiesAdvanced.exe

Programs and Features

  • Add or remove programs: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.ProgramsAndFeatures
  • Windows features: %windir%\system32\OptionalFeatures.exe

Regional and Language Options

  • Keyboard: %systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.RegionalAndLanguageOptions /page /p:"keyboard"
  • Location: %systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.RegionalAndLanguageOptions /page /p:"location"
  • Administrative: %systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.RegionalAndLanguageOptions /page /p:"administrative"

Folder Options

  • Folder searching: %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Options_RunDLL 2
  • File associations: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.DefaultPrograms /page pageFileAssoc
  • View: %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Options_RunDLL 7
  • General: %windir%\system32\rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Options_RunDLL 0

Power Options

  • Edit current plan settings: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.PowerOptions /page pagePlanSettings
  • System settings: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.PowerOptions /page pageGlobalSettings
  • Create a power plan: %windir%\system32\control.exe /name Microsoft.PowerOptions /page pageCreateNewPlan
  • There is no canonical command for the Advanced Settings page, it is accessed in the older manner: %windir%\system32\control.exe powercfg.cpl,,3

Legacy Control Panel Commands

When you use the WinExec function, the system can recognize special Control Panel commands. These commands predate Windows Vista.

control.exe desktop Launches the Display Properties window.

Note  Starter and Basic Editions do not support this command.

control.exe color Launches the Display Properties window with the Appearance tab preselected.
control.exe date/time Launches the Date and Time Properties window.
control.exe international Launches the Regional and Language Options window.
control.exe mouse Launches the Mouse Properties window.
control.exe keyboard Launches the Keyboard Properties window.
control.exe printers Displays the Printers and Faxes folder.
control.exe fonts Displays the Fonts folder.


For Windows 2000 and later systems:

control.exe folders Launches the Folder Options window.
control.exe netware Launches the Novell NetWare window (if installed).
control.exe telephony Launches the Phone and Modem Options window.
control.exe admintools Displays the Administrative Tools folder.
control.exe schedtasks Displays the Scheduled Tasks folder.
control.exe netconnections Displays the Network Connections folder.
control.exe infrared Launches the Infrared Monitor window (if installed).
control.exe userpasswords

Launches the User Accounts window.

Additional tools:
   Control Panel tool             Command
   Accessibility Options          control access.cpl
   Add New Hardware               control sysdm.cpl add new hardware
   Add/Remove Programs            control appwiz.cpl
   Date/Time Properties           control timedate.cpl
   Display Properties             control desk.cpl
   FindFast                       control findfast.cpl
   Fonts Folder                   control fonts
   Internet Properties            control inetcpl.cpl
   Joystick Properties            control joy.cpl
   Keyboard Properties            control main.cpl keyboard
   Microsoft Exchange             control mlcfg32.cpl
      (or Windows Messaging)
   Microsoft Mail Post Office     control wgpocpl.cpl
   Modem Properties               control modem.cpl
   Mouse Properties               control main.cpl
   Multimedia Properties          control mmsys.cpl
   Network Properties             control netcpl.cpl
                                  NOTE: In Windows NT 4.0, Network
                                  properties is Ncpa.cpl, not Netcpl.cpl
   Password Properties            control password.cpl
   PC Card                        control main.cpl pc card (PCMCIA)
   Power Management (Windows 95)  control main.cpl power
   Power Management (Windows 98)  control powercfg.cpl
   Printers Folder                control printers
   Regional Settings              control intl.cpl
   Scanners and Cameras           control sticpl.cpl
   Sound Properties               control mmsys.cpl sounds
   System Properties              control sysdm.cpl