The Windows Control Panel provides extensive customization of the operating systems. In this video, you’ll learn about Device and Printers, Programs and Features, User Accounts, Device Manager, and much more.
The Windows Control Panel contains a number of utilities that are useful for end users and for administrators. There are a number of different views that you can select in the control panel through the view by option in the upper right. This default category view shows system and security, network and internet, hardware and sound, and other groups of categories to help you find what you’re looking for.
If you’d rather have everything listed on a single screen, you can change that view by category to view by small icons. And now all of the options within the control panel are available, free to search through, and select from this screen. If these icons are too small, you can change that view to be the large icons, which might make it a bit easier to find what you’re looking for.
Let’s step through some of the more important utilities, or what Microsoft calls applets, inside of the control panel. The internet options applet allows you to customize how the built-in browser will operate inside of Windows. There are a number of different tabs, and each tab addresses a different area of the browser. The general tab provides basic overviews of how the browser will present information.
For example, you can change what the home page might look like or how the tabs might function within the browser. The security tab allows you to set different security functions, depending on the location where you happen to be. So if you use your laptop at work, there may be a local intranet option, and you can change those security settings. But if you take your laptop to the coffee shop, you’ll be in the internet zone, and there may be completely different security settings when you’re on that network.
The privacy tab allows you to customize how much information you’re willing to share with the rest of the world. You can change your response when your physical location is requested. You can turn on or turn off the pop up blocker, and you can change how your system reacts when you enable the end private browsing.
Our browsers include a number of digital certificates that allow us to perform encryption and provide trust for other devices. You can manage these digital certificates and any auto complete settings within the content tab. Under the connections tab, you can configure how this browser may use proxies or other third party devices to gain access to the internet. You can also modify the defaults for third-party applications under the programs tab, so you can manage add-ons, change the editor that you’re using, or modify what programs are started when you click different items within your browser.
And the advanced option tab allows you granular control of very specific configuration settings. And if you do make changes that cause your browser to stop functioning properly, there’s a reset button in the advanced tab that takes everything back to default. The devices and printers applet gives you a graphical view of all of the different devices that are located on your network.
These might be separate computers. It could be a camera, or microphone, or the displays you happen to be using on your system. This would be a very common front-end for anyone to use to be able to modify configuration settings of these devices, and it’s a much more graphical and easier access than going into the details of device manager. You can go into any of these devices, choose the properties, and change any of the configuration settings for each individual device.
If you’ve installed an application in Windows and you’d like to modify or remove that application, you can do that within the programs and features applet. You can see the default view is to show all of the different installations that you’ve done for this particular version of Windows. You also have the option to turn Windows features on or off. And if you select that option, you’ll see all of the different features that can be enabled or disabled from the programs and features applet.
Under the network and sharing center, you can add, modify, or remove any of the network adapters in your device. This includes all of the configuration settings for each network adapter that’s configured in your system. You can add new connections within the network and sharing center. You can modify existing adapters you might have, or you might want to modify any advanced settings or streaming options all from this single applet.
If you click the system applet in the control panel, you’ll notice that it brings you to the settings app within Windows, which is different than previous versions of Windows. There are a number of applets that are being migrated into the settings app, and the system applet is one of those. Inside of the system applet, you can see a lot of information about your system, including how much memory is installed, the system type, and of course, the version of Windows and the edition.
You can also view advanced system settings from inside the control panel, which allow you to change performance settings, user profiles, and any startup or recovery options. You also have the option to modify the system protection information so that you can add or remove any system restore points. And if you scroll down a bit, you’ll even see options for configuring remote desktop if your addition of Windows supports that.
Microsoft Windows includes a firewall called the Windows Defender Firewall. This allows you to prevent someone from gaining access to your system without the proper rights or permissions. This firewall is integrated into the operating system and it’s automatically turned on when you start Windows. You can view and make changes to the firewall configuration within the control panel under the Windows Firewall applet.
The mail applet is one of those that’s in transition between older versions of Windows and the existing version, so you notice that the front-end is a little bit unusual compared to the rest of Windows 10 or Windows 11. If you’ve installed a mail client inside of your system, such as Microsoft Outlook, then you’ll see the icon for the mail applet inside of the control panel.
If you’ve not installed a client, then the applet will simply not be shown. If you click the email accounts option, it will bring up a window that shows all of the account settings for all of the mail connections that you have in this operating system. If you need to make changes to the existing connections, or add others into Windows, you can do it all from this account settings page.
The audio configurations inside of Windows are configured from the control panel under the sound applet. From there you can modify what audio devices might be available, and you can make changes to the existing output. You can also modify input for audio, such as a microphone, or other high definition audio device. And you can configure those microphone settings under the recording tab of the sound applet.
If you’re using Windows at work or in a large office, then your account is probably stored on an active directory server. But if you have a home machine or a machine that is not connected to a domain, then you probably have local accounts that are configured on that individual Windows system. You can gain access to those local accounts through the user accounts applet within the control panel.
This will show you what users are configured on your system and how those accounts will have been configured. For example, I have an account on this system with my professermesser.com email address, and that account is configured as an administrator. From here I can change the password that’s used for login or modify the picture that is associated with my account. You can also manage any certificates that may be used for any file encryption that you have on this Windows system.
For an operating system to be able to use a piece of hardware, there needs to be a device driver installed in the OS. The way that you’d view these device drivers and Windows is through the device manager applet. You can see all of the different device drivers that are installed on the system, and you can add, remove, or modify configuration settings all from the device manager. If you’re trying to troubleshoot a piece of hardware, and you’d like to see if Windows is able to use that hardware properly, you can drill down into any of those devices within device manager, and Windows will tell you if the device is working properly or not.
With the search function within Windows, we can find many different applications, data files, and almost anything else we have stored in that OS. We’re able to find this information quickly because everything on this system has already been indexed. And if you need to make changes to that index, you can do it in the control panel under the indexing options applet. From here, you can control what information might be searched.
For example, you might want the search to include browser history information, or include or exclude certain user folders. You can also choose any other folder in the system and decide whether you would like to include or exclude that folder from the search.
If you’ve used Windows for any amount of time, then you’re probably very familiar with the file explorer that allows you to gain access to the files and directories that are on your system. And there are many different configuration settings that allow you to customize exactly the way file manager will work. You’ll find these configuration settings under the file explorer options applet within the control panel.
In there, you’ll find three tabs, general, view, and search. Under the general tab, you can change the way that folders operate, the way that you click through items, and some of the privacy features within file explorer. The view tab allows you to customize exactly the way files and extensions may be seen inside a file explorer, and you can modify each one at a very granular level. Under the search tab, you can modify exactly what is shown when you perform a search. You can change the options when you’re searching for system files or when searching for non index locations on the system.
If you’re an administrator, then at some point, you’ll probably use the applets that are available under the administrative tools option within the control panel. This provides a number of important system tools that many system administrators will need to be able to troubleshoot and resolve problems on a system. If you need access to the task scheduler, the services, or any of the events that are on your system, you can view them all in the administrative tools.
Whether you’re using Windows on a laptop or desktop system, you may want to make some configuration changes to the way that Windows uses power. You can make those changes under the power options applet. Windows has a number of different methods that it can use to optimize the way that power is used on your system. One of those is to put the system into a hibernate mode.
Hibernate means it’s going to take everything that’s in memory and that’s currently open on your system and save all of that information into a section of your storage drive. This is very common on laptops, where you might close the top of your laptop, your system will automatically write everything to disk, and the next time you open your laptop screen it will quickly load that information, and you’re back to where you left off. This is also the method that’s used by the Windows fast start up feature, where you can shut down your system. But in reality, it’s really going into a hibernate mode.
Windows also has the option to put your system into a sleep mode, or what it calls a standby mode. In sleep mode, Windows keeps all of your apps and open files running in the existing memory, and it keeps a small amount of power going to maintain that memory. If you begin running out of power, especially on a battery-based system, Windows will switch that to a hibernate mode so that everything is stored on your storage drive. And of course, you can make detailed customizations to all of this through the Windows power plans.
For example, you can set up a power plan where you can decide what happens when you close the lid. Does it go into a hibernate mode, does it go into a sleep mode, or does it do nothing? You might also want to tell Windows that if you’re on a normal power source, that everything should work properly. But if you move to battery power, you might want to disable certain USB devices to save power. And if you don’t like Windows going into a hibernate mode when you choose shutdown, you can enable and disable that fast start up function within the power options.
Inside of the ease of access center applet, you can make changes to the way that Windows displays information, the way that you might hear information in Windows, and how you might use your input devices. For example, if someone’s using this computer, and they’re not using a display, you can put Windows into a special mode that takes that into account. Or you might want to change the mouse pointer, so they’re much larger on the screen and much easier to see. There are extensive accessibility features built in to Windows, and you can access all of those inside of the ease of access center.