Windows 7 : Understanding Control Panel Files

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Many of the Control Panel icons represent Control Panel extension files, which use the .cpl extension. These files reside in the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder. When you open Control Panel, Windows 7 scans the System32 folder looking for CPL files, and then displays an icon for each one.

The CPL files offer an alternative method for launching individual Control Panel dialog boxes. The idea is that you run control.exe and specify the name of a CPL file as a parameter. This bypasses the Control Panel folder and opens the icon directly. Here’s the syntax:

control CPLfile [,option1 [, option2]]

CPLfile— The name of the file that corresponds to the Control Panel icon you want to open (see Table 1).

option1— This option is obsolete and is included only for backward compatibility with batch files and scripts that use Control.exe for opening Control Panel icons.

option2— The tab number of a multitabbed dialog box. Many Control Panel icons open a dialog that has two or more tabs. If you know the specific tab you want to work with, you can use the option2 parameter to specify an integer that corresponds to the tab’s relative position from the left side of the dialog box. The first (leftmost) tab is 0, the next tab is 1, and so on.


If the dialog box has multiple rows of tabs, count the tabs from left to right and from bottom to top. For example, if the dialog box has two rows of four tabs each, the tabs in the bottom row are numbered 0 to 3 from left to right, and the tabs in the top row are numbered 4 to 7 from left to right.

Also, note that even though you no longer use the option1 parameter, you must still display its comma in the command line.

For example, to open Control Panel’s System icon with the Hardware tab displayed, run the following command (using the Start menu’s Search box or the Run command):

control sysdm.cpl,,2

Table 1 lists the various Control Panel icons and the appropriate command line to use. (Note, however, that some Control Panel icons—such as Taskbar and Start Menu—can’t be accessed by running Control.exe.)


If you find your Control Panel folder is bursting at the seams, you can trim it down to size by removing those icons you never use. There are a number of ways you can do this in Windows 7, but the easiest is probably via group policies.

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