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Control Panel vs. Settings App: The Differences

Roland Freest

The "Settings" in Windows 10 are taking on more and more functions that you previously found under "Control Panel". But in many areas this is still unrivaled in terms of the available control options.

EnlargeIn addition to the Control Panel, Windows 10 also has the Settings customization app (below).

Since the appearance of Windows 10, Microsoft has been working on gradually transferring the entries in the Control Panel to the new Settings app. The first approaches to this were already in Windows 8, where you also reached a point "Settings" in the Charms bar. However, this was just a selection of options from the Control Panel.

The "Settings" in the current operating system have the great advantage that they are equipped with a modern interface that - and according to the tweets of a Microsoft employee was the decisive argument for the change - better for touch operation than the entries in the previous control panel. However, the user has to find his way around the Settings app first. And often only an inconspicuous link opens the way to the options you are looking for. After all, Microsoft has built its own search functions into the "Settings" as well as the control panel, which make it much easier to navigate to the options you need. The fact that the system control and the settings app with their different operating concepts are continued in parallel at all does not make Windows any clearer.

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Radical cut, middle ground or slimmed down system control

EnlargeThe control panel is hidden in Windows 10. You can only find it as a small entry in the start menu under "Windows system" or via the search bar.

In the longer term, however, the Control Panel is likely to disappear from Windows. With almost every new update of the operating system, individual entries migrate to the "Settings". However, if things continue at this rate, it may be a few more years before the control panel becomes obsolete. The radical cut, i.e. the complete changeover of all system functions to the Settings app, seems to be prevented primarily by the fact that many applications access features such as the "energy options" in the control panel and are rewritten accordingly when the function is switched to the app would have to. At the same time, Microsoft also has to use a lot of development power to redesign the individual functions for the app.

Here it is important to find a happy medium. Many links in the “Settings” already refer to windows and functions of the control panel: especially when it comes to advanced configuration options. On the other hand, behind some symbols in the control panel there is only a link to a corresponding function in the Settings app: This applies to “System” and “Taskbar and Navigation”, for example.

Another possibility would be that the system control is dissolved and only the individual functions remain. These are implemented as CPL files, but they are actually DLL files. The functions can also be called individually via these files. For example, you can access the device manager by entering “hdwiz.cpl” in the search field on the taskbar, “mmsys.cpl” opens the sound settings (overview in the table on the right). Because in the newer editions of Windows 10, Microsoft made access to the control panel more difficult. While the “Control Panel” entry was still prominent in the Start menu in Windows 7, you will only find it under “Windows System” in the Windows 10 menu. Typically, it is faster to enter “control” in the search field on the start bar, followed by clicking on “Control Panel”.

In comparison, the "Settings" are relatively easy to access via the gear icon in the sidebar of the start menu. In this case, too, there is a shortcut, namely simply by using the key combination Win-i.

The best thing to do in the Settings app

EnlargeIn the “Network and Internet” section of the Settings app you can assign a fixed IP address to the Ethernet or WLAN adapter after switching to “Manual”.

The "Settings" and Control Panel sometimes contain similar or even identical entries. You can make some settings in both windows, especially for the hardware components. However, it is usually more efficient if you decide on one of the two in advance. The Windows 10 Settings app is best for the following options.

Probably the greatest development has taken place in the “Settings” area of ​​“Network and Internet”; Microsoft has continuously expanded it in the last Windows versions. You can change the IP settings of your network connection under “Status -› Properties ”and after clicking on the“ Edit ”button under“ IP assignment ”and display the data usage of the installed programs. This is sufficient for most applications. If this is not the case, the functions “Change adapter options”, “Network and Sharing Center” and “Network troubleshooting” lead to the corresponding areas of the control panel. Via “Windows Firewall” and “Reset Network” you can reach two further windows which deal specifically with network options in the “Settings”.

EnlargeUnder “System -› Display ”in the“ Settings ”you will find the options for graphics card and monitor. There you select screen and refresh rate.

Under “Settings -› System ”you will find the“ Display ”area, which you can also call up after a right click on the desktop and the“ Display Settings ”entry in the context menu. There you set the resolution, the refresh rate and the desired monitor, among other things. Via the link “Advanced display settings -› Show adapter properties for screen X ”, Windows 10 also leads you to a control panel window. In most cases, however, the options in the "Properties" should be sufficient to be able to make the appropriate configuration.

When it comes to sound, too, the “Settings” are your first point of contact. The corresponding window is called up either via "System" or a right click on the loudspeaker symbol in the lower right corner of the Windows taskbar, followed by "Open sound settings". In the next window the input and output devices can be selected and the "device properties" can be edited, including the volume and balance. You only need the "Sound" entry in the control panel for further settings, for example for the system sounds or the mix of several audio sources. You can find it in the “Settings” under “Device properties -› Additional device properties ”.

EnlargeWindows 10 also presents the most important sound options in the “Settings” under “System -› Sound ”. Here you control the balance and volume.

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However, some things are easier to access in the "old" system control

However, the control panel is still responsible for some settings. This applies not only to advanced and fine adjustments, but also to some basic configuration options of the operating system.