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The Windows 8 Desktop’s Control Panel

When the Windows 8 Start screen’s PC Settings screen isn’t enough, head for the big guns: The desktop’s Control Panel lets you while away an entire workweek opening icons and flipping switches to fine-tune Windows 8. Part of the attraction comes from the Control Panel’s magnitude: It houses nearly 50 icons, and some icons summon menus with dozens of settings and tasks.

Don’t be surprised, though, when you flip one of the desktop Control Panel’s switches and wind up in the Start screen’s PC Settings screen to finish the job. The two control panels can’t seem to leave each other alone.

To open the desktop’s Control Panel, point your mouse cursor in the screen’s bottom-left corner and right-click. (Or press Windows+X.) When the text menu pops up in the bottom-left corner, choose Control Panel.

To save you from searching aimlessly for the right switch, the Control Panel lumps similar items together in its Category view.

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Below each category’s name, shortcuts list that category’s most popular offerings. The System and Security category icon, for example, offers shortcuts to review your computer’s maintenance and security status, turn on the File History backup, and access troubleshooting tools.

Some controls don’t fall neatly into categories, and others merely serve as shortcuts to settings found elsewhere. To see these and every other icon the Control Panel offers, choose either Large Icons or Small Icons from the View By drop-down list, shown in the top-right corner of the figure.

The window quickly displays all umpteen-zillion Control Panel icons. (To return to the Category view, select Category from the View By drop-down list.)

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Don’t think something’s astray if your Control Panel differs from the one shown. Different programs, accessories, and computer models often add their own icons to the Control Panel. Different versions of Windows 8 also have slightly different icons.

Rest your mouse pointer over any confusing icon or category in the Control Panel, and Windows 8 thoughtfully explains its meaning in life. (Add this perk to the list of reasons why touchscreen owners will want a mouse when visiting the Windows desktop.)

The desktop’s Control Panel gathers all the main switches in Windows 8 into one well-stocked panel, but it’s certainly not the only way to change the settings. You can almost always jump to these same settings by right-clicking the item you want to change — be it your desktop, an icon, or a folder — and choosing Properties from the pop-up menu.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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