The Windows 8 Control Panel is a slightly more complicated matter than Control Panel in Windows 7. The reason for this is that in Windows 8, there are two different Control Panels, one in Desktop mode and one in Metro UI (which is the name for the new Windows 8 Start Screen with the live tiles or apps). I’ll refer to these as the desktop control panel and the start screen control panel.
Control Panel in the Windows Start Screen (Change PC settings), is full of large buttons, mostly to perform basic tasks such as changing your account picture or enabling the spelling checker. The Control Panel in Desktop mode is called, err, Control Panel, and has all the more powerful settings from earlier Windows versions.
They don’t live next to each other on your computer, but they do work together. Sometimes, after clicking a button in Control Panel, you’ll be sent to the PC Settings from the Windows 8 Start Screen to flip a final switch.
With both sets of settings, you can modify the looks and functionality of your Windows. In this article, I’ll show you how to use the settings that you need and also which settings you better leave alone.
Windows 8 has hundreds of settings, spread over two Windows 8 Control Panel environments that look completely different. You’d need a bit of luck to accidentally bump into the right setting, so it’s usually a better idea to use the Windows search function.
To use the search function for PC settings, open up the Windows 8 Charms Bar (please see my Windows 8 Charms Bar article for more tips on this new Windows 8 menu) and click the “Search” charm, like illustrated in the image below.
Next, in the search charm, click “Settings”, so Windows will understand that you are searching for settings rather than apps or files.
Then, when you start typing the first letter, Windows will display a list with all matching settings. If you don’t know the name of a certain setting, you can simply enter a keyword like for instance “display” or “mouse” or “privacy”.
As soon as you see the setting that you’re looking for, you can simply click the setting to go to the matching Windows 8 control panel.
Using the search charm like described here can save you a lot of time. A couple of minutes in the search screen will give you more results than spending time looking through the hundreds of settings that live in the two Windows 8 Control Panels.
Should you still want to avoid the search function and take a look at all the available settings, then open the Charms Bar and click the settings charm, like shown here.
Then, click “Change PC Settings” to open up the start screen control panel.
This is what the start screen control panel looks like:
Very much like in the desktop control panel, the different settings are subdivided into categories: