Unified Support Technician Guide to Utility Easy Access via the Windows Command Shell

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That Control Panel or Windows Utility that was once easy to find in Windows XP is now buried under more dialogs and hidden in a new interface layout with the introduction of Windows Vista and beyond. Microsoft can't leave things in familiar places. It is like having someone go into your shop and reorganize, or disorganize all of your tools.

The good news is that if you know the DOS COMMAND (roughly speaking since it isn't really DOS anymore and the programs are not console programs) to open the control panel interface you need, you can always get a command shell in any Windows version and from there directly access the interface. This provides a unified familiar way to get to settings and utilities that will work in any version of Windows from Windows XP though Windows 8.1 - very handy.

You can get to a command prompt in any of these windows versions by pressing Windows Key + R. However, you may need to create a temporary shortcut to cmd.exe on the desktop and right-click to open it by selecting "Run as Administrator..." for some of the settings access to function properly with the correct security privileges.

SECTION 1 - Windows Control Panel Applet Commands

In Windows XP you click START and then RUN to access the Run dialog. This can be accessed by a right click on the Windows logo (where the start menu was in XP) in the Windows desktop (not the Metro screen.) Windows Key + R also launches the Run program dialog box.


Common Windows components can be accessed directly by executing them from the run program dialog, such as the Control Panel. Enter "control" and click OK to open the control panel. See below for other common applets:

You can use "control" + the applet name below, or, depending on your version of Windows, simply use the applet name alone.

  • sysdm.cpl - system properties (Advanced System Settings) contains System Protection (Microsoft System Restore), and Computer Name, Workgroup, & Domain
  • ncpa.cpl - network connections (configure NICs and other connections)
  • firewall.cpl - windows firewall
  • appwiz.cpl - programs and features (add/remove programs)
  • hdwwiz.cpl - add hardware wizard
  • desk.cpl - display screen res
  • inetcpl.cpl - msie properties
  • powercfg.cpl - power mgr
  • mmsys.cpl - sound
  • timedate.cpl - date and time
  • nusrmgr.cpl - user accounts and passwords (Windows 7)

Special control panel applets (you must type "control" before the applet name.

  • control - open windows control panel
  • control folders - folder options (where you can do things like show hidden files and show file extensions)
  • control mouse - mouse device properties
  • control userpasswords - user accounts and passwords
  • control fonts - opens the fonts folder in an explorer window
  • control printers - opens printers folder
  • control system - opens system properties (Vista, 7 and 8x)
  • control desk.cpl,screensaver,@screensaver - Screensaver
  • control /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate - Windows Update (legacy: wuapp.exe)

Microsoft Management Console applets

  • devmgmt.msc - Device Manager
  • diskmgmt.msc - Disk Management
  • fsmgmt.msc - File Share Mgmt
  • services.msc - Services Management, start / stop / disable services

note: These (some or all) Windows Applet commands work in Windows versions including 2000, XP, 7, and 8.

This is not a comprehensive list, it is a list of the common more common/useful commands. See our discussion page for additional commands.

SECTION 2 - System Protection and System Restore

Start System Restore from a command prompt

You can start System Restore from a command prompt window if you cannot start your computer in any mode other than Safe Mode with Command Prompt. You need to have an administrator account to perform these steps. This procedure is for "restoring" and not for creation of a restore point. Microsoft KB-304449 Q304449

  1. Start your computer in Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
  2. Login
  3. At the command prompt, type "rstrui.exe," and then press Enter.
  • This method goes directly to the "Restore system files and settings" dialog.

Start System Protection from a command prompt

System Restore is used to restore your system from an already existing restore point in Windows Vista/7 and System Protection is used to create a restore point. System Protection can not be ran directly from the command prompt. It can be accessed indirectly from one of two interfaces that you can open from the command prompt.

  1. Run system restore "rstrui.exe" and then click the link in the middle of the dialog that is the last line of text which reads "To create a restore point,
      open System Properties
    ." --or-- You can go directly to System Properties by typing "sysdm.cpl" at the command prompt.
  2. Click the "System Protection" tab and then the "Create..." button in the bottom right.
  • Use this method to manually create a restore point or change automatic restore point configuration.

System Protection is actually one of the tabs in the System Properties dialog box. The "System Protection" tab has a button in the bottom right of the dialog which says "Create..." System Properties is a Windows Control Panel Applet and the command "sysdm.cpl" is one of the many useful Windows Control Panel Applet Commands.

See Microsoft System Restore for more information.

SECTION 3 - Microsoft Management Console applets EXPANDED

Control desktop         Launches the Desktop Control Panel subprogram
Control color           Launches the Desktop Control Panel subprogram, with the Appearance tab preselected
Control date/time       Launches the Date/Time Control Panel program
Control international   Launches the Regional Settings Control Panel subprogram
Control mouse           Launches the Mouse Control Panel subprogram
Control keyboard        Launches the Keyboard Control Panel subprogram
Control printers        Displays the Printers folder
Control fonts           Displays the Fonts folder
Control folders         Launches the Folder Settings Control Panel subprogram
Control netware         Launches the Novell NetWare Control Panel subprogram (if installed)
Control telephony       Launches the Phone and Modem Options Control Panel subprogram
Control admintools      Displays the Administrative Tools folder
Control schedtasks      Displays the Scheduled Tasks folder
Control netconnections  Displays the Network and Dial-up Connections folder
Control infrared        Launches the Infrared Control Panel subprogram (if installed)
Control userpasswords   Launches the Users and Passwords Control Panel subprogram

SECTION 4 - Windows Maintenance Programs

These are executable programs that are part of the Windows operating system used for maintenance tasks.

cleanmgr.exe - Windows disk cleanup
wuapp.exe - Windows Update  (see also: control /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate and wuauclt /updatenow)
chkdsk /f - reboot to scan and repair filesystem errors
chkdsk /r - reboot to both fix errors on disk and locate bad sectors to recover readable information

Run chkdsk with administrator privileges on Vista and higher. Create a shortcut to cmd.exe, right click, and choose to "Run as Administrator." It is not necessary to use the /f switch with check disk when using the /r switch, since /r assumes /f too. Using the /r switch takes substantially longer than using /f.

SECTION 5 - NT Console Service Control "net service"

Restart IIS and related services from msdos with net command:

 net stop iisadmin      <- stops iis and related services, usually including
                          w3svc, smtpsvc, msftpsvc, etc...

Starting them up

 net start w3svc        <- will also start iisadmin
 net start smtpsvc      <- smtp service

Other useful tips:

 mode con lines=50      <- make dos window larger (using legacy ansisys cmd)
 net view               <- see all netbios workstations with sharing
 net view \\workstation <- see shares on a machine


NT Console Other Options

Determine Uptime on Windows XP,

cmd /k Systeminfo | Find "Up Time"

Systeminfo shows much info. host, install date, uptime, etc.

Determine Uptime on Windows 2000

net statistics server

Start, Stop Windows Update Service (windows 2000/XP - Windos 10)

Net stop WuAuServ
Net start WuAuServ

SECTION 6 - Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line

wmic partition list brief
wmic nicconfig where index=9 call enablestatic(""), ("") - Update static IP address
wmic nicconfig where index=9 call setgateways("", ""),(1,2) - Change network gateway
wmic nicconfig where index=9 call enabledhcp - Enable DHCP
wmic process call create "calc.exe" - Start an application
wmic process where name="calc.exe" call terminate - Terminate an application
wmic process where name="explorer.exe" call setpriority 64 - Change process priority
wmic process get /format:htable > c:\process.htm - Process list
wmic logicaldisk where drivetype=3 get name, freespace, systemname, filesystem, size, volumeserialnumber - Information 
                                                                                                           about harddrives

Redirect and format output to a file, information about the OS

wmic os get bootdevice, buildnumber, caption, freespaceinpagingfiles, 
installdate, name, systemdrive, windowsdirectory /format:htable > c:\osinfo.htm

SECTION 7 - Control Panel Applets Complete List

Control admintools 		Administrative Tools
Control desktop 		Desktop personalization
Control folders 		Folder options
Control netconnections 	Network connections
Control printers 		Devices and Printers
Control userpasswords 		User Accounts
Control appwiz.cpl 		Programs and Features
Control desk.cpl 		Screen resolution
Control hdwwiz.cpl 		Device Manager
Control powercfg.cpl 		Power options
Control sysdm.cpl 		System Properties
Control wuaucpl.cpl 		Windows Update
Control /name Microsoft.BackupandRestore 	System image backup/restore; Repair disc
Control /name Microsoft.CredentialManager 	Web apps, Windows logon credentials
Control /name Microsoft.DefaultPrograms 	Default Programs
Control /name Microsoft.FileHistory 		File/settings backup & restore
Control /name Microsoft.Recovery 		System Restore/Recovery Drive
Control /name Microsoft.StorageSpaces 		Manage storage spaces

SECTION 8 - Command Line Tools Miscellaneous

  • wuapp.exe - Windows Update (versions up to 8.1)
  • wuauclt.exe /updatenow - Windows Update for Windows 10
  • msinfo32.exe - GUI Window with comprehensive listing of the computer hardware, resources, software, and Internet settings. You can also redirect to text file ( msinfo32 /report c:\info.txt )
  • systeminfo.exe - console text version. useful to pipe to text file ( c:\systeminfo > info.txt )
  • sdclt.exe - Windows Backup and Restore GUI interface.
  • wbadmin.exe - Windows Backup and Restore console command.
  • netplwiz.exe - New command as of Windows 7 for managing user accounts. Legacy: "Control Userpasswords2" in XP.
  • taskmgr - task manager and control startup programs in Windows 10
  • shutdown /g - like shutdown /r except also restarts any registered program when the system has loaded.

If you want to force Windows to restart into SAFE MODE this can be done with VISTA and higher in a privileged command shell:

bcdedit /set safeboot Minimal

Then to set Windows back to normal boot:

bcdedit /deletevalue safeboot

otherwise it will keep booting into safemode.