What to Do When You Can’t Access Settings on Windows 10

The Settings app, one of the trademarks of Windows 10, has centralized all the necessary functions to manage the operating system. There you’ll find customization options, network settings, security features, update management, and other settings.

You can implement whatever changes you want via the Settings app, making it a vital component of the Windows system. Without it, your computer will be crippled and won’t be able to function properly.

And this is exactly what happened to some Windows 10 users who recently reported that their Settings app was not working. Here are some of the issues Windows 10 users were experiencing with their Settings app:

  • The Start button is not working. The Windows/Start button does not work when being clicked even though the right-click works fine. There are instances when the Settings app is even grayed
  • The search results are not clickable or do not work. When clicked, a window pops up for a brief moment, then automatically closes right after.
  • The search box does not work. Some are able to type into the search box, but pressing the Enter button does not yield any result, while some users are not able to click on the search box at all.
  • Settings app crashes for some users. The users are able to open the Settings app, only for it to crash immediately upon launch.
  • The Settings app icon is missing. For some reason or another, the Settings app disappears from the Start menu.

Not being able to access the Settings app can be a huge hassle as the app controls and manages all the features and critical operations on Windows. Although you can use alternatives such as the less user-friendly Control Panel and the complex Command Prompt, nothing beats a properly working Settings app.

If you can’t access your settings and other important features, you can follow the steps below to restore the Settings app to the way it used to be.

Why Users Can’t Access the Settings

There are various reasons why the Settings app become inaccessible to users. According to some user reports, they encountered this problem right after installing an update. The Settings app was working fine until they restart Windows, when they found out that the Settings feature is not working. If this is the case, the update installation must have broken something related to the Settings app during the process, which can be easily fixed by rolling back the updates.

In some cases, the Settings app problem just happened for no reason at all. One moment it was functioning properly, then the icon disappears or will not respond the next minute. This happens when the Settings app has been corrupted. The system files related to the Settings app can be corrupted by malware, power outage, or other factors. Repairing or restoring the damaged or corrupted system files is the best way to deal with this situation.

Too many junk files can also interfere with Windows processes, including the Settings and other major Windows features. This is why it is important to clean up your PC regularly and delete unnecessary files using a PC cleaner. It helps remove faulty junk files that might cause errors in the future. So perform regular housekeeping on your computer to prevent issues like this from occurring.

But there are also times when errors like this pops out of the blue because of a random glitch in the operating system. Restarting your computer usually fixes this easily because it resets your operating system. But if a simple reboot is not enough, you might need to boot into Safe Mode to completely fix it. Safe Mode prevents third-party services from running so there should be no other software to interfere with the running of Windows.

Alternative Ways to Open Settings

The most common method of accessing the Settings app is by clicking the Start button and clicking on the cog icon from there. If this doesn’t work, you can try the other methods below to open Settings:

  • Click the Start icon, then type in Settings in the search dialog. Choose the Settings app from the list of search results. This works if the Settings shortcut in the Start menu has been corrupted or sis not working.
  • Another option you can try is to right-click the Start icon, then choose Settings from the right-click menu. This is another shortcut that most Windows users are not aware of.
  • Press the Windows logo + I buttons on your keyboard together simultaneously to automatically bring up the Settings app. This is one of the easiest shortcut that you should be familiar with. This is usually used when the mouse does not respond or the screen is frozen.
  • Press the Windows + R keys simultaneously to launch the Run dialog. Type in ms-settings into the dialog box and hit the OK button. This should open the Settings app directly.
  • If you can’t open the Settings app using any of the shortcuts above, you can also try running a command. To do this, right-click on the Start button and choose PowerShell (admin) from the list. In the console window, type in start ms-settings, and then press Enter.
  • If the above steps don’t work, your last option is to click on the Action Center icon located in the Taskbar, then click All Settings.

The shortcuts above should help open your Settings app when the icon from the Start menu is not working. But if you still can’t open it despite all of your efforts, then there is something wrong with the Settings app itself. You can use the methods below to try and fix it.

What to Do If You Cannot Open Settings on Windows 10

This problem can be caused by a variety of factors, including corrupted Windows system files, damaged Settings app installation, and malware. It is, therefore, crucial to optimize your computer for the troubleshooting process by taking these preparatory steps.

  • Scan your computer for viruses and other malware. Completely delete all the infected files and uninstall the compromised programs from your system.
  • Uninstall apps that you don’t use or you don’t need.
  • Delete junk files that may be clogging your system, using a tool such as Outbyte PC Repair.
  • Restart your computer.

If your problem with the Settings app is due to a temporary bug, cleaning up and restarting your system should be enough to get it working properly again. If these steps do not work, proceed with the fixes below.

Fix #1: Install Updates via Command Prompt.

An outdated Settings app is prone to errors and irregular behaviors. However, installing updates requires access to the Settings app. If you cannot click on Settings, the only other way to install updates is via Command Prompt.

To install updates using a command line, follow these steps:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt window by typing cmd in the Start menu search box.
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + Enter.
  3. In the Command Prompt window, type in this command followed by Enter: exe /updatenow. This command should install all available updates on your computer.
  4. If nothing happens, try entering the command multiple times.

Once all updates have been installed, click the Start menu to check whether the Settings app has been fixed.

Fix #2: Run SFC and DISM.

System files are critical to the efficient running of apps and processes in the Windows operating system. If any of the system files related to the Settings app is damaged, corrupted or missing, the app won’t function properly or won’t work at all.

To check if there are problematic system files on your computer, you can use the System File Checker (SFC) tool to scan your entire system. Just open Command Prompt and type in the sfc /scannow command to check all your system files and restore damaged files with a cached copy from the Windows recovery image.

If running SFC does not yield any results, you can run a deeper scan using Deployment Image Servicing and Management or DISM. This tool checks Windows image files and virtual hard disks. The commands you need to use are:

  • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
  • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
  • Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

These commands should automatically repair any issues with your computer’s system files.

Fix #3: Re-register Settings App Using PowerShell.

The annoying thing about the Settings app and other built-in Windows apps is that they can’t be uninstalled the normal way. So if you cannot open Settings on Windows 10, you can only reset the app using PowerShell commands.

  1. Launch Windows PowerShell as an admin by right-clicking the Start button or pressing Windows + X. Choose Windows PowerShell (Admin) from the Power Menu.
  2. In the PowerShell window, type in the following command, then press Enter afterwards:
    Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers -Name windows.immersivecontrolpanel | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml” -Verbose}
  3. Wait for the command to be executed completely, then close Windows PowerShell.
  4. Reboot your computer and check if the Settings app is no longer acting weird.

Fix #4: Do a Clean Boot.

If none of the above solutions worked for you, try doing a clean boot to find out whether a third-party app is causing the issue.

To perform a clean boot:

  1. Using an admin account, click the Start button and type in msconfig.
  2. Choose System Configuration from the search results.
  3. Click on the Services tab, then tick off Hide all Microsoft services at the bottom of the window.
  4. Click the Disable all button, then hit OK.
  5. Click on the Startup tab, then click the Open Task Manager
  6. Once Task Manager is loaded, click on the Startup
  7. Click each of the items under the Startup tab and switch the status from Enabled to Disabled.
  8. Close Task Manager and restart your computer.

After rebooting, you should now have a clean boot environment. If the Settings app is working properly in this boot environment, then a third-party app, service, or process might be causing your issue.

To figure out the culprit, you need to systematically turn each service back on and then restart your computer. Doing this takes a lot of time and patience, so this should be your last resort. Repeat the process until you’ve isolated what’s causing the problem.

Fix #5: Create a New Windows User Account.

If you still can’t launch the Settings app after doing the above solutions, then you can try creating a new admin account and moving your files over to it. This is a drastic solution that we do not always recommend unless there is no other choice.

Because you can’t use Settings to create your new account, you can instead do it via the Microsoft Common Console Document if you are running Windows 10 Pro. To do this:

  1. Click on the Start button and type in lusrmgr.msc in the search dialog.
  2. When the Common Console Document opens, click Users, then click Add new user.
  3. Type in the necessary information to create your account.

Once the new account has been created, sign out of your current user account and log into the newly created account via the Start menu or by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del.

For Windows users running Windows 10 Home Edition, you can create a new user using the Command Prompt instead. To do this:

  1. Click the Start menu, then type in cmd in the search dialog.
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt, and then choose Run as administrator.
  3. In the Command Prompt window, type in the following command, then press Enter:
    net user newusername newpassword /add
  4. Replace newusername and newpassword with the username and password you want use for the new administrator account you wish to create.

When you see the confirmation message below, it means that the account has been created:

The command completed successfully.

The next stage of the process is to change the type of the user account you just created. To do this, follow the steps here:

  1. While logged into your old user account, navigate to Control Panel > User Accounts > User Accounts > Manage another account.
  2. Choose the new account you just created.
  3. Click on Change the account type > Administrator > Change Account Type.
  4. This means that your newly created account is now an administrator account.
  5. Sign out of the old user account and log into the new one. You should now be able to access the Settings app.

Next, you can now transfer your files to the newly created admin account. Follow the steps below to do this:

  1. In File Explorer, go to the hard drive where your Windows OS is installed, click on the View tab from the top menu, then tick off Hidden items.
  2. Navigate to your old admin account in File Explorer. The default address is C:/Users/old account.
  3. Double-click on the folder with the username of the old account.
  4. You will see a notification that says the you don’t have permission to access the folder.
  5. Click Continue to get access to that folder.
  6. Type in your account password if prompted.
  7. Once you’ve opened the folder, copy and paste all the files from there to your new account folder, located at C:/Users/newusername.
  8. A message pop up confirming if you want to merge the folders from your old account to your new one.
  9. Click Yes.

All your files should now be transferred to your new admin user account.

Fix #6: Reset Windows.

If creating a new admin account does not fix the issue, then you need to reset your Windows 10 PC from the lockscreen. You don’t even have to be logged in to perform this reset.

To do this:

  1. Start your computer until you get to the lock screen. Don’t type in your username and password.
  2. Hold down the Shift key, then click Restart from the power keys found at the bottom-right of the screen.
  3. This will open to a new Boot Options window instead of shutting down and restarting.
  4. From here, navigate to Troubleshoot > Reset this PC. 
  5. Choose whether you want to remove all your apps and files or leave your local files intact.
  6. Click the Reset button.

This should hopefully fix whatever problem you are encountering with the Settings app.

Final Notes

Not being able to access Settings and other important features in Windows 10 can be a huge pain because these are the core components of the Windows operating system. The alternative ways of accessing these features and options are troublesome, if not risky, so fixing the Settings app is the practical choice. You can refer to the above guide to fix any issues with your Settings app and get it working perfectly again.

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