For the sake of this guide and to ensure this article has the farthest reach possible, we’re going to be making a few assumptions today. You’ll want to make sure that you do not fall outside of these guidelines before reading onward, just in case.
Firstly, we’ll be approaching this with the assumption that you’re running a fresh, stable build of Windows 10. Whether or not you’ve recently installed Windows should be mostly irrelevant. However, it is important that we make this assumption to ensure that all of the programs, tweaks, or changes we suggest have not yet already been implemented. If you see something in this guide that you’ve previously done, feel free to skip it.
Within the nature of this guide, most likely all of the changes we suggest you make should not have already occurred. You might use a handful of the programs we suggest, and that’s fine! The reason we’re assuming a fresh install is that the bulk of users whom will benefit from this guide will be those whose computers were recently purchased or built or people that are reinstalling Windows for the first time. Vintage installs might have a handful of the programs we suggest, some users might have applied some of the tweaks we’ll bring to your attention, and some might even have outdated versions of Windows. All in all, it’s a pretty safe bet our guide will work just fine for you.
How to optimize Windows 10 – Privacy & Windows Update
Turn off peer-to-peer updates.
Step 3: Sharing is caring only if you’re not a cynical privacy advocate. If you aren’t into much caring or sharing, you’ll probably want to stop Windows from uploading updates from your computer to other people’s computers without you knowing. This setting is on by default, and it’s a bit tricky to find so bear with me.
- Open the Settings app (win+i)
- Choose Update & Security
- Choose Advanced Options
- Choose how updates are delivered
- Select “PCs on my local network.”
- OR if you’re worried, just turn update sharing off
Updates are not something you want to be sharing over the internet to unknown PCs. However, sharing updates within your home network, among other Windows 10 computers in your house is beneficial.
Set Active Hours
Picture this: you are on a safari fleeing from the local natives as is traditional in any good safari experience. You need to reach 3.015407S by 61.610080W to get away, and your computer is the only thing that will take you there. In accordance with Murphy’s Law, it is at this moment that Windows 10 will begin a forced update and reboot. To prevent this unfortunate scenario, it is in your best interest to set your active hours and restart options. Active Hours tells Windows that it is not OK to automatically restart your computer without warning you during a certain period of time. Restart Options will let you decide exactly when to restart your computer when new updates are pending. You can find both of these settings in by following these instructions: Open the Settings app (win+i)
- Open the settings app (win+i)
- Choose update and security
By the way, since you’re already in this area, if you haven’t installed the latest updates for your computer, you should check for updates and install them. You wouldn’t want your computer to blue screen while you’re traversing the jungle because of an old Windows bug, would you?
Now that you have Windows all updated, it’s also a good idea to update those shiny new Windows 10 app store applications. To do so follow these instructions:
- Open the Windows Store app
- Click on your profile picture next to the search box
- Choose “Downloads and updates.”
This will take you to the downloads and updates page (never would’ve seen that coming) where you can check for and install updates to your Windows 10 app store applications.
Disable Wi-Fi Sense
Enabled by default, Wi-Fi Sense will attempt to automatically connect you to safe or recognized networks while using Wi-Fi. From your neighbor’s wi-fi, coffee shops, airports or even hotels. It is an inconvenient “feature” bundled with Windows 10 that only leads to security concerns, headaches, and the occasional concern that you might connect to a metered connection and not know it.
- Luckily, Wi-Fi sense is fairly easy to turn off and below I’ll show you just how to do that.
- Open the Settings app (win+i)
- Choose Networks & the Internet
- Choose Wi-Fi
- Disable all options underneath Wi-Fi Sense.
That’s it! Do note that the option will only appear if you are using a wireless connection.
Drivers are pieces of software that allow your operating system to properly communicate with your hardware. From mice and keyboard, to even basic functionality of your motherboard, drivers are an essential part of every computer.
A majority of your drivers will be ones that enable proper motherboard functions such as proper USB support, audio, networking and more. There are also drivers for graphics cards. These drivers are what will enable you to use your discrete graphics card to its fullest potential. Without it, you are more than likely going to see reduced framerates, and in some instances, games may outright refuse to open.
Because drivers are tailored both to your operating system as well as your specific model for a given piece of hardware, it would be very difficult to provide links for all of the drivers we’ve mentioned. For the sake of convenience, We will provide you a list of suggested drivers to get you started. To find these drivers, search the model of your hardware on Google, along with “support” or “drivers” in the search key. Example: “EVGA GTX 1060 Drivers.” For graphics cards, note that the manufacturer of the card itself is most likely where you want to go, versus the retailer’s website (AMD or nVidia in 99% of cases).
- Motherboard chipset drivers.
- Motherboard USB drivers.
- Motherboard Networking / LAN drivers.
- Motherboard audio drivers.
- Graphics card drivers.
To find out what drivers are missing from your computer, go to the device manager:
- Open the control panel
- Click on Device Manager
- Devices without drivers will be displayed in the “Other Devices” section with a yellow question mark next to their name.
Ideally, you should have no devices with question marks in your device manager when you’ve completed installing drivers.
While there may be more out there, as drivers for certain peripherals, this list should suffice for most cases and should help you get up and running as fast as possible.
Control Panel Items
If you’re going to use a mouse with your computer, you’re going to want to disable the “help” (hint: it doesn’t help) Windows tries to give you. In the control panel, click on “Mouse” to bring up the mouse settings window. Select the “Pointer Options” tab and make sure that “Enhance pointer precision” is turned off, and your pointer speed is set exactly in the middle (the 6th notch from the left or right). This disables mouse acceleration and stops Windows from modifying your mouse input.
Changing the default Power Options in Windows can be a necessary key to ensuring that your games perform optimally and that you eliminate any potential headaches that could arise from Power Saver features enabled by default.
To access your Power Options, simply do the following:
- Type in Power Options in the start menu and hit enter.
- Select the plan of your choice. (We’ll go over this below)
- Select “Change plan settings.”
- Select “Change advanced power settings.”
For desktops and gaming laptops tethered to a constant stream of energy and or dark matter, you’ll want to consider enabling High-Performance mode to ensure that your device is allowed access to the entirety of its CPU and GPU. Feel free to play around with these settings to best fit your needs. Below, we’ll suggest a few changes make, as long as you’re okay with a little less battery life and a raised electric bill.
- Disable “Turn off hard disk” by setting Minutes to 0.
- (For those on Wi-Fi) Change Wireless Adapter Settings to Maximum performance.
- If you don’t need it, disable Sleep.
- Disable USB selective suspend to ensure all your USB devices are always functional.
- Disable Link State Power Management for PCI.
- Disable or change the inactive window on Sleep Mode for your display.
Set Default Programs
By default, Windows will ask you to specify what program you wish to use as the default for things such as photo viewing, music, and even web browsing. Unfortunately, unlike in previous operating systems, you can now only set default by accessing this menu, versus selecting to save it as the default program. At least the item is easy to access to change it until Microsoft updates your operating system again and defaults everything back to “Choose a default.”
- Type “Default Programs” into the start menu and hit enter.
- Change your defaults to your preferred applications.
At least, for now, this is easy to change and only takes a moment or two. For how long, though?
Change default media directories
If you’re using multiple hard drives or you have an SSD installed, you’re most likely going to want to move certain file types to a separate drive. From music to pictures, documents or even videos, these types of files can quickly eat up a lot of space. Whether you want to avoid filling up your SSD, or you wish to avoid fragmenting your OS hard drive, moving these types of files to a separate drive or computer can be highly beneficial. Luckily, the steps to do so are rather simple.Open Explorer (win+e)
- Open Explorer (win+e)
- From “This PC” right-click the folder(s) you wish to move and select properties.
- Under the Location tab, designate the new directory by navigating to the drive or drive folder you wish to save the new file types to.All changes made here will show up on the side of Explorer as well as in the start menu.
All changes made here will show up on the side of Explorer as well as in the start menu.
Ninite is a website / application designed to make retrieving and installing common programs completely painless. From a web browser(s) of choice to anti-virus software and even backend software for Windows itself, Ninite truly is an essential part of every new Windows installation. To use Ninite, on their website select all of the applications you wish to install and hit “Get Your Ninite.” A file will be downloaded that can be run to download and install all of the selected applications. Rather than downloading, running and subsequently deleting the installer(s), Ninite will connect to the internet and download all of your programs, ensuring that it de-selects any options for toolbars or other third-party installers that may come bundled with your selected applications. The only downside to Ninite is that it requires the designated PC to have an internet connection, as Ninite doesn’t include the installers themselves in its own download.
To use Ninite, on their website select all of the applications you wish to install and hit “Get Your Ninite.” A file will be downloaded that can be run to download and install all of the selected applications. Rather than downloading, running and subsequently deleting the installer(s), Ninite will connect to the internet and download all of your programs, ensuring that it de-selects any options for toolbars or other third-party installers that may come bundled with your selected applications. The only downside to Ninite is that it requires the designated PC to have an internet connection, as Ninite doesn’t include the installers themselves in its own download.
Truly, Ninite is a lifesaver and a major convenience when doing fresh installs of Windows. It is a must-have for everyone.
By definition, bloatware is software that comes preinstalled on a computer and is little more than a nuisance to most users. Unfortunately, Windows 10 comes pre-loaded with a handful of applications that most users will find unnecessary or will outright get in their way. From the Xbox app to the My Phone app, Candy Crush and Get Office to News apps and more. There’s a handful of applications that just waste space, RAM and processing power, and we’ll show you how to remove them.
The PC Decrapifier
Although it may sound like a joke, The PC Decrapifier is an actual application designed to find and remove bloatware. Although not perfect for the case of Windows 10, PC Decrapifier does a good job of detecting and removing most of the unnecessary applications that come with Windows 10. Namely, Get Skype, Get Office 365 and other similar applications. Where it excels, however, is in discovering and removing toolbars or other software bundled with applications you download. It’s certainly worth a shot to see what all it can catch and remove for you.
Removing Windows Apps Manually
Through the PowerShell in Windows, you can remove a handful of the bloatware that comes bundled with Windows 10. With a simple command (that is copy+pastable) you can have a much cleaner PC in a matter of moments!
In order to access the PowerShell, simply do the following:
- Search “PowerShell” in the start menu.
- Run “Windows PowerShell” as an administrator.
That’s it! Now, enter the text specified below to remove the corresponding application(s) from your computer.
(Courtesy of LifeHacker for the list)
Uninstall 3D Builder:
Get-AppxPackage *3dbuilder* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Alarms and Clock:
Get-AppxPackage *windowsalarms* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Calendar and Mail:
Get-AppxPackage *windowscommunicationsapps* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *windowscamera* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Get Office:
Get-AppxPackage *officehub* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Get Skype:
Get-AppxPackage *skypeapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Get Started:
Get-AppxPackage *getstarted* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Groove Music:
Get-AppxPackage *zunemusic* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *windowsmaps* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Microsoft Solitaire Collection:
Get-AppxPackage *solitairecollection* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *bingfinance* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Movies & TV:
Get-AppxPackage *zunevideo* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *bingnews* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *onenote* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *people* | Remove-AppxPackage
Uninstall Phone Companion:
Get-AppxPackage *windowsphone* | Remove-AppxPackageUninstall Sports:
Get-AppxPackage *bingsports* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *bingweather* | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage *xboxapp* | Remove-AppxPackage
Removing any or all of these applications will not negatively affect the core functionality of Windows 10 and should be completely harmless. After running all of the commands you wish to run, be sure to restart your computer just in case.
Helpful Software You Should Have Installed Already
Isn’t it amazing that we live in a world where you can download, install, and run almost any piece of software without issue on just about any operating system? I’m sure you don’t really think about it often, but software defines the modern operating system experience. You can extend the base functionality of any operating system with wonderful pieces of software that are often as free as they are necessary. The software below only caresses the baby smooth surface of the left buttcheek of the Windows 10 software ecosystem. However, like a good rump, the first caress is all that it will take to open up your world to new possibilities.
CCleaner has two primary uses: first, it will free up space on your storage devices and second, it will erase private data such as your clipboard, browsing history, internet cache, etc. The first use case should be clear. If you want to free up some extra space on a drive, run CCleaner to help find and delete useless files that just take up space. Hard drives (both spinning disk and SSD) as well as Windows perform best when there’s at least some free space on your disks. The second use case is a little fuzzier. Why would you want to delete your browsing history or internet cache? These collections of private data can be used to track and monitor your online activity should someone get ahold of them. Erasing the data keeps things private.
Discord is a VoIP (Voice over IP… think Skype) i app designed for collaborative gaming and community communication. First of all, Discord is 100% free to use. You can choose to either use Discord directly through your web browser or download the Discord desktop/mobile application. Discord organizes communication into servers and further subdivides servers into text channels and voice channels. Each server supports role-based delegation of permissions to participate in and modify channels. This makes it easier for server administrators to maintain a pleasant community atmosphere. Text chat and voice chat are separated into different channels. You can be present in both a text and voice channel at the same time, but you can only be active in one of each simultaneously. Simply clicking on a new channel (or server on the left) allows you to switch rooms. In this way, a single discord server can support multiple conversations at once.
CPUID provides several software that are indispensable for gathering information about your computer (you know… to troubleshoot those problems that you’ll never have). CPU-Z and HWMonitor are the most common recommendations. After a short install, CPU-Z will tell you everything you never wanted to know about your CPU. After a similarly short install, HWMonitor will give you visibility into your computer’s various sensors to see things like temperature and fan speeds. If you know what you’re doing, you can use these tools to troubleshoot problems within your computer yourself. Even if you’re not up to doing your own troubleshooting, CPU-Z and HWMonitor will help you describe your system and problem in specific terms that will help others help you help yourself.
7-Zip is an open source software used to archive and unarchive files of just about any format. What exactly is a file archive? Have you ever come across a .zip file? How about a .rar file? What about a .tgz file? If you have, you might’ve wondered how you were going to unpack those files (or even how people make these files). 7-Zip is the answer to both of those questions. 7-Zip will archive and unarchive just about anything for you. It’s a really indispensable tool.
Imagine you’re going along playing Call of Battlefield 75 and all of a sudden the power goes out. No biggie right? Power comes back on, and you go to turn your computer back on to resume your game. Except it doesn’t turn on. Maybe you see something on screen, maybe you don’t, but you do hear an ominous clicking coming from the hard drive slot on your computer. You, sir or madam, have just been boned. It is a good thing you were taking regular system backups of all your important files for just such a situation right? RIGHT?There are two main types of backups you’ll want to have. File system backups that simply gather your data and keep an extra copy of it, and system image backups that will allow you to restore your computer completely to a point in time. There are lots of software to help you do both of these. We personally like to use Acronis (premium), but software such as Veeam (free for home), CrashPlan (premium), and Backup 2 (premium) are great alternatives.
There are two main types of backups you’ll want to have. File system backups that simply gather your data and keep an extra copy of it, and system image backups that will allow you to restore your computer completely to a point in time. There are lots of software to help you do both of these. We personally like to use Acronis (premium), but software such as Veeam (free for home), CrashPlan (premium), and Bvckup 2 (premium) are great alternatives.
I hope I don’t have to explain why it’s a good idea to have some form of antivirus/antimalware protection. For protection, the main players as of 2017 are Avira, Windows Defender (which comes installed with Windows), Bitdefender, and Avast. For more in-depth reviews, see the following extremely helpful site. In the event that you are reading this, and you are already infected, (please wash your hands and stop spreading germs) the best medicine would be Malwarebytes.
Tweaks That We Think You Should Know
Windows 10 in its default configuration has many interesting design choices included that often leaves us scratching our heads. Outside of this, there are also a handful of tweaks out there that are relatively easy to make and can be of great convenience. Today, we’ll introduce you to a handful of them. Don’t feel compelled to do them all, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. We just want to maintain the “P” in PC (that stands for “personal” for all you young’uns).
Open explorer to “This PC.”
By default in Windows 10, Explorer will open to Quick Access. This is unlike every other version of Windows, and anybody coming from a previous version will surely feel lost. Luckily, it’s very easy to revert this design flaw change.
- Open explorer (win+e)
- Click “File” at the top-left.
- Click “Change folder and search options.”
- Change “Open File Explorer To:” from “Quick Access” to “This PC.”
Overall, it’s a very quick and easy change to make that takes almost no time at all, yet saves you from having to deal with Quick Access.
Hide the search bar and Task View button from your taskbar.
Windows 10 is all about online connectivity and easy access to information via Cortana. One place this doesn’t belong is in the taskbar. You can hide the Task View button as well as the large “Search Windows” box by following these quick-and-easy steps.
- Rick-click the taskbar.
- Untick “Show Task View Button.”
- Hover over “Search” and click “Hide.”
That’s it! It really is that easy.
Hide desktop icons
Perhaps you’re a neat-freak like me. Perhaps you want to simply take a screenshot of your desktop without annoying icons. Perhaps you need to hide something on your desktop. Luckily, hiding your icons is very simple. There’s no need for a folder or to delete them!
- Right-click the desktop.
- Hover over “View.” and untick “Show desktop icons.”
That’s it! You can easily undo this by re-ticking the option.
Automatically log in
Perhaps your computer starts very quickly, but its fast boot is interrupted by the requirement for a password to be entered. Perhaps you don’t like this. It’s easy enough to disable. Do note that you will only want to do this if your computer is not used by anyone else and is not a public device, as this means that simply turning on your computer will drop you on your desktop.
- Type “netplwiz” into the start menu and hit enter.
- Select your User Account and untick the “Users must enter a username and password to use this computer” box.
- Restart your computer
Any subsequent boots will completely skip the login screen and drop you right at your desktop. Be warned! Although these tweaks only begin to scratch the surface of the customization options inside of Windows 10, they’re mostly noninvasive and easily reversible if you dislike the outcome. Have any tweaks or suggestions of your own? Be sure to put them in the comments!
Now that we’re at the end of this guide, I’d like to thank you all for reading, and we hope at least some of the suggestions we’ve made will benefit you. Windows 10 is a very powerful, capable operating system that is held back by flaws that arose when Microsoft attempted to integrate more social elements and mobile design. While not perfect, it is still an excellent operating system, and doubly so for gamers, with the inclusion of DirectX 12 and other gaming optimizations.
Now that you’ve buffed out the scratches and dings of Windows 10 be sure to hit up the Personalization settings and make it your own! Not to mention grabbing all of the software you’ll want. Make it yours!
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