Even if you’ve been using Windows forever, there are probably a lot of settings that you never realized were on by default, and should probably change. These might be settings for privacy, convenience, or just usefulness in general. Therefore, we are going to go over a group of settings in Windows, specifically Windows 10 that you should change right off the bat, including stuff you should disable, and even features that are good, but aren’t enabled by default. And there are about 15 of them, so you’ll hopefully learn at least a couple new ones.
First of all let’s start with Windows Update settings. To get to the main settings Window, you just click the start menu, then click the gear. Go to Update & Security, then look for “Advanced Options”, and then click “Choose how updates are delivered”. Here you’ll want to make sure the setting at the bottom is set to “PCs on my local network”, and NOT the other one with PCs on the internet. What that would do is download parts of updates from other people who have the update, to supposedly make the download faster. But it would also send parts of your updates to other people, using up bandwidth. On your local network it doesn’t really matter, but you can disable this altogether by switching the toggle above to off.
Change of some Wi-Fi settings. Back in the main settings window go to Network & Internet, then the Wi-Fi tab. Under Wi-Fi services, you’ll see two options talking about suggested open hotspots, disable both of them. Suggested hotspots are supposed to be hotspots that Microsoft has deemed “legit”, and this would allow your computer to connect to them automatically. But open hotspots are inherently insecure, so you never want your computer to connect to any network without asking you first, it’s just unreasonable.
Now we can go through a bunch of privacy settings and get them out of the way all at once. So start out going to Settings, then Privacy. First we’ll start out in this general tab. You’ll definitely want to uncheck the first box, and probably the second box as well. These basically allow websites and apps to track you based on a unique “Advertiser ID”, in order to learn more about you and show you more relevant ads.
The next one about your language list might not matter, but you may want to have it disabled. If you use a language other than English, may be keep that enabled.
The third setting is also something you may or may not want to disable. It basically keeps track of which programs you launch most frequently, so you can have a “most used” list in the start menu. If you don’t care about that, disable it.
The next tab we’re going to look at is “Speech, Inking, and Typing”. This feature basically keeps record of everything you type or say to cortana, the virtual assistant, and apparently uses it to “get to know you”, and make better suggestions. For those of you who don’t use Cortana, it’s definitely something you want to disable, so just turn that off. Moving on, head to the Location tab. Very straight forward, if you don’t want Windows apps using your location, turn this off. If you have some apps you want to allow, you can turn the feature on, and individually enable and disable apps in the list after scrolling down.
The next tab is “Feedback and Diagnostics”, which adjusts how Windows will track how you use Windows, and then send it back to Microsoft. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to disable completely. But you’ll at least want to change this from full to basic, to minimize what they collect. Otherwise, look what it tracks. Browser usage, like what websites you visit probably, “feature usage” which could mean anything, “inking and typing data” which is literally anything you type. So if you really don’t have it on full, and may be disable the toggle about tailored experiences too.
Finally for privacy settings, these actually are for cortana specifically. To access these click the Cortana button, then the Gear. Or search for “Cortana settings” in the start menu. If you don’t use cortana, you basically want to turn all of these off. If you DO use Cortana, you can go through these and change what you want it to track. But I certainly suggest disabling Cortana on the lock screen, otherwise someone might be able to access a lot of your data even when the computer is locked.
The next thing is about all those annoying notifications Windows seems to give you all the time. So head to Settings, System, and Notifications & Actions. I personally wouldn’t disable notifications altogether because they can be useful, but if you see one app that is particularly irritating, you can scroll down and disable its ability to show notifications. Back up top, you probably want to disable the option to show notifications on the lock screen. As you know, a notification can sometimes show private information, like emails for example. Also, I’d enable the one that says Hide notifications when duplicating the screen. Say you go to do a presentation, and you hook the computer up to a projector, you again don’t want some notification popping up on the screen with sensitive content for all to see. Now you don’t have to worry about that. Finally, you can disable notifications for tips and tricks, which could be annoying. Speaking of annoying, let’s disable the obnoxious “suggested apps” you see in the start menu, which are essentially advertisements. In settings go to Personalization, Start, and disable where it says “Occasionally show suggestions in start”.
There’s a setting we want to change under Settings, Gaming, Game DVR. You almost definitely want to disable the one that says “Record in the background while I’m playing a game”. Leaving this on means any time you’re playing a game, it will constantly be recording video even if you don’t save it, which will use up resources and could severely affect performance.
One setting you might want to ENABLE in gaming is Game Mode, which will only show up if you have the latest creators update version of Windows. This setting supposedly might free up system resources for your games if your computer is really crappy. Though another tech channel, LinusTechTips did some tests, and found it made little difference on reasonably powered computers, and might actually decrease performance in that case. So probably keep this disabled unless you have a really old computer, then it might help.
Okay now we’ve disabled a lot of stuff so far, so how about we actually find some neat features to enable. First is a super cool feature called “Night Light” which can be found in Settings, System, and then the Display tab. But this feature will only show up if you have the latest so-called creators update. What this feature does is change the color of the screen at night so that it’s much easier on the eyes, and won’t disrupt your sleep schedule as much. And it does this by cutting out blue light, which is what keeps us up at night longer than we want to be. In Night Light settings, you can adjust the strength of the effect, and what time you want it to activate, including sunset to sunrise. But you will need location services enabled if you want to do that. If I were you, I would literally set it to the strongest setting. It might look trembling at first, but I can almost guarantee you’ll get used to it at night.
Here are a couple more settings to enable for Windows Explorer. Just open up any explorer tab, like My Computer or whatever. At the top click View, and then check the two boxes that say “File Name Extensions” and “Hidden Items”. If for some reason those don’t show up, you can find the same settings by hitting Options, then going to the View Tab. What the first check box does is makes sure that for every file on your computer, it will include the file extension with the file name. So it shows the entire file name. This is really important for a lot of reasons.
For example, may be you download a suspicious file that claims to be a video, but with this, you can see that it’s actually an exe file, an executable! Guess what, that file is almost certainly a virus. The virus maker may even add their own fake file extension like “virus.mp4”, but now you can see that the real name is “virus.mp4.exe”.
Another example is if you have a folder full of files with the same icon from being opened by the same application. This way you can still see what kinds of files they are if you know you’re looking for a video as opposed to a picture or something. That other check box we selected was for Hidden Items. You may or may not have known this, but there are file and folders on your computer that are not visible to you by default. These might be settings files for certain programs, or log files, that sort of thing. Most of the time you won’t need them, but occasionally you might come across our post describing you how to fix a program, and it will refer to a file that’s hidden. If you don’t have this enabled, you might think that file is gone. Also, a lot of times viruses will create hidden files for obvious reasons, so the average user will have almost no chance of being able to remove it all by themselves. So it’s at least good to know that these files exist, and I think that covers just about everything. I hope you found this post helpful, and learned something to make windows better.