No matter how you look at it, adjusting configuration settings in Microsoft Windows 10 can get complicated very quickly. Whether it is tweaking system settings for better performance or adjusting configuration settings to personalize the Desktop, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of settings to consider.
Here are some of the best and simplest changes I have chosen to share in this post that will help you increase Windows 10 performance and personalize the experience to meet your needs.
Maximize CPU performance
If you are using a desktop PC or a notebook that is always plugged in, you might want to maximize your CPU performance by changing your Power Options. Right-click the Start button in the lower-left corner on the Desktop (Or Windows key + X) and navigate to the Power Options menu item. On the screen, as shown below, click the High Performance radio button. Changing this setting will decrease the the battery charge use time.
Pin File Explorer searches
One of the more powerful features of the Windows 10 File Explorer is the ability to save searches. Saving searches is a great way to access your common search type more quickly than retyping the search every time.
Saving searches is especially useful if you often perform more advanced searches, or search by combinations of date range, file type, or keywords.
Saving a search in Windows is pretty straightforward. After you’ve performed any search in File Explorer, just select the “Search” tab and then click the “Save search” button. (In Windows 7, the Save Search button will just be available under the address bar).
By default, searches are saved in a folder named “Searches” that you will find inside your user folder (example; “C:\users\<username>\” though you can save the searches anywhere you like. (In Windows 7, they are saved in the “Favorites” folder.)
Open File Explorer and navigate to your Users folder and then to your Searches subfolder. Right-click the saved search and pin it to your Start Menu for easy access.
Switch Cortana from Bing
Microsoft has defaulted your personal assistant “Cortana” to use Bing as your default search engine and not Google You can over-ride Cortana to use a different search engine, but first you need to change your default web browser.
Notes: Microsoft’s Bing search engine does have the qualities of Google search but it is not a privacy-friendly search engine.
If Firefox is made to be your default browser in Windows 10, “Cortana” should be using Google Search. If Chrome is made your default browser, you will need to install the Chrometana extension and change the default; otherwise, Cortana will be stubborn and keep using Bing.
Overview and short description on the Chrometana extension: “Redirects all Bing (and therefore Cortana) searches to a search engine of your choice”.
Limit Cortana’s reach
To change Cortana’s search behavior even more, you can limit the parameters of the search itself. For example, Cortana can be told not to search the internet at all.
Click the Cortana search box in the Taskbar and then navigate to the Cortana settings screen, as shown below.
At the bottom should be a setting that says Search Online And Include Web Results. Switch that to Off and “Cortana” will not display web results no matter which search engine is the default.
Take advantage of OneDrive Fetch
When you create a Microsoft account, one of the best perks is that you also get OneDrive cloud storage at no additional cost. But a little-used feature called Fetch can get you even more than that. Note: This does not apply to OneDrive for Business.
Right-click the OneDrive icon and navigate to Settings. On the next screen, click the Settings tab to get to the screen shown below. Look for the “Let Me Use OneDrive To Fetch Any Of My Files On This PC” checkbox. This will allow you to access any file on this device from any computer using any browser simply by logging into your on-line version of OneDrive.
Change the Windows 10 Default where apps install
Most computers are being manufactured now with a combination of SSD and larger capacity mechanical data drives. A great idea, but it does require a bit more management, particularly when it comes to where to install new apps. In most cases, you will want new apps installed on the larger mechanical data drive, not the smaller capacity high speed solid-state boot drive.
To change the default drive for apps, click the Start Button and navigate to All Apps | Settings | System | Storage. You will see a screen similar to the one shown below. From this screen you can change the default locations for apps, documents, music, pictures, and video.
Create a custom shortcut folder
If you use the Windows 10 Start Menu to navigate to your apps, this next advanced tip may help you. You can create a custom Start Menu folder to contain shortcuts to any apps, documents, etc., that you care to include. You can then pin that folder to the Start Screen or on the Taskbar.
Begin by opening File Explorer and navigating to this folder (image below):
Note: AppData is a hidden file, so you will have to select the Show Hidden Files check box on the Ribbon.
In the Programs folder, you can add your own sub-folder. In my example I used the folder name A_Custom_ Start_Folder so it would display in the “A” section of the Start Menu. You can put any shortcuts to apps in that folder you want.
Remove Windows.old Folder
Hard drive storage is not as costly or as limited as it once was, but certainly of this operating system is installed on SSD you do not want to waste drive space.
If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, you will have a folder on your boot hard drive that contains the old version of Windows. It is safe to delete that folder and thus regain some considerable free storage space on your hard drive.
To delete the folder, open File Explorer, navigate to the hard drive where Windows 10 resides (typically this is the C drive), and right-click it. Now, click the Properties menu item to get to a screen similar to the one shown above. Click the Disk Cleanup button to start the scan and then click the “Clean Up System Files button”.
Add more places to send files
When you are working in File Explorer and you right-click a file and navigate to the “Send To” menu item, you will see a small list of suggested places where you can send the file. If you Shift + right-click that file instead and then navigate to the “Send To” Menu item, you will be shown a much more extensive list of places where you can send that file.
Get additional Snap Assist options
Most users are familiar with the Snap Assist function in Windows 10, where dragging a window to either side will snap that window into one-half of the screen. However, many users are unaware of how the Snap Assist function has been enhanced for Windows 10.
Not only can you drag and snap to one-half screen–now, if you drag a window to one of the four corners of the screen, it will snap to fill one-quarter of it. This means you can easily position four windows to be open at once, as shown in the image below.
You can find all the Snap Assist settings under System settings. To get there, click the Start button, navigate to All Apps | Settings | System | Multitasking and set the sliding buttons to meet your needs.
Gauge drive use
Hard drive storage is not as limited as it once was, but it’s still a good idea to know just how much room you have left on your drives and what files are taking up the most space. In Windows 10, you can find that information by navigating to the proper settings item.
Click the Notifications icon in the lower-right corner of the default Windows 10 Desktop, click the All Settings button, click System, and then click Storage in the navigation pane. Click the drive you want to examine and you should see something similar the image below.
With this information, you can see if certain files are taking up more space than they should be or than you can afford. For example, perhaps it is time to archive all of your “what I had for lunch” photos to a different storage medium. Or perhaps your music collection is starting to outgrow your capacity. Whatever the problem, this tool will show you what needs to be moved. Just click on a section and you can move or delete the excess files to reclaim the necessary space.
Windows 10 Storage Sense
If you don’t want to go through your files and folders and delete data manually, you can turn on a feature called “Storage sense“. You can find it in Settings, on the Storage screen. Storage sense will automatically delete temporary files and files in the Recycle Bin without you having to do anything.
Move Windows 10 apps
If you discover that you are running out of space on a drive, you can try moving apps to another location via the Move Apps feature. Click the Notifications icon in the lower-right corner of the default Windows 10 Desktop, click the All Settings button, click System, and then click Apps & Features. Click on the app you would like to move (image below).
This tip is particularly useful for modern computers that often come with two storage drives—a lower capacity fast SSD, designated as the system drive, and a higher capacity standard (slower) mechanical hard drive, designated as the application drive. The default installation drive for many applications is typically the system drive, but in the double drive setup, the secondary, high-capacity drive is the correct choice, which means you will have to move apps from time to time.
Remove the default Windows visual flourishes
Windows 10 defaults to using a lot of visual flourishes that make the operating system easier on the eye. Fades, shadows, and animations are all well and good, but most users would trade them for faster performance. You can turn off some of these extra graphics effects, which reduces the demands on system resources like processor time and memory.
Open the Windows taskbar “Start Menu” and enter “sysdm.cpl” into the search box. Next, hit Enter, and then switch to the Advanced tab.
Under the Performance heading, click the Settings button to disable window animations, fades, font smoothing, drop shadows behind dialog boxes, and other visual enhancements.
Adjust File Explorer views
Using default Windows 10 settings, File Explorer will open at the Quick Access menu. To change that behavior, open File Explorer and click the File tab in the upper-left corner. Click the Change Folder And Search Options menu item.
Now click the down button in the Open File Explorer To box to see a list of possibilities (image below). This is also where you can make changes to what files display on the Quick Access menu.
View (advanced users)
The View tab has the option to either show or hide vital system files, hide file extension for known types, change how icons are displayed, or whether or not folder windows themselves launch individually as their own independent system processes.
Change Windows 10 notifications
The Windows 10 Action Center is a good idea, but the default configuration can send an overwhelming number of notifications to the notification area on the desktop. You can adjust what apps send you notifications and save your sanity in the process. Click the Notifications icon, click the All Settings button, click System, and then click Notifications & Actions. Scroll down the page to adjust notification settings to meet your particular needs (below).
Windows 10 Privacy
Windows 10 has a reputation, accurate or not, for invading a users privacy. Microsoft is aware of this perception and has taken steps to mitigate it. If you want to see what private information about you is currently stored in the cloud, navigate your browser to account.microsoft.com/privacy and review the free dashboard located there. You can view browsing history, search history, Cortana’s notebook entries, and much more. You can also purge the information if you desire.
If you decide that you don’t want all of this private information floating around, you can click the buttons on the dashboard under each category and delete the information.
This is also a good place to go if you want to restart Cortana because the assistant knows you too well or if the “you” she knows is not the “you” you want her to know. Personal digital assistants like Cortana work well only when the data they have collected is accurate.
You can optimize the settings by changing what files and folders get synced to OneDrive. This will save space and computer CPU process time.
Right-click the OneDrive icon in the system tray on the Windows 10 Desktop and click the Settings item. On the Account tab, click Choose Folders to get a list of folders currently being synced, as shown below.
Optimize Windows 10 With Gaming Mode
Later releases of Windows 10 feature a gaming mode, a system built-in set of optimizations for Windows 10 Gaming Mode. To find out more, use the Windows key + I, type “game mode” then click Control Game Mode for optimizing your computer device for games.
On the Gaming screen, click Game Mode. Switch to On to take advantage of Game Mode. If your PC supports Game Mode, Windows Update will be suspended while gaming and resources will be managed to achieve the optimum frame rate.
Disable (some) Startup Apps
A given Windows 10 system may be running slow because of the number of startup programs (apps that automatically start along with the system at boot). These apps slow-down the boot-up process and can degrade the device’s over-all performance, hence disabling unused (or unwanted) apps can speed up the performance of the system and improve the overall responsiveness.
Use the following keys on the keyboard
Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Windows 10 Task Manager
Click the Startup tab to view the list of startup programs
Right-click and select Disable on programs you only occasionally or ever rarely use.
Disable Background Apps
Under Windows 10, Apps running in the background take system resources (memory and CPU), which can heat up your computer and reduce performance. Setting Windows 10 to start some of these background automatic tasks manually reduces resource usage and will speed up your system.
Use the following steps to turn off unwanted background-running apps
Via the Start button, go to Settings
Click Privacy, then select the last option in the left panel “Background apps”
Now disable any background apps you don’t need or use. Many such programs and apps can be started manually – only when desired.
Use the Windows Troubleshooter
Windows 10 features a built-in diagnostic troubleshooting tool to help resolve issues affecting your computer.
Troubleshoot your Windows system using the following steps:
Select Start > Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot
Select the type of troubleshooting you want to do, then select Run the troubleshooter
Allow the troubleshooter to run and then answer any questions on the screen.
If you see a message that no changes or updates were necessary, or optionally you can try recovery options
Video Guide: Use the Windows 10 System Maintenance Troubleshooter
Running the “Automated Maintenance Troubleshooter” manually may help identify and remedy some performance issues that may otherwise remain hidden. Watch the video below:
Migrate Windows 10 to an Solid State Drive (SSD)
A very effective, but somewhat disruptive, way to improve the speed of Windows 10 is to move the operating system or a mechanical hard drive to a brand new SSD.
SSDs are essentially very fast memory and unlike mechanical hard drives have no moving parts or other sensitive mechanics to go wrong (wear-and-tear, heat, vibration).
I usually recommend that you employ my skills to perform this system migration from a older (slow) mechanical drive to a Solid State Drive.
Windows 10 performs very well on SSD’s, drastically reducing load times and boot times to mere seconds (about 2.8 seconds on my older HP i7 Laptop).