Windows is a polished Operating System circa 2021. It doesn’t seem as clunky as its older counterparts anymore. However, there are still a lot of tricks and tweaks that can make your daily PC experience much more hassle-free and efficient.
Here’s a list of my top 17 windows settings every pro should change now. I can guarantee that you will feel a lot like a power user after changing all these settings. Let’s dive straight in.
Windows Settings to Change for Better Performance
Pause Auto-Updates/Metered Network
Windows doesn’t allow disabling updates. It quietly downloads them in the background. Then, when you don’t need it, it throws a restart required message out at you. A pro user knows when their PC needs an update.
If you want to take charge when your machine updates, you need to pause auto-updates as soon as possible.
- Go to the Start Menu and type ‘windows update’. Alternatively press
Windows key + ikey together.
- Select Windows Update Settings and press Enter.
- Scroll down and select Pause updates for 7 days.
- If you go into Advanced options, you can increase the days to up to 35 days by clicking the pause button 5 times.
- Next step is to make your current connection as metered and disable metered downloads.
- Find Network in the search bar on the left, and select network status.
- Click on Properties of current network.
- Turn Metered Connection On in the next window.
This final step makes even LAN connections behave as Cellular internet, and hence stops background downloads. If you need to revert any changes, just undo these exact steps from the bottom.
You can also pause background updates permanently, using the data usage limit trick.
- Click on Start Menu and type Network Status to open the settings window.
- Under the currently connected network, select Data usage.
- Select Enter limit.
- Enter a limit to match close with your daily usage. If this limit is approached, Windows will stop background networking services for you. Thus you will be able to pause auto updates.
Disable Automatic Restart
This is another unwanted feature in Windows. Imagine you have a big presentation in the next five minutes. Right at that moment, your PC decides it wants to restart to apply updates. You don’t want to keep everyone waiting until the PC is done updating, right?
This is why you need to take control of when the PC restarts.
Windows key + i keytogether to open Settings, and open Update & Security.
- Scroll down and select Advanced options.
- Click on the option Restart this device as soon as possible to turn it off.
Disable P2P Updates(Windows Delivery Optimization Settings)
Windows calls this feature Delivery Optimization. It means your PC can deliver updates to other Windows PCs in your network.. Thus you end up with another process that’s taking up network resources on your PC. This is why P2P updates should be turned off.
- Go to Settings (
Windows key + i) and type ‘allow downloads from other pc’.
- Select the toggle button Allow downloads from other PCs to turn it off.
Turn Off Pop Up Notifications/Focus Mode
Hate pop-up notifications? Either when playing games or working, they are always a nuisance. Windows turns on notifications for all applications by default.
But it also allows you to choose when to deliver them or filter them out by apps. I like to turn them off most of the time. I do keep work-related notifications turned on but during work hours only.
To turn off or change notification settings,
- Go to Settings (
Windows key + i) and type notification settings and press Enter.
- Toggle the notification to turn it off or on as needed.
- If you need to disable notifications for certain apps, scroll down and turn it off for that app only.
Windows also provides a feature called Focus mode to turn off notifications altogether.
Win + Atogether.
- Select Focus assist to turn it on.
- Press it again to turn focus mode off.
App Folder Shortcut
Unlike macOS, Windows does not have an Application folder launcher. For someone who’s just made the switch, typing app names on the start menu can be mildly infuriating. With this trick, you can use any keyboard shortcut to open all your apps at once.
- Go to the desktop and create a new text file called openApps.bat.
- Open openApps.bat using a text editor(e.g. Notepad) and type the following :
- Save and Exit. You can now double click on this file to open the app folder.
- To create a keyboard shortcut for this, go to Desktop and do a right-click to open the context menu.
- Select New and then Shortcut.
- In the shortcut wizard, click on Browse.
- Go to the desktop location and select the openApps.bat file.
- Give a useful name such as “Launch” and select Finish.
- Do a right-click on Launch and select Properties.
- Under the Shortcut tab, select the Shortcut key field.
- Press X to automatically set the shortcut as
Ctrl + Alt + Xor any other preferred option.
- Press OK. Now, you can use the shortcut to launch the app folder from the keyboard.
Turn on Storage Sense
Storage Sense is a handy tool to help you get rid of junk files in your Windows. It can detect and remove any files that your applications aren’t using. You can mark files as ‘always keep’ if you don’t want the storage sense to delete them.
If you have set up OneDrive or other cloud-based drives, Storage Sense can mark unused files as online-only if you don’t open them.
- Click on Start Menu and search for storage settings.
- Toggle the button to turn on storage sense.
- Select Configure Storage Sense or run it now to change storage sense settings.
Create a Restore Point
Restore points are an essential tool for backup and security. Restore points are useful when:
- Your PC is under attac
- A corrupt application prevents Windows from booting up
- Your PC gets stuck on the Blue Error screen
- Other software issues
- Routine security check
When you create a restore point, Windows keeps a snapshot of all system files on that date. That way, if you run into trouble you can go back and restore your PC to one of the created restore points.
- Go to the Start Menu. Type Create a restore point and press Enter.
- Under the System Protection tab, select Create.
- Give a meaningful name for your restore point. You will have to recall it when attempting to do a system restore in the future.
- Press OK and wait until Windows creates the restore point.
Show File Extensions
Windows hide file extensions by default. Hiding file extensions is a security hazard. Viruses copy your file information and create a compromised copy of your file. If you have dealt with these issues before, you know you will spot them with the extension .exe right off the bat. Then you become wiser not to click on them.
Showing file extensions is also helpful to know what format the file is in. We have all ran into file compatibility issues one time or another when sharing files. A friend once sent me an xlsx file format but my PC was failing to open it up. Turns out I didn’t have the right software for it. Hence you could see why file extensions are useful.
- Go to the Start Menu. Type Show file extensions and press Enter.
- Scroll down and enable Change settings to show file extensions.
- Select Show settings immediately to the right of it.
- Uncheck the Hide extensions for the known file types option.
- Click on OK.
Change User Account Control Settings
Do you find it annoying to have to allow permissions when you try to run an application every time? They claim they do it for security purposes. But, if you are double-clicking on a file to open it, you have already made a decision.
Having a pop-up for confirmation only adds a delay to your process. This is why pro users tend to turn this setting off or change it down.
- Go to the Start Menu and type user account control.
- Select Change User Account Control Settings.
- Adjust the slider to decrease system intervention.
- Press on OK.
Change Gaming Settings
Windows has improved its gaming experience with a bunch of new features. These features help improve gaming performance.
Windows also has a Game Bar that can be accessed at any time during a gaming session. It has also enabled shortcuts for quick game recording and capture.
- Go to the start menu and type Game Mode to open a new window.
- Under Game Mode, click on the toggle button to turn it on.
- On the left navigation pane, click on Captures.
- Under Background recording, make sure the setting is turned off to improve gaming performance.
- On the left navigation pane, click on Xbox Game Bar.
- Click on the toggle button to turn it on. You can access the Game Bar by pressing
Win + G. Or you can choose your own shortcut as needed.
Improve Shutdown Time
If you’re running late for class or work, you’d want to get up and leave right away. Who has time to properly close and shut down all the open applications? I mean, Windows may have improved their startup time but their power off time is still a mess.
Sometimes, an application stops responding when you hit shutdown. Then, you will end up waiting forever for your PC to shut down. Luckily, you have the power to improve your shutdown time.
Win key + Rtogether to open the Run window.
- Rype regedit and press Enter.
- Navigate to the following path in the left navigation pane.
- Double click on WaitToKillServiceTimeout.
- Enter a value in milliseconds. Usually, you want to enter something higher than 2000 milliseconds. This is to avoid causing any trouble. Note that 2000 milliseconds is the same as 2 seconds.
- Navigate to the following path.
- Do a right-click and select String Value under New.
- Type the name WaitToKillAppTimeOut.
- Create another string value with the name HungAppTimeout.
- Double click on it and set it to 2000.
- Create another string value with the name AutoEndTasks.
- Double click on it and set it to 1.
- Reboot your PC when done.
Modify Privacy Settings
If privacy is a huge concern to you, you will want to change all privacy-related settings right away. Windows turns on advertising and tracking by default. But they make up for it by making it easier to opt-out of these settings.
- Go to the Start Menu and type privacy settings to bring up a new window.
- Under the list of options, select each one of these to turn them off.
- Let apps use advertising ID to make ads interesting
- Let websites provide locally relevant content
- Let Windows track app launches
- Show me suggested contents
- Next, select Location from the left navigation pane.
- Click on the Change button under the Allow access to location.
- Click on the toggle button to turn off location access.
- Next, select Diagnostics & feedback from the left navigation pane.
- Click on the toggle button under Tailored experiences to turn off sending diagnostics data to Microsoft.
- Next, select Activity history from the left navigation pane.
- Uncheck the following options.
- Store my activity history on this device
- Send my activity history to Microsoft
- Finally, go to the start menu and type start settings to bring up a new window.
- Under the list of options, uncheck the following :
- Show suggestions occasionally in Start
Manage Background Apps and Services
Windows has a lot of background running apps that take up system resources and leave little room for a performance boost. It is possible to turn some of these off if they are not critical to the running of the system.
- Go to the Start menu and type sync settings.
- Under Sync your settings, click on the toggle button to turn sync off.
- Next, go to the start menu and type cortana.
- Select App settings.
- Under App permissions, turn off the following settings.
- Background apps
- Under Run at log-in, turn off Cortana to prevent autorun.
- Next, go to the start menu and type background apps to bring up a new window.
- Turn off the following option:
- Let apps run in the background
Manage Virtual Memory
Virtual memory acts as a backup to your system RAM. When running your PC, your system may end up using all the available RAM. Then, it will use virtual memory as a temporary measure. Virtual memory resides on your hard drive.
But, even SSDs are not as fast as your RAM. But, a paging file can act as a buffer and move some of the operations from the hard drive back to RAM.
- Go to the Start Menu and type advanced system settings.
- Select View Advanced System Settings.
- Click on Settings under the Performance section.
- Select the Advanced tab.
- Under Virtual memory, select Change.
- Uncheck Automatically manage paging file size.
- Change the paging size as needed.
Manage Startup Apps
Startup apps tend to slow down your boot process. A lot of users complain that their PC isn’t loading up as fast as it did when it was brand new. This is expected behavior. The more applications you install, the more your PC has to deal with.
Some applications such as anti-virus have to start before your PC is ready. Yet, not all apps should be allowed that privilege. If you start disabling apps, you will notice your PC boots up significantly faster.
- Go to the Start Menu and type Startup.
- Select Startup Apps.
- Under the provided list of apps, turn off apps that don’t need to run at startup.
Change Dark Mode Settings/Night Light
A dark mode is an effective tool for any screen heavy user. If you have started thinking about your eyesight impact, you will want to start using dark mode and even dark wallpapers. The dark mode works best under low light conditions such as during the night.
All modern apps these days are shipping dark mode as one of the prime features. Also, some displays have the added advantage of reducing power consumption with it.
- Right-click on the Desktop and select Personalize.
- On the left navigation pane, select Colors.
- On the Choose your color picklist, select Dark.
- If you need to change back during the daytime, just change the setting to Light.
Night light may be one of the most underrated features in Windows. If you are a late-night user like me, the night light is a must-have feature for your PC. With the night light, Windows filters out the blue light component in the display.
Once you switch the night light on, your eyes will feel the difference right away. You will realize your eyes are more relaxed and calmed when viewing a blue light-free screen. Windows allows you to manually change the night light times. Or, you can schedule timings as per the sunrise and sunset table.
- Click on the Start Menu and type night light.
- Select Night Light.
- Click on Turn on now to change the setting to on.
- Adjust the strength to your liking.
- If you want to use the schedule feature, click on the toggle button to turn it on.
The scaling in Windows allows you to ‘zoom in’ certain interface elements. Depending on the type of display you use, it may be set at 100 percent or higher. It makes sense to use higher scaling if certain elements appear small to you.
Changing scaling settings is a personal preference. You can configure it separately for each display. Reducing scaling allows you to have more real estate on higher resolutions. It means more room for your windows.
If you’re using multiple monitors, you’d also want to use the scaling feature. This is to keep all your display devices in sync.
- Right-click on the Desktop and select Display settings.
- Under Scale and layout, click on the picklist to see the list of options.
- Select a value to see if it works out for you.
- If not, try again with another value.