Software

10 more quick tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want

Sometimes the default Windows 10 configuration settings are just not good enough. In this follow-up to our first list of tweaks, these additional tips will make Windows bow to your wishes.

The default configuration of Microsoft Windows 10 is adequate for most situations, but for many of us there is always some tweaking that can, and should, be done. And just like every version of Windows that has come before it, Windows 10 configuration settings can sometimes be difficult to locate because they reside deep down the rabbit hole of screens, control panels, and menus.

Navigating this labyrinth of configuration settings, features, and application tweaks can be a major annoyance if you don't have some guidance. This list of 10 more tips for Windows 10 can help you get a handle on your installation so that you can make it work the way you want it to work—as it should be.

Note: This article, along with our previous set of tips, is available as free PDF download.

SEE: 15 essential support sites for Windows admins (Tech Pro Research)

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Image: iStock/Kerkez

1. Gauging 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 to Figure A.

Figure A

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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.

2. Moving 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 (Figure B).

Figure B

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This tip is particularly useful for modern PCs that often come with two storage drives—a lower capacity SSD, designated as the system drive, and a higher capacity standard 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.

3. Restricting users

Another way you may want to save some storage space on your hard drive is by setting data quotas for each user of your PC. You can set the limits by opening Explorer, right-clicking the drive you want to work with, and then selecting Properties. On that screen, you want to select the Quota tab and then click the Show Quota Settings button, as shown in Figure C. Just select the Enable Quota Management checkbox and adjust the settings to your preference.

Figure C

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4. Adjusting views

Using default 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 and then click the down button in the Open File Explorer To box to see a list of possibilities (Figure D). This is also where you can make changes to what files display on the Quick Access menu.

Figure D

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5. Enabling background scrolling

One of my favorite tweaks to Windows 10 is to enable background scrolling for program windows that are not currently in focus. For example, I sometimes need to scroll a web page displayed in my browser while I am writing in Word. By enabling background scrolling, all I have to do is hold the mouse pointer over the browser window and use the scroll button.

To turn on background scrolling, click the Notifications icon in the lower-right corner of the default Windows 10 desktop, click the All Settings button, click Devices, and then click Mouse & Touchpad in the navigation window. Change the slider button to On for the Scroll Inactive Window When I Hover Over Them setting (Figure E).

Figure E

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SEE: Windows 10 Creators Update: The smart person's guide

6. Changing notifications

The Windows 10 Action Center is a good idea, but the default configuration can send an overwhelming number of notifications your way. 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 (Figure F).

Figure F

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7. Checking privacy

Windows 10 has a reputation, accurate or not, for invading user 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 wish. (Figure G).

Figure G

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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. For example, I don't really want or need location information stored in the cloud since I don't use Cortana. So I took a moment to delete that information from the cloud.

This is also a good place to go if you want to restart Cortana because she 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 spot on—sometimes you just need to start over.

8. Optimizing OneDrive

I am a big fan of OneDrive. I use it to store my writing assignments so that I can access them from anywhere. However, I really don't need to always sync every file to every device. You can optimize the settings by changing what files and folders get synced.

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 in Figure H.

Figure H

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9. Removing Office install prompt

Most users are familiar with the Do You Want To Try Microsoft Office? prompt that is so typical with OEM installs of Windows 10 on new PCs. However, after about a dozen reminders, must of us would really like for our PCs to just shut up about it. It's easy to make that happen.

Click the Start menu in the lower-left corner of the Windows 10 desktop and navigate to the Get Office App shortcut in the All Apps menu. Right-click the icon and choose Uninstall to remove the application, and by extension, the prompt. (Figure I)

Figure I

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10. Switching playback devices

Depending on where you are and what you are doing, you may have reason to change your default playback device from internal speakers to external speakers, or maybe to headphones. I like to set up my playback devices to change depending on what is connected to the PC—internal speakers, unless headphones are attached, for example.

To change default playback devices, right-click the speaker icon in the system taskbar and select Playback Devices. You should see a screen similar to Figure J. From this screen, you can choose your default devices and configure the output depending on your setup. My gaming headset, for instance, is 7.1 surround sound capable, so I want to make sure I take full advantage of it.

Figure J

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Also see...

Your thoughts

Have you been trying to figure out how to change a setting in Windows 10? Perhaps your peers on TechRepublic can help. Post your query in the discussion thread below.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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