Windows 11 may seem more restrictive and more limited compared with Windows 10. And that’s true to a certain degree, especially with such items as the new Start menu and the taskbar. But you’re not stuck with the look, feel and features of Windows 11 the way it comes.
SEE: Windows 11 cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
You can personalize the new version in a number of ways to make it more comfortable and inviting. That may mean changing the background image and colors, trying different themes, tweaking the Start menu, customizing the Lock screen, and adjusting the taskbar. Here are 11 ways to personalize Windows 11.
Change your background image
Don’t like the default background image in Windows 11? Head to Settings, select Personalization, and then click on Background. Assuming you want a picture, select one of the other built-in images. Better yet, click the Browse Photos button and choose one of your own photos or images (Figure A).
Create a background slideshow
Want your background image to change automatically? A slideshow will do the job. In the Personalize Your Background section, click the Picture button and change it to Slideshow. Select a specific folder of images from your PC. You can then adjust how long each picture lasts and whether to shuffle the order (Figure B).
Choose your colors
Under Personalization, select the setting for Colors. Here, you can switch between light and dark themes. You can also choose your favorite accent color, which then appears inside certain windows and potentially on the Start menu, Taskbar, title bars and windows borders (Figure C).
Turn to a theme
After you’ve customized your background image, colors and other visual elements, you may want to save them collectively as a theme. In Settings, go to Personalization and then Themes. Click Save to save your current configuration as a theme. Alternatively, click one of the displayed themes to apply a different look. You can even download additional themes from the Microsoft Store (Figure D).
Personalize the Lock screen
You can make the Lock screen more welcoming and more useful. Under Personalization, click the setting for Lock Screen. For the background, choose among Windows Spotlight, Picture or Slideshow. Windows Spotlight displays different images and other information from Microsoft. Next, opt to display the weather, your latest email, or your calendar on the screen (Figure E).
Tweak the Start menu
Not happy with the more stark and restrictive Start menu in Windows 11? Though customization options are limited, there are steps you can take to tweak it. Under Settings, go to Personalize and then to Start. First, turn off any items you don’t want to see in the Start menu or the All Apps screen. You can disable recently added apps, most used apps, and recently opened items. Further, you can add specific folders to the Start menu so they’re more easily accessible. Click the entry for Folders and turn on the switches for such folders as Settings, File Explorer, Documents, Downloads and Pictures (Figure F).
Tidy up the Start menu
You probably don’t need all the existing icons placed by default on the Start menu. You also likely want to add your own apps. And maybe you want to change the order in which the apps appear so the ones you use most often are at the top. You can do all that directly from the menu. Right-click on an app you want to remove from the Start menu and select Unpin From Start. Click the link for All Apps to look for apps you want to add to the menu. Right-click on one and select Pin To Start. Back at the menu, right-click an app you want at the top and select Move To Top. Finally, drag and drop different apps to sort them according to your own preferences (Figure G).
Populate the Desktop
There are probably certain apps you want to add to the desktop for quick access. Unlike in Windows 10, you can’t add pinned apps from the Start menu to the desktop. Instead, you have to go through the All Apps screen. Click the Start button and select the link for All Apps. Drag an app onto the desktop, and a shortcut is automatically created to it (Figure H).
Adjust the taskbar
Like the new Start menu, the Windows 11 taskbar has gotten complaints over its lack of flexibility. Still, you can adjust the new taskbar in a few ways. Go to Settings and then Personalization and then Taskbar. First, turn off any apps you don’t need on the taskbar, such as Search, Task View, Widgets or Chat. Next, turn on any features you want to access from the System Tray corner of the taskbar, including Pen Menu, Touch Keyboard and Virtual Touchpad. Then turn on the switches for any apps you want to see directly on the System Tray, such as OneDrive, Teams or Explorer (Figure I).
Add apps to the taskbar
You can easily add any app to the taskbar. Right-click on an app in the Start menu and select Pin To Taskbar. Right-click on an app at the All Apps screen, select More, and then select Pin To Taskbar (Figure J).
Control the taskbar
You can’t move the Windows 11 taskbar to any of the four sides of the screen as you can with the Windows 10 taskbar. But you can at least move it to a more familiar spot. From the Taskbar Personalization screen, select the option for Taskbar Behaviors. Change the alignment from Center to Left. Here, you can also opt to hide the taskbar and show or not show badges on taskbar icons (Figure K).
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