Tweaking Windows on a new computer

Setting up a new computer can feel like climbing a mountain. It’s a daunting task, especially if you have a full workload. Set aside a few days, and before you even start to fill the new machine with programs, spend some time getting Windows working the way you want. 

I’ve just got a new Dell XPS 13”. Transferring programs and data from my last machine was time-consuming but simple, because I followed my own blog post on moving programs from 4 years ago, updated in 2015 and again this week. A dedicated post on moving SDL Trados Studio also helped trigger my memory. But neither post mentions Windows at all. So here’s a list of some of the changes I made to the fresh Windows 10 installation that you may want to check out in your current set up or in the future:

Operating system language

My Windows was pre-installed in Spanish. To change the display language to English or another language:

  • Click Win Key > Settings > Time and Language > Additional date, time & regional settings > Language.
  • Click Add a language, select the language and install.
  • After adding the language, click Options to define the Windows display language and keyboard layout.

Note that changing the display language is likely to confuse Cortana and make her unresponsive.

Keyboard layout

Tweak the keyboard language layout in the steps above. To quickly switch from one layout to another, press Win key+spacebar to toggle through the languages. If Windows uses another shortcut (such as Ctrl+shift) that clashes with other shortcuts, switch it here:

  • Click Win Key > Settings > Time and Language > Language bar options > Advanced Key Settings > Change Key Sequence and change or disable the shortcut.

Lock screen (Windows Pro only)

Removing the lock screen gets rid of the screen with the date, time and notifications, and doesn’t affect Windows login.

  • Click Win key, type gp and select Edit Group Policy.
  • In the Local Group Policy Editor window go to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Control Panel > Personalisation
  • Double click Do not display the lock screen, select Enabled and click OK.


BitLocker is a built-in disk encryption tool in Windows 10 Pro. Passwords at system start-up provide some security but can be hacked. If your laptop is stolen, the hard disk can simply be plugged into another computer to bypass a login. Disk encryption therefore provides an additional layer of security.

I was surprised to find that BitLocker is now enabled by default. My C drive should have shown a yellow warning triangle, but didn’t. This default behaviour leaves you without a recovery key until you take action.

  • Click Win key, type BitLocker and select Manage BitLocker.
  • Select Back up your recovery key and follow the wizard.
  • Choose one or more back-up recovery options. (I decided to print the key and back it up to my Microsoft account.)

System Restore

In addition to the recovery drive that Windows prompts you to create when you’re setting up your machine for the first time, it’s also important to set up the System Restore feature. System Restore reverts your system to a point created manually or automatically before a new app is installed or other changes are made. Data files are unaffected.

  • Click Win key, type Restore and select Create a Restore Point.
  • Click Configure and select Turn on system protection.
  • Define Max Usage as 2% or 3%.


My office workstation consists of a laptop connected to two 24” monitors and an external mechanical keyboard. But I strip it down to a single 13” screen when I’m out and about. Windows now switches seamlessly from high to low DPI displays but still struggles to keep the desktop icons pinned in the same position.

I install a free app, DesktopOK, to set up separate icon layouts for each work setup. DesktopOK recognises the screen(s) and stops the icons from jumping around at random.

File Explorer

I’ve tried different file management tools but always come back to the native Windows app because of its robust indexing, file preview feature and quick access pins (I drag all current jobs to the quick access pane).

But File Explorer isn’t perfect. Here are a few tweaks to improve it:

  • Indexing

Windows indexes files to make file searching fast. Default behaviour indexes filenames and contents, but only in common locations and for common file types (Office files, txt, html, etc.).

Since I store my data in a folder directly in c:// (not in my docs), I tweak this here: Win key > Indexing Options > Modify and add my data folder to the list.

An alternative to specifying a folder for indexing is to add that folder to Windows Libraries, where all files are automatically indexed.

  • Appearance

The main changes I make here are to display hidden files and extensions for all file types. Both settings are in the view tab on the ribbon. Options can be further tweaked in the Options button in the same ribbon group.

  •  Copy a single file name

I install a tiny tool called Copy File Name to do just that through the context menu (select a file > right mouse click). File rename (F2) does the same job but takes several more clicks because it excludes the file extension.

  • Copy a list of file names

I keep a batch file on my desktop to copy all file names in a single folder. Setting up a .bat file is very simple:

  • Open Notepad and create a text file with a single line in it: dir /b > filelist.txt
  • After saving the file, change the filename extension from .txt to .bat
  • Copy the file into the target folder and double click the file.
  • Result: A .txt file with a list of all file names.
  • LockHunter

Files and folders sometimes get locked in Windows applications. File Explorer then blocks actions to delete, move or rename files.

LockHunter offers a quick solution. This tool adds an option called What is locking this file? in the context menu and frees the trapped file or folder.

Over to you

What other changes do you make to the default Windows settings?

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12 Responses to Tweaking Windows on a new computer

  1. janeishly says:

    Thanks for these posts, Emma – I’ll be getting a new laptop myself over the summer and it’s interesting to see what someone else is installing. For example, I (somehow?) hadn’t heard of Baccs, despite apparently being entitled to use it for free as part of my ProZ plus membership. I assume you like it, because you’re using it, but have you blogged about it? (I’m interested in how useful it is for a translator who doesn’t outsource, for example…)

    As for Windows tweaks, as soon as I start a new PC I immediately install a thing called Classic Shell so that the interface looks like old-fashioned Windows instead of whatever adolescent-friendly version they’re currently insisting we use! And a similar utility (UBitMenu) in Word to restore the traditional menu. These two programs alone have saved me at least hundreds of hours of retraining myself to get used to a new interface. I’ve never understood how Microsoft can get away with imposing such vast interface changes on business users – I was working in my last “real” job when Word 2007 arrived, and everybody in the company lost days simply trying to work out where menu options had been hidden.

    • Hi Jane, Yes, I’m a BaccS convert and have blogged about it twice. It was actually designed for freelance translators, by a freelance translator, and now has features for agencies and outsourcers.
      Interesting that you’re so fond of Classic Shell. I know lots of people are, but I enjoy the challenges of new interfaces and am willing to spend all those hours sussing them out!

  2. Eugene K says:

    I like to use robocopy tool, which exists by default in Windows, but users usually don’t know about it. This small command-line utility replaces me all possible backup solutions. Just make bat file with something like “robocopy D:\Translate E:\Translate /MIR” (it may contain multiple lines to list all your important folders), and it will make full backup (add new files and delete old ones). I create scheduled task to run this bat file everyday, which allows to create mirror backup on second hard drive.

    • Hi Eugene, I’d never heard of Windows’ Robocopy before, but after reading up a bit, it seems it makes a full copy, and not an incremental back-up? Surely you’re not copying entire folders every day?

      • Eugene K says:

        No-no, Emma, it compares folders, and copies only new/changed files, and deletes old files in the target folder. So, even for large folders (say, 100 Gb in size) the process takes just a few mins. Like in RAID, we just get full mirror copy of the source folder. Just don’t forget to use /MIR key, otherwise it will indeed create a full copy. Additionally, I personally have two backup targets (1 for everyday and 1 for every week).

  3. Gracias Emma, muy oportuna tu entrada porque estoy mirando qué laptop comprar para sustituir la antigua. Me gusta mucho tu idea de usar la laptop acompañada de dos pantallas y el teclado externo, así se optimizan recursos. Yo sigo con dos, el PC de escritorio con el teclado mecánico y las dos pantallas, además de la laptop para cuando estoy de viaje. Mi vida con los dos PC se ha simplificado desde que utilizo OneDrive para almacenar los proyectos de Trados y otros recursos compartidos, pero tengo que seguir activando y desactivando la licencia de Trados (yo tengo la licencia profesional y la opción de instalación en 2 PC sale demasiado cara). Perdona que me he desviado del tema de tu entrada, una pregunta: ¿Qué característica en particular ha hecho que te decidieras por la Dell XPS 13? Yo he estado mirando configuraciones similares para Surface Pro (pensando en el soporte de Microsoft), o ASUSPRO B9440 (pantalla de 14″ en un chasis de 13″ que solo pesa 1 kg)?
    PD/ Me perdí tu taller de Trados en Barcelona porque estaba fuera. Espero que hayan otras oportunidades, la próxima no me la pierdo.
    Un saludo desde Olot,

    • Hola Laura, si no te importa, te contestaré en inglés para que todos nos entendamos…
      It wasn’t actually my choice to get a Dell XPS 13″. I’ve had a series of small laptops (Lenovo 14″, Dell 12″…) because I love the idea of having a single powerful machine that will double as my main work machine and travelling companion. Always combined with a docking station at my desk to manage two high-res screens. But – and it’s a big but – I’ve been unlucky and none has proved robust in the long run.
      The Dell 12″ was still under guarantee, so when it died suddenly two months ago, Dell replaced it with a 13″ equivalent (the 12″ was withdrawn from the market because it’s battery performance was appalling). I suspect the MS Surface and Asus you mention may be equally unreliable, but I don’t know. My next machine will definitely be a desktop.
      Sorry you missed the Trados workshop. It was a good’un!

  4. Nora Diaz says:

    Hi Emma,
    Thanks for another great blog post and thank you for the tip about Copy File Name, I’m sure I’ll be using it extensively. Regarding Indexing, I like to enable file contents search for certain file types, such as sdltm and sdltb. Very simple to do and incredibly useful.

    • I’ve never had any success searching for content in SDLTMs in File Explorer, even after indexing that specific file type for name and content. File Explorer never returns any results. Still, glad to hear it works for you, Nora!

  5. EP says:

    It sure gets involved fast, doesn’t it? I mean with setting everything up again on a new system. You forget how much work it is – go into denial mode. I went through this two weeks ago. Very interesting points and tips here. Good luck!

  6. Thanks for this very useful post Emma. I just went through a Windows update a week or so ago and I can see scanner problems and a current project sdl xliff file disappeared into thin air! This will definitely serve me well for setting up a new system from scratch.

  7. Pingback: A dozen must-have programs for translators: how to move them to a new computer | Signs & Symptoms of Translation

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