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.
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?