By Matt Bentley
By now you either use or have at least heard of Windows 10. It’s a bit of a mess.
It doesn’t help that Microsoft is discontinuing Windows 7 in February 2020, meaning that it will no longer receive security update patches and be safe to use on the internet. There are still ways to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, if you have a valid Windows 7 licence but these aren’t straightforward to do unless you have a reasonable amount of proficiency with computers.
Here are some tips on how to improve the experience.
But once you’ve got Windows 10, what do you do? You’ve probably heard about forced restarts for updates, of updates breaking wifi support and various other catastrophes, calamities and indignities.
Windows 10 spies on you to an extent, sending usage data back to Microsoft for analysis – anonymously, supposedly, but who knows? Perhaps it’s a bit of a ‘First World problem’ to complain about this stuff but there are a few things you can do that make Windows 10 more useful, less annoying, and less creepy.
The first thing I recommend is a little free program called O&O Shutup10. If you run Shutup10 and apply the ‘Recommended’ settings, it will disable the bulk of the telemetry (spying) that Windows 10 does. Of course, every time you get a major security update Windows will revert some of your changes, so it pays to run this program after every major ‘feature update’ (these come out about every six months).
The next thing I suggest is installing the free Open-Shell. Remember how the Windows 7 Start menu (that button in the bottom-left-hand corner) used to make sense? How it was completely useful? Well, no more. Open-Shell brings back the start menu style from Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP, depending on which you prefer the most. It’s also very customisable, if you’re a bit of a tweaker. Download, run and install. Nothing could be simpler.
Now there’s a few settings you can tweak. Right-click your mouse on the taskbar (that strip at the bottom of the screen where the programs pop up) and left-click on Taskbar Settings. Scroll down to ‘Combine taskbar buttons’, click on the drop-down box and change the setting to Never. This will give you a more ‘Windows XP’ styled taskbar, where the name of the program is displayed alongside the icons for the program. Useful if you’re a novice or merely absent-minded like myself.
Now, staying in settings, find the search box and search for Night Light. Go into the night light settings and set it to turn on, on a schedule. What this does is change the screen colour subtly at night so that there is less blue light coming into your eyes. Not only does this make the screen easier to look at after-hours, it also stops your brain from withholding melatonin (the chemical that makes you sleepy), meaning you’re more likely to get a decent night’s sleep after using the computer late.
Lastly, never, ever click on the Check for Updates button under your Windows 10 settings. Unlike Windows 7 & 8, this tells Windows 10 that you want to receive ‘beta’ (relatively untested) updates on your computer in future. Doing so can lead to computer problems.
That’s it for now. There are of course, a bundle of other things I use on Windows 10, and a bunch of settings I change on client machines, but none of them are really novice or intermediate material. But hopefully this lot gets you halfway to making Windows 10 slightly more useable. Give me a ring if you need a hand.