The original plan for this was to create one overarching post encompassing the entire process of setting up Windows 10 after a clean installation. I tend to fall back on the default solution of reformatting my computer whenever enough time has passed, and I’ve determined that something feels “off” about the way it’s running. I’ll get out whatever disc for the OS I’m running at the time, then back up a few things (and inevitably forget to backup a few things) before wiping my drive and starting fresh. Can any of us deny the feeling of freedom when erasing all the junk that has piled up over the past months?
We all start fresh at some time or another. However, the real process begins after you’ve arrived back at the desktop. The next few hours of updates, installations, and settings customization will probably be the most time you spend adjusting your Windows OS until the next reformat. This set of articles is aimed at documenting the process of creating a Windows 10 experience that runs smoothly and functions the way we want it to. Take the time to follow these steps, and you can delay your next reformat for much longer than you otherwise would. Not to mention the headaches you’ll save just in your day-to-day use!
The Windows 10 installation process is incredibly simple and relatively quick to do. I won’t be walking you through how to install from a CD or make a user account. What I want to cover here is how to regain control of Windows 10 once it is installed. Microsoft has become a greedy information vacuum over the years, and not only does this cost you your privacy, but it costs system performance as well. Stop sharing your internet bandwidth and hardware performance with Windows by following these steps!
We will be spending almost all of our time in the Windows 10 Settings menu. Click the Start menu and then click the small gear in the lower left side to access Settings, or type “settings” into Cortana Search and press enter to launch it. Windows 10 also has access to the old-style Control Panel, but for the sake of a unified approach, we will use Settings unless otherwise noted.
Update & Security
The first step after a new installation is to check for Windows updates. Install these, restart, and run another check for updates. There are times where Windows will not download an update until a previously required one is installed, so checking again after the restart is important. Now we will navigate through each of the links and customize our update preferences.
- Change active hours – I leave this as default, because I do not allow automatic restarts in later settings. You can change this to your typical usage if you prefer.
- Restart options – Off. I never want Windows to restart my computer without my knowledge.
- Advanced Options – Everything off. I rarely (if ever) use default Windows programs. I don’t need their updates, and I don’t need automatic sign-in since I don’t automatically restart.
- Choose how updates are delivered – Off. You can keep this option for your local network if you have a lot of computers, but please never allow the internet PC option. Waste of bandwidth, and potential lag during gaming!
- Windows Defender – I turn off Cloud-based Protection, as well as Automatic sample submission. I don’t need Windows tracking and uploading the files that I download without asking. Windows Defender is extremely basic and generally accomplishes nothing. For any real protection you’ll need third party software, which we will discuss later in this series. Check out this Windows Central article if you want to disable Windows Defender entirely, which I recommend for most setups.
- Backup – If you have more than one hard drive, you can duplicate your Windows installation here. I personally use cloud backups for smaller files like documents and photos. I use my second hard drive for larger video files or programs I don’t want installed on my SSD, so I don’t use the Windows Backup. It is extremely important that you have ANY backup system in place! Hard drives fail. Files get corrupted. Use a system that automatically backs up files as you create them for fail-safe protection.
Head back to the landing page, and let’s move into Privacy settings now. If you used custom settings during the Windows 10 install process, you had the option to disable all of the built-in Windows 10 tracking “features”. I still double check Privacy settings once I’m on the Windows 10 desktop. The settings I recommend below will turn off all of the resource-wasting tracking that Windows 10 allows, but will also affect some accessibility. If, for some reason, you are using features that require Windows to record your actions, you will of course have to leave those active. I do not have a Windows phone, and I do not use Cortana for anything, so I can safely disable everything. I could write an entire article about how sickening Microsoft’s default options have become, but let’s keep this short.
- General – Toggle every option off.
- Location through Other devices – Toggle every option off for every sub-menu going down the left-hand side. The important detail to note here is that all of these options are for apps on Windows. Disabling these settings has no effect on the programs you actually use. If you want Windows to read your email, track your typing inputs, and record your voice and camera, feel free to leave these on.
- Feedback & diagnostics – Never ask for my feedback, and change device data to basic. It’s a shame we can’t prevent Windows from uploading our device information at all, but this should cut back on the amount of data being uploaded.
- Background Apps – Off. I don’t use Windows apps and I don’t need them using my bandwidth or resources while I’m working or gaming.
Time & Language
From the landing page we will now move into our time settings. I set my time zone manually, as the automatic option tends to do absolutely nothing. Everything else I leave to default, but you can change how your computer displays the date and time, as well as add additional clocks if you’d like. The only other setting I change is under the Speech tab. Here we can modify the default voice for Windows from one of three options. I tend towards the soothing, more human-sounding tones of Microsoft Mark.