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10 quick tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want


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Looking for some easy ways to tweak Windows 10 for maximum performance and usability? Mark Kaelin shares 10 handy configuration tricks.

By Mark Kaelin | in 10 Things, May 19, 2016, 11:06 AM PST


Image: iStockphoto.com/Jürgen François

No matter how you look at it, adjusting configuration settings in Microsoft Windows 10 can get very complicated very quickly. Whether it is tweaking system settings for better performance or adjusting configuration settings to personalize the Desktop, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of settings to consider.

Here are 10 tricks, tweaks, and simple hacks that will help you increase Windows 10 performance and personalize the experience to meet your needs. After all, is anyone really happy with the default settings of anything?

1: Maximize CPU performance
If you are using a desktop PC or a notebook that is always plugged in, you might want to maximize your CPU performance by changing your Power Options. Right-click the Start button in the lower-left corner on the Desktop (Or Windows key + X) and navigate to the Power Options menu item. On the screen shown in Figure A, click the High Performance radio button. Remember, changing this setting will burn through a battery charge quickly—use it wisely. Oh, and you might want to make changes to the Plan settings too while you are here.

Figure A

SEE: Balance efficiency and performance with Windows 10 Power Options

2: Pin File Explorer searches
One of the more powerful features of the Windows 10 File Explorer is the ability to save searches. Figure B shows a saved search that identifies all the Word documents in a specific folder. When you have as many .doc files as I do, this is a handy search to have around. However, it would be even more convenient if that search was pinned to the Start Menu, where I can get to it even faster.

Figure B

Open File Explorer and navigate to your Users folder and then to your Searches subfolder. Right-click the saved search and pin it to your Start Menu for easy access.

3: Switch from Bing
Microsoft would like you, and your personal assistant Cortana, to use Bing as your default search engine and not Google, etc. You can force Cortana to use a different search engine, but first you have to change your default web browser.

If Firefox is your default browser in Windows 10, Cortana should be using Google Search. If Chrome is your default browser, you have to install the Chrometana extension and change the default; otherwise, Cortana will be stubborn and keep using Bing.

4: Limit Cortana's reach
If you want to change Cortana's search behavior even more, you can limit the parameters of the search itself. For example, Cortana can be told not to search the internet at all.

Click the Cortana search box in the Taskbar and then navigate to the Cortana settings screen, as shown in Figure C. At the bottom should be a setting that says Search Online And Include Web Results. Switch that to Off and Cortana won't display any more web results no matter which search engine is the default.

Figure C

5: Take advantage of OneDrive Fetch
When you create a Microsoft account, one of the best perks is that you also get OneDrive cloud storage at no additional cost. But a little-used feature called Fetch can get you even more than that. Note: This does not apply to OneDrive for Business.

Right-click the OneDrive icon and navigate to Settings. On the next screen, click the Settings tab to get to the screen shown in Figure D. Look for the checkbox called Let Me Use OneDrive To Fetch Any Of My Files On This PC. This will allow you to access any file on that PC from any computer using any browser simply by logging into your online version of OneDrive.

Figure D

6: Change where apps install
Many computers these days are shipping with a combination of SSD and large capacity mechanical data drives. A great idea, but it does require a bit more management, particularly when it comes to where to install new apps. In most cases, you will want new apps installed on the data drive, not the smaller capacity solid-state boot drive.

To change the default drive for apps, click the Start Button and navigate to All Apps | Settings | System | Storage. You should see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure E. From this screen you can change the default locations for apps, documents, music, pictures, and video.

Figure E

7: Create a custom shortcut folder
If you use the Windows 10 Start Menu to get to your apps, this next advanced tip may be for you. You can create a custom Start Menu folder to contain shortcuts to any apps, documents, etc., that you care to include. You can then pin that folder to the Start Screen or the Taskbar.

Begin by opening File Explorer and navigating to this folder (Figure F):

C:\Users\mark.MRKM11X\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Note: AppData is a hidden file, so you will have to select the Show Hidden Files check box on the Ribbon. Of course, your username will be different from mine.

Figure F

In the Programs folder, you can add your own subfolder. In my example I used the folder name A_Custom_Start_Folder so it would display in the "A" section of the Start Menu. You can put any shortcuts to apps in that folder you want.

8: Remove Windows.old
Hard drive storage is not as costly or as limited as it once was, but that doesn't mean you want to waste space if you don't have to. If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, you probably have a folder on your hard drive that contains the old version of Windows. On the assumption you are never going to revert back to Windows 7 or 8, you can delete that folder and regain the storage space on your hard drive.

SEE: How to clean up system files with the Windows 10 Disk Cleanup tool
To delete the folder, open File Explorer, navigate to the hard drive where Windows 10 resides (typically this is the C drive), and right-click it. Now, click the Properties menu item to get to a screen similar to the one shown in Figure G. Click the Disk Cleanup button to start the scan and then click the Clean Up System Files button.

Figure G

9: Add more places to send files
When you are working in File Explorer and you right-click a file and navigate to the Send To menu item, you'll see a small list of suggested places where you can send the file. If you Shift + right-click that file instead and then navigate to the Send To Menu item, you will be shown a much more extensive list of places where you can send that file.

10: Get additional Snap Assist options
Most users are familiar with the Snap Assist function in Windows 10, where dragging a window to either side will snap that window into one-half of the screen. However, many users are unaware of how the Snap Assist function has been enhanced for Windows 10.

Not only can you drag and snap to one-half screen—now, if you drag a window to one of the four corners of the screen, it will snap to fill one-quarter of it. This means you can easily position four windows to be open at once, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

You can find all the Snap Assist settings under System settings. To get there, click the Start button, navigate to All Apps | Settings | System | Multitasking and set the sliding buttons to meet your needs.