10 Essential PC Tweaks for Windows 10

So you’ve just upgraded to Windows 10 and like what you see. There is plenty of info out there about the new Start menu, Continuum, Action Center, Hello, Windowed Apps… I won’t repeat all that here. Here are 10 (+2) less obvious but highly useful tweaks for power users to aid in finalizing your new setup.




Enhance your privacy

In default form, Windows 10 will track your location, contacts, usage and apps but provides great control if you don’t necessarily want all this. It is easiest to disable much of this during setup by choosing to customize your settings instead of Express Setup, but you can always revoke later once the OS is installed. Under Settings\ Privacy is a plethora or options controlling how much access you give to Microsoft and the application ecosystem that you participate in. Personally I turn off almost all of this. One item to call out additionally here is under feedback and diagnostics. By default Windows 10 will be configured with a value of “enhanced” here, meaning that in addition to gathering basic hardware and functionality data, Windows will also collect the time used and frequency of the features or apps you use. These values are clearly articulated in the “learn more” link below the settings.




Make your active network Private

By default your new Win10 install will come up attached to your local network as a “public” network. This will probably be fine for most but Public in this context means that a special set of firewall rules will be applied limiting otherwise normal capabilities. Being able to RDP to your new machine, for instance, will be blocked by the firewall unless you specifically allow this traffic for the Public profile. Bring up search and type Ethernet which once clicked will take you to the Network and Internet settings page. Once here click the active network connection, in my case, called Ethernet.




Click the slider to enable “Find devices and content” which will make your PC discoverable on the local network, also changing the mode of the active network to “private”.




Open the Network and Sharing Center to verify. Now services otherwise blocked will be accessible and fully functional. You’ll notice there is no other way to change the active network type from this dialog.




Share your Windows Updates

One of the cool new features in Windows 10 is a caching mechanism for Windows Updates. This problem has been long solved in the enterprise via tools like WUS or SCCM but now comes intelligently baked into Windows 10. You can opt out of this completely, share updates only with PCs on your local network or share with local PCs as well as those on the internet. This “LAN Sync” type of functionality should reduce the time it takes for each PC on your network to update, instead of individually downloading full catalogs of updates from Microsoft directly, updates could be downloaded once then shared between PCs at higher speed on the local network.




Disable Hibernation

It’s a PC, it will always have an AC power source, otherwise it will be turned off. Hibernation is for laptops that may run low on battery and need to save state without shutting down. Reclaim the precious space hiberfil.sys consumes in the root of C:\, which could be very large depending on how much RAM you have. I run 32GB with 7.5GB active at this particular time, so my hiberfil file was almost 14GB.



Easy remedy: fire up cmd or PowerShell in Admin mode and run powercfg /hibernate off. Poof, hiberfil.sys will disappear and the wasted space with it.




Disable the paging file

This one I do because I run 32GB RAM. If you run 8GB or less RAM you may want to leave this enabled and set to system managed. The Paging file is used during conditions where usable RAM is low, so any pages deemed inactive or older can be written out to disk freeing resources for newer apps to write memory pages. It is very unlikely that I will run enough stuff concurrently to fully consume 32GB, so for me pagefile.sys is just taking up space and using write cycles on my SSD. It’s also variable so will shrink and expand based on your activity.

The key to figuring out if you should do this is in the amount of committed memory you have in use. Watch this value in Task Manager, if it grows anywhere near the amount of physical RAM you have in your PC, you should leave your page file enabled.




I don’t have this problem so will drop my page file to the minimum required to save a full crash dump, should that ever happen: 800MB.




Disable the lock screen

This is a personal preference thing but honestly there is little use for a floating lock screen if running Windows on a PC with a no touch monitor. Screen goes dim while idle, wake up to the login prompt, no screen to click away first.




Disable stuff you don’t need

As has always been the case with Windows, you need to check what is enabled to run at boot time. From Task Manager, click to the startup tab, right-click and disable anything you don’t need or use. Some apps I want to have available, just not necessarily running at boot time.




Clean up File Explorer

“Quick Access” is a new dynamic combination of what was previously called Favorites and Recent Places. Any folder you visit will get automatically pinned to this list along with some defaults, which you may love or hate. I hate it. I prefer to control which files and folders display here. Right-click Quick access, choose options and uncheck the 2 boxes I have outlined to disable this. While you’re here, unhide your hidden files, system files and file extensions. Also make sure that “Launch folder windows in a separate process” is not checked. If File Explorer only had native tabs it would be perfect. Come on Clover 4.0!


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Clean up your disk

If you dirty upgraded to Windows 10 (shame on you) you have an extra chunk of disk eaten by the previous version of Windows. In the root of C:\ you will notice a large Windows.old directory containing the previous version of the OS. To get rid of this and reclaim your space, run disk clean up from the start menu. First click “clean up system files”, then make sure “previous Windows Installations” is selected. There will be a number of other things you can select here to delete as well.


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Check your index

Windows search is only as good as you allow it be. Natively, the search index only crawls C:\users, settings and programs which should suffice for most users. If you have additional drives in your PC or other specific locations you want to be searchable, you need to add them to the index. This will take a minute or two to execute and will increase the size of your index, but you really can’t beat the search experience once this is properly tuned.




Bonus 1: Bring the old Photo Viewer back

The new Windows 10 photo viewer app is ok but leaves behind much of the functionality of the previous viewer. No file names, no copy/ delete functions, no settings, button click zoom... If you want you can bring back the older app which is still present, just dormant.




Photo Viewer is actually just a DLL called by rundll32.exe and in Windows 10 is not selectable out of the box. You can open any single image in the older Photo Viewer by running the following from PowerShell or CMD:


              C:\Users\p>%SystemRoot%\System32\rundll32.exe "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Photo Viewer\PhotoViewer.dll", ImageView_Fullscreen c:\img.jpg


But this won’t bring Photo Viewer out of hibernation so that you can select it as the default program for any image type. To do that, you need to do a bit of registry tweaking first. Open Notepad and add the following text then save as img.reg.


Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Double-click the new file to merge it into the registry. Now when you right-click a jpg or jpeg file, you will be able to select the older Photo Viewer as the default program. Edit this reg file and replace “jpegfile” with any file type you want to open with Photo Viewer. For example, “pngfile” or giffile”. Rinse, repeat.




Bonus 2: List your settings

The new unified Settings UI is great and almost anything can be found via Start menu searching, but maybe that’s not good enough for you. You need a way to see a list of all available system settings. No problem, simply create a new folder named Whatever.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. Replace Whatever with any name you like. Double-click your new folder and voila! a huge list of a ton of settings.




Bonus 3: Remove the background image from the logon screen

Be default in Windows10 the logon screen is set to the new “light through Windows” image. Not a bad visual but plain blue will suffice for me. There’s no easy way to change this yet so in the meantime, if you want to remove it a little registry hacking will be required. Open regedit and navigate to HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System. Create a new 32-bit DWORD named “DisableLogonBackgroundImage” with a value of 1 to turn it on. The affect is immediate, no reboot required.





Hopefully this was useful! If you have any essential tweaks that you like to do, please leave a comment and let me know!

This post originated at ExitTheFastLane.Com

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