If you read this website, you probably buy your computers pre-built. There’s nothing easier to pick up and use than a machine that already comes with everything preinstalled and ready to go. You should, however, tweak your new computer’s settings a bit in order to make your experience uniquely yours and better suited for you.
Remove all the shovelware
I’ll tell you a secret: OEMs do not really think that Norton or McAfee are good antiviruses, or that the crappy games your computer comes preloaded with are the best experience out there. They’re simply paid a few penny for every computer they ship with those programs. You don’t really need this shovelware (or, as some call it, crapware) and you should uninstall those applications as soon as possible, because as they are, they’re a waste of disk space.
You could uninstall them manually, but that could potentially take a long time, depending on how much stuff your OEM put in your computer. The easiest way to deal with all this junk is to download and run a nifty little program called The PC Decrapifier, which is free for personal use, although its developers provide for the option to pay for a commercial license for cleaning up (decrapify) a lot of computers at once. Just double click on the executable downloaded from their website and then on Analyse.
After a couple minutes (or more, depending on your computer’s specifications) you’ll be prompted with a list of programs you should remove. Tick the checkboxes next to them and then on Remove selected. After this, you’ll have the chance to review your actions and even create a Windows restore point in case something goes wrong.
Install actually useful applications
After you’ve decrapified your PC, it’s time to install stuff that you will actually use. This can include a web browser, runtime libraries (like the .NET framework, Java, and so on), messaging applications, email clients, an antivirus, and other utilities.
Since Windows applications do not have a centralised repository, you would normally have to download each of these applications individually and install them one by one: Another time-consuming process that in all honesty I hate. Fortunately, you can go to Ninite.com, pick the free applications you want to download and install, and download a small executable that, once run, will take care of installing all those applications for you.
In the following screenshot, here’s the applications I suggest you install.
After you’ve picked all the apps you need, click on Get your Ninite and run the executable you’ve just downloaded.
Update your drivers and Windows
Although this is something that many people overlook, drivers are actually quite important: Keeping them up-to-date will allow your computer to get all the latest functionalities and bug fixes and will keep it (relatively) more secure. Windows Update does an okay job at updating them, but if you want to install the latest drivers on your PC, you either have to get them one by one (again, spending a lot of time hunting for them, with the risk of getting the wrong ones) or find a way to keep them updated automatically.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Driver Booster, a free application that does just that: Once installed and run, it will scan your PC and search for the most up-to-date drivers it can find. It does an excellent job, although you should let GeForce Experience or Catalyst update your video drivers, since Driver Booster seems to be lagging behind as far as video drivers go.
It’s also important to let Windows update itself to the latest version. This might take some time and require a few reboots, so be patient!
Tweak your Windows settings
Windows 10 has, in the eyes of many people, solved many of the shortcomings of Windows 8, specifically by reintroducing the Start menu. There are some features that I’m not particularly fond of, though.
This is why one of the very first things I do to a new Windows install is to open the Settings app and tweak a few options there, particularly in System > Notifications and actions I disable Show me tips about Windows. In System > Default apps I replace Mail with Outlook and Edge with Google Chrome. In Personalisation > Colours I enable Automatically pick an accent colour from my background and Show colour on Start, taskbar, action centre and title bar. In Personalisation > Start I disable Occasionally show suggestions in Start.
Another thing I do is stretching the Start menu so that it fills the whole vertical space on the screen. To do this, just open the Start menu and drag its top to the top of the screen.
Now, it’s time to open File Explorer options in the Control Panel and tweak a couple settings there. I change the default behaviour of File Explorer to show This PC when it’s first opened instead of Quick access, then, in the View tab, I uncheck Hide empty drives, Hide extensions for known file types and check Use check boxes to select items, which is quite useful if you have a touchscreen laptop.
Lastly, it’s time to open Indexing options, click Modify and select all of the drives in your computer, so that searches become much quicker when typing in the Search tab.
Create a Windows image
Now that my computer is in a usable state, it’s time to create a Windows image I can restore at a later time in case something goes wrong. I do this because restoring an image is a lot quicker than formatting, reinstalling Windows, updating the drivers, and so on.
To do this, open the Control Panel and click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7) under System and Security.
We’re not insterested in the options in the main window. Instead, look at the left bar and select Create a system image.
You will be presented with this window. Select the location where you want to create your system image to and click Next.
You’ll then have to select which drives you want to backup. Those marked with the word System between brackets are the bare minumum to have a working operating systems and cannot be unselected. Note that you cannot backup the contents of the drive you’re backing up to. Click Next to proceed to the summary page.
Click Start backup to create your system image. This will take a while, so sit tight.
Set up a backup strategy
Now that we’ve created a Windows image for restoring it at a later time, it’s a good idea to set up a backup strategy, just in case something goes belly up, to avoid data losses. We already dealt with how to backup your documents using File History, but for peace of mind you may want to backup your documents to a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Onedrive. Unfortunately, File History does not allow for backing up to a cloud service, but the good news is that you can still backup your documents to a cloud service using a simple workaround that does not require installing additional software. There are also some downsides that may make this a less appealing option.