Sane Widows PC setup 2024 edition
July 9, 2024 1:07 AM   Subscribe

I’m buying a Windows 11 laptop (90% for games, but also some light coding and office work) and want to make the experience of using this operating system as pleasant and performant as possible (most of my life is spent on MacOS and some on Linux). What tips do people have around security, performance, and avoiding MS services and advertising within the OS?
posted by tomp to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For the most part, modern Windows is pretty pleasant, safe, and works well. It's possible to create a user with a local account rather than a Microsoft account, which is what I always do. That's become more fiddly with subsequent Windows versions, but is still doable.

Almost all features in Windows can be disabled if you don't like them, and there are many good apps to fill any needs unmet by the basic OS.
posted by pipeski at 2:29 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I disable widgets and copilot and change the start menu so it shows only pinned apps and recently used files. PowerToys is great, especially FancyZones which is a pretty decent tiling window manager.

WSL is excellent for coding. All my project files and Linux toolchain (git, node, python etc) live in a Debian container, while my IDE (VS Code) is still running in Windows for performance and usability. So much better than trying to run Linux-y tools in Windows itself, which always causes issues with line endings and paths and odd quirks. Windows Terminal is also really good, vastly better than PuTTY or PowerShell or cmd.

NextDNS blocks ads and tracking at the DNS level, including Windows builtin tracking if you set it up as the OS DNS resolver.

I didn't bother with a local-only account — you are fighting Microsoft every step of the way, and it can cause issues with Device Encryption.

After the first week of disabling settings left right and centre, everything has been fine.
posted by Klipspringer at 2:54 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Tom’s Guide (formerly Tom’s Hardware) has some advice when installing Windows 11.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:09 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nice collection of free software - all in one executable file put together. Ninite

My Favs:
posted by nostrada at 3:29 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Try to get a better handle on backup than I've suceeded in getting on any computer recently. Microsoft will beg you to set up backup with them. If you sign in to Google, Google may beg similarly. Either may backup without telling you, I don't know. Whether they scan your backup for advertising purposes or to feed their AI, I don't know. How you recover a file from backup, I don't know.

Try using the Microsoft browser to find machine settings instead of plodding thru menus, e.g. search "printers".
posted by SemiSalt at 4:50 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! This is exactly what I needed, I’m felling reassured
posted by tomp at 5:46 AM on July 9

Best answer: to make file search feel much snappier, Limit the "search" box to local files. by default windows wants to search the internet too, which is almost always not what you want.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:24 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]

Correcting what I said above, if a search box saying "type here to search" is not visible, right click on the home screen and select "open search box."

Winzip is built in. Use "how to zip files" in the search box.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:25 AM on July 9

Best answer: I poked around for a Windows 11 debloat script when doing a fresh install a month or two ago, and it's been night-and-day versus an out of box setup, without needing to do it manually.

I think this is the one I used, and if it's not, it's currently the most popular one.

Between that and WSL, it's been pretty nice coming from a Mac and Linux background. Another thing to look for: winget is the modern Windows equivalent of homebrew/apt, and makes it super easy to "winget install THING" rather than chasing it around the internet.
posted by Anonymous Function at 1:57 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

If you can still do it, use an offline account.

Maybe roll back to Windows 10 -- it will install using your device's onboard licence key -- and run a debloat script.
posted by k3ninho at 2:36 PM on July 9

Best answer: to make file search feel much snappier, Limit the "search" box to local files. by default windows wants to search the internet too, which is almost always not what you want.

Everything by voidtools is absolutely sublime, i wouldn't have an install of windows without it.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:31 PM on July 9

Everything is indeed VERY cool, but for people who don't want to load something that runs all the time, WizFile by Antibody is almost as good.
posted by kschang at 12:59 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]

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