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How to make Windows 10 less awful

So by now you either use, or have at least heard of, Windows 10. It's a bit of a mess, if I'm honest. It doesn't help that Windows 7 is being discontinued by Microsoft in January 2020, meaning that it will no longer receive security update patches or be safe to use on the internet. There are still ways you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7, but they aren't straightforward to do unless you have a reasonable amount of proficiency with computers.

Once you've gotten Windows 10 though, what do you do? You've probably heard about forced restarts for updates, of updates breaking wifi support and various other calamities and indignities. Windows 10 also spies on you to an extent, sending usage data back to Microsoft for analysis - anonymously, supposedly, but who knows? Perhaps it's a bit of a '1st world problem' to complain about this sort of thing, but there's a few things you can do that make Windows 10 more useful, less annoying, and less creepy.

The first thing I usually recommend is a little free program called "O&O Shutup10". If you run Shutup10 and apply the "Recommended" settings, it will disable the bulk of the telemetry (spying) that Windows 10 does. Of course, every time you get a major security update Windows will revert some of your changes, so it pays to run this program after every major "feature update" (which come out around every 9 months).

The next thing I suggest is installing the free program 'Openshell'. Remember how the Windows 7 "Start" menu (that button in the bottom-left-hand corner) used to make sense? How it was quite useful? Well, remember no more: Openshell brings back the start menu style from Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP, depending on which you prefer the most. It's also very customisable, if you're a bit of a tweak-head. Download, run and install. Very simple.

Now there's a few settings you can tweak. Right-click your mouse on the taskbar (that strip at the bottom of the screen where the programs pop up) and left-click on "Taskbar settings". Scroll down to "Combine taskbar buttons", click on the drop-down box and change the setting to "Never". This will give you a more "Windows XP" styled taskbar, where the name of the program is displayed alongside the icons for the program. Useful if you're a novice or merely absent-minded.

Now, staying in settings, find the search box and search for "Night light". Go into the night light settings and set it to turn on, with a time schedule. What this does is change the screen colour at night so that there is less blue light coming into your eyes. Not only does this make the screen easier to look at after-hours, it also stops your brain from withholding melatonin (the chemical that makes you sleepy), meaning you're more likely to get a decent nights sleep after using the computer late at night.

Lastly, never click on the "Check for Updates" button under your Windows 10 settings. Unlike Windows 7 & 8, this tells Windows 10 that you want to receive "beta" (comparatively untested) updates on your computer in future. Doing this can lead to computer problems. Okay, that's it for now. There are of course a bundle of other things I do on Windows 10 for clients, but none of them are quite novice material. Hopefully this lot gets you halfway to making Windows 10 slightly more usable though.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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