Out of the Box Tips: Set Up Your New Laptop Like a Pro

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outofbox-laptopYou pull your brand-new laptop out of its packaging and plug it in for the first time. Then you go through the Windows setup, and you're all done, right? Not really. Your notebook is not really ready--or truly yours--until you do some tweaking. Here are ten things you should do with your new PC.

Step 1: Run All Windows Updates

Your computer is probably going to download a series of Windows 10 updates on its own so why not get it over with by forcing them to install manually? 

1. Type "updates" in the search box.

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2. Click "Check for updates."

Check for updates

Windows will start searching for and downloading updates, but you don't have to wait for this process to complete before moving on to your next task.

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Step 2: Adjust Your Display Scaling

Today many laptops come with high resolution displays that are sharp and colorful, but have so many pixels that your icons and fonts may appear a little too small out of the box. Conversely, your laptop may have icons and fonts that are larger than you need them, potentially wasting screen real estate. You can control the size of desktop objects using a Windows feature known as display scaling. If on-screen content is too small for you, you can turn the scaling up to 125 or even 150 percent. However, if you'd like to fit more on the display at once, you can turn that number down to 100 percent. Here's how.

1. Right click on your desktop and select Display Settings.

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2. Move the slider under "Change the size of text, apps . . . " to the left or right. Moving left decreases the scaling percentage so you have smaller objects while sliding to the right enlarges everything. You cannot get any smaller than 100 percent. You will notice an immediate change to the size of some menus.

change the sie

3. Reboot your computer or log out and log back in. 

Step 3: Unhide File Extensions and Hidden Files

By default, Windows 10 treats you like an untrustworthy teenager, hiding extensions (ex: .docx, .xls, .jpg) and making system files completely invisible. But seeing the three or four-letter file extensions is particularly important because they let you know exactly what type of file you're looking at. It's not enough to know, for example, that "my-family-vacation" is a picture file; you should know whether it's a JPG, a GIF or a PNG file before you decide to print or share it. By the same token, a myreport.doc can be read by Microsoft Word from 2003 and before but myreport.docx requires newer software.

1. Open File Explorer. You can get there by clicking on the yellow folder icon on the taskbar.

2. Click the View tab at the top of the window.

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3. Toggle on "File name extensions" and "Hidden items." You will need to hit "View" again after you check the first one.

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Step 4: Configure Cortana or Turn Her Off

Microsoft's built-in digital assistant offers a number of neat features, such as the ability to set reminders, find files by semantic search, answer questions using Bing's knowledge base, perform some voice commands and give you alerts for things like weather and sports scores. If the idea of having a digital assistant appeals to you, you need to activate Cortana and give her some information about you. If not, you can speed up your searches by turning her off entirely.

To activate Cortana:

1. Click in the search box.

2. Click Next

Click Next

3. Click Use Cortana.

Use Cortana

If you aren't logged in to a Microsoft account, you'll be prompted to sign in, but you should already be logged into Windows 10 with that account (unless you went out of your way to create a local account).

4. Select the notebook icon in the left menu bar that appears when you click the search box.

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A list of icons appears.

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5. Click About Me to enter your name and favorite places (such as work and home).

Out of the Box Laptop Tips – Revision Stub

6. Click Sports to tell Cortana what teams you follow.

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7. Click Connected Accounts to give Cortana access to data from other accounts.

Out of the Box Laptop Tips – Revision Stub

If you want to disable Cortana:

1. Click the Notebook icon and then Settings.

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2. Slide "Cortana can give you suggestions" to Off.

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Step 5: Install  Your Browser of Choice (or stick with Edge)

Microsoft's Edge Browser is fast, lightweight and definitely worth considering. However, if you're used to using Chrome and Firefox and you have accounts and / or extensions set up in them, you'll want your favorite browser right away. To set your new browser as the default, follow these steps.

1. Download and run the browser installer of your choice. Chrome is at https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/

2. Navigate to settings. You can get there from the Start Menu.

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3. Click System.

Click system

4. Select Default apps in the left pane.

select default apps

5. Click the icon under Web browser. It may  say "Choose a default" or it may have the icon for the current default browser. 

Choose a default

6. Select your browser in the pop-up menu that appears.

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Step 6: Set Up Keyboard Shortcuts for Every App

You can save a lot of time -- at least several minutes a day that add up over time -- by using keyboard shortcuts rather than rolling your mouse pointer across a screen to open a menu or double click on an icon. In addition to memorizing the most important built-in Windows keyboard shortcuts and specific shortcuts for your favorite apps (ex: CTRL+ T opens a new tab in your browser), you can and should set up hot keys that open your favorite programs. Here's how.  

1. Open the run dialog box by hitting Windows + R.

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2. Type "explorer shell:AppsFolder" into the box and hit OK.

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3. Right click on the app you want and select Create Shortcut.

Create shortcut

4. Click Yes when prompted. A new icon appears on your desktop.

click Yes

5. Right click on the new shortcut and select Properties.

Properties

6. Enter a key combination using CTRL + ALT + a Character in the Shortcut key box. You can use letters, numbers or symbols. We suggest using letters that represent the program  you're launching (ex: CTRL + ALT + W for Word).

shortcut keys

7. Click OK.

You can also set up custom keyboard shortcuts for frequent actions (ex: launching your favorite site, pulling down the "crop" option in Photoshop Elements) using a freeware app called AutoHotkey. 

Step 7: Copy or Sync Your Files

What good is your new computer if it doesn't have your most important data on it? There are several possible ways to move your documents, photos, videos and other key files over from an old computer.  These include

  • OneDrive Sync: If your important files are stored in OneDrive, they will automatically download to the new computer once you log into the new PC with your Microsoft account.
  • Dropbox or Google Drive: These services work just like OneDrive but don't come preloaded with Windows (unless your laptop manufacturer put them there). If you were using them to store files on  your old computer, install them on the new one.
  • Copy files manually. Select all the files under your Documents, Music, Videos and Photos libraries, copy them to an external drive (ex: Flash drives) and then copy them over to the new machine. This is a bit tedious so we recommend using Cloud storage if possible.

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Step 8: Uninstall Bloatware

Most PC vendors put lots of third-party, preloaded software on your computer. From 30-day trials of antivirus software to casual games (ex: Candy Crush) you may not want to play, all of this bloatware is sucking up system resources. To uninstall bloatware:

1. Navigate to Settings. You can get there from the Start Menu.

settings

2. Select System.

select system

3. Select Apps and Features from the left menu.

Apps& features

4. Select an app you wish to uninstall.

select app

5. Click Uninstall.

click uninstall

6. Click the second uninstall button that appears.

Uninstall

Step 9: Change Your Desktop Theme

If you're happy with the wallpaper and color scheme that your computer came with, by all means keep it. However, most people will want to personalize Windows 10's look and feel by changing themes. Here's how:

Right click on the desktop and select Personalize. 

personalize

The personalization menu appears. 

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Desktop Wallpaper

To change your desktop wallpaper:

1. Select Picture, Solid Color or Slideshow from the Background menu.

select

2a. If you picked "picture," select a photo from the list or browse for one on your hard drive.

choose picture

2b. If you picked, "solid color," select one of the available shades.

select color

2c. If you chose "Slideshow," decide which folder you want the show to draw from. It defaults to your pictures library.

 select pictures

Accent Colors

To change the color of your taskbar, window title bars and Start menu:

1. Click Colors in the left nav.

2. Pick a color or toggle "automatically pick" to on.

pick a color

3. Toggle "Show color on Start, taskbar..." to On.

toggle color to on

Themes

Rather than tweaking the colors and wallpaper separately, you can choose from a pre-existing theme.

1. Click Themes in the left pane.

2. Choose a theme.

themes

Click "Get more themes online" if you want to download additional options.

Step 10: Disable the Time-Wasting Lock Screen

Unless you enjoy staring at an attractive photo when you first boot or wake your PC, the Windows lock screen serves absolutely no purpose. Every time you start up, you have to swipe or click on the lock screen photos before you can enter your username and password, but why not just go straight to the login prompt? Here's how.

1. Open the registry editor by hitting Windows + R and typing "regedit" into the run box. 

enter regedit

2. Click Yes if prompted by User Account Control.

Click Yes

3.  Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows by opening the folder tree in the left window pane.

 select windows

4. Right click in the right pane and select New->Key. Then rename the key Personalization. Skip this step if a Personalization key already exists under Windows.

select New key

5. Open the Personalization key.

6. Right click in the right pane and select New->DWORD (32-bit) value. Rename it to NoLockScreen.

Create new DWORD Value

7. Set NoLockScreen to 1 by double clicking on it and entering 1 in the dialog box.

Set NoLockScreen to 1

8. Close the Registry Editor and reboot your PC.

Image Credit for Cover Image:   Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta / Shutterstock

 

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
14 comments
  • Clifford Says:

    Hello. I bought a Laptop but I don't know how to operate it. I want you to please Download the information on how to use a Laptop.

    Regards,
    Clifford

  • MARY MOODY Says:

    How can i change user names? How do I get to settings. Why does it only go to sign in?

  • Gary@computerupdates Says:

    Start by loading some security software onto your computer as soon as you’re online. Skip the programs that are often pre-loaded and grab one of the free options instead. We recommend Avira Free Antivirus. In our tests, it did a very good job of protecting against most malware threats.

  • Arnav Nag Says:

    Most of the things listed are advanced features. A common user wouldn't require most of them. And I guess Windows Update is set to update automatically by default. Why would non-developer require a FTP client? And see extensions for all files in the filename itself. Disabling UAC and Smartscreen isn't required for usual regular applications.

  • Shubankar Roy Says:

    Hi Julie,
    there is a option to set up a local account which does not need a email ID.

  • Wilfrid Lumley Says:

    Just bought my lap-top was trying to set it up - unfortunately in the first few minutes I entered a pass-word and in the next few minutes I forgot it !! - how do I get back in to change it ?? ..........Bill

  • Julie Says:

    I have a new HP laptop and am going through the set up process and it's asking me to sign into my Microsoft account so I am putting my Gmail email and password in but it just won't accept it and I can't proceed. Any ideas?

  • Julie Berger Says:

    Just bought a laptop had it set up by Geek Squad. Need to know how to set up a home page, we have no knowledge do we need to plug it in to get email. Very frustrated. Would there be a tutorial (if so what wld the icon look like) would appreciate any help. Regards Julie

  • Box Tips Says:

    thx for tips

  • Amber Says:

    Thank you for the info. I followed your steps for Windows Updates, but am wondering how you know when they are finished. Screen says :downloading updates', but it's been over an hour and the status bar has no progress showing, but there is no progress showing on the status bar.

  • ayekyaw Says:

    thank you,for your knowledge share

  • Debbie Says:

    Trying to find on windows 8 where to go to connect to internet

  • Robo Says:

    Where is security? Do it first, last? Never?

  • Norm Says:

    Hi, is Keepass better than Sticky Password?
    I'm using SP and I'm satisfied.

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