Optimizing Windows 10

Let’s say you want to install Windows 10 from scratch and you have heard about how bloated it is and how it spies on you all the time. I work in IT at a small shop and have been setting up Windows 10 installs for a few years now since the days when it was basically an insider preview only (for my own testing) version. I’ll break down the easy stuff I do each time I get a new PC in.

This breakdown assumes you are not a typical low-tech user, it assumes you have the ability to install Windows 10 on your own and you aren’t basically “a bad” with basic technical issues like driver installations and navigating control panel, etc…

Don’t Use The Manufacturer’s Image

Don’t listen to Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc… Using the Manufacturer’s image is a big mistake, they come with all sorts of bloat and added software designed to make them money and/or give you hardware monitoring that is just over the top/unnecessary. So how do you get a Windows 10 installation media started? Just go here.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

Download the media creation tool from there and make sure to select “Create installation media”. Have a 16GB or larger USB Thumb Drive plugged into your host computer. Make sure the recommended options match your desired language, version, and architecture. You can either burn it to the USB flash drive now, or if you want to hold onto the ISO for later just select ISO file. Your choice. If you choose to go the ISO file route, I use Rufus as my usb ISO burning tool.

It will basically download Windows 10 and burn it onto the flash drive, or give it to you as an ISO from here.

Download all drivers you need for your device

Don’t use one of those driver update utilities from some random company. If you are are doing this for a custom build, go to the manufacturer’s website of your motherboard and model (MSI Z97s SLI Krait Edition is my motherboard for instance). Make sure to get the chipset driver, any network drivers, and graphic drivers most of all. Most other drivers Windows will pull easily. Put all these drivers on your USB stick.

Backup stuff, save passwords, etc…

If you are reinstalling onto a current PC, make sure you save important passwords and files because you WILL be wiping this drive completely. Assume you are going to lose everything. Copy the userfolder as well if you don’t want to lose some of your desktop icons, documents, etc… When you copy the user folder, don’t copy the whole folder, just copy the folders INSIDE it, like so:

Do NOT copy over NTUSER.DAT or AppData, Windows will not like it if you copy these folders back. When you transfer, all you have to do is copy these folders over on top of your new user profile in and just don’t overwrite anything if you don’t want to, or do. If you overwrite NTUSER.DAT or AppData, you will severely mess up your user profile.

Make sure you do a UEFI install if it’s available.

Windows 10 doesn’t really gel well with legacy boot modes anymore, and that’s the direction everything is headed. Use a UEFI boot mode on your motherboard, use secure boot, etc… Keep it simple otherwise, but Win10 was basically designed for UEFI and not Legacy, it supports Legacy but I’ve ran into issues trying it out instead of UEFI.

Install and setup

When you boot from your USB stick as UEFI: USB Device Name, go through all the win 10 install and make sure you delete all of the partitions, you are starting fresh. If you install over, it will still have a bunch of that old crap ghosted on it.

Install your drivers ASAP, get those out of the way.

Install all updates that windows will allow you. Don’t do any software or driver installations while updates are going, it can lead to weird conflicts and errors you don’t want. Take your time.

Once drivers and updates are installed, do a reboot. Make sure all updates are done again, always get this out of the way.

Debloat is the next step.

https://github.com/Sycnex/Windows10Debloater

I use this debloater script. Read the Readme.md and follow it closely. I just use the regular debloater, not the GUI one. Get rid of whatever you want, make sure to install .NET 3.5 because you’ll need it at some point, and Windows 10 is really finicky about installing it. Personally, I prefer Dark mode. Disable all the telemetry, get rid of OneDrive if you aren’t going to use it. And so on…

Press Win+R and type SystemPropertiesAdvanced.exe and press enter. Click Settings… under the Performance section, and uncheck boxes so it looks like this:

and then press OK.

Now disable indexing (personally) if you have an SSD, especially an NVMe SSD since you have no real need for Indexing. Open a Windows Explorer instance, go to This PC, right click your C: drive, click Properties, and Uncheck “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed…” and click Apply. It may ask if you want to ignore, ignore all, retry, etc… Just click ignore all.

Personally on Windows 10 I have had stability issues with changing the Power options, so don’t really mess with that too much in my experience unless you have a problem. Some people swear by the “Performance” power plan, but modern CPUs aren’t really designed to stay at 100% all day long from what I can tell. Your results may vary.

Basically it’s all done from here. Install all the software you like. There are other tweaks here and there you can do, maybe some people would like to bring them up in the comments.

Hope this was helpful to someone.

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