Because of my poor life choices, I have to frequently install operating systems on my computers. Out of the box, Windows 10 comes loaded with booby traps, unwanted software, the worst default settings imaginable, and shitty design choices.
I have been using Windows since 3.1, so I've borne witness to the slow march upwards in OS stability and the steady decline of user experience. With each new version, it has taken more and more effort to modify the base Windows operating system into something actually usable. Now that Windows is less relevant than ever before, we're stuck with Windows version 10 forever. And since this stagnation masquerades as stability, it's more relevant than ever before that I share my personal steps for how to take a bare metal computer and get a usable Windows 10 environment running on it.
"But what about Linux?" you ask. Unfortunately, there are still times in my life that require a Microsoft Windows operating system. While Linux is now clearly superior to Windows (and MacOS) for most computing tasks, some software developers don't yet have their tools running on Linux. For those specific tasks, a Windows machine is still necessary. And so our goal becomes to get a machine which runs Windows, but doesn't let Windows run you. Ha ha I made a wordplay joke.
With no further ado...
How to install Windows
The first step in installing Windows is to install Windows.
- Download Windows from Microsoft's website and make a bootable USB. Boot off the USB. Go through all the steps until you get to the "Set up account" prompt.
- In fact, I recommend not telling Windows how to connect to the internet at all during the installation. Wait until you're at the desktop. You'll save yourself some trouble, and all the drivers that you missed you can still automatically fetch later using the Windows Update tool.
- Create a Local user account – not online account
- Do not put a password on the account (this prevents other dumb options later in the install, and a password can/should still be applied once you're farther in the process
- Flip off all checkboxes that offer to send data to Microsoft
- Decline all stupid bullshit, just get me to the desktop
Once you're at the desktop
Now the real fun begins. And by fun I mean the part where your eyeballs bleed.
- Start the ole Windows Update, it'll catch some of the missing drivers, and plus updates are good or whatever
- Fix the screen resolution if necessary (it usually is if you've got any l33t equipment) and the scaling (which seems to default to 125% for some reason)
- My Computer - Properties - Rename the machine to something better. Don't reboot it yet, that can wait until the updates ask
- Get all that crap off the Task Bar – Search, Cortana, MS Store, Task View whatever – they're all hot garbage and only useful as fuel in a dumpster fire
- Neuter the damn notifications popups, for they are constant and worthless
- Move the task bar to the side of the screen where it belongs (unless you're using a monitor that's taller than it is wide like some sort of psychopath). Make it as thin as possible. Lock it in place.
- Recycle Bin - Properties. Stop files from going to the Recycle bin, just delete them with confirmation instead.
- If you've got more than one hard drive, move the location of the User folders (My Docs, Desktop, Videos, Music, Pictures) to the data drive, get them off C:
- Pop open the Device Manager control and on any unknown devices, hit "Update driver". Windows Update usually can find drivers for most of them. Also hit Update Driver on anything you know has the generic version of something (such as Nvidia graphics cards).
- Go to System Properties - Advanced System Settings - Advanced - Performance - Settings - Visual Effects and uncheck every stupid animated visual effect which makes your computer appear to run slower
- (as applicable) While you're there, go to the Advanced tab - Virtual Memory - Details - uncheck Automatically manage - put paging file on fastest hard drive, remove from C: drive
- Open Task Manager and click "More Detalis". Now your Task Manager is useful. Close it.
- You're probably ready for that first reboot round about now, and it'll be a doozy, as Windows installs all sorts of feature packs and other garbage and reboots your machine repeatedly. Catch ya on the flip side!
Settings Part 2
Is there no end to tools defaulting to their most useless setting?
- File Explorer - view by Details, sort by Type
- File Explorer - Double-click the View menu to always show the ribbon
- File Explorer - Options - Open File Explorer to: This PC - Apply to all Folders - uncheck Hide Extensions - Launch folders in their own processes - uncheck Sharing Wizard - Expand to open folder - Show all folders - Show libraries
- Get rid of User Account Control: gpedit.msc - Computer Config - Windows Settings - Security Settings - Local Policies - Security Options
- UAC: Behavior of the elevation prompt for administrators in Admin Approval Mode -- Elevate Without Prompting
- UAC: Detect applications installations and prompt for elevation -- Disabled
- UAC: Run all administrators in Admin Approval Mode -- Disabled
- Enable the Lock Screen Timeout option: regedit -- HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Power\PowerSettings\7516b95f...\8EC4B3A5...\ -- Attributes set from 1 to 2
- Power & Sleep Settings - Additional power settings - Show Additional - High Performance - Edit Plan Settings - Monitor to Never Sleep - Change Advanced power settings - Display - Console lock display off timeout, set to 0 - Save Changes
- Remove windows ability to reboot itself without asking: go to C:\Windows\System32\Tasks\Microsoft\Windows\UpdateOrchestrator and Rename any "Reboot" files to "Reboot___.BACKUP" and then create folders with the original "Reboot___" file names so that the files aren't recreated by Windows in a future update
- Settings: Notifications & actions -- disable pretty much everything. I don't hate ALL notifications, just all the ones built into Windows
- Settings: Lock screen -- Background to Picture, and pick some better fucking artwork -- Turn off Fun facts who the fuck thinks this shit up
- Settings: Colors -- Dark as my soul -- accent color set to a pleasant shade of pink or purple or indigo -- check boxes to show accent color on things -- this bitch be poppin
- Settings: Themes -- Desktop icon settings - uncheck Recycle bin, uncheck Allow Themes to change desktop icons (WHY DOES THIS EXIST????)
- Reboot here not a bad idea, we been fuckin with the internals
Remember, Windows comes bundled with bullshit application programs that nobody in their right mind would ever intentionally run. Let's get rid of them.
- Groove Music
- Solitaire Collection
- Mixed Reality
- MS Office
- Xbox bullshit
Some software is always useful. Some of it may only apply to certain workstations. But here's a list of everything I find relevant. Use your discretion.
- Ninite.com install of Firefox, Opera, FileZilla, 7Zip, Steam, VLC, Handbrake, IrfanView, LibreOffice, PuTTY
- Corsair iCue because I am a child who has a glowing computer
- Samsung Disk Magician for managing SSDs etc.
- Adobe Creative Cloud if you're into that
- Sublime Text
- FocusWriter (direct from Gott Code website only!)
- Epstein didn't kill himself
- Advanced IP Scanner
- PostBox (or Thunderbird, whatever)
- DavkaWriter (installer can only be downloaded so many times, so save a copy to a thumb drive or something)
Don't forget about the bullshit
Congratulations. Your computer is almost useful! But wait, some of your peripherals and software come bundled with idiotic settings. Let's fix them!
- Install printers, scanners, etc
- Open and sign into FireFox
- WAIT SOME SETTINGS DON'T SYNC THANKS MOZILLA
- Search: Default search to the Duck
- Search: Disable search suggestions
- Privacy: Location: Block new requests
- Privacy: Notifications: Block new requests
- Uncheck "Block dangerous and deceptive content"
- Sync: give the Firefox device a better name because ho-boy does the default suck shit
- Show the Bookmarks toolbar
- Customize the menu bar thing... looks like Zoom Controls and Bookmarks manager are back on the menu, boys
- Pin all those add-ons to the overflow menu
- Remove all the bullshit bookmarks that get added in when you install Firefox
- Remove Pocket who the fuck wants this
- Now sign into websites and whatever
- You'll need to import your FileZilla FTP bookmarks... hope you have a backup!
- LightRoom also is terrible about copying over its custom templates and settings, go fuck yourself
- iCue you can copy over the %APPDATA% folder and you're good
- Postbox - sign into mail, set theme to Black Pearl or whatever, download mail folders, set various inboxes for checking, etc. -- set default search to the Duck -- set up signature
If you've followed all these steps, you can now celebrate! You have a Windows workstation which is somewhat more useful than it would have been otherwise. I am always amazed when I see someone using Windows with the default settings. It's like watching someone eat a piece of Velveeta cheese still in the wrapper. I mean, Velveeta is gross cheese, but you're not doing it any favors by forgetting to take the fucking cellophane off.