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Laptops

13 things to tweak when setting up a Windows 10 laptop

Got a new laptop? Start out by checking or changing these settings.

Get your new laptop set up just the way you want it. Here's a baker's dozen of settings to check or change. And when you are done here, be sure to check out the best new features of Windows 10 April 2018 Update, its hidden gems and the new privacy settings.

Check for updates

Microsoft releases a steady stream of Windows updates. Your new laptop checks for updates automatically, but you can check manually by going to Settings (click the gear icon above the Start button), choosing Update & Security > Windows Update and then clicking the Check for updates button. (Or just type "updates" into the search box and click Check for updates.) You can update your laptop immediately this way instead of waiting for updates to install the next time you shut down your laptop.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Turn on System Restore

It's a good idea to make sure you have established a restore point should something go sideways with your laptop on down the road. To set up a restore point, search for "restore" and then click Create a restore point. You'll be taken to the System Protection tab of the System Properties window.

From there you can choose your main system drive (likely the C: drive) and then click the Configure button. Click the radio dial for Turn on system protection if it's not already on. And then you can choose how much disk space to reserve for your restore points. You don't need more than 2 or 3 percent.

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System restore.

Matt Elliott/CNET


Adjust display settings

Congratulations on getting a laptop with a razor-sharp 1080p (or above) display. While your images will look incredibly crisp, text and icons may now be small and hard to read or click. Lowering the resolution won't help because the resulting image will look fuzzy. Windows 10, however, lets you scale the size of text, icons and apps.

Right-click on the desktop and select Display settings. For Change the size of text, apps, and other items, you can select a higher percentage to increase the size of text in 25-percent increments or click Advanced scaling settings to select your own percentage.

display-scaling
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Set rules for Focus assist

You can toggle Focus assist on and off in the Action Center, but you can set rules for automatically enabling Window 10's notification blocker by going to Settings > System > Focus assist. You can make it come on automatically during set hours, when you are gaming or when you are duplicating your display (so that your on-point PowerPoint presentation isn't interrupted). Above the Automatic rules section, you can set it so that only notifications from those you deem worthy of inclusion on your priority list come through, or you can disable all notification except alarms.

focus-assist
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Set rules for Nearby sharing

Like Focus assist, you can toggle Nearby sharing on and off in the Action Center, but you can set how widely you'd like to send and receive files and links in Settings. Go to to Settings > System > Shared experiences and you can select to send and receive content from Everyone nearby or My devices only.

Choose a power plan

Your laptop doesn't need to run at full power all the time. If you want to lengthen battery life, you can choose the Power saver power plan. Or you can choose the High performance plan when you're engaged in serious graphics work. In the middle sits the Goldilocks-just-right Balanced plan. To choose a plan, click the battery icon in the system tray in the lower-right corner of the desktop and click Power & sleep settings. Next, click Additional power settings to select a power plan.

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Power plan

Matt Elliott/CNET

Set a default browser

If you want to use Chrome or a browser other than Microsoft's Edge browser, you'll need to install it yourself. Of course, if you do that, you'll likely want to make it your default browser. After installing Chrome, the first time you launch it, it will ask you if you want to set it as your default browser. If you miss that offer, you can go to Settings > Apps > Default apps and click Microsoft Edge in the "Web browser" section to make a different selection.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Set app installation tolerance level

Microsoft has borrowed a page out of Apple's book with the addition of a setting that lets you control which types of apps are allowed to be installed on your PC. Similar to telling your Mac to install apps only from the Mac App Store or also from outside it, you'll soon find similar options on your PC. Go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features and you can choose whether to permit installing apps from anywhere, only from the Windows Store or from anywhere but with a warning if they are from outside the Store.

app-tolerance
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Turn on your Night Light

Staring at an unnaturally blue screen at night can shift your body's natural clock and make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. Your phone likely has a way to switch to warmer colors at night and now Windows does, too. There's a setting to lower the blue light of your PC during evening hours. Head to Settings > System > Display and toggle on Night light. You can schedule it to come on at sunset or manually set hours. You'll also find a Night light button in the Action Center to toggle the setting on and off.

night-light
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Show filename extensions

Is that image a JPEG or PNG? A Word.doc or a Word.docx? Windows 10 hides file name extension unless you ask it to show them. To do so, open File Explorer, click View from the top menu and then check the box for File name extensions.

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Filename extensions.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Connect your phone to your PC

With the demise of the Windows phone, Microsoft has opened its arms to Android phones and iPhones ($1,149 at OzMobiles). There's a Phone section in Settings that creates a meaningful connection between your phone and computer. Click Add a phone and follow the instructions to link your phone and PC. Reportedly, this connection will let you pick up on your PC where you left off on Office files on your phone, though I haven't tried it because I don't use Word or Excel or any other Office files on my iPhone. I did install the Cortana app on my iPhone because with it I can read an article in Cortana and then tap a button to open that Web page in Edge on my PC. It's helpful to be able to send, say, a long-form article from my iPhone to the luxurious dimensions of my Windows desktop, but I'll first need to get in the habit of using the Cortana app to get my news on my phone.

Remove bloatware

Many PC vendors package a new laptop with trial apps, but thankfully Windows 10 offers an easy way to see which apps are installed on your new laptop and a quick way to uninstall those you don't want. Head to Settings > Apps > Apps & features and peruse the list. If you don't want an app, click on it and then click the Uninstall button.

uninstall-apps
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Anti-ransomware protection

Windows Defender gets a new weapon in the fight against ransomware. Open the Windows Defender Security Center and go to Virus & threat protection > Virus & threat protection settings. Here, you'll be able to toggle on a new option called Controlled folder access. It protects you against ransomware attacks that can lock you out of your data. By default, the Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos folders are protected, but you can add others. If the setting is grayed out, then you may need to uninstall the trial version of McAfee or another security app that came preinstalled on your PC.

Editors' note: This story was originally published on January 6, 2017, and has been updated to include new information about the Windows 10 Spring 2018 Update.