You Don't Have to Live With These Default Windows 10 Settings
You can improve your Windows 10 experience by changing any of these settings.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Windows 10 has been out of the spotlight since Microsoft launched Windows 11, its latest operating system, in October 2021. Windows 11 reached broad deployment earlier this year after a staggered rollout spanning half a year, meaning it's now ready for all compatible computers. (Here's how to download it if you're ready.) However, there are plenty of people who are unable to or uninterested in upgrading. And like any OS, Windows 10 has a few default settings that are less than ideal.
Some are just annoying (you don't really need Cortana "getting to know you"), while others will actually slow down your device, show you tons of notifications and ads and collect more of your information than you might be comfortable with. As long as Windows 10 is still what's powering your computer, it's worth it to optimize your settings to make sure your PC is running the best it can.
A feature Windows 10 added is an optimized update delivery system that lets you download updates from other Windows 10 computers over the Internet (not just from Microsoft's servers). The catch is that your computer is also used as an update-sharing hub for other Windows 10 users.
This feature is turned on by default, but you can turn it off by going to Settings > Update & security > Advanced options > Delivery optimization and toggling off Allow downloads from other PCs.
The Windows 10 Action Center is a handy central hub for all of your notifications -- apps, reminders, recently installed programs. But notification overload is definitely a thing, especially when you add unnecessary notifications (such as Windows tips) into the mix.
To get your notifications under control, go to Settings > System > Notifications &actions.
Turn off things like "Get tips, tricks and suggestions when you use Windows" or "Show me the Windows welcome experience after updates and occasionally when I sign in to highlight what's new and suggested" as well as any unwanted notifications from individual apps.
Start menu ads
Microsoft pushes its Windows Store apps -- so much so that you may be seeing apps you never downloaded in your Start menu. These suggested apps are basically ads.
Turn off these pesky ads by going to Settings > Personalization > Start > Show suggestions occasionally in Start. For more information, check out our Windows 10 Start menu guide.
Targeted ads from third-party apps
Microsoft is definitely keeping tabs on your preferences and browsing habits in Windows 10. You even have a unique advertising ID (tied to your Microsoft account), which the company uses to show you targeted ads. Oh, and Microsoft also shares this advertising ID profile with third-party apps from the Windows Store, unless you turn this information sharing off.
You can turn off sharing this type of info by going to Settings > Privacy > General and toggling off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app activity (Turning this off will reset your ID).
Cortana 'getting to know you'
Cortana, your adaptive personal assistant in Windows 10, gets, well, pretty personal with the information it collects about you, such as speech and handwriting patterns and typing history, which you may consider to be just a little creepy.
You can stop Cortana from "getting to know you," and clear that information from your device, by going to Settings > Privacy > Inking & typing and toggling the option off.
Apps running in the background
In Windows 10, by default, many apps run in the background (even if you don't have them open). These apps can receive information, send notifications, download and install updates and otherwise use up your bandwidth and your battery. If you're using a mobile device and/or a metered connection, you may want to turn this feature off.
To do so, go to Settings > Privacy > Background apps and either toggle off Let apps run in the background or toggle off each app individually.
All the syncing
Windows 10 is all about syncing. Everything (system settings, themes, passwords, search history) syncs across all your signed-in devices by default. But not all of us want our search history to sync between our phones and our computers, so here's how to turn syncing off.
To turn off settings syncing (including themes and passwords), go to Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings. You can turn off all settings syncing, or you can selectively turn off specific settings.