Windows 11 comes with a bunch of new features and changes to the older features. If you want to get the best experience, you should optimally customize its settings.
At first glance, I personally found Windows 11 to be perfect right out of the box, unlike Windows 10 with its forced “Welcome to the future” persona. However, after fiddling around with its settings and features, I noticed many ways it could be improved by changing the default settings.
Whether it’s to configure the new features, get rid of unnecessary disruptions, or take advantage of new options added in old functions, you can do a lot to optimize your Windows 11 experience.
If you are up for it, keep reading, and I’ll share a bunch of ways you can tweak Windows 11 settings for the best experience.
Tweak Windows Update options
Keeping your PC up-to-date is necessary to ensure security and stability. However, configuring Windows update settings is just as important because a bad restart timing could lead to losing hours of work, or worse, a boss fight in your favorite MMO/s.
Open Settings from the Start menu and then select Windows Update at the bottom of the left panel. Here you can see downloadable updates and pauce/resume updates. The more important entry here is the Advanced options, so click on it.
Here you can configure active hours during which the PC will not restart, manage update notifications, and how to download the updates. You can tweak these settings as per your need, but I recommend you disable the Get me up to date option and enable notification before restart. Otherwise, the PC will restart right after downloading the update without prior notification.
Enable Dark mode
By default, Windows 11 uses the light mode with a very bright theme. If you prefer darker visuals or work in a dark environment, and the light theme is just a toll on your eyes, you should switch to dark mode. Here’s how:
Open up Windows Settings again and click on Personalization and then Colors.
Here at the very top, select Dark in the Choose your mode section.
Your Windows colors will turn dark and dark mode will also automatically enable on supported apps.
Choose power mode
Managing how Windows uses power is necessary no matter it’s Windows 11 or any other version. By default, it’s set to balance mode. However, your preference can vary depending on whether you want better performance or save power.
Select the System option in Windows 11 settings and then click on Power to select the right power mode.
In the Power mode section, you can select from Best power efficiency, Balanced, and Best performance as your preferred power profile.
Add folders to the Start menu
Windows 11 Start menu is a lot simpler than Windows 10, with some features even stripped away. However, it adds the ability to add pre-defined folders in the Start menu as small icons. This includes folders like Downloads, Documents, Pictures, and the User folder, etc.
To add folders in the Start menu, click on Personalization inside the Windows 11 settings and select Start.
Now select the Folders option, and you’ll see a bunch of pre-defined folders with a toggle button next to them. Enable the ones you want to see in the Start menu, and an icon for them will appear next to the Power button.
Customize the taskbar
The Windows 11 taskbar is entirely new and behaves differently from the previous Windows version too. Thankfully, Windows 11 lets you fully customize it to your liking, so you don’t get stuck with the new changes. You can remove the fixed icons, move icons to the left side, hide/unhide the taskbar, and much more.
You can check out my guide on how to customize Windows 11 taskbar to learn how you can fully customize it to your liking.
Disable Windows 11 Ads
Microsoft has cleverly introduced ads in different areas of Windows 11 that are either shown as tips or outright product recommendations. If you don’t want to see them, here’s how to disable them in different areas of Windows 11:
Disable ads in the Settings app
Go to Settings from the Start menu and click on Privacy & Security in the left panel.
Here click on General and then disable the option Show me suggested content in the Settings app.
Disable ads in the File Explorer
In the File Explorer, click on the three dots menu at the top and select Options from it.
In the Folder Options window, move to the View tab and uncheck the Show sync provider notifications option.
Disable ads shown as notifications
In the Windows Settings, click on System and then click on Notifications.
Scroll to the very bottom and disable the Offer suggestions on how I can set up my device and Get tips and suggestions when I use Windows options.
You should definitely customize notifications to avoid disturbance from unnecessary notifications or Microsoft’s nagging to try different apps. To do so, click on the System option in the Settings app and click on Notifications.
Other than the option to completely disable notifications, you’ll see a list of apps that can show notifications. You can fully disable notifications for individual apps here or control how they show the notifications.
Don’t forget to disable notifications for suggestions at the bottom like we did above to avoid seeing ads/suggestions in notifications.
Disable unrequired visual effects
I personally disable animations and extra effects on every version of Windows I use as it boosts Windows performance and offers a more snappy experience as you don’t have to wait for animations.
Now I am not suggesting you should disable all visual effects, but you should definitely try to find a balance between performance and appearance.
Although Windows 11 has a button in the Settings app to disable most of the animations, I recommend you use the Performance Options window as it gives full control.
In the Windows search, type
advancedand select View advanced system settings.
Here click on Settings under the Performance section.
Now you’ll see a list of all the visual effects you can disable/enable. You can disable these effects one by one to decide which effect you want to disable and which to enable. If you want pure performance without a noticeable difference in the interface, you may use the exact settings shown in the screenshot below.
Disable Startup apps
A bunch of default and third-party apps can be set to launch as soon as Windows starts, even if you don’t intend to use them. They can eat up resources in the back and even use internet data which could disrupt your work. Here’s how to disable unrequired Startup apps:
In the Windows settings, click on Apps in the left panel and then click on Startup.
You will see all the apps that can start up with Windows. Just toggle off the ones you don’t intend to use as soon as the PC starts.
Configure Storage Sense
Storage Sense helps keep Windows clean by automatically deleting temporary data. By default, it only kicks in when you are actually low on Storage. However, if you want to keep Windows clean, I recommend you configure it to clean up unrequired data on a fixed interval.
In Windows settings, click on System and then select Storage.
Here click on the Storage Sense option.
Under the Run Storage Sense section, select one of the preset intervals. You can choose Every day, Every week, or Every month.
You might also want to configure the options to automatically delete data in the recycle bin and the downloads folder.
Only allow apps from Microsoft Store.
Just like how on Android, you can only install apps from Google Play Store by default. You can also configure Windows 11 to only allow installation from the Microsoft Store for security. However, as Microsoft Store isn’t as vast, this option isn’t for everyone and is disabled by default.
Although if you need to give the Windows 11 PC to someone who can accidentally install malicious apps — like a child — then enabling this option is important.
To only allow apps from Microsoft Store, Open up the Apps section in the Windows settings and click on Apps & features.
Here in the Choose where to get apps option, select The Microsoft Store only. If you prefer, you can also choose to get notified if a third-party app is also available on Microsoft Store so that you can install it from there instead.
Change the default browser.
Microsoft Edge is the default browser in Windows 11, and Microsoft tries its best to make you use it. If you want to use a different browser and even set it as default using the Set as the default setting in your browser, Windows 11 will still use Edge for many types of files/links.
You need to set defaults in Windows settings to set your preferred browser as default for everything.
Click on Apps in Windows settings and then click on the Default apps option.
On the next page, open up your preferred browser from the list of apps, and you will see all types of files that can be associated with it. Just click on the file types still associated with Microsoft Edge (or any other browser) and change them to your preferred browser.
Other than limiting app installation to Microsoft Store only, I have personally configured all of these above settings, and my experience is much better than what default Windows 11 settings offer. Some of these settings are also available on Windows 10. You can use the instructions in this post to optimize Windows 10 too.