Learn how to set up Windows the way you want
The Settings tool is where you go to tweak various Windows preferences and options. It first emerged in Windows 8, but after a few years of remaining the poor cousin to the old-school Control Panel (which still exists today), Settings has finally come to the forefront.
That said, there are times where you’ll need access to the older Control Panel – typically for more granular settings not yet transferred to Settings. Windows hasn’t completely abandoned it yet and will divert you to the appropriate Control Panel item when it’s needed, but if you want to bypass the Settings tool, right-click the Start button to reveal the hidden Quick Access menu and choose ‘All Control Panel items’ to browse or search for the setting you need.
1 How to access Settings
While there are shortcuts to various parts of Settings (right-click the desktop and choose Personalise to jump to the Personalisation section for example), you can open the main Settings screen directly from the Start menu or Action Centre – just click the cog-like icon. If you want even faster access, open Settings, then right-click its Taskbar icon and choose ‘Pin to Taskbar’ to keep it within a single click’s reach.
2 Find a setting
Although Settings is split into 13 largely self-explanatory sections, you’ll find a bewildering labyrinth of sub-sections awaits you the moment that you select a category. Often the quickest way to find the setting you need is to search for it by name, and thanks to the ‘Find a setting’ box, accessible from anywhere in Settings, you can do just that. It’ll even provide shortcuts to Control Panel items where applicable.
3 System settings
Most system settings are self-explanatory – explore Display to set your screen resolution and tweak the Night Light settings, which help soothe your eyes when using your PC at night, for example. Select ‘Storage’ to automatically clean unwanted files from your PC – it’s also the new home of the Disk Clean-up tool: click ‘Free up space now’ – and Clipboard to configure the new clipboard history tool.
You can configure your hardware peripherals – including scanners and printers – from this section. Not only can you add new devices, you can configure keyboard and some mouse settings (a link to the more fully functional Mouse Control Panel is found under ‘Additional mouse options’), configure a touch device to support handwritten text and gestures, plus set up Autoplay settings for CD/DVDs, USB and memory cards.
5 Network & Internet
Visit this section to configure and check your network settings and usage. You’ll find a handy link to the Network troubleshooter under Status, while the Ethernet and Wi-Fi options provide links to the traditional Control Panel-based settings still used in Windows 10. If you’re on a capped Internet connection, select Data Usage to set limits and monitor how much bandwidth you’ve consumed.
This section is mostly about how Windows looks – choose a different background (or set up a slideshow), pick a colour scheme and then store your settings as a theme (see page 26 for more on this). You can also set your lock screen – including which apps can display information on it – and view and manage fonts (click one for more information or to uninstall it). Plus – as you’ve already seen – customise the Start menu and Taskbar.
The Apps & features section takes on some of the tasks previously handled by the ‘Programs and Features’ Control Panel. Not only can you view and uninstall apps from here, you can move supported ones (installed through the Microsoft Store) to another drive if necessary, to balance drive space. This is also where you go to configure default applications and control which programs start with Windows.
8 Update & Security
Go here to configure Windows Update (if you’re a Windows 10 Pro user, you can delay updates to prevent early-adopter issues). This is also your go-to place to configure Windows Security, the built-in anti-malware tool, configure File History through Backup, access a range of troubleshooters and access various recovery options when your computer is running as it should. A vital part of Settings.
Windows’ Settings tool now contains the vast majority of options you need to tweak Windows.