Tweaking Windows 10 (suspended)

As described in a previous post, I had upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 Pro. The upgrade process was nearly as successful as I could have hoped. In particular, it looked like many of my Windows 7 installed programs and customizations had survived and were still in place. (Another post provides a detailed account of my Windows 7 customizations.)

So now the mission was just to customize Windows 10, to match or improve upon what I had been experiencing in Windows 7. This post describes the steps I took, in addition to the installation options described in the previous post.

(Note: this post is incomplete. I went partway through the tweaking process, found that I was spending an inordinate amount of time, and decided to postpone until I was sure I would be going with Windows 10. Another post elaborates upon that decision.)

Where Things Are

Finding my way around in Windows 10 required familiarity with certain commonly used locations and keys. This started with the Start button at the bottom left corner of the screen. Left-clicking on it would bring up a program-oriented menu; right-clicking on it would bring up an administration-oriented menu. For brevity, this post refers to the left-click Start menu as LCS and the right-click Start menu as RCS.

Also, it would help if I was aware of the Windows Key, also known as WinKey or just plain Win-, as the first part of a two-key combination. WinKey was the key at the bottom left and/or right corner of the keyboard — the one with the Microsoft Windows logo on it. WinKey (by itself) brought up LCS; Win-X brought up RCS.

Windows 10 still had the old command window. My preferred way of opening it (among many possibilities) would probably be Win-X A, or else right-click on a folder in File Explorer and use the “Open command window here” option added via Ultimate Windows Tweaker (below). The latter had the advantage of letting me open a command window in a folder other than the one currently selected. After opening the command window, I dragged it to the left side of the screen, so as to let it grow to fill a half-screen. Then I right-clicked on its top bar and configured its Properties as desired.

Alternately, I could open the Run window via Win-R, and enter commands there. But I preferred to use the Run window only for a limited number of commands, because it remembered what I had entered into it previously. If I couldn’t remember precisely the name of the program I wanted (e.g., diskmgmt.msc), I could click on its little arrow and see some reminders. Acting on advice from, I downloaded the Windows Run History Editor from Softpedia and used it to edit the list of Most Recently Used (MRU) programs in the Run dialog. That list would continue to develop as I went through this tweaking process.

Windows 10 also still had Control Panel. Control Panel was available via RCS > Control Panel, and also via Win-X P or Win-R > control. In addition, Windows 10 had a new Settings center, available via LCS > Settings or Win-I or Win-R > ms-settings:. (The colon was essential in that last option.) Various tools within Control Panel and Settings were also available via a single Win-R command (e.g., “ms-settings:network” or “control timedate.cpl”).

To find file locations, I wanted to use the Everything file finder from I wanted to use Win-V as the hotkey to invoke it, but for some reason on the laptop that key option was not available. So I went with Shift-Esc, which is what AvaFind used to use.

Local Administrator Account

TenForums explained that there are three types of user accounts in Windows 10: Standard User, Unelevated Administrator, and Built-In Elevated Administrator. Experience suggested that the restrictions on the Standard User would not work well for my typical computing. I ran into a limitation in the Built-In Administrator, early in my Windows 10 experience. It tentatively seemed that I would prefer to use an Unelevated Administrator account. I would need to sort this out at the beginning, so that my tweaks were being made to the account I actually intended to use.

Various sources also explained that there are Local and Microsoft accounts. Digital Citizen presented several advantages to the latter. While I was not sure I would need apps from the Microsoft Store, I did like the option to sync my settings from one machine to another, without having to go through the same steps over again on the second machine. But as I read on, it sounded like a Microsoft account would result in my sharing a lot of potentially personal information with Microsoft. I decided to start with a local account if possible.

I was not sure which kind of account I had, at the end of the installation process. Lifehacker said that, if I chose “local account” during installation, then I would have a local account. I thought that probably was what I chose. To verify, I went into Win-I > Accounts. It said, Ray, Local Account, Administrator. So I didn’t need Microsoft‘s advice on how to create a local account.

But was I an unelevated or elevated administrator? I ran “net user” at the command prompt (Win-X A) and saw a listing, but it was not clear what it meant. It seemed to say that the user accounts on this machine were Administrator, DefaultAccount, Guest, and Ray. Or maybe it meant that Ray was an administrator, since Ray appeared under that heading, and there was no default account, because no name appeared under that heading. But that didn’t make sense; presumably Ray was the default account, since Win-I > Accounts showed Ray as the only user. The Microsoft webpage on Net User did not clarify.

I decided to try to enable the Built-In Administrator by entering “net user administrator” commands. But they were not very clear or informative. I had better luck with Win-R > lusrmgr.msc > Users. That opened the Local Users and Groups tool. This did confirm that I had five accounts on this system. Three were built-in: Administrator, Guest, and HomeGroupUser$. One was DefaultAccount, described there as “A user account managed by the system,” and the last was Ray. I right-clicked on the (built-in) Administrator entry and looked at its Properties. The “Account is disabled” box was checked. I unchecked that box, clicked Apply, and then looked at Win-I > Accounts. That still showed Ray as the only account. Apparently the built-in accounts did not show up there. So I rechecked the “Account is disabled” box and closed out of lusrmgr.msc.

It appeared, then, that Ray was a non-elevated local administrator account, created during installation; that it was the only active account; and that I could proceed to tweak the system for that account in particular. Yet this impression would soon perplex me. While making privacy and security tweaks (below), I went into Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking & typing > Manage Cloud Info > Go to Bing. I got the following error:

This app can’t open

Microsoft Edge can’t be opened using the Built-In Administrator account. Sign in with a different account and try again.

I had just rebooted and logged in as Ray. I double-checked: lusrmgr.msc > Users > Administrator > right-click > Properties definitely said, “Account is disabled.” With additional discussion, 4Sysops described this as “a bulletproof method that ensures that no user can run modern apps.” To fix this, multiple sources suggested a registry edit. It didn’t work for me; it may only have worked on Windows 10 Home. Instead, I made the change manually: Win-R > secpol.msc > left pane: Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options. This brought up a warning:

Security Templates

The Group Policy security settings that apply to this machine could not be determined.

A search seemed to indicate that, as of this writing, such errors were rare. Ed O’Daniel said this message was not surprising, if I had not already set any such settings. But when I clicked OK to close that warning, the Local Security Policy application did list a number of policies. Toward the bottom of that list, I found “User Account Control: Admin Approval Mode for the Built-In Administrator Account” > right-click > Properties. It was set to Enabled. I clicked Disabled > OK > exit > reboot. Unfortunately, I was still not able to use Bing in that Privacy link. I went back into lusrmgr.msc > Users > Administrator (built-in) > right-click > Properties > uncheck “Account is disabled” > reboot. Previously, the login screen had shown Ray as the only account option. This time, in the bottom left corner, it showed Ray and also Administrator. I chose Administrator. After some of the text screens I had seen during initial installation, I got an error:

An app default was reset

An app caused a problem with the default app setting .html files, so it was reset to Microsoft Edge.

When I clicked to close that, I got a similar message for PDF files. I went back into Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking & typing. It gave me the same error (“This app can’t open”) when I clicked on “Go to Bing.” It did seem I was correctly identifying a difference between the Built-In and Ray administrator accounts. The message about the Built-In Administrator, when I was logged in as Ray, appeared to be a bug. I posted a question on that. The answer (below) resolved this issue.

Ultimate Windows Tweaker

When configuring earlier versions of Windows, I had found it convenient to use a one-stop tweaking program to configure many aspects of the operating system. A search suggested that, among the various tweakers, Ultimate Windows Tweaker (a portable tool) was most commonly used. So at this point, I made an image of my newly installed Windows 10 system, and then I downloaded and ran UWT 4.0.2.

I did wish that UWT had the capability of generating a batch file and/or consolidated registry edit (*.reg) file to combine the changes made, so that users wouldn’t have to go back through its many screens or try to remember which changes they wanted or where those changes were located. But I realized it could be complicated if not impossible to package all of these various changes into one automatically generated script.

I also wished that UWT had better explanations of some of the items it proposed to change. Here, the ideal would be to provide a link to an explanatory page, for each such change. But then, nobody said UWT was for people who didn’t know what they were doing. If I wanted the convenience of a one-stop tweaker, I was apparently going to have to do my own research and/or trial-and-error learning.

Since I had already configured Windows 7 as desired, and Windows 10 had kept much of that in place, I didn’t have to make so many UWT tweaks this time around. Or maybe the boxes that were already checked in UWT were its defaults; maybe none of my Windows 7 tweaks had survived the upgrade. At this point, I was not sure. I made the following changes in UWT, in addition to whatever was already checked or not checked there:

  • Customization: File Explorer tab: Delete Pagefile at Shutdown.
  • Customization: Modern UI tab: Disable “Look for an App in the Store” and “You Have New Apps.”
  • Customization: Windows 10 tab: uncheck all Power Menu options. Disable Start Animations. Note that (at least in this version) “Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell” is backwards: leave it checked to retain Command Prompt.
  • User Accounts: Change User Account Control settings > Never notify. Note: this was short of fully disabling UAC.
  • Performance: Enable Windows Time Service.
  • Security & Privacy – Security Settings tab: Disable User Account Control. Disable OneDrive.
  • Security & Privacy – Privacy tab: Disable everything except Password Reveal Button and Steps Recorder.
  • Internet Explorer: Clear Cache on Every Exit. Enable DOM storage.
  • Context Menu: Desktop Context Menu 2 tab: check “Add ‘Take Ownership’ Option” and “Add ‘Open Command Window Here’ Option.”
  • Additional: uncheck Use Autoplay for All Media and Devices. Somewhat wider scrollbar. Enable NTLM 2 Support.

After making these changes, I rebooted the system to let them take hold. Some of these changes were tentative, based on brief research. As I learned more about Windows 10 and about new topics and technologies noted in UWT, I might add to or subtract from the foregoing list.

By this point, I had an answer to my posted question (above) regarding the Built-In Administrator account. The advice I got back was:

  1. Win-R > secpol.msc > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options > User Account Control: Admin Approval Mode for the Built-in Administrator Account > Enabled.
  2. Win-R > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\EnableLUA > set value to 1 rather than 0.

After doing that, I received a message telling me that this would turn User Account Control (UAC) back on, and that I would have to reboot. But when I did reboot, I saw that the UAC slider in Control Panel > User Accounts was still set to Never Notify. Confusing, but now I could run Edge and other “Metro” (now known as Windows) apps. (I built that registry edit into Win10RegEdit.reg, below, so that I would not need to make that change manually in the future.)

Other Preliminary Steps

In order to succeed in some of the tasks described in the following sections, I had to make certain changes, as follows:

  • Associate .reg files with Regedit. This makes sure that Win10RegEdit.reg (below) will be properly merged into the registry. To do this, I hit Win-R > assoc.reg=regfile [Enter]. Then double-clicking (or hitting Enter) on a selected .reg file brought up a dialog in which I named Registry Editor as the app that I always wanted to use to open .reg files.
  • Run Win10RegEdit.reg. This registry editing file automates certain tweaks, as noted in its comments.
  • Set default web browser to something other than Edge. For now, I clicked on the “Customize and control Google Chrome” button (i.e., three horizontal bars, on a button at the right side of the Chrome toolbar) > Settings > Make Google Chrome the default browser. I also set this in Win-I > System > Default apps.

Privacy and Security Tweaks

Some webpages offered lists of steps that, they said, I should take promptly after installing Windows 10. For example, BGR offered a Cheat Sheet listing numerous tweaks; and among those, there was a page naming “The first five things you need to do immediately” after installing Win10, and another naming “6 free tools that stop Windows 10 from spying on everything you do.” Similarly, Laptop Magazine provided its own list.

There seemed to be much duplication, between Control Panel and Settings. For example, both had system, network, hardware, and personalization sections. I wondered whether there would be a way to consolidate them and remove duplicates. Probably that would instead be on the wish list for some future version of Windows.

Some of these Settings items had to do with privacy and security. I figured I would adjust them later. But for now, I adopted a cautious approach. Based on an article in Lifehacker, I took or verified the following settings in Settings > Privacy:

  • General tab: Verify that all are off except Turn on SmartScreen Filter.
  • Location tab: Everything off. Click on the Clear History on This Device button.
  • Camera tab: Off, at least until I had a need for something to be on.
  • Microphone tab: Ditto.
  • Speech, inking & typing: Verify that the button says “Get to know me,” as distinct from “Stop getting to know me.” My installation decisions (as described in the previous post) and/or my UWT adjustments (above) had apparently taken care of this. According to MakeUseOf, I had thus disabled Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri voice-activated personal digital assistant.
  • Speech, inking & typing: Now that I had set Chrome as my default browser, the “Go to Bing” option worked. I went into the webpages that opened up and managed my privacy settings there.
  • Account info: Off.
  • Contacts: All off.
  • Calendar: Off.
  • Call history: Off.
  • Email: Off.
  • Messaging: Off.
  • Radios: Off.
  • Other devices: May vary from time to time, but presently all off.
  • Feedback frequency: never.
  • Background apps: All off except Lenovo Companion (specific to the laptop).

There appeared to be other advisable privacy and security adjustments. Various sites (including BGR, RockPaperShotgun, Wisconsin, Techlicious, and MalwareTips) advised the foregoing and additional steps, which I interpreted as follows:

  • Kill Wifi sharing: Win-I > Network & Internet. Wireless Network Connection: turn on. Clicking on unrecognized wireless connections and unchecked their Connect Automatically boxes did not seem to take; they were checked again when I returned. Advanced options: I turned off “Make this PC discoverable.” Manage Wi-Fi settings: all off. Change advanced sharing options: for private and public alike: turn off network discovery, turn off file and printer sharing, use user accounts and passwords to connect to other computers. Airplane mode: all off. VPN: off.
  • Don’t use the Edge browser; it collects personal data.
  • Completely killing Cortana required additional steps. To remove the Cortana entry from the Start Menu, FMustang76 advised using Unlocker to rename the executable, but others warned that this could cause larger operating system problems. Without completely disabling it, reportedly its process would keep running in the background. PCWorld suggested Start > type a few letters to open the search box > click on gear icon > set all items off > click the link to “Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.” But ArsTechnica reported that, even after taking all these measures, it appeared Windows 10 was still sending keystroke data to Microsoft.

Uninstall Windows (a/k/a Metro) Apps

Win-X P > Programs and Features contained the list of programs that I had installed in Windows 7, before upgrading to Windows 10. But there was a separate list, available through Win-I > System > Apps & Features. This list was not exactly the same as that provided in Programs and Features: it included various preinstalled apps included with Windows 10. Microsoft did not seem to have produced a single webpage explaining what these programs were. Many were self-explanatory; some were not.

I decided that I wanted to uninstall at least some of these preinstalled apps. For simplicity, I started by trying IObit Uninstaller. I downloaded and ran the portable version. The programs I was looking for were under the Win Manager heading. Unfortunately, IObit Uninstaller required individual confirmation of each “trash” command. Some suggested using CCleaner. I downloaded and installed the free desktop version. The programs in question were located in Tools > Uninstall. Here, again, Ctrl-Click did not work to select multiple programs for uninstallation. In future uninstalls, I would have to hunt through the list, remember which ones I wanted to keep, and uninstall manually.

It appeared possible to automate the process of uninstalling many such apps at once. How-To Geek offered PowerShell commands to uninstall (and, if desired, to reinstall) these preinstalled apps individually, as well as advice that could be used to prepare a batch file that would run many PowerShell commands at once. (See also TenForums.)

I decided not to try to figure out what the unfamiliar apps did. I also realized that I probably already had most of the functionality I needed for now; that Microsoft’s app might not provide the best response to a particular need; and that surplus apps could contribute to clutter and provoke potential conflicts. These beliefs inclined me to use a single PowerShell command, provided by Tech Period, to uninstall all except Windows Store (presumably saving that one so that I could restore the others if desired).

To run that command, I used Win-R > powershell. I saw that, as usual, the Run dialog said, “This task will be created with administrative privileges,” per the adjustments described above. PowerShell opened and gave me a prompt. I typed this:

Get-AppxPackage -AllUsers | where-object {$ –notlike “*store*”} | Remove-AppxPackage

That command ran, but then appeared to abort. In red print on a black background, I got an error: “Not enough storage is available to complete this operation.” There was also a Windows error message: “Your computer is low on memory.” Moo0 System Monitor indicated that I had plenty of RAM available. I also seemed to have plenty of free space on all drives. I did have an SDHC card plugged in at the time, and wondered if perhaps that was somehow becoming tied up in the process. I removed that card and re-ran the command. This time it appeared to complete successfully. Another look at Win-I > System > Apps & Features suggested, however, that those programs had not been uninstalled. I rebooted the system and looked again. No, those programs were still there.

This was the point at which I resolved the problem with the Built-In Administrator account (above). I thought that possibly the change in settings, so that now I could run Edge and other Windows apps, might also affect the PowerShell command just shown (i.e., the one starting with “Get-AppxPackage”). But when I prepared to rerun that command, I saw that the Run dialog did not say, “This task will be created with administrative privileges.” So when I ran the command, I got an error: “Access is denied.”

To start PowerShell as an administrator, I went into File Explorer > File (top left corner of menu) > Open Windows PowerShell > Open Windows PowerShell as Administrator. I tried running the Get-AppxPackage command again. This time, I got a funky result: a great deal of red text, indicating that “Windows cannot remove framework” with a lot of extra detail — and, at the same time, a window within the window, seeming to indicate that programs were in fact being removed. Now, I recognized almost everything remaining in Win-I > System > Apps & Features. The Windows apps seemed to be gone.

In other words, apparently I had to stop operating as though I were a Built-In Administrator, at least until I could uninstall the Windows apps. But now that that was done, I wanted to to back to running as an administrator, so that I could execute commands and modify the system as desired. So at this point I went back and undid the two numbered steps shown above: (1) disable the Admin Approval Mode in secpol.msc, and (2) set the EnableLUA value in regedit back to 0. But that didn’t do it: I still didn’t see, in the Run dialog, the statement, “This task will be created with administrative privileges.” One thread suggested Win-R > secpol.msc > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options > User Account Control: Run all administrators in Admin Approval Mode > Disabled > Restart. But that still didn’t do it.



Start Menu. BGR, Gizmo, and BT described ways of customizing the Windows 10 Start Menu. But I preferred the old Start Menu as it had appeared in Windows XP. How-To Geek explained that, as I had found in Windows 7, the Classic Shell program was able to recreate the older look. (An alternative: Start10.) I downloaded and installed Classic Shell (version 4.2.5) with all default settings. Its readme file opened in Microsoft Word, my default .rtf editor. I went to Start button > right-click > Start Menu Style tab > Backup button > Load from XML file. That reloaded the settings from my previous Classic Shell installation. In addition, on the Start Menu Style tab, I chose Replace Start Button > Classic.

Set Chrome to remember which tabs are open, from one session to the next: Settings > On Startup > Restore tabs or open specific pages > Continue where you left off

If desired, change default behavior in downloading, installing, and restarting computer to install updates: gpedit.msc > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Configure Automatic Updates > double-click > choose desired option.

[To be continued]

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