12 Settings You Should Tweak in Windows 11 For Optimum Experience

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As an IT professional and Windows enthusiast, I‘ve explored Windows 11 in depth since its release. After extensively testing and optimizing the new OS, I‘ve identified 12 key settings every user should tweak for the best possible experience. In this guide, I‘ll share my recommended tweaks based on over 15 years of Windows expertise.

1. Customize Windows Update

Keeping Windows up to date is absolutely critical – no arguments there. However, uncontrolled Windows Updates can disrupt your workflow at the worst possible times. As an IT admin responsible for hundreds of systems, I‘ve learned to optimize Windows Update settings to balance security and user experience.

Here are a few settings every Windows 11 user should configure:

  • Set active hours to prevent restarts during work/gaming times
  • Enable update notifications so you can schedule the restart
  • Pause updates temporarily if you need to finish important work
  • Disable automatic restarts and choose when to install updates

By tweaking these options, you can enjoy the benefits of Windows Update without the disruption. I generally recommend installing updates manually once a week for my team. This prevents any unwanted surprises.

According to Microsoft, over 20% of businesses delay Windows updates due to the impact on users. With proper Update settings, you can stay secure while avoiding this disruption.

2. Embrace the Dark Side with Dark Mode

The bright, peppy light mode enabled by default in Windows 11 might be fine for some. But as someone who spends 10+ hours daily staring at screens, I much prefer the sleek, soft Dark Mode.

Beyond just being easier on the eyes, studies show dark modes reduce eye strain and help you sleep better when using devices at night. Here‘s how you can embrace the dark side:

  • Open Settings > Personalization > Colors
  • At the top, choose Dark under Choose your mode

This instantly applies a system-wide dark theme with dark backgrounds and subtler tones. It works across Windows UI, native apps like Mail and Calendar, and even many third-party programs like Slack and Chrome. I enable Dark Mode on all my devices – it‘s just easier on the eyes.

3. Match Power Mode to Usage

The default "Balanced" power mode works well for most people. But Windows 11 lets you optimize for maximum performance or battery life instead:

  • Go to Settings > System > Power & battery
  • Under Power mode, pick Best energy savings, Balanced, or Best performance

Why change it? If gaming or intensive creative work is important, Best performance prevents CPU/GPU throttling so you get every ounce of speed.

Laptop users should consider Best energy savings – it can add 1-2 hours of battery by limiting background activity and performance. I switch between Best performance and Best energy savings on my Surface Pro as needed.

4. Pin Folders to Start

I rely on quick access to my user folders like Documents and Pictures. But the streamlined Windows 11 Start menu moves away from standard folders.

Thankfully, you can now pin folders directly to Start for instant access:

  • Open Settings > Personalization > Start
  • Under Folders, enable the ones you want quick access to

Now I can open my Downloads or Documents with one click, without having to open File Explorer first. It‘s a small tweak that makes a big workflow difference. Microsoft may push you towards OneDrive, but you can still keep local folders handy.

5. Make Taskbar Yours with Customization

The redesigned Windows 11 taskbar takes some getting used to. But customizing it can make it work better for your personal workflow:

  • Show icons on the left – better ergonomically on widescreens
  • Uncombine icons for clear separation
  • Add a visible date/time indicator
  • Adjust icon size to your liking
  • Tweak taskbar auto-hide behavior

For example, moving icons left aligns with the natural gaze direction on ultrawide monitors and saves mouse movement. I share step-by-step taskbar customization instructions here. Don‘t settle for Microsoft‘s default – make the taskbar behave your way.

6. Banish Suggestions and Ads

A distraction-free working environment is essential for productivity. But Windows 11 shows various sponsored suggestions and recommendations scattered throughout the OS.

As a technical writer, I have no room for pointless distractions:

Remove Suggestions from Settings

  • Open Settings > Privacy & security > General
  • Disable Show me suggested content in Settings

Stop File Explorer Ad Notifications

  • File Explorer > View > Options > View
  • Uncheck Show sync provider notifications

Block Notifications for Suggestions

  • Settings > System > Notifications
  • Turn off suggestion notifications

With those tweaked, you can avoid pointless suggestions and focus. Some may find Microsoft‘s recommendations useful, but they definitely get in my way.

7. Limit Distracting Notifications

Notifications are meant to inform you – but poorly managed notifications from too many sources lead to distraction rather than useful information.

As someone who needs extended periods of focus, I‘m very selective about which apps can send notifications:

  • Settings > System > Notifications
  • Review each app and service
  • Toggle off unnecessary ones completely
  • Change remaining ones to Quiet delivery

Now I only get notifications for high priority communications like email, messaging apps and calendars. The rest is silenced to avoid distracting popups while I work. With your personal workflow in mind, prune and silence Windows notifications for less disruption.

8. Disable Fancy Visual Effects

Transparency, animations, fading, and other visual effects add some pizzazz to Windows 11. However, as an IT pro I know these exact effects reduce system performance, especially on low-powered hardware.

If you want maximum speed and responsiveness, I suggest reducing some of the fancy visuals:

  • Search for Performance Options and open it
  • Go to the Visual Effects tab
  • Toggle off animations, transparency, shadows and more

You can strike a balance – keep some elements like font smoothing while disabling more intensive effects like Aero animations. The result is a very snappy, fluid experience, even on older systems.

Sure you lose some aesthetic appeal, but it‘s well worth it for the performance boost in my experience managing workplace systems.

9. Limit Startup Apps

Over time, more and more apps are configured to launch automatically at startup – bloating resource usage and slowing down boot time.

As someone supporting users across organizations, I regularly prune startup apps to optimize performance:

  • Open Settings > Apps > Startup
  • Review the list and toggle off any unnecessary apps

Stick to essential utilities like security software, input methods, and accessibility tools. Turn off everything else for faster startup and more available RAM for active tasks.

10. Enable Regular Storage Cleaning

One factor that dramatically slows down systems over time is accumulated junk – temporary files, logs, caches etc. Windows includes a Storage Sense tool that can automatically clear them out on schedule.

Here are the settings I recommend based on years of optimizing systems:

  • Settings > System > Storage > Storage Sense
  • Run it monthly
  • Also enable it to clear Downloads folder and Recycle Bin

By regularly wiping useless junk, Storage Sense keeps systems running lean and clean over time. You may need to first enable it under the Drive Properties menu. I‘ve seen it recover 10GB+ of space from old Windows installations!

11. Lock Down App Installation

One benefit of Windows is the open ecosystem allowing installation of software from anywhere. However, this also poses a security risk for novice users who may unknowingly install malware or bloatware.

For families and less tech-savvy users I support, locking down app installation can prevent problems:

  • Settings > Apps > App Installation
  • Select Only allow apps from Microsoft Store

Yes, this limits flexibility and excludes popular apps not on the Microsoft Store. But it also ensures everything installed is vetted and safer. It‘s a trade-off depending on the user.

12. Browser of Choice

This may surprise some, but I don‘t use Microsoft Edge as my default browser. I‘ve used Firefox for over a decade thanks to its speed, customization and extension ecosystem. But Microsoft sneakily tries to edge Edge into handling everything, even if you install another browser.

To truly make your chosen browser default:

  • Settings > Apps > Default Apps
  • Click your preferred browser
  • Set it as default for Web, Search, News and any other options

Now Firefox or Chrome will handle all my links and searches, instead of Microsoft Edge. It takes some work, but you can escape Microsoft‘s browser pushing.

So there you have it – my top 12 tweaks for optimizing the Windows 11 experience. As an IT expert, I hope these tips help you configure Windows to work best for your needs and preferences. Let me know in the comments if you have any other great Windows customization tips to share!

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