After decades of development, Windows is densely packed with settings you might not be aware of. There are old, new, and surprising features buried all over the place. Some of them can make it easier to do basic things like log into your PC or find the right emoji. While none of these settings are essential to using Windows, they can make it a much friendlier experience and taking a minute to tweak a thing or two can save you time in the long run.
By default, Windows has several settings we recommend using disabled, and it doesn't do a lot to encourage you to change them. I've picked out seven useful Windows settings to change and a handful of bonus features that you might never have seen before that'll make your Windows life better, including a couple exclusive to Windows 11.
Speed up how you sign-in to your PC
Despite what Windows suggests when you initially set up a PC or laptop, you don't have to use a password to log in. Windows offers a few options that make the login process much easier at the cost of some security. If that's not a worry, then you can skip the part where you have to put your Outlook or Microsoft password in every time you want to get back to your desktop.
I'd recommend using a pin, or a set of four numbers to quickly tap before you're back into Windows.
- To do that, head to Windows Settings by clicking the Windows icon on the bottom-left of your screen and selecting the gear icon for Settings.
- Once you're in settings, hit Accounts and then Sign-in options in the left panel.
- There are several options here, but Windows Hello PIN is what you want to choose. Click Add, then Create a PIN and follow the setup process. If you need to change it in the future, Sign-in options is where you'll be able to do that.
Turn off Sticky Keys
If you're a veteran PC gamer, you've likely encountered Sticky Keys before. It's the Windows feature that's made for people who can't hold Ctrl or Shift while pressing something else. It's a useful feature, but if you don't need it, it can get in the way. Games often require or encourage you to press Shift several times in succession, which can cause the Sticky Keys prompt to show up and ask if you'd like to enable it.
- To prevent that prompt from showing up at all, head down and click the Windows icon on the bottom-left of your screen and select the gear icon for Settings.
- On the main page, select Ease of Access, then, on the next page, hit the Keyboard option on the left panel.
- Under Use Sticky Keys, flip the switch to the left to turn the feature off.
Add folder icons to Windows 11 Start menu
If you habitually find yourself opening up File Explorer to then navigate to your documents or downloads, this can save you a step. Somewhat hidden in the Windows 11 Start menu personalization settings is the option to add folder icons for each of your default file folders.
- Click the Windows icon and then type "Settings" to pull up the menu.
- On the Settings page, select Personalization and then Start from the list of options.
- On the Start page, select Folders. Once in the Folder settings, choose which icons you'd like to appear on your Start menu next to the power icon.
Turn on Dark mode
Dark modes change the contrast of your application windows and backgrounds, and feel essential if you're in a dark room where the light from a white screen can be blinding. Or if you're just spending very, very long hours staring at a monitor.
By default, Windows uses a light mode. You can change it so that everything on your PC obeys the dark mode code and respects your precious eyes. You can also mix and match by having Windows set to dark mode but applications default to light mode, or vice versa.
- Click the Windows icon on the bottom-left of your screen and then select the gear icon for Settings.
- On the Settings page, select Personalization and then Colors on the left-hand side.
- Once you're on the Colors page, change the dropdown under Choose your color to Dark.
Show hidden files and extensions
Windows doesn't want you to see some of the vital folders in your PC. There are times where you need to, though, especially if you dabble in modding. The AppData folder is an essential one; it's where a lot of game data is stored and the place you often need to dig through to solve issues with your programs.
- To pull the sheet off of these files and extensions, select the Windows icon in the bottom-left and then hit the paper icon to open Documents in File Explorer.
- At the top of File Explorer, select the View tab and then check both File name extensions and Hidden items.
- Now you can enter your C: drive, select users, then the name of your Windows account, and see the AppData folder.
Enable Clipboard history
Normally when you copy and paste things like text and links, Windows only lets you paste the most recent one. There's actually a name for where the things you copy get saved: the Clipboard. In Windows 10 and 11, you can enable Clipboard history to bring up a window of the last several things you've copied to make copy/pasting extra convenient.
- To enable Clipboard history, hit the Windows icon in the bottom-left of your screen and select the gear icon for Settings.
- From the main page, click System and then select Clipboard in the left panel.
- Flip on Clipboard history, and to bring up the window for it, press the Windows key and V.
Turn off suggestions in Start menu
Windows likes to insert suggestions for apps in your Start menu. It can clutter up your preferred list of apps and make it tedious to get to what you want—especially if you're someone who doesn't hit the Windows key and type the name of the program you want.
- To turn off Start menu suggestions, select the Windows icon in the bottom-left of your desktop and then select the gear icon to open Settings.
- On the Settings page, hit Personalization and then click Start in the left panel.
- In the list of toggles, look for Show suggestions occasionally in Start and flip it off.
Enable Windows' built-in blue light filter
Whether or not blue light from screens is seriously detrimental to human brains is unclear, but using features that tint your screen to warmer colors can be nice on your eyes after hours on your PC. Windows, it turns out, has this feature built in, though you may prefer to extra options of long-time favorite Flux.
If you want to use the Windows version, though:
- To turn on Windows' Night light feature, hit the Windows icon in the bottom-left of your screen and select the gear icon for Settings.
- On the Settings page, select System and then Display on the left panel.
- At the top of the list of options, toggle on Night light. You can also click Night light settings and play with the strength of the tint and the schedule for when it'll turn on.
Enable dynamic refresh rate on laptops in Windows 11
Like a lot of smartphones today, some modern laptop displays are capable of dynamically adjusting their refresh rates, which is useful for saving battery life. While gaming you obviously want that full 144Hz refresh, but if you're staring at an unchanging document for minutes at a time, you're just wasting juice by having your screen refresh itself so many times per second. Why not dial the refresh rate down to, say, 60Hz when nothing's moving?
Windows 11 actually supports this feature, if you go digging into the advanced display settings.
- Right-click on your desktop and select Display settings from the menu.
- Scroll down to Advanced display and click it.
- In the Advanced Display menu, look for "Choose a refresh rate" and click the dropdown to the right. If your monitor supports a dynamic refresh rate, you'll see it listed in the options here.
Bonus: hidden Windows features
Windows has been around for a while, and there are a lot of features it doesn't advertise that can save you time if you know about them. Here are a few favorites:
- You can jump directly to your desktop with one button by pressing the vertical section on the bottom right-hand part of your taskbar. You can also press the Windows key + D.
- You can send emojis at any time by bringing up the Emoji Picker with Windows key and the period or semicolon key.
- You can take screenshots by pressing Windows key, Shift, and S at the same time.
- You can minimize all windows except the one you're focused on by clicking and holding the top of an active window and shaking it with your mouse.
- You can alt-tab and see all your current open windows by hitting Windows key and Tab.