Setting up a new Windows 11 PC — or resetting a gently used Windows 11 PC, so it’s as good as new — is pretty easy. Deceptively easy, in fact. After you click through the dialog boxes and adjust the few available settings as part of the out-of-the-box experience, you end up at the Windows 11 desktop.
But your work is not complete. Microsoft’s default settings aren’t necessarily tuned for you, and a default setup comes with a handful of annoyances that you can quickly fix.
When you get to the Windows desktop, I recommend taking a few minutes to do these six things before you go any further.
Old-timers will probably prefer a local account because it’s what they’ve used for decades. But it’s the wrong choice these days, at least if you care about security.
Using a Microsoft account gives you three advantages you can’t get with a plain-vanilla local account:
- You can turn on two-factor authentication and Windows Hello, which allows you to sign in using fingerprint or face-recognition hardware.
- You can turn on encryption for your system drive, even if you’re using the Windows 11 Home edition (to make sure encryption is turned on, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Device Encryption).
- You can use Microsoft’s account recovery tools to access your encrypted data if you forget your password.
And, of course, if you have a Microsoft 365 Family or Personal subscription that uses your Microsoft account, you get access to Office apps and a terabyte of cloud storage.
You’re not required to use your Microsoft-supplied email address for anything but this single purpose. And if you create a new Microsoft account as part of the Windows 11 setup, it’s not linked to any existing phone number or email address, which means the address can’t be used to track your online activity.
For more details on the differences between each account type, see Windows 11 setup: Which user account type should you choose? For step-by-step instructions on securing your Microsoft account, see How to lock down your Microsoft account and keep it safe from outside attackers.
Right click on the unwanted icon, click Uninstall, confirm your choice in a dialog box, and repeat as needed. (And yes, I realize that it’s very weird to offer the Uninstall option for an app that is not actually installed, and does not appear in the Installed Apps list in Settings, but here we are.)
In addition to those third-party app shortcuts, you’ll find an assortment of apps from Microsoft itself. Many, but not all, can be uninstalled in the same way. For more advice on what to do with these apps, see The 12 Windows apps I keep (and the 11 I dump) on every new install.
Note that a Windows Sandbox session is totally stripped down. It includes no third-party apps and almost no Microsoft apps, except the Microsoft Edge browser, File Explorer, Notepad, and the legacy version of Windows Media Player. You can use the Windows Clipboard to paste a URL into Microsoft Edge or to copy a program file to the sandbox for further exploration.
At the bottom of the page, click Folders and you’ll find a menu that lets you add shortcuts to the bottom of the Start menu, in the space to the left of the Power button. This option gives you easy access to some common locations in the file system without the need to open File Explorer first. These locations are the equivalent of the shortcuts that sit in a column to the left of the Start menu in Windows 10.
You’ll also notice I turned on dark mode for the system. It’s much easier on the eyes, especially if you’re working in a dark or dimly lit room. You’ll find that option in Settings > Personalization > Colors > Choose Your Mode.
If you want any of those items, then more power to you. But you can make any or all of those shortcuts disappear with a quick trip to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar. Slide all four of these switches to the left to streamline the taskbar, so you can concentrate on the program shortcuts instead.
There’s some good stuff at the bottom of that Settings page, too. Expand the Taskbar Corner Overflow section to control which icons appear on the right side of the taskbar by default. And if you have multiple displays, be sure to click Taskbar Behaviors to go through the options for how the taskbar works on a second monitor.
To do that, open File Explorer, right click the OneDrive shortcut in the folder pane on the left and then click OneDrive > Manage OneDrive Backup. That step takes you to the dialog box shown below.
However, you should note that the options will be disabled if you’re using a system that’s managed by your business using a domain or Entra ID account.
You can turn off backup for each of the three folders with a single click. The blue checkmark in the top-right corner means the folder is backed up and synced.
If OneDrive Backup has been on for any length of time, turning it off leaves your files in their respective OneDrive folders and adds a link to that location in the folder in your local user profile. You’ll need to manually move or copy those files from their OneDrive location back to the local user profile if you want them in a single location.