Five Time-Saving Windows 10 Productivity Tweaks

Michael Lasky

Tweaking is a way to fine-tune something, and Windows 10 gives us plenty of capabilities to fine-tune the OS to our particular work methods and thus optimize our productivity.  I’m sharing some of the tweaks which I have come to rely on, mined from the inner workings of Windows 10, to feed my need for speed.

Turn Off Windows Visual Effects, Turn On CPU Speed

You can speed up your CPU by turning off CPU-hungry visual effects. Sure, animations and shadows make the user interface look great, but they can consume significant CPU power and eat memory. Follow these steps to turn off different visual effects.

  1. Open File Explorer and from the left column, right-click This PC.
  2. From the drop-down menu, click Properties.
  3. Click Advanced system settings in the left column.
  4. Now click the Settings box under Performance.
  5. The Visual Effects tab reveals all the visual features Windows loads by default. Click the Custom button and proceed to uncheck the ones you can live without (most of them, actually).

I left on only Enable Peek and Save taskbar thumbnail previews but you can adjust accordingly to see how CPU speed and memory improves on your systems.

Use Built-in Windows 10 URIs to Zip to Specific OS Functions

First off, what is a URI? URI stands for Universal Resource Identifier and URL stands for Universal Resource Locator. Just as URLs take us to specific Internet addresses, built-in Windows 10 URIs can zip us to specific operating system functions and tasks which would otherwise require digging into Settings and clicking through layers of menus. While using URIs does involve some typing in the Start search bar, it eliminates the need to wade through menus and submenus to where the particular function icon is located.

To launch a URI, use the Run command (Windows key+R or right-click the Start icon and select Run. From the ensuing window, type ms-setting: followed by the function you want to zip to. For example, ms-setting:bluetooth will immediately open the Bluetooth page in settings.

For a list of all the functions you can add to ms-settings go to Microsoft’s listing. If you decide there is too much typing to use this tip, at least you now know what a URI is.

How to Skip Password Login and Go Directly to the Desktop

If your PC never leaves home and you are the sole user there is probably no need for a password login. Sure, password logins are vital for the security of the contents of your PC but they inherently stop you in your tracks to get to work. So why not just deactivate the login when you boot up or when you return after the system is idle? Follow these steps:

  1. In the Start search bar type netplwiz. This will open the User Accounts permissions window.
  2. Uncheck the box next to Users must enter a username and password to use the computer.
  3. Highlight the username in the box below for which you want to deactivate the login password. You will be asked to type in the password you previously set, just to prove it is you.
  4. When you reboot the PC again, Windows will open directly on the Desktop, no login required.

Disable Windows 10 Store App Updates

When Windows 10 upgrades take over our systems, we have few choices but to let Microsoft continue the process. But when the Apps we install from the Microsoft Store want to automatically update, we do have a choice to prevent this. While the update is usually in the background, it still can cause issues if another CPU demanding process in underway like, say, a high-definition video playing.

Fortunately, as Windows 10 has matured, so has the ability to switch off Store auto-updates, which then allows you to update individual apps selectively. Follow these steps to customize when and how updates get downloaded:

  1. Open Microsoft Store and click the three dots on the top right.
  2. From the drop-down menu click Settings. Slide the off/on switch below App updates to the left.
  3. Updates will now load only when you proactively request them. If there are updates to install you will see a down arrow with the number of available updates in the upper right (next to the three dots). Click on that arrow icon to see what is ready to update. You can cherry-pick the app updates you want.

Automatically Save Files and Photos As They Are Created

Auto-saving files to specific folders would not only save time but many repeated keystrokes as well. But for this Windows feature there is good news and bad news: The bad news is that auto-saving to specific folders is limited on an app by app basis. The good news is that Windows 10 can be set up to auto-save any file to OneDrive.

There is no universal auto-save function in Windows. There are auto save features on some individual apps like Office and Internet browsers. There are also third party freeware apps such as Door2Windows.com’s AutoSaver which can be configured to automatically save any file to your selected location.

Microsoft’s cloud storage, OneDrive, is easily configurable to sync your Documents, Pictures, and Desktop folders. Not only can they then be accessed from other devices but are an excellent off-site backup to boot. There are separate convenient configurations for auto-saves of photos and video whenever you connect cameras and phones to your PC. When you capture screenshots on your PC, they too can be simultaneously captured on OneDrive, too.

Setting up OneDrive Auto Save is a right-click away:

  1. From the OneDrive icon on your Desktop, System Tray or Taskbar, right-click and select Settings.
  2. From the Auto Save tab, click the Update Folders box.
  3. Now select one by one the three boxes, Desktop, Pictures, and Documents to sync (and protect) files on your PC to OneDrive.
  4. After selecting each box, click Start protection.

Now files in each category will be automatically synced in the background to OneDrive.



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2018-09-11:

Michael Lasky

About Michael Lasky

WS contributing editor Michael Lasky is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California, who has 20 years of computer-magazine experience, most recently as senior editor at PC World.