Windows 10 Experience

Last Updated:   10/21/17  16:52                 Jeffrey Knauth    jknauth@nc.rr.com

This file is a summary of my current experience with Windows 10 (Win10), which I have installed on four PCs. I have modified it with some addons and registry patches, as described below.

In general the installations were not done as "clean installs". Instead for each system I installed the latest Windows version over an older Windows. Each system had many installed application programs. I had tailored Windows and the applications a good deal, so there were many settings that needed to be automatically transferred as part of the Windows update. To date the "dirty install" installation technique has not seemed to create any problems, although I often had to restore a few settings. I had kept a good record of the settings I preferred, so this was fairly easy.

I started with Win 7 on most of the PCs and Win 8.1 on one. I updated each PC to the latest Win10 version very soon after each new version became available.

VersionInstall Date
1507 7/29/15
151111/15/15
1607 8/02/16
1703 4/14/17
170910/18/17

Before starting with Windows 10, for the most part I had been a Windows 7 user, but had done some experimenting with Windows 8 and 8.1. On the latter systems I had used the desktop interface (as in Win7), staying away from the "Metro" interface entirely. I ran ordinary applications on the desktop side, not getting dragged into any of the Windows "Universal" apps. That is still the way I run in Win10. My experiences described here may be less helpful for people who liked and used the "Metro" stuff in some prior Windows versions.

A user interface can never be designed to please everyone. There are certainly parts of the Win10 user interface which I do not like and for which Microsoft provides no workaround. Fortunately there is ameliorating software (and patches) available from non-Microsoft sources. Below I describe some of that software which I have installed on Win10. Of course since this software is not provided by Microsoft, it might cease to work at any time if Microsoft changes the underlying Windows 10.

### 10/18/17 Update:  Installation of Windows 10 Version 1709 ###

I have now installed the 1709 version of Win10 on four PCs over the prior 1703 version. One install happened as a result of the normal Windows Update process; that was a pretty new PC (Microsoft pushes a new version to newer PCs first). I subsequently used the "get it early" link under Windows Update to force the download/install on three other (MUCH older) PCs. Although the whole process took a while (an hour or so for each of three PCs, much longer for the fourth), it went smoothly in all four cases. Most of my prior Windows settings were preserved.

Bugs? and/or "Working As Designed"?:

Multiboot and System Backup/Restore

In Windows 7 I had used Terabyte's BootIt Bare Metal (BIBM) to set up a multiboot configuration on most of my PCs. This allowed me to boot several different systems on a PC, each residing in its own partition. With BIBM you can have more than four primary partitions, which is very useful. Additionally, BIBM is the tool I use to do system backups and restores, at least on those PCs that support BIOS. Usually I do the backups to a USB or ESATA external hard drive. I tested that all these BIBM facilities still worked in a Win10 environment.

Unfortunately, BIBM is not compatible with the UEFI (BIOS replacement) on my Microsoft Surface Book (MSBK) PC; that PC has no BIOS legacy setting. As a result, on that PC I am not able to create more than four primary partitions, including one or more test partitions, my normal PC configuration. Without BIBM I must use another backup tool. To do a system backup on the MSBK PC, I use an old facility built into Win10: Control Panel > Backup and Restore (Windows 7) > Create a system image. The backup process seems to work. However without the ability to create a test partition with BIBM to test a restore, I really won't know that a restore will work until I am forced to try it to fix a broken system, overlaying the existing Win10 partition, etc. Unless the BIBM/UEFI incompatibility is fixed, I assume that the same problem will exist on any future PCs I might buy.

Although I have not done a full restore test on the MSBK, for the reasons noted above, below are the steps I believe should work. Assume two drives are attached to the PC: a USB recovery flash drive and a USB external hard drive containing the system image backup to be restored. The backup file must be named WindowsImageBackup.

My testing stopped just before the last step.

Start Button

Microsoft in Win10 has tried to reverse the poor decision they made in Win8 to remove the Start button, which was so useful in Win7. From my point of view, Win10 was only partly successful in resurrecting the Win7 Start button. Some of the old function is still missing and some "Win8 Metro" stuff is still present and gets in my way. So I installed Start10, which makes the Start button be much more like I want it to be. With Start10 it is easy to temporarily get back the Win10 native Start button, if desired, e.g., by just doing a Ctrl-leftclick on the Start10 button; however almost everything I do is done thru Start10's button.

Later Win10 versions have made some improvements to the Windows Start button, but I still prefer Start10's format (compactness) and flexibility (e.g., the ability to group applications), so I am sticking with it.

Color for Window Title Bars, Window Borders, Task Bar, etc.

The most jarring thing for me in the original Win10 was that it obliterated the color scheme I had in Win8.1, which in turn was a step down from what I had in Win7. In Win10, all windows title bars were white and there was no visible border around a window. Also, there was almost no way to distinguish the active window from inactive windows. The active window had black text in the title bar; inactive windows had slightly less black (i.e., dark gray) text; the title bar was white in both cases.

Later versions of Win10 slowly made improvements in this area. Now at least you can again have a wide range choices for the color used for all title bars, the task bar, the Start area, and the Action Center. However window borders are still almost invisible and there is no a way in Personalization to tailor that, or even (in the later versions of Win10) to make registry patch to correct this flaw.

There is a registry patch you can apply to color inactive window title bars. This adds the AccentColorInactive value and data to the Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM key. For example, see this Windows 10 Forums article.

I use Start10 to tailor the appearance of the taskbar and Start menu. It is very flexible and works well in conjunction with the standard Windows 10 facilities as well as the above registry patch.

I formerly used Aero Lite, a non-Microsoft facility. This creates a theme with wider window borders. However, it does not allow changing the color of inactive window title bars. The above AccentColorInactive registry patch seems to be ignored by Aero Lite.

Unfortunately in later Win10 versions they removed the Display item from the Control Panel. The Display item used to have the ability to make bold the text of a window's title bar. They did not provide any comparable facility in Settings, at least not anywhere I could find in Settings > System > Display or in Personalization. If the ability still exists in this version, it is probably in some obscure registry setting.

An aside on themes:  To capture a newly tailored theme for easy later use, right-click the desktop, select Personalize > Themes > Save Theme under "Current theme". Name the new theme to whatever you want. You can do this procedure as often as you want to have a number of themes, each using a different color, possibly to work with different backgrounds. To activate a particular theme, just right-click the desktop, select Personalize > Themes and under "Apply a theme" click the saved theme you want to use . It's very easy.

Remembering Placement and Size for File Explorer Windows

Windows terminology change:  In Windows 8, Microsoft renamed the "Windows Explorer" facility to "File Explorer". That remains the term used in Win10 (well, almost everywhere) and it's still the facility that lets you look at the Windows file system.

When a File Explorer window is closed, all too often Windows forgets where that window was and how big it was. So when the same window is reopened, you often have to move it back to where it was before and resize it to the size it had before. The non-Microsoft tool ShellFolderFix corrects that Windows deficiency. The download is near the bottom of the ShellFolderFix web page; the one labeled "Shell Folder Fix Setup" is probably the easiest for most people to install. ShellFolderFix also provides the ability to save and restore icon placement, which is useful since sometimes Windows scrambles icons. ShellFolderFix was originally written for Win7; it seems to work in Win10 as well.

Note that this facility does not apply to application windows, e.g., a window opened by Excel or Adobe Reader. Such applications are responsible for remembering their own windows positions and sizes. Some do; some don't.

I had ShellFolderFix installed on all my PCs in the previous version of Win10 and it seems to have survived the upgrade OK to the latest Win10. I don't think the old Windows problem was fixed in the latest version. I doubt it.


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