Windows 10 Experience

Last Updated:   3/5/21  15:09                 Jeffrey Knauth    jeff@jgkhome.name

This file is a summary of my current experience with Windows 10 (Win10), which I have installed on multiple 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.

VersionInstall Date
1507 7/29/15
151111/15/15
1607 8/02/16
1703 4/14/17
170910/18/17
1803 5/02/18
180912/12/18
1903 6/15/19
190912/13/19
200410/09/20
20H211/13/20

### 12/11/20 Update:  Installation of Windows 10 Version 20H2 ###

My (previous, main) Dell laptop has had some hardware problems over the years; it was becoming clear I better not depend on that PC much longer. In October I got a new laptop, which had version 2004 preinstalled. Thus I had some experience with 2004 before installing it on my other PCs. After some "patching" (see next paragraph), file sharing seemed to work better with 2004 than with the recent previous versions of Windows. I no longer saw long delays of 15 seconds or so the first time a shared file was remotely accessed. When I later installed 20H2 (see below), more previous sharing problems seemed to be fixed.

In total I installed 2004 (over 1909) on four other PCs. I had put off going to 2004 since it had not been declared to have anything new that I wanted. However when I saw version 20H2 was soon to come out, I decided I better move on to 2004 so I wouldn't fall too far behind. Then when 20H2 started being offered via Windows Update in November, I tried it on one PC over 2004 with no problems. It is a small upgrade and doesn't take long to install. I subsequently installed it on four other 2004 PCs. It took about a month before Microsoft started to offer Windows Update downloads of 200H2 on my two oldest PCs. I didn't have any install problems on any of the PCs. Subsequently I also bought a new desktop PC; it had 20H2 preinstalled.

When I first had 2004 on a couple of PCs, I found that file sharing no longer worked between those PCs. It had previously worked between my new 2004 laptop and an old 1909 PC before that PC was "upgraded" to 2004. I reapplied some of the arcane workarounds I had previously learned from web searches, e.g., turning on SMB, setting some Windows services to run automatically, and adding a Windows credential. Finally file sharing worked again, at least as well as it had before, which still was a step down from Windows file sharing years ago, e.g., most PCs weren't displayed in the Network discovery list. As noted above, the occasional 15-second delay seems to have disappeared in 2004 and in 20H2. However Network discovery almost never displays all the PCs in my network. "Windows File Sharing Notes" lists the patches I have applied to get file sharing to work, at least well enough that using shortcuts to access networked directories seems to be very reliable.


Background

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.

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-left-click 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 and Borders, Task Bar, etc.; Border Size

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 the first release of 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 do a registry patch to correct this flaw.

There is a registry patch that makes the borders wider, but invisibly (go figure!) So if your mouse cursor approaches from the outside of the window, the border is detected further away from its displayed position than if the default settings were used; this makes it easier to grab the border. In HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics I set BorderWidth to -15 and PaddedBorderWidth to -120. The "-" is required; it doesn't mean minus. You need to reboot the PC for this change to take effect.

In Version 20H2 you can do some color tailoring in Settings > Personalization > Colors. I do the following:

   "Choose your color" -> Custom
   "Choose your default Windows mode" -> Dark
   "Choose your default app mode" -> Light
   "Transparency effects" -> Off
   "Automatically pick an accent color from my background" -> uncheck
   Select some color, either from the standard table or via "Custom color"
   "Start, taskbar, and action center" -> check
   "Title bars and window borders" -> check

You get to choose just one color. With both of the last two items checked, that color is the background for all the specified objects: start, taskbar, action center, title bars, and window borders. Unfortunately, the text of some of these is black and the text for others is white (or even worse, gray). So choosing a background that makes the text easily visible in all cases can be a challenge. However if you uncheck either of the items, the result looks VERY bad, at least to me.

There is a registry patch you can apply to color inactive window title bars. This adds the AccentColorInactive value and data to the 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.

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 "Change theme" click the saved theme you want to use. It's very easy.

Icons: Size and Spacing

You can change the size and spacing of Desktop icons. Before experimenting too much in this area you should use something like ShellFolderFix or ReIcon (see next section) to make a backup of your current icon placements.

To change the size of Desktop icons, hold down the Control key and move the mouse scroll wheel one way or the other to make the icons larger or smaller. This also will move them all over the place, so be prepared to rearrange them once you get the size you prefer. Then make a backup of the icon placements.

You can also change the vertical and horizontal spacing between icons. This also will move them all over the place, so be prepared to rearrange them once you get the spacing you prefer and then make a backup of the new placements. Changing icon spacings involves changing the Windows registry (and has the usual caveats that you can destroy your system if you aren't careful). Use Regedit to go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics. Doubleclick IconSpacing and enter the desired horizontal spacing. A "-" must precede the number (it does not mean "negative"; it's just a marker). The larger the number, the more horizontal space is allocated for each Desktop icon. Similarly doubleclick on IconVerticalSpacing and enter a value for the vertical spacing. Exit Regedit and reboot your PC. The spacings are now in effect. If they still aren't what you want, you can repeat this procedure until the results are satisfactory. Then you can rearrange the icons and back up the placements.

Of course you can change an icon's image via right-clicking it, choosing Properties, and then "Change Icon...", which may be buried under Customize. There is a big list of icon images in the default %SystemRoot%\System32\SHELL32.dll. You can browse for more, e.g., in %SystemRoot%\system32\imageres.dll.

Other WIN10 tailoring you can do is described in Windows 10 Configuration and Use Notes.

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 "ShellFolderFix Installer" is probably the easiest for most people to install; just unzip it and run the exe file. 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. Win10 20H2 seems to still have the windows size/placement amnesia problem, so I still use ShellFolderFix on all my systems.

To handle the desktop icon backup/restore that ShellFolderFix provided, I am now trying ReIcon, but have had little experience with it so far. Its advantage over ShellFolderFix in this area is that it can save multiple different backups. There is good documentation for ReIcon here, but that page has a number of sneaky download traps (it's hard to find how to download ReIcon, but easy to mistakenly download a lot of other stuff you don't want). So I ended up downloading from MajorGeeks.com.

Multiboot and System Backup/Restore

The Backup/Restore, Partition Management, and Multiboot Programs page discusses some Terabyte Unlimited programs I currently use, as well as a backup/restore program I previously used, which is built into Windows 10.


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