This file describes some of my experiences with Windows 10 (Win10). Over the years I have installed many Win10 versions on many PCs.
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.
Prior to installing version 21H2 I had Windows 10 version 21H1 installed on all four of my PCs. They are two Dell desktops (about one and nine years old) and two Dell laptops (about one and four years old). All still run 24/7, doing World Community Grid number crunching when not doing anything else.
Version 21H2 is a small upgrade and doesn't take too long to install, although it was a multi-step process for me: First install the Feature Update, then the associated .Net Framework update, finally the optional Cumulative Update Preview (KB5007253). I didn't have any significant install problems on any of the four PCs, although on two I had to reboot an extra time because Windows Update couldn't find the internet. For what I do with my PCs, I haven't noticed any significant functional differences in 21H2 vs 21H1, which is good.
Windows 11 In theory three of these PCs are capable of running Windows 11; however I am steering clear of Win11 for now. Although the Microsoft PC Health Check program says all three PCs are eligible for Windows 11, Windows Update run from Win10 on those PCs says two of them (the newest two and the two most capable!?) are not Win11 eligible. It's so stated in a big red circle X error message. I have read that this contradictory Windows Update message is a known Windows bug, although Microsoft did not reply to my feedback on it. The erroneous message display has persisted for well over a month even though Windows Update has been run many times over that period. Meanwhile I have read of other problems that some industry gurus have had with Win11. They all recommend that people not jump to Win11. That together with the apparent lack of anything new of interest to me in Win11 means I will probably not be trying it before next year, if then.
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.
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 in folders), so I am sticking with it.
Windows 11 From what I have read, Windows 11 seems to have made their Start button even worse than the one in Windows 10. Fortunately Startdock now offers a Start11 program for Windows 11. I don't know if Start10 runs on Windows 11; however Start11 definitely runs on Windows 10. Start11 is very similar to Start10, but has a few more bells and whistles, together with a more complex configuration interface. I went ahead and installed Start11 on my three Windows 10 systems that (in theory) could run Windows 11 some day. Start11 runs fine for me on those systems.
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 the later Windows 10 versions 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.
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.
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. As far as I know, the Windows placement amnesia problem still exists in the latest Win10 version, so I have kept ShellFolderFix installed.
To handle the desktop icon backup/restore that ShellFolderFix provided, I started using ReIcon in Win10 20H2 and have had no problems to date. Its advantage over ShellFolderFix in this area is that it can save multiple different backups. There is good documentation for ReIcon here. However that page previously had some download traps -- it was hard to find how to download ReIcon, but easy to mistakenly download other stuff you didn't want. So I ended up downloading from MajorGeeks.com.
For me and others, file sharing had been unreliable in version 2004. It worked in version 20H2, but only after some "patching". See "Windows File Sharing Notes". File sharing continues to work (using the same patches) in the latest Win10 version I have installed. Using shortcuts to access networked directories seems to be very reliable and provides a good workaround for the still-existing Network discovery problem. In particular, the Network discovery display usually does not list all the PCs in a network, e.g., when you click Network in the Navigation pane of a File Explorer window. That means you cannot click on a PC (unclickable because it isn't displayed) to see a list of its shared resources. To create a network shortcut, you need to obtain the share information some other way. This same problem has existed in all Windows 10 versions for several years now.
The Backup/Restore, Partition Management, and Multiboot Programs page discusses some Terabyte Unlimited programs I currently use. It also discusses the "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" facility found in the Windows 10 Control Panel. I no longer use the latter because the latest Terabyte programs now work on my newer (UEFI) PCs, where previously I had to use "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)".