Windows Experiences

Last Updated:   1/25/23  16:00                 Jeffrey Knauth

This file describes some of my recent experiences with Windows. The workarounds described here may be helpful to others. In the following text I'll abbreviate things along the lines of "Win10 21H2" means "Windows 10 Version 21H2". Over the years I have installed many Windows versions on many PCs. Below are listed the Win10 and Win11 versions I have tried.

Win10Install Date
1507   7/29/15
1607   8/02/16
1703   4/14/17
Win10Install Date
1803   5/02/18
1903   6/15/19
Win10Install Date
21H1   5/20/21
Win11Install Date

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.

Windows 10 Version 22H2 and Windows 11 Version 22H2

Most of the details below are about Windows 10. I'll highlight changes I have found for Windows 11.

Prior to installing Win10 22H2 I had Win10 21H2 installed on all four of my PCs. They are two Dell desktops (about two and ten years old) and two Dell laptops (about two and five years old). All still run 24/7, doing World Community Grid number crunching when not doing anything else.

Win10 22H2 is a small upgrade to Win10 21H2 and doesn't take too long to install. I installed it on my two main PCs, which are the younger desktop and the younger laptop. I also installed Win11 on the older laptop as a test (see below). The older desktop is very old; as expected, Win11 is not available for that hardware. In fact Win10 22H2 is also not yet available for that PC via Windows Update; I'll update that PC to Win10 22H2 if and when the update becomes available via the Windows Update channel.

I had no install problems with Win10 22H2. I have noticed no significant differences (good or bad) from 21H2. All the items mentioned below still seem to apply to Win10 22H2.

Windows 11:  In theory three of my PCs are capable of running Win11; however I have stayed clear of Win11 for now for my main PCs. Although the Microsoft PC Health Check program says all three of my younger PCs are eligible for Win11, Windows Update run from Win10 on those PCs says two of them (the youngest two and the two most capable!?!?) are not Win11 eligible. This misleading message is displayed by Win10 Windows Update even after Windows has been updated to Win10 22H2. 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 year 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 have recommended that people not jump to Win11.

On 12/9/22 I installed Win11 22H1 on my older laptop over Win10 21H2, just to get my feet wet. I subsequently updated it to Win11 22H2. There were no install problems. As expected, I was not happy with some of the design changes. I also seem to have found some bugs. Here is a summary of the Win11 problems I have found so far in my limited testing. Meanwhile I am staying with Win10 on my other PCs, i.e., the ones I depend on.

Some Rationale and Caveats about Changes I Made to Win10

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 software.

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 Stardock's Start10 (and later Start11), which makes the Start button be much more like I want it to be. In the following I'll use Start* to mean both Start10 and Start11. With Start* it is easy to temporarily bring up the Win10 native Start button's display, if desired, e.g., by just doing a Ctrl-left-click on the Start* button. However almost everything I do is done thru Start*'s button, so I seldomly bring up the Windows native Start button's display.

Later Win10 versions have made some improvements to the Windows Start button, but I still prefer Start*'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 and seen, Win11 seems to have made their Start button even worse than the one in Win10. Fortunately Stardock now offers a Start11 program for Win11. I don't know if Start10 runs on Win11; however Start11 definitely runs on Win10. 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 the two PCs, now still running Win10, that (in theory) could run Win11 some day. Start11 runs fine for me on those systems. I stayed with Start10 on the old desktop that probably will never run Win11. Of course I have Start11 on the test PC that is now running Win11.

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 of 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 Start* 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.

Windows 11:  In general, the above settings and registry changes seem to work in Win11. However in Win11 they removed the File Explorer title bar in order to add tabs capability. As a result you must depend on the color of the very skinny window border to detect whether a File Explorer window is active or inactive.

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.

Windows 11:  All the above seems to work in Win11.

Some other Windows tailoring you can do is described in Windows 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.

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. ShellFolderFix deals only with File Explorer windows.

ShellFolderFix was originally written for Win7. It is no longer supported, but still seems to work pretty well in Win10, although there are occasional hiccups.

To handle the desktop icon backup/restore for which I had used ShellFolderFix previously, 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

Windows 11:  Both ShellFolderFix and ReIcon seem to work in Win11, although I have not done much Win11 testing so far. Given the big changes made to File Explorer in Win11, I would not be surprised if compatibility problems appear, given that ShellFolderFix was written for Win7 and is now unsupported.

File Sharing

For me and others, file sharing had been unreliable in Win10 2004. It worked in Win10 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 versions for several years now.

Windows 11: All the above Win10 comments seem to apply to Win11. Sharing can be made to work -- no regressions from Win10, but no improvements.

Multiboot and System Backup/Restore

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 Win10 and Win11 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)".