Updated: April 14, 2017
Also known as The Book of One Thousands Nights and a Night, or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Use So Many Different Apps to Try to Force Windows 10 into Submission. Indeed. Over the past two years, I've invested a lot of time learning and teaching on the pros and cons of the latest Microsoft operating system. Mostly cons, and most of them stemming from a simple fact - Windows 10 assumes everything is a mobile device, hence the somewhat moronic desktop defaults.
This extends to things like forced updates and subsequent reboots, too much telemetry and whatnot. I have no problem with this on transactional devices like mobile phones, and I do love Windows Phone 10, tested on Lumia 640 and again on Lumia 950, my newest gadget to be precise. But on the desktop? Nope. Hence, so many guides and tutorials on how to stop the idiocracy from affecting your life. Now, we have a new tool, and it's called Winaero Tweaker.
Introducing ... Winaero Tweaker
Without going into too many details, Winaero is a well-known domain to the nerdy among Windows users, and there's a lot of useful, practical stuff there. The owners of the domain decided to bundle their guides and utilities into one-mega tool, and thus Winaero Tweaker was born. It is a program designed to help you control a wide range of settings in Windows, including cosmetic, security, privacy, and other options. It looks interesting, because it offers a range of Windows 10 stupidity mitigation features, and that is what we shall be testing today.
Anyhow, the installation was quick and simple. Winaero Tweaker can be configured as either a portable app or installed to the disk. I went with the installation, and soon enough had the program running. It's a simple tool, with unassuming looks, a clear UI, and about 100 different options, sorted in categories, available in a single mouse scroll. This is quite convenient, as you won't need to get lost in sub-menus.
Another bonus is that you get detailed explanations for each tweak, plus you can open a web page, usually an article or a guide on Winaero, providing further information or even specific instructions on what the particular setting does.
You get a wide array of options, most of which are probably unnecessary, in my opinion, but you can play with colors and borders and taskbar opacity, and even the quality of JPEG images used as wallpapers. Then, you can also apply legacy looks from previous versions of operating systems. Nostalgia mixed with functionality. Some of the tweaks can potentially be re-arranged.
Some of the tweaks require that you log off and then log back on while others need a full reboot. Most of the settings can be applied live, so they will be effective immediately.
Privacy & security
This is probably the most important aspect of this program. And it does not disappoint. You do get a handful of goodies, including the ability to turn on/off telemetry, Windows Defenders, Store auto-updates and suggested apps, Cortana and generic online searches, reboots after Windows Update, and even change how Windows Update behaves.
This tweak was already selected, btw.
On the Windows Update front, you can choose whether to notify only or completely disable the update service, which seems to be the only reasonably tweak for Home edition users. If you go with Method 1, it will open the Windows Update page, which can be confusing. What am I supposed to do there next?
Not having to reboot and lose your work is more important.
And you can always mark your connection as metered - including Ethernet.
There were also a few dubious settings, which might have been outdated by recent Windows 10 builds, methinks, but on the plus side, Winaero Tweaker did have a handful of options that other tools of this kind did not offer. So it is a matter of coverage, spread and efficiency.
Some of the tweaks did not seem to work as they should, most notably the Windows Update. I didn't get the reboot request, but the system did install updates upon checking rather than just notifying me. Maybe I am confusing the terminology, but this is not identical to the Windows 7/8 behavior. Or maybe limited to Pro, as expected.
You win some, you lose some, but consistency is important nonetheless.
Furthermore, I'd like to be able to see what the current settings for selected tweaks are. True, some checkboxes were marked, which probably indicates the options was already active, but it would help to have a clear(er) indication. Applied options should not be re-applied, and where you have to ability to choose between different styles, the applied one ought to be grayed out. In general, something to differentiate and highlight the existing values.
For example, Admin account - it WAS enabled already on the box, this is the same system running SuRun, so I actually had to configure it, but then, Winaero Tweaker was offering to turn it on. Is this a glitch, a bug, something else?
On that topic, if you reset the tool to default - does that mean the values will go back to what they were upon first launch or what Winaero Tweaker expects these registry keys should be? I'd like to know, and be able to export the data, so I can quickly re-use the settings. If this is possible, I may have missed it, and then I expect the functionality to be better visible.
If you liked this, you might also want to check:
Classic Shell - Your sanity freedom card
Ultimate Windows Tweaker - Taming the Shrew (first)
W10Privacy - more privacy tweaks for, you guessed it, Windows 10
And of course, there's a whole range of articles on Windows 7 and 8.1, covering updates, privacy, security, all sorts of things. Just hop into the Software & Security page, Windows section, and read read read!
Winaero Tweaker is an interesting utility for advanced Windows folks, although less savvy can also probably dabble in with relative safety. The two things that pleased me most about it are the simplicity of its layout and the presence of some additional tweaks that you don't see elsewhere. Navigating tweaking programs is always an OCD Hell, and you very easily diverge into madness. I did not experience that here.
On the other hand, default settings should be better highlighted, and I think a clarification is needed on what the preferences reset will actually do. On that note, being able to import and export the tweaks would also be nice. Lastly, some of the tweaks did not seem to work, so it would be interesting to understand if Winaero Tweaker has its limitations in the Home edition.
Overall though, it's a cool little application, and it should make your Windows 10 desktop experience more palatable. There's always a temptation to tweak, but you easily lose yourself, you forget what you do/did, something things stop working months after the fact, so it's a slippery slope. Which is why you should stick to system configurations as much as possible and only sparingly use third-party software. In this case though, my impression is that Winaero Tweaker is quite tame, possibly more than the other two programs I've tested in the past. Worth testing, whatever you decide in the end.
However, do remember the Dedoimedo recipe for happy and pain-free computing: plenty of backups and system imaging, minimal third-party tweaks, always check on non-production machines. Now, off you go, Winaero away.
P.S. I'd like to thank Gaurav for recommending this program.