Windows 10 fresh install - What gives?

Updated: August 24, 2018

My Windows 10 test box has come to life through an upgrade - from Windows 8 to its current form. As such, it was never really installed per se, and the configurations are years old, a mix of Windows 8 and Windows 10 data. This is why, whenever I test a new build of Windows 10, like say Build 1804, I get emails from readers telling me that I should check what happens with a clean, fresh install.

Prompted by the SMBv1 question, I did exactly that. Along the way, I had the opportunity to see how much Windows 10 has changed when it comes to initial configuration, the whole offline/online integration, privacy settings, and other desktop tweaks. Indeed, let me show you what happens if you go for a clean Windows 10 installation, and what kind of work and changes you'll need to exercise to setup and tame this operating system into a quiet, efficient and smart desktop. The one people not too keen on the whole touch frenzy want and expect. Follow me.

Teaser

Installation

This was a simple affair. If you read my Windows 7 installation guide, it's almost 100% accurate. The changes start in the post-install phase, where you are asked to configure your account. The overall layout has been altered several times over the years, but in essence, it remains the same. You are "encouraged" to configure an online account, but you can set up an offline (local) account, which means your settings are not stored anywhere in the cloud, and it's not associated with any email address or phone.

Type

I selected Home on purpose - it will demonstrate what most people are going to encounter.

WIP

Account

Click on Offline account in the bottom left corner to create a local account.

The next step was: Cortana. Now, I selected No - but this did NOT disable Cortana. Reading carefully, you realize it's a rather sneaky configuration. Nowhere does it say that Cortana will actually be disabled, just that it won't have access to your info to do its "best" work.

Cortana

Then, there's a slew of privacy-related questions, pretty much inline with my Ultimate privacy guide. Pro edition users will have far more control - they will be able to disable anything they like with Group Policies, including updates. Home users will supposedly need to "suffer" mandatory updates and some (basic) telemetry, but again, you can disable these services. I've outlined this in the tutorial linked above, and we will revisit some of these tweaks a bit later.

Services

Desktop, first login

In the offline account, the desktop is still quite busy. There's just too much happening, including all too much online integration. Cortana, OneDrive, suggestions in the menu, tiles, none of this makes any sense on the classic desktop. Again, I'm saying this as a happy Windows Phone user with a Lumia 950 device. All of the cool things that make sense on a small, touch device are completely moronic and useless here. Modern apps are inferior to regular programs, AI assistants are mostly a hype and maybe useful if you can't type, which is not the case when you have a full keyboard, and cloud integration does not necessarily work for the huge amounts of desktop data - it's good for app settings and some photos that people have.

First login, notifications

Changing things & annoyances

As I started introducing changes to the desktop to suit my usage, Windows 10 was rather aggressive in trying to stop me from doing this, which only causes the opposite effect. Take a look at the Firefox install. There are three or four attempts by the system to "convince" you to use Edge. After installing Firefox, it was not immediately set to being the default browser. Even when I approved the prompt from Firefox, it merely took me to the Settings menu, where I had to "really" choose Firefox as the default Web browser. This smells of cheap desperation.

Firefox download

This is what Bing returns when you search for Firefox - a big promoted Microsoft message telling me how Edge is better. Then, the first download link is actually for Opera. And only then Firefox. Not nice. This is not helping you, Microsoft.

Browser switch

IrfanView is another example. I installed the program and set it as the default image viewer. Windows 10 reset the icon types back to Photos. Twice. I had to make a manual change through the Settings again. This is so sad. And none of it makes me like Photos or want to use it in any way. Push, and I'll push back. The whole 1950s foot-in-the-door soulless salesman approach does not work. It's horrible.

App reset

Security & privacy changes

I also invested a little bit of time making Windows 10 quiet - and even slightly faster, as it was eating fewer cycles doing useless stuff that I did not need. I disabled the Windows Defender and telemetry services as already explained in my privacy guide. I then also disabled OneDrive (startup) and removed its icon from Windows Explorer. I disabled Cortana through the registry. And I toggled a whole bunch of things to off through the Settings menu. Let's see in more detail.

Privacy settings

Cortana

Seriously, I'm not a child. This is rather distracting.

Cortana shows up, distracting

To disable this, we need the registry editor (Pro edition users have it easier). Launch Regedit, navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\

Here, in the left pane, right click on the Windows entry, New > Key. Name this Windows Search. Click on it, and then in the right pane, create the following New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name it AllowCortana and set the value to 0. Job done.

OneDrive configuration

We don't need no startup items, we don't need no cloud control.

OneDrive startup

Open regedit, and search for all and any instances of: {018D5C66-4533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6}. Then, in the right pane, wherever you see System.IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree, change the value from 1 to 0. This is true for all hard-coded shortcuts, so to speak. Indeed.

OneDrive removal from Explorer

Desktop ready

After I've finished scrubbing the IQ90 nonsense from the desktop, it finally took the expected and familiar shape. No noise. No jumping tiles. No excessive suggestions or notifications. No hyperactive bullshit. A simple desktop that allows me to be productive without any hypes or buzzwords.

Ready desktop 1

Ready desktop 2

Conclusion

Overall, Windows 10 is largely consistent with how I first experienced it after the upgrade from Windows 8, and how it behaves every time there's a major update, like 1709 or 1804. A stable baseline mired in bullshit and childish games that might, on a good day, excite the everyday moron. Shame, really. Microsoft is very aggressive in trying to push and promote its online-world idea, and it just doesn't work on the desktop. It simply does not. Touch is the worst thing you can have on a surface with a few million discrete pixels controlled by a mouse and keyboard. Five or six years down the road, it should have been obvious by now.

If you're quick, you need about an hour to tame the system down - roughly equivalent to any typical Linux distro that needs sorting out. Various annoyances and in-yer-face marketing are not helping. On the contrary. I think they breed strong resistance and are making Microsoft's case much harder. They are rushing into the service world too fast. Seems like the episode from the early 90s - in which the service company didn't do so well and Microsoft emerged victorious - has been largely forgotten.

The good thing is, for those seeking quiet sanity in the world full of touch-happy chimps, is that for now, for the foreseeable future (say a decade), it is still possible, without any great grief or trouble, to have a normal and productive desktop. Windows 10, sans the stupidity, is like Windows 7. A reasonable, robust thing. If only Microsoft stopped trying to ruin it. Less is more. Anyway, you had your questions, and now you have your answers. Take care, and enjoy it while it lasts, for the Idiocracy doomsday looms somewhere ahead.

Cheers.

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