My daughter has asked for a Windows laptop for Christmas, for schoolwork and games. I’m a Mac user and haven’t set up a Windows machine for many years so I’d appreciate any advice … except “get her a Mac/Linux” from below the line! Stuart
Windows has changed a lot in the past decade, and now it’s a mobile operating system. If your daughter has some experience with Google Android, she’ll probably cope quite well. Many of Windows 10’s main features came from the mobile world. These include sandboxed apps installed and updated from an online store, log-on PINs, touch screens, notifications, a voice-aware intelligent assistant (Cortana), location awareness and a “Find my device” feature.
Your daughter should ideally have some information ready before going through Windows 10’s “out of box experience”, or OOBE, as it’s known in the trade. Some are obvious: country, preferred language, time zone etc. She should also have your Wi-Fi password, and a working email address for her log-on. Otherwise, she can choose Express Settings to speed up the process. She can change the settings later.
Your daughter can use any email address as her Microsoft account (MSA). It’s the Microsoft equivalent of a Google Account (Gmail address) or an Apple ID. It’s used to link her laptop to OneDrive cloud storage, the Windows Store, Skype, Cortana’s personalisation data, the free online Microsoft Office programs etc. It also links her PC to other Windows devices, Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, Xbox One games consoles, and so on. Finally, the MSA stores the laptop’s activation details (which used to be a product key) and encryption keys.
People typically use an existing Microsoft email address. This can be at Hotmail, Live, MSN, Outlook.com or whatever. If she doesn’t have one, the Windows 10 set-up procedure will create one. However, it’s simpler and less stressful to have one ready to go.
When your daughter enters her email address and password, Windows 10’s Mail app will automatically download recent emails. If she has used this account on a Windows machine before, Windows 10 will offer to set up her new laptop with the same settings. This includes her wallpaper (desktop background) and any apps she has downloaded from the Windows Store.
Once logged on to Windows 10, click the Start button in the bottom left, type ‘get’ in the Search box and click the “Get Started” app. This introduces most of Windows 10’s features, and includes around 50 short videos. The What’s New section covers Cortana and the Edge browser. I strongly recommend watching Reduce Distractions, a two-minute video in the Ease of Access section. It shows how to remove unwanted animations, tiles, pinned programs, and so on.
Frequently used programs should be pinned to the taskbar, though many people still keep icons on the desktop. Programs that aren’t used very often can be unpinned, then run from the search box, the Start menu, or a live tile.
Next, run the Settings app (cogwheel icon) for simplified access to most of Windows 10 settings. It hasn’t completely replaced the old Control Panel, yet, but it links to Control Panel pages for more advanced settings.
It’s a good idea to browse Settings just to see what’s where. After that, you can find things by typing a few letters into the search box, or by asking Cortana.
The System section of the Settings app lists all the programs installed, and what they are allowed to do. The Default apps part lets users choose default programs for browsing the web, showing photos, playing music and videos, collecting emails and so on. These will be the Microsoft programs included in Windows 10, until your daughter installs alternatives.
The Personalisation section is for picking a lockscreen photo and wallpapers, and for customising the Start menu and Taskbar. It’s where you turn off “suggested apps”.
The Privacy section lets you opt out of personalised advertising (ie turn off your “advertising ID”), and choose which apps can use which features. Go through the Camera, Microphone and Location settings to deny access to every program all at once, or allow/deny one app at a time. Apps can’t force you to give them permissions they shouldn’t need.
The penultimate entry in Privacy is “Feedback & diagnostics”. Windows versions 7 to 10 include telemetry, which means the PC sends information to Microsoft about how well it’s working. None of this is personal information – it doesn’t include the contents of files, chats or emails – and none of it is normally accessible to Microsoft staff, or anyone else. The telemetry is used for “big data” analysis based on more than 400m Windows 10 systems. Google and Facebook, among others, use the same techniques for the same purposes: to find problems, and to create more useful and more reliable software.
You can set telemetry data to Basic, Enhanced or Full. The Basic level includes the PC’s specification, app use and any compatibility problems. The aim is to keep your PC up-to-date and working. The Enhanced level includes more advanced performance and reliability data, to check that your PC is working well. The Full level includes access to “crash dumps” (data saved after a program crashes) and the ability to trigger diagnostics. I have my PCs on Full, but crash data may contain some unwanted personal data. For example, if Microsoft Word fell over, the crash dump might well contain fragments of whatever I was writing. If that worries you, set Basic.
Note that telemetry data is different from functional data. If Microsoft’s Mail app checks for email, or OneDrive synchronises files, or the Weather app checks your location for updates, that is not telemetry. It’s just the way every connected PC, tablet or smartphone works.
Windows 10 is updated on a regular basis, sometimes at inconvenient times. The “Update & security” section of Settings lets you set “active hours” when your PC will not install updates and restart. You can set times up to 12 hours apart, such as 8am to 8pm. Alternatively, you can choose a custom restart time when your PC will be switched on.
The Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 10 can postpone feature upgrades for a few months, but not essential security updates. Of course, most home users have the Home version.
Windows 10 includes Phone Companion, an app that provides integration with a Windows, Android or Apple smartphone or tablet. Plug your device into a USB port and the app helps you set up Cortana (if available), photos, music, to-do lists, Skype, email, and online Microsoft Office apps. Of course, you still have to download the Microsoft apps from iTunes, Google Play or the Windows Store.
You can plug a phone or tablet into a Windows 10 laptop and use File Explorer to copy files manually. However, OneDrive can automatically collect camera roll photos from your smartphone and copy them to your PC, which is handy. You can also create playlists and play tracks from OneDrive on your phone.
Setting up a new laptop usually involves downloading a selection of familiar programs, often starting with a web browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome. I’ll cover that topic next week …/The Guardian
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