Windows appears immediately after installation with the specifications and settings that Microsoft considers useful for most users. As a result, however, many functions of the operating system are idle because Microsoft has hidden or deactivated the associated options. This happens in the very good will to provide more clarity and to keep inexperienced users from certain settings.
Anyone who works intensively with Windows finds the restrictions rather annoying and first changes some settings in Windows Explorer, for example, to really see all relevant folders and files. Further optimizations usually concern the Windows start menu and quick access to frequently used programs.
Some Windows settings are useful for everyone, but only work with certain hardware. Additional internal hard drives in the PC as well as several USB sticks and external hard drives with extensive audio and video collections, for example, are not uncommon. With an optimized configuration, additional drives can be better integrated and searched faster.
The article refers to the current Windows 10 version 1903. Some of the tips also work with older versions of Windows, but the names may differ.
Windows Explorer is one of the most important pre-installed tools as a file manager. Copying, moving, renaming files and creating folders are standard tasks for every PC user. However, you have to know that Windows Explorer does not show the actual conditions on the hard disk. By default, certain elements are hidden, primarily to increase clarity. For many users, that’s okay if it’s just about handling personal files. However, if you need access to certain system folders or files, you won’t see them at first.
This can be changed quickly by opening the “C:” drive in Windows Explorer, then clicking on the “View” tab in the ribbon and ticking “Hidden items”. If the window of the Windows Explorer is too narrow, you will see the “Show / Hide” button and only after clicking on it the “Hidden elements” option.
You will now see the previously hidden folders, for example “ProgrammData”, in which many applications save the system-wide configuration. The “AppData” folder now appears in your profile directory under “C: User Username”. This contains the user’s configuration files.
But even now Windows Explorer doesn’t show everything. This only happens if you go to “View” in the ribbon and then to “Options -› Change folder and search options “and the” View “tab and remove the checkmark from” Hide protected system files (recommended) “. Files like “pagefile.sys” (swap file) and “swapfile.sys” (swap file for apps) as well as folders like “$ Recycle.Bin” (trash) now appear on drive “C:”.
By the way: Windows Explorer partially shows the German translations for folder names. “C: Users” actually means “C: Users” and the name of “C: Programs” on the hard disk is “C: Program Files”. You can see the actual name if you open one of these folders and then click in the address bar of Windows Explorer. The names are usually not relevant for working in Windows Explorer, but they are in the command prompt.
In Windows, file names generally consist of the file name, a period and the file name extension. Windows recognizes from the extension what type of file it is and with which application a file is opened with a double click.
Windows Explorer does not display the file name extensions by default, but a description in the “Type” column in the “Details” view. For executable files (“.exe”) “Application” appears here, for text files (“.txt”) read “Text document”. This is also supposed to serve for clarity, but it is so difficult to identify files if you don’t look closely. It provides more clarity if you go to the “View” tab in Windows Explorer and check the “File name extensions” box.
This also has the effect that file name extensions can be easily assigned. For example, if you create and save a text file, it will have the extension “.txt”. If the text file should become a batch file with the extension “.bat” or “.cmd”, you can now change the file name extension in Windows Explorer simply by renaming the file. If the file name extensions are hidden in Windows Explorer, this is not possible. If you add a “.bat”, the name is “Filename.bat.txt”, which means that the editor remains responsible for the file and does not become a Windows batch file.
The hidden file name extensions also pose a potential security risk. For example, “File name.txt.bat” is displayed by default in Windows Explorer as “File name.txt”. “Windows batch file” is then in the “Type” column, but this can only be seen in the non-standard “Details” view. If you don’t notice the different icons for text and batch files, you may start a dangerous batch file instead of opening a text file in Notepad.
Windows Explorer opens folders in different views, depending on the content. However, this is not always desirable. Windows Explorer examines the contents of a folder and then assigns it a view template. You can find out which applies by right-clicking on a folder and clicking on “Properties”. Switch to the “Customize” tab. Under “Optimize this folder for:” change the template if necessary, for example from “Images” to “General elements”.
How a folder content is displayed can be determined on the “View” tab of Windows Explorer, for example “Details” or “Large icons”. Windows saves the setting for each individual folder. If the view applies to all folders with the template you are currently using, go to “Options -› Change folder and search options “and to the” View “tab. Click “Apply to Folder”.
The Shell Bags View tool shows a list of all saved folder views. You can delete entries that refer to drives that no longer exist. In addition, the views for all selected elements can be changed or reset to the standard.
Commands and settings are housed in a ribbon in Windows Explorer. It can be minimized using the arrow at the top right next to the help icon to save space on small screens. However, if you need certain options more often, you first have to show the ribbon again, then switch to the desired tab and click the respective button or option.
You can also include frequently used options in the context menu of the Windows Explorer. The elements from the ribbon can be found in the registry (Win-R, regedit) under the key “Hkey_Local_ Machine Software Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer CommandStore shell”. “Windows.ShowHiddenFiles”, for example, belongs to “View -› Hidden Elements “. Save the desired key via “File -› Export “. Right-click on the exported file and select “Edit”. Replace the path for the context menu of files with “Hkey_ Classes_Root * shell ” or for folders with “Hkey_Classes_Root Folder shell”. In our example, the line is
Add the line below it
on if the context menu entry should only appear when the right-click is shifted.
Save the file and import it into the registry by double-clicking. The new context menu item is immediately visible in Windows Explorer.
Use alternative start menu
If you can do without interactive tiles and prefer a Windows 7-style start menu, you should take a look at Open Shell, the successor to Classic Shell. The tool completely replaces the Windows 10 start menu and shows the menu entries and buttons that Windows 7 has been used to.
After installation, a configuration dialog appears after clicking the “Start” button. Here you determine how the new start menu should look. Place a checkmark in front of “Show all settings” and go to the “Language” tab. Click on “de_DE Deutsch (Deutschland)” and then on “OK” to activate the German language interface. Confirm with OK”. Right-click on the “Start” button and click on “Exit”. Then go to “C: Programs Open-Shell” in Explorer and start the “StartMenu” (“StartMenu.exe”) program with a double click.
The original Windows start menu can still be called up. To do this, hold down the Shift key and click the “Start” button.
As a rule, the system hard disk can be addressed via the drive letter “C:”, followed by – if available – a data partition (“D:”) and the CD / DVD drive (“E:”). If you connect a USB stick or an external hard drive, Windows assigns the next free drive letter to the drive, in our example “F:”. If you remove the USB stick and connect another stick to the PC, it will also receive the next free letter, ie “F:”. However, if both sticks are connected, the first can be addressed via “F:”, the second with “G:” the next free drive letter.
In this case, Windows remembers the assignment of the drive letters. The second USB stick now always receives the drive letter “G:” even if “F:” is not currently assigned. It is therefore uncertain which drive letter Windows will assign.
If you want more control over the drive letters, assign them manually. To do this, press the key combination Win-R, type diskmgmt.msc and confirm with “OK”. This opens the disk management. Right-click the desired drive in the upper or lower part of the window and select “Change drive letter and paths” in the context menu. Click “Change” and select the new drive letter. For example, use “X”, “Y” or “Z”. This assignment should not change in the future, because Windows first assigns the front letters of the alphabet to new devices. Click OK”.
You receive a warning about problems that programs with the changed drive letter could have. However, this only applies if applications are installed on the USB drive and paths in the registry or in configuration files refer to the previous drive letter. In this case, you should click “No” and do not change the drive letter. If the USB drive only contains data, the letter is irrelevant.
If you want to get by without any or with fewer additional drive letters, you can also mount drives in a path. Whether this makes sense or not depends on your own preferences and your personal way of working. For example, to integrate an external or internal drive with a music collection, proceed as follows:
Step 1: Create the folder “C: Users Username Music MP3-Stick”. For “Username”, enter the name of your Windows account.
step 2: Connect the USB stick to the PC and open the disk management (Win-R, diskmgmt.msc). Proceed as described in point 3, but click on “Remove” to delete the drive letter.
step 3: Go to “Change Drive Letter and Paths” again, click “Add” and select “Mount in the following NTFS folder”. Use “Browse” to select the folder created in step 1. The paths in the “Search for drive path” dialog are not localized in German, so you can find the folder under “C: Users username Music MP3-Stick”. Click “OK” to save the change. The content of the USB drive can now be found under the selected path. If you disconnect and reconnect the drive, Windows will automatically mount it there again.