Microsoft Windows Annoyances, and How To Fix Them

November 30, 2021 by Steven Ng (Updated January 28, 2022)

Not a fan of Microsoft's "sensible defaults" for Windows? Either am I. Here are some common things I fix every time I set up a Windows machine.

Note that steps and labels may have changed in the version of Windows you are using.

Disable the Keyboard Layout Switch Hotkey

Control+Shift activates the menu to change your keyboard layout. I tend to think most people only use one layout.

  1. To disable it in Windows 10, open Settings, and search for Typing.
  2. Open the Typing pane, and scroll down to More keyboard settings.
  3. Click on Advanced keyboard settings. A new pane will appear.
  4. Click on Input language hotkeys*. A Text Services and Input Languages dialog will appear.
  5. In the Advanced Key Settings tab, select Between input languages and then click on Change Key Sequence.
  6. For both the Switch Input Langauge and Switch Keyboard Layout sections, select the Not Assigned radio buttons and then click on OK.
  7. Dismiss the Text Services and Input Languages dialog by clicking on its OK button.

Disable Window Snapping

Microsoft thinks you'll enjoy snapping out of the box. I would like to politely disagree.

  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Open Ease of Access
  3. Click on Change how your mouse works
  4. In the Make it easier to manage windows (ha!) section, make sure the Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen checkbox is checked.

Disable the XBox Game Bar

If you're not a gamer, you'll want to turn off the XBox Game bar as some of its global hot keys can conflict with other applications.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Gaming. The default view should be Xbox Game Bar,
  3. Turn off the Game Bar.

How to highlight your mouse pointer when it gets lost

You have a couple of options:

Built in Windows Method

  1. Open the Mouse control panel
  2. Go to the Pointer Options tab
  3. In the Pointer Options section, make sure Show ocation of pointer when I press the CTRL key checkbox is checked.

Use PowerToys Find My Mouse (preferred)

  1. Install Microsoft PowerToys
  2. In the PowerToys Settings window, go to Mouse utilities and make sure Enable Find My Mouse is turned on.
  3. Find your mouse pointer by pressing the left Control key twice in rapid succession to highlight your mouse. You can hit escape or click your mouse to hide the spotlight.

Windows Taskbar

If the default Windows Taskbar settings annoy you, you can fix them.

I personally hate, hate, hate web search results from the Search bar in the taskbar. The instructions below work for WIndows Pro, I have not tested them on Windows Home.

  1. Hold down Windows+r to open the Run dialog
  2. For the input Open: type in gpedit.msc and click OK
  3. The Local Group Policy Editor will open
  4. Go to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search
  5. For the setting Do not allow web search, double click it, and in the resulting dialog click on the Enabled radio button and then click OK.
  6. For the setting Don't search the web or display web results in Search, double click it, and in the resulting dialog click on the Enabled radio button and then click OK.
  7. Exit the Local Group Policy Editor.

If the above doesn't work, do these additional steps.

  1. Hold down Windows+r to open the Run dialog
  2. For the input Open: type in regedit and click OK
  3. When asked to authorize running the Registry Editor, authorize it.
  4. The Registry Editor will open.
  5. Go to this Registry Key: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer
  6. If you have a value named DisableSearchBoxSuggestions, double click it to check that it has a value of 1
  7. If you do not have a value named DisableSearchBoxSuggestions, right click on the right side of the window and select New > DWORD 32-Bit Value.
    1. A value will be created (probably named New Value #1.
    2. Select that value, press F2 and rename it to DisableSearchBoxSuggestions
    3. Double click the value and set it to 1
    4. Click on the OK button to save it
  8. Exit the Registry Editor

System taskbar icons

  1. Open Settings and search for taskbar
  2. Open the Taskbar pane
  3. Go to the Notification area section and click on Turn system icons on or off
  4. Enable/disable the icons you want to see on the taskbar

General taskbar icons

  1. Open Settings and search for taskbar
  2. Open the Taskbar pane
  3. Go to the Notification area section and click on Select which icons appear in the taskbar
  4. Turn on the switch for Always show all icons in the notification area, or select all the icons you want to always be visible in the taskbar.

Windows File Explorer

Disable Recent Items

  1. From File Explorer, go to the View tab and click on the Options icon.
  2. In the Folder Options dialog, uncheck Show recently used files in Quick Access and Show frequently used folders in Quick Access.
  3. Dismiss the dialog by clicking on the OK button.

Pin the Recycle Bin to Quick Access

  1. Go to your Windows desktop and double click the Recycle Bin to open it.
  2. In the resulting File Explorer menu, right click on the Quick access icon in the tree view.
  3. In the resulting context menu, select Pin current folder to Quick Access

Hiding the Timeline

I find the timeline to be one of the more undesirable features in recent versions of Windows 10.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Privacy
  3. Go to Activity history in the left sidebar
  4. Uncheck Store my activity history on this device
  5. Turn off your account in the Show activities from these accounts section
  6. Click on the Clear button in the Clear activity history

Mouse Without Borders

Microsoft Garage's Mouse without Borders lets use the same keyboard and mouse on multiple computers. While it's super handy, you can sometimes run into issues.

Mouse Doesn't Move in a Smooth Diagonal

If your mouse is moving in a "stairstep" pattern when moving diagonally, it's probably because you have Easy Mouse set to the Shift key to allow you to hop screens. Try seting it to Control or Enable instead.

Windows Server

By default, recent versions of Windows Server shows windows without borders around them, which makes it hard to distinguish between overlapping windows.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Personalization pane.
  3. Go to Themes
  4. Go to Colors and scroll down to the More options settings
  5. In the Show accent color on the following surfaces, make sure that the Title bars and window borders option is checked.

Microsoft Edge Browser (Chromium)

Disable Automatic Mini Menu When Selecting Text

  1. In Edge, go to Settings > Appearance (you can use the url edge://settings/appearance to jump there quickly)
  2. Scroll down to the Context Menus section.
  3. In the subsection Mini menu on text selection, set the switch to the off position for Show mini menu when selecting text.

Windows 11

Get Rid of the Dumbed Down Context Menu in Explorer

While you can manually do it in a registry edit, I suggest using WinAero to change the setting.

Show the Time and Date on All Taskbars (multi-monitor)

Install ElevenClock