Windows 10 Setup tips, tricks and optimizations

When you are installing Windows, there are certain optimizations you can do that will save you some annoyances. Here are some Windows 10 Setup tips and tricks you can do.

I have already covered how to create a Windows 10 setup disk and boot from USB. I always recommend that you use a flash drive to install Windows and not a DVD or optical disk.

Change which edition of Windows to install or make Setup show you all the editions in the image

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will let you install the OS edition of your choice.

There is an ei.cfg file under \Sources folder of Setup. Windows Setup determines which edition to install from this file. You can open that file in Notepad and change the edition ID, the channel, and the volume license value. Of course, you will need the right genuine product key for the edition you install. You can use the following command at an elevated command prompt to get the available editions.

Dism /Get-ImageInfo /ImageFile:”<path to install.wim or install.esd>”
(Put the path between the double quotes after the colon e.g. “C:\Downloads\Win10Setup\sources\install.wim”)

Or you can simply delete the ei.cfg file to make Setup prompt you for an edition. See this Microsoft article for details about ei.cfg’s format.

Wasted disk space due to EFI and MSR reserved partitions

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will help you reduce wasted disk space on your disk drive.

By default, Setup automatically creates several partitions when you install Windows. It creates an EFI partition, a Microsoft reserved partition, and the main OS partition. There is also often a separate partition created by OEMs or Microsoft as the recovery partition. Also the sizes of these partitions are also unnecessarily set quite large by Microsoft.

So on the page “Where do you want to install Windows“, you can take matters into your own hands. Just delete all the partitions one by one on the disk where you are installing Windows until you have only unallocated space left. Make sure all you have backed up all data on these partitions – any data that you want to preserve, move it to another disk.

Image 26

Another advantage of doing this is you can create the EFI partition much smaller. Also, you can skip the MSR partition entirely.

In the following sections below, you will see how to open Diskpart and create, modify, delete partitions as you need. If you delete them here and create them with Diskpart, Windows Setup won’t automatically create them for you, thus saving disk space.

A problem with the way Microsoft creates recovery partitions

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that can solve the multiple recovery partitions problem.

OEMs or Microsoft often create recovery partitions at the beginning of the disk before the Windows partition. This leads to a problem that if the recovery image size ends up being larger than the partition itself, another partition must be created at the end. The existing partition’s disk space at the beginning is wasted.

This issue has been corrected for Windows 10 version 2004 and later. But if you upgraded from an older system, this recovery partition which is created before the OS partition can be deleted. Just make sure that the recovery image on it has been backed up.

Windows 10 Setup tip: Create recovery partition at the very end to avoid this

In the example image above, you can see what a mess it is. First there is the recovery partition, then the EFI System Partition (ESP), then the primary partitions and then another recovery partition. Avoid this mess by deleting all partitions first as instructed above, so you have only unallocated space left.

Create partitions manually

Usually here’s how I do my partitioning to save disk space. After deleting all the partitions on the appropriate disk with the Delete button in Setup, I press Shift+F10 to open the Command prompt. Then I give the following commands one after the other:

diskpart
list disk
select disk 0
convert gpt
create partition efi size=100
format fs=fat32 quick
create partition primary
format fs=ntfs quick
exit

Windows 10 Setup tip: Create partitions manually using Diskpart

The above commands are pretty self-explanatory. In short, what they do is first, they select the appropriate disk (disk 0 in my case, you should change it if required if your disk is different). Then the disk is converted to a GPT one. The EFI partition is thereafter created but much smaller in size (only 100 MB). The EFI partition is quick-formatted to FAT32. Then the primary partition where Windows is supposed to be installed is created and quick-formatted to NTFS.

Once you type exit, the command prompt will close. Then, click Refresh in Windows Setup. The end result will look like the picture below:

Windows 10 Setup tip: Delete all partitions first

So this is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that can help you create partitions exactly in the order and size you want. Also the completely unnecessary MSR partition is eliminated.

You can always create a Recovery partition later once Windows is installed. You will have access to GUI tools like Disk Management (Diskmgmt.msc) and ReAgentC.exe console tool once you are in Windows.

Do not connect to any network during OOBE portion of Setup

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will prevent you from being forced to use a Microsoft account.

After Windows copies files, it will start the OOBE (Out of Box Experience) portion of Setup. Select I don’t have internet option there, followed by Continue with limited setup. Otherwise Windows forces you to sign in to Windows using a Microsoft account. And there is another advantage to not signing with a Microsoft account at this stage.

Windows 10 Setup tip: Don't get forced into using a Microsoft account

If you connect to the internet at this stage because you wanted a Microsoft account, the name of the user folder that is created under C:\Users is some partially cut-off name, that Setup decides based on your email address. This is not ideal. Therefore, it’s best to finish setting up Windows with a local account. Then from Settings, you can always switch later to a Microsoft account.

Choose a blank password initially and then create a password from Settings

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will prevent you from being forced to set up security questions.

If you set a password for your Windows account during OOBE Setup, Windows also forces you to set security questions. If you want to avoid this annoying step altogether, choose a blank password. Later you can always add a password for your Windows account from Settings.

Choose the right privacy settings

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will guide you about what privacy settings are ideal.

Windows 10 shows you various privacy-related settings in OOBE Setup. Location, diagnostic data, Tailored experiences, Find my device, Inking & typing, Advertising ID and speech recognition. Of these, I feel that Tailored experiences should definitely be off to turn off annoying tips and ads. The rest is up to you. Some people may not feel comfortable sharing their location, diagnostic data or websites they visit, or any of the other options. I turn on only Location and Advertising ID settings on this page.

Windows 10 Setup tip: Pay attention to the privacy settings

Prevent Windows Update from downloading Malicious Software Removal Tool (MRT) and Microsoft Defender virus definition updates

This is one of the Windows 10 Setup tips that will prevent Windows Update from unnecessarily downloading certain updates every month.

Being an advanced user, I don’t believe virus signature-based protection and continuous real-time scanning in the background offers any real security to me. I run only trusted and known apps. Therefore I always turn off Microsoft Defender. Defender is a performance hog as well as often gives too much trouble with false positives.

Before connecting to the internet for the first time after Setup completes, I always add the following tweaks to my Registry.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\MRT]
"DontOfferThroughWUAU"=dword:00000001


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender\Signature Updates]
"ForceUpdateFromMU"=dword:00000000

These prevent Windows 10 from downloading the Windows Software Removal Tool (MRT) and virus signature updates for Microsoft Defender respectively.

That concludes my Windows 10 Setup tips and tricks.

Bonus Tip: One of the things you can also do with your Windows Setup disk is use it to access the Recovery Environment by clicking Repair your computer after booting from USB. And unlike the Recovery environment on your internal disk, it does not need logging in to any user account to perform basic troubleshooting and repair tasks from a command prompt.

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