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Windows 11 tips and tricks: 8 hidden settings you need to try

If you’ve just upgraded to Windows 11, you’ll soon find out that the new operating system brings many new features and enhancements. In case you’re wondering, there are a few hidden settings that you can enable to get the most out of your new Windows 11 install.

There are cover folders on Start, the ability to move the Taskbar location, and a lot more. We put our favorites together for you in one place.

Move the Taskbar and Start Menu to the left

The Windows 11 Taskbar to the left of the screen.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

One of the biggest differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11 is the location of the Taskbar and Start Menu. On Windows 10, the Taskbar and Start Menu are off to the left of the screen. Windows 11, though, changes that by moving both to the center. If this annoys you, then you can easily change it back.

Just hit Windows Key + I to open up the Settings app. Then, choose Personalization and Taskbar. From there, choose Taskbar behaviors and click Left under Taskbar alignment. This should make Windows 11 feel a bit more like Windows 10.

Bring back folders on Start

The folders on Windows 11 Start Menu.
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Another complaint from a lot of people who upgraded to Windows 11 from Windows 10 is the inability to pin folders to the Start Menu. Well, Windows 11 does have an in-built setting that can show folders next to the power button on the Start Menu — but only system ones.

To show core system folders on the Start Menu, hit the Windows Key + I on your keyboard, then choose Personalization. After that, choose Start and then Folders. You can then flip the switches to On for the various system folders you want to see on the Start Menu. The selection includes Settings, File Explorer, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, Network, and your Personal Folder.

Hide the Recommended files in favor of suggested apps

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Another core Windows 11 feature is the Recommended section, which is powered by Microsoft 365. You’ll see your most commonly opened or recently opened files in this section of the Start Menu. A lot of people don’t like this, however, and opt to turn it off, leaving an empty space in the Start Menu. This isn’t exactly easy on the eyes, which is why we typically disable it in favor of showing recently added apps, so as not to waste the space. Here’s how to do it.

First, hit Windows Key + I on your keyboard, then click Personalization followed by Start. Toggle the switch for Show recently added apps to on and the switches for Show recently opened items in Start, Jump Lists, and File Explorer to off. Keep in mind that if you opt to do this, you’ll no longer see file recommendations in File Explorer, as this setting is universal across Windows 11.

Turn off Widgets and Chat

Changing the taskbar icons in Windows 11.
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The Widgets and Chat features are two of the core new features in Windows 11. These let you keep in touch with the people and things you care about the most. However, if you’re not a fan of these features, you can turn them off and save yourself some Taskbar space. Here’s how.

First, hit the Windows Key + I on your keyboard, then choose Personalization. From there, choose Taskbar and look for Show or hide buttons that appear on the taskbar. You can then toggle the switches for Taskview, Widgets, or Chat to off.

Change the way the touch keyboard looks

The touch keyboard settings in Windows 11.
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Windows 11 brings many changes that make the operating system more friendly on touch devices like the Surface Pro 8. One of those changes is the ability to tweak the touch keyboard. You can customize it to look and feel the way you want — and not just use the system default white or dark keyboard.

To do this, choose Windows Key + I on your keyboard, then click Personalization, followed by Touch Keyboard. From here, you can choose various themes and keyboard sizes. There are a total of 16 preset themes, but you also can create your own custom theme, change the key sizes, and so much more.

Try the new keyboard shortcuts

Microsoft Surface Go 3's keyboard and trackpad.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Just like Windows 10, Windows 11 has a new set of keyboard shortcuts. You can use these to save time during your busy day. These cover things such as Widgets, the chat app, quick settings, notification center, Snap Layouts, and more. We included some of these for you in the table below.

⊞ Win + W Open the Widgets Pane.
⊞ Win + A Open Quick Settings for Wi-Fi, Brightness, etc.
 ⊞ Win + N Open Notification Center.
⊞ Win + Z Open Snap Layouts.
 ⊞ Win + C Open Teams Chat app.

It’s also worth noting that Windows 11 still features some of the same keyboard shortcuts as Windows 10. The shortcuts for copying, pasting, the emoji picker, and screenshots are all the same. We talk about these in a separate post.

Type with your voice in Windows 11

Voice Typing in Windows 11.
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One of the cool features in Windows 11 is the voice-typing feature. You’re probably used to this on your iPhone or Android device, but Windows 11 also has voice typing built-in. Hit the Windows Key + H on your keyboard when you’re in a text box and start turning your voice into words. You’ll need to select the mic button in the pop-out menu to start using the feature. You can then customize it to your liking by clicking the settings icon and tweaking the voice typing so that it can insert auto punctuation based on the pace of your voice.

Bring back the legacy right-click menus

The legacy right-click menu in Windows 11.
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Windows 11 brings a new, more simplified right-click menu, with common controls for copying, pasting, and renaming files front and center. If you’re a power user, though, you might want to consider a new shortcut to bring back the legacy right-click menu that’s hidden under Show more options. You can simply click on top of an item as usual and then hit Shift+ F10 on your keyboard to bring up the legacy right-click menu with the full list of options.

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Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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