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How to set up that new Windows 11 laptop you received this holiday

Windows 11 setup new laptop
Windows 11 setup new laptop (Image credit: Windows Central)

If you have a new Windows 11 laptop (or desktop), after getting in out of the box, you need to do some setup and tweaking to make it personal and get the most out of it.

On Windows 11, setting up a new laptop is a straightforward process, and it only takes some time to complete the initial setup to create an account and choose your privacy settings. You also want to remove all bloatware and other unwanted software, apply the latest updates, install and configure the apps you need, transfer your files from your old computer, and customize the desktop to make it more personal.

In this Windows 11 guide, we will walk you through a slew of (essential) tips to set up a new laptop properly.

How to set up installation on Windows 11

If you have a new laptop, you can set it up in at least two different ways. You can complete the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to create a new account, configure your privacy settings, language, and keyboard layouts, and continue customizing the experience by removing the bloatware. Or you can complete the initial setup and then reset the device to start fresh with a clean copy of Windows 11.

Complete out-of-box experience

To complete the out-of-box experience, use these steps:

  1. Select your Region – for example, United States.

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  1. Click the Yes button.
  2. Select your keyboard layout – for example, US.

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  1. Click the Yes button.
  2. Click the Skip button (as necessary).
  3. Select the wireless network.Quick note: If the device is connected using a wired connection, it'll connect to the network automatically. If you are using a wireless connection, you must connect to the network. Otherwise, you won't be able to continue with the setup.
  4. Click the Connect button.

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  1. Confirm the Wi-Fi password.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Next button again.
  4. Confirm a name for the computer – for example, Office-PC.Quick tip: The computer name cannot contain more than 15 characters, and you can't use numbers. You should also avoid special characters. Although you can skip this option, it's recommended to set a device name to make it easier to identify it in the network and on the devices section of your Microsoft account. If you are setting up a Windows 11 Pro device, you will see the option to choose how you like to set up the computer, in which case, you would select the Set up for personal use option.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Confirm your email address to create a local account.Quick note: If you are setting up a device running Windows 11 Home, you must use a Microsoft account to set up the first user account. The option to create a local account is only available on Windows 11 Pro.

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  1. Confirm the password.
  2. Click the Create PIN button.

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  1. Create the new Windows 11 PIN.Quick tip: If you only want to use your password, click the Cancel button to skip the option.

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  1. Select the Set up as new device (recommended) option useless you want to restore setting from another device.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Choose your privacy settings and scroll down to review all the settings.
  3. Click the Accept button.

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  1. (Optional) Choose how to plan to use the device to receive personalized ads, tips, and recommendations.
  2. Click the Accept button.

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  1. (Optional) Click the Only save files to this PC option. Or click the Next button if you want to upload and keep your files from the Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders synchronized with OneDrive and your other devices.

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  1. Click the No, thanks option since you can install Office at a later time if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription

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Once you complete the steps, you will be presented with the Windows 11 desktop with your settings and predefined experience customized by the manufacturer.

After setting up the device, if you want to keep the default installation, use the steps below to remove unwanted preloaded applications or reset the computer to start fresh with a clean copy of Windows 11.

Uninstall bloatware

On computing, bloatware refers to those unwanted applications that manufacturers pre-install on systems, which usually waste resources and space. We are talking about software trials and tools you will never use.

To uninstall any bloatware from the new Windows 11 laptop, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Apps & features page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Apps & features" section, select the unwanted app, click the (three-dotted) menu button on the right, and select the Uninstall button.Quick tip: If you do not know which apps to uninstall, usually, you want to start with antivirus trials and tools that do not come from Microsoft Corporation. You can quickly determine the publisher by looking under the app name to identify the publisher. Also, you can always remove many of the Windows built-in apps, including Groove Music, Mail and Calendar, Microsoft Teams, and many others.

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  1. Click the Uninstall button again.
  2. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, you must repeat the steps to remove any remaining applications you may not need.

Set up fresh install of Windows 11

Although the default setup configuration should be enough for most users, the best way to start with a new device is to erase everything and perform a clean install of Windows 11 that ensures no bloatware or unnecessary custom configurations are part of the experience.

On Windows 11, you have at least two approaches to start with a clean setup, including using the "Reset this PC" feature or using a USB bootable media.

It's worth pointing out that using this approach will erase the custom installation configured by the manufacturer and install the default Windows 11 image provided by Microsoft. If you use this option, you may be required to install some driver updates manually.

To reset a computer doing a clean install of Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Recovery page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Recovery options" section, click the Reset PC button for the "Reset this PC" feature.

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  1. Click the Remove everything option.

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  1. Click the Cloud download option.

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  1. Click the Next button.

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  1. Click the Reset button.

Once you complete the steps, the setup will take over and complete the installation using the Microsoft default Windows 11 image. After the process, you will need to finish the out-of-box experience (see the previous steps) to create an account and choose your settings.

How to install updates on Windows 11

Windows 11 can download updates automatically, but you can always check manually to ensure the device isn't missing any critical or driver updates.

To download and install the latest updates, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Windows Update.
  3. Click the Check for updates button.

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  1. Click the Restart now button.

After you complete these steps, the available updates will download and install automatically.

How to check drivers on Windows 11

Although Windows 11 does a pretty decent job automatically detecting and setting up hardware components. It could be possible that one or more drivers may still be missing, especially if you plan to start with a clean installation.

Check drivers with problems

To confirm whether drivers are missing or causing problems on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Confirm that none of the devices have a yellow or red mark and confirm nothing is listed as unknown.

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If some components have problems, you may need to manually download and install the latest drivers from your computer manufacturer's support website.

Install missing drivers

In the case that Windows 11 is missing some drivers, it might be possible to download them from Windows Update.

To download missing drivers through Windows Update, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Windows Update.
  3. Click the Advanced options page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Additional updates" section, select the Optional updates setting.

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  1. Select the Driver updates section.
  2. Check the drivers to install on Windows 11.Quick note: If the page doesn't show any driver updates, Windows Update doesn't have any additional updates for your hardware configuration.

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  1. Click the Download & install button.

After you complete the steps, Windows 11 will download the missing drivers automatically (if available).

How to personalize desktop on Windows 11

Although Windows 11 isn't as customizable in some areas, such as the Start menu and Taskbar, like its predecessor, you can still make many customization changes. For instance, you can change the desktop background or refresh the experience using a theme. You can use a light or dark color mode. You can tweak various aspects of Start, Taskbar, and more.

The steps below show the most common tweaks to get started. However, you can use this guide to customize virtually anything on Windows 11.

Change themes

To change the theme on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Themes page on the right side.Quick tip: On Windows 11, you can also apply themes from the top controls in the Personalization section.

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  1. Select one of the available themes to apply it.

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Once you complete the steps, the new theme will apply and change the system colors and desktop background.

Install new theme

To get a new theme to quickly change the look of Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Themes page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Current theme" section, click the Browse themes button.

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  1. Select the theme to download.
  2. Click the Install button.

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  1. Click the Open button.
  2. Select one of the available themes to apply it.

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After you complete the steps, the theme will download and install on the computer.

Change color mode

Windows 11 has two color modes to personalize the experience, including the light mode (default) that works well during daytime, and the dark mode, which uses a dark color scheme better suited in a low-light environment.

To change the Windows 11 color mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

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  1. Use the "Choose your mode" drop-down menu and select one of the available options.
    • Light – Applies a white color scheme across the system and apps.
    • Dark – Applies a dark color scheme across the system and apps.
    • Custom – Allows you to decide the color mode for apps and the system separately.

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Once you complete the steps, the Start menu, Taskbar, and other elements will switch to the new color mode.

Change accent color

To change the system accent color on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Colors page on the right side.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Under the "Accent color" section, select the accent color for the experience.Quick tip: You can use the Custom color setting to create a custom accent color.

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  1. (Optional) Under the "Accent color" section, select the Automatic option to allow the system to set a color scheme based on the colors of the current wallpaper.

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  1. (Optional) Turn on the Show accent color on Start and taskbar toggle switch to show different colors in the Start menu and Taskbar elements.Quick note: This option is only available when using the Custom option for the "Choose your mode" setting, and you select the Dark option for the "Choose your default Windows mode" setting.

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  1. (Optional) Turn on the Show accent color on title bars and windows borders toggle switch to show different colors around the application frame.

After you complete the steps, buttons, links, system icons, and other elements throughout the experience will reflect the new color accent. The accent will also be reflected in the Start menu, Taskbar, and applications if you enabled the option to show accent colors on title bars and windows borders and the Start and Taskbar in the "Colors" settings page.

Set custom background image

To change the desktop background to a custom image, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Background page on the right side.

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  1. Use the "Personalize your background" drop-down menu and select the Picture option.

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  1. Click the Browse photos button to select an image.

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  1. Use the "Choose a fit for your desktop image" drop-down menu and select the fit that best suits the images:
    • Fill.
    • Fit.
    • Stretch.
    • Center.
    • Span.

After you complete the steps, the new custom image will appear in the desktop background.

Customize Lock screen

You can also customize the Lock screen background and notifications.

To customize the Windows 11 Lock screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Lock screen page on the right side.

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As part of the Lock screen settings, you can customize several settings, including the background image and app status.

In the Lock screen, the Windows spotlight is the default option, and it allows you to show a different background every time you sign in to your account. However, you can use the Picture option to showcase a custom image or the Slideshow option to rotate a collection of images.

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If you select the Slideshow option, the system will load the images from the Pictures folder. However, you add and remove the folders you want to show. You can even include the camera roll folder from your computer and OneDrive.

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In addition, there's an option to show the Lock screen with the slideshow when the device is inactive.

Some applications can show detailed status, and you can configure this feature by using the Lock screen status drop-down menu and selecting the app you want to see the information.

Customize Start menu

Although the Start menu has a simple design, you can still customize various settings, such as the items in the "Recommended" section, folder items next to the power button, etc.

To customize the Start menu on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Start page on the right side.

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  1. (Optional) Turn off the Show recently added apps and Show recently opened items in the Start, Jump Lists, and File Explorer toggle switches to disable "Recommended" items in Start.

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  1. Turn on or off the Show most used apps toggle switch to show frequent apps in the "All apps" list.

Once you complete the steps, the Start menu will reflect your configuration.

Add or remove Folders items

To add or remove quick access next to the power button on Start, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Start page on the right side.

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  1. Click the Folders setting.

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  1. Turn on the toggle switches to add items to the Start menu next to the Power button.

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  1. Turn off the toggle switches to remove items from the Start menu.

After you complete the steps, the items should be available next to the power button in the Start menu.

Align Taskbar icons to left

Windows 11 now aligns items to the center of the Taskbar, but if you prefer the classic left alignment, it's something you can still do.

To align Start and all the other Taskbar icons to the left, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

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  1. Select the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  2. Use the "Taskbar alignment" drop-down menu and select the Left option to align the icons from the center to the left side.

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Once you complete the steps, the icons will now align to the left side of the Taskbar.

Remove Taskbar items

To remove the Search, Task View, Widgets, or Chat icons from the Taskbar, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Personalization.
  3. Click the Taskbar page on the right side.

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  1. Select the Taskbar items setting.
  2. Turn on or off the toggle switch to add or remove the Search, Task View, Widgets, or Chat to the Taskbar.

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After you complete the steps, the icons you disabled will no longer be available in the Taskbar.

Control startup apps

Some apps and services can start automatically on startup negatively impacts performance and account load times on Windows 11. After installing all your apps, you should review the "Startup" settings and disable those that may affect the experience.

To disable apps on the Windows 11 startup, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click the Startup page on the right side.

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  1. Turn off the toggle switch for apps to disable at startup.

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Once you complete the steps, the sign-in process should be noticeably faster, depending on the apps and services you disabled on Windows 11.

Configure power options

On laptops is a good idea to review and adjust the power settings to conserve battery life.

To change the Windows 11 power settings, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Power & battery page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Power" section, select the Screen and sleep setting.
  2. Use the On battery power settings to specify when the screen should turn off and when the computer should go into sleep mode when running on battery.

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  1. Use the When plugged in settings to specify when the screen should turn off and when the computer should go into sleep mode when the laptop is plugged in.

After you complete the steps, the computer will turn off the display and get into sleep mode according to your settings.

Configure power saver mode

Also, on laptops, you can change the power settings to decide when the system should enable battery saver mode to conserve even more battery.

To configure battery saver mode on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Power & battery page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Battery" section, select the Battery saver setting.

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  1. Use the Turn battery saver on automatically at setting to specify how low the battery life should be before activating the saver mode.
  2. Check the Lower screen brightness while in battery saver option to preserve even more energy.
  3. (Optional) Click the Turn on button for the Battery saver setting to turn on the feature immediately.

Once you complete the steps, battery saver mode will activate, depending on your configuration.

Enable night light

The night light feature has been designed to reduce the amount of blue light at night and use warmer colors to reduce eye strain and help you fall asleep at night when working long hours at night.

To enable Windows 11's Night light feature, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Display page on the right side.

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  1. Under the "Brightness & color" section, turn on the Night light toggle switch to enable the feature.

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  1. (Optional) Turn off the Night light toggle switch to disable the feature.
  2. (Optional) Select the Night light setting.

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  1. Use the "Strength" slider to specify the correct color temperature of the display when the feature is turned on.

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  1. (Optional) Click the Turn on now button to enable the feature immediately.

Once you complete the steps, the feature will show warm colors on the screen to help minimize eye strain while working at night.

How to install and configure apps on Windows 11

Although we all have different apps requeriements, we usually need the same core apps and configuration. For instance, everyone has their preferred browser experience: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge, or others. If you use the computer for school or office work, you probably need to install the Office apps. And you may also need to configure a Mail application to manage all your emails.

Set default browser

Windows 11 now comes with a new version of Microsoft Edge, and even though it is one of the best browsers for Windows users, you may still want to use another application, such as Google Chrome or Firefox.

To install and configure a web browser as default, use these steps.

  1. Open Chrome or Firefox official page.
  2. Click the Download button.

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  1. Clear the option to collect statistics about the browser usage (if applicable).
  2. Click the Accept and install button (if applicable).

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  1. Double-click the installer to complete the installation.
  2. Open Settings on Windows 11.
  3. Click on Apps.
  4. Click the Default apps page on the right side.

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  1. Select the browser you want to use as the new default on Windows 11. For example, Google Chrome.

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  1. Click on .htm option.
  2. Select the Switch anyway option.
  3. Select the Google Chrome option.

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  1. Click the OK button.
  2. Repeat steps No. 5, 6, 7, and 8 for these file or link types:
    • .html
    • .pdf
    • .shtml
    • .svg
    • .webp
    • .xht
    • FTP
    • HTML
    • HTTPS
  3. (Optional) Select each of the remaining types and select your preferred browser.

Once you complete the steps, your browser of choice will be the new system default on Windows 11.

Set up Office

If you are using the laptop for work or school, you will need the suite of Office apps, and the best way to get them is through a Microsoft 365 subscription.

The Microsoft 365 Personal plan costs $70 per year, and the Microsoft 365 Family plan costs $100. They give you access to all the apps and other perks like 1TB of OneDrive storage. If you choose the Family plan, you can share the benefits with six people.

To install Office from Microsoft 365, use these steps:

  1. Open Office website (opens in new tab).
  2. Sign in with a Microsoft account (if applicable).
  3. Click the Install Office button.

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  1. Under the "Install Office on all your computer" section, click the Install Office button.
  2. Click the Install button.
  3. Continue with the on-screen directions to complete the setup as necessary.

After you complete the steps, Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and other apps and features will be available on the new laptop.

Set up Windows 11 Mail app

To get started with the built-in Mail app, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Mail and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Click the Add account button.Quick note: The app may also show you a list of accounts already available on the system. If your account is listed, you can selected to set it up quickly.

Mail Add Account option

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  1. Select your email account from the list if applicable. Or select a service and continue with the on-screen directions.

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  1. Click the Done button.
  2. (Optional) Click the Settings (gear) button in the bottom-left corner.
  3. Click the Manage accounts option.

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  1. Click the Add account option.