How to set up new laptop running Windows 11 in 2024

Windows 11 on new laptop
Windows 11 on new laptop (Image credit: Future)

If you have a new laptop (or desktop) running Windows 11, you first need to set it up and adjust the settings to make it personal and make the most 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 preferences. In addition, you want to remove all unwanted software, download 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.

This guide will walk you through the steps to correctly set up your new laptop.

How to set up installation on Windows 11

You can set up a new laptop in at least two ways. You can use the original installation and continue with the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to create a new account, choose your preferred settings, and continue undoing custom configurations and removing those pre-installed junk apps (bloatware). Or you can reinstall the operating system to start fresh with a clean copy of Windows 11.

Out-of-box experience (OOBE)

To set up a new device, use these steps:

  1. Select your region.
  2. Click the Yes button.

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  1. Select your keyboard layout.
  2. Click the Yes button.

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  1. Click the Skip button.
  2. Click the Accept button.

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  1. Select the wireless network. 
  • Quick note: If the laptop has a wired connection, the connection with occur automatically. Using a wireless connection, you must connect to the network. Otherwise, you won't be able to continue with the setup.
  1. Click the Connect button.
  2. Specify a name for the laptop (spaces are not allowed in the name).
  3. Click the Next button. (This action will cause the device to restart.)

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  1. Select the "Set up for personal use" option for Windows 11 Pro. On the "Home" edition, this option is not available.

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  1. Sign in with your email address to set up the primary Windows 11 account.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Confirm your account password. 
  3. Click the Next button.
  4. Click on "View more options."

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  1. Choose the "Set up a new device" option.
  2. Click the Next button.

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  1. Click the Create PIN button to set up Window Hello.
  2. Confirm the PIN for the account.
  3. Click the OK button.

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  1. Choose the privacy settings.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Next button again.
  4. Click the Accept button.

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  1. (Optional) Choose how you plan to use the computer to allow the system to show tailored recommendations. 
  2. Click the Accept button or the Skip button to skip this feature.

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  1. Click the Skip button to ignore the phone link setup. (You can always set up this later.)
  2. (Optional) Click the Decline button to skip the Office app setup.
  3. (Optional) Click the Decline button to skip the OneDrive offer.
  4. (Optional) Click the "Skip for now" button to skip the Game Pass subscription offer.

Once you complete the steps, the system will finish the setup automatically.

The steps outlined above represent the experience on version 22H2, but your experience may be slightly different. Also, manufacturers often provide a customized version of the out-of-box experience with different settings, including a device registration form and specific settings for the device, which you can always skip.

If you want to keep the original installation, you can continue with the steps below to uninstall those promotional applications. Alternatively, you can perform a clean installation to ensure you will start with a completely fresh copy of Windows 11.

Uninstall bloatware

If you plan to keep the same installation, you want to remove those applications that the manufacturer pre-installed on your computer to free up space and system resources.

To uninstall pre-installed apps on Windows 11, use these steps:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the unwanted app, click the (three-dotted) menu button on the right, and select the Uninstall button.

(Image credit: Future)
  •  Quick tip: If you need to know which apps to remove, 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.
  1. Click the Uninstall button again.
  2. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the instructions to uninstall other bloatware.

Clean installation set up

Although the default installation may come with unwanted configurations and applications, the setup should be alright for most users. However, the best approach is to clean the system and start with a fresh installation of Windows 11.

The only caveat about using a clean installation is that you may need to spend more time reconfiguring some devices and settings.

To start fresh with a clean installation of Windows 11 on your new computer, use these steps:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  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.
  2. Click the Reset button.

Once you complete the steps, the setup will erase the current installation, download the default image file from the Microsoft servers, and proceed with a clean installation of Windows 11.

After the installation, you will need to complete the out-of-box experience to choose your preferences and create a default account.

How to install updates on Windows 11

On Windows 11, updates download and install automatically, but it's always a good idea to manually update the system to ensure the device isn't missing anything critical.

Cumulative updates

To update your new computer running Windows 11, 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.

Upgrade to version 22H2

If you have a new laptop with Windows 11 version 21H2, as part of the initial setup, you want to upgrade to version 22H2. You can do this in at least two ways from the Windows Update settings and Installation Assistant tool.

Windows Update

To download and install updates on Windows 11, use these steps:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Download and install option.
  2. Click the Restart now button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 will restart and continue with the upgrade process to version 22H2.

Installation Assistant

Alternatively, you can use the Update Assistant app to upgrade your device to version 22H2, and here's how.

  1. Open Microsoft support website.
  2. Under the "Windows 11 Installation Assistant" section, click the Download Now button.
  3. Double-click the Windows11InstallationAssistant.exe file to launch the tool.
  4. Click the Accept and install button.

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After you complete the steps, the tool will download the required files to upgrade the system to version 22H2.

How to check drivers on Windows 11

As part of the setup process, it's important to check and confirm that components and peripherals are correctly configured. 

Device Manager

To check that none of the devices are missing or having problems with drivers 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 shows up as unknown.

(Image credit: Future)

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

Windows Update

If the computer is missing or has problems with a specific driver, you can use Windows Update to fix this problem.

To install or update drivers on Windows 11, 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 in the new setup of Windows 11. 

Windows 11 install driver update

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  • Quick note: If the page doesn't show any driver updates, Windows Update doesn't have any additional updates for your hardware configuration.
  1. Click the Download and install button.

Once you complete the steps, Windows Update will automatically download and install the drivers.

If Device Manager shows a problem with one of the components and a driver update isn't available through Windows Update, you will need to check your manufacturer support website to download the driver in question. 

How to personalize desktop on Windows 11

After completing the initial setup and updates, you want to personalize the experience tailored to your preference. For example, you want to change the desktop background, choose a system color mode, change the access color, and customize things like the Start menu and Taskbar to make you more productive.

Change theme

A theme is a collection of images and colors to quickly change the look and feel of the desktop and apps. 

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. 

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Choose one of the available themes to apply it.

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Once you complete the steps, the theme will change the system colors and desktop wallpaper.

Install themes

To download more themes from the Microsoft Store, 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. Choose one of the available themes to apply it.

After you complete the steps, the theme will download and apply on Windows 11.

Change color mode

On Windows 11, you can choose from two color modes, including "light mode," which works best for the daytime, and the "dark mode," which is best for low-light situations.

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

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Use the "Choose your mode" drop-down menu and select one of the available options.

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  • 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.

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

Change accent color 

The accent color is the color that allows certain elements to blend with the current theme.

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.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Accent color" section, select the accent color for the experience.

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  •  Quick tip: You can use the Custom color setting to create a custom accent color.
  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.
  2. (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.
  1. (Optional) Turn on the "Show accent color on title bars and windows borders" toggle switch to show different colors around the application frame.

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

Custom or dynamic background images

Windows 11 allows you to change the desktop wallpaper in at least two ways. You can use custom images, such as pictures from your collection, or you can enable the Spotlight feature that will dynamically download and change wallpapers automatically.

Custom image

To use a custom background image on Windows 11, 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.
  2. Click the Browse photos button to select an image.

(Image credit: Future)
  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.

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

Spotlight

To enable Spotlight on Windows 11, use these steps:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Use the "Personalize your background" drop-down menu and select the "Windows spotlight" option.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, the system will download and refresh the desktop background throughout the day. (This feature takes a while to start showing images.)

If you are showing desktop icons, you will also notice a new icon, which you can right-click to switch to the next picture or thumb up or down to allow the system to learn the kind of images you like.

Customize Lock screen 

You can also customize the Lock screen background and notifications.

To customize the Lock screen on your new laptop, 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 options, including the background image and app status.

In the Lock screen, the Windows spotlight is the default option that shows 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 photos.

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

(Image credit: Future)

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 

The Start menu may not be as flexible as the classic design. However, you can customize various aspects, such as folder icons, pins, and recommendations, and even disable the highlight information in the search interface.

Recommendations 

On Windows 11, you can't disable apps and file recommendations, but you can show more pins than suggestions. Here's how:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Layout" section, select the More pins option.

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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.

Once you complete the steps, the Start menu will show four rows of pins and only one row of suggestions.

Folders

On Windows 11, you can create folders to organize your apps in groups, and here's how:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Drag an app on top of another app to create a folder.
  3. Continue dragging more apps to add them to the folder.

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  1. Click the folder to open it.
  2. Click on Edit name.
  3. Confirm a name for the folder and press Enter.

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Inside the folder, you can rearrange the apps to update the preview and drag out the apps one by one to delete the folder.

Pins

The "Pinned" section lets you list your favorite apps for quick access.

To add or remove apps from the "Pinned" section, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Click the All apps button in the top right corner.
  3. Right-click the app and select the "Pin to Start" option.

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  1. Repeat step 3 to pin more apps.
  2. Click the Back button.
  3. Right-click an app and select the "Unpin from Start" option to remove the app pin.

After you complete the steps, the Start menu will only show your favorite apps in the "Pinned" section.

Quick access

In the Start menu, you can also add quick access to "Folders," such as Settings, File Explorer, Documents, Downloads, etc., next to the power button, and here's how:

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

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

Customize Search

In the Search interface, there's not a lot you can customize. However, you can turn off the ability from Windows 11 to show news and information that may make you less productive.

To disable the highlights feature from Search, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Privacy & security.
  3. Under the "Windows permissions" section, click the Search Permissions setting.

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  1. Under the More settings sections, turn off the "Show search highlights" toggle switch.

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Once you complete the steps, the Search interface will show quick searches for settings and a list of your top apps instead of news headlines.

Customize Taskbar 

The Taskbar is more limited than in previous versions, but there a least two things everyone should do when setting up a new device, including changing the icon alignment to the left and removing those unnecessary items.

Left icon alignment

To align icons and the Start menu to the left for a more classic experience on Windows 11, use these steps:

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

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  1. Click the Taskbar behaviors setting.
  2. Select the Left option in the "Taskbar alignment" setting.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, the icons and Start menu will align to the left, like on Windows 10.

Remove items 

To remove items from the Taskbar on Windows 11, use these steps:

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

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Taskbar items" section, turn off the feature you prefer not to have in the Taskbar, including Search, Task View, Widgets, and Chat. 

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, the specified icons will no longer be available in the Taskbar. However, you will still be able to access search from the Start menu or using the "Windows key + S" keyboard shortcut or the "Windows key + W" keyboard shortcut to open the Widgets board.

How to optimize system performance on Windows 11

Applications and services that start automatically on startup can negatively impact performance and account load times on your new laptop. After installing the necessary apps, you should review the "Startup" settings and disable those that may affect the experience.

Control startup apps

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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After you complete the steps, the startup process should be noticeably faster.

Change power modes

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

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

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