Whether you’re a tech guru or you feel as if you’re hardly getting by on your computer, customizing Windows is for everyone. That’s right – even if you don’t feel as though you’re the “tech savvy” type, you should customize Windows. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll help you navigate your computer better. And thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to figure these customizations out yourself – we’ve covered a significant portion of them right here on MakeUseOf.
Manage & Enhance The Context (Right Click) MenuIf you thought your context menu could never be edited, you’ve been sorely mistaken. You have several options depending on how you’d like to customize it.
One method is simply removing entries of the context menu. This is often overlooked as a method to speed up Windows. Below are two options we recommend:
Add More Functionality And Customize Programs
Finding the tool you’re looking for seems to always be a problem, no matter what type of computer you use, and with Windows 8 this is even more of an issue. Adding common programs you use and other shortcuts or functions can save time, headaches and increase your efficiency on tasks you find yourself constantly doing.
Your Menu (our review) is a great program for adding program shortcuts to the context menu, allowing you to access them with a simple right click on the Desktop.
If you want to do more than just add program shortcuts, I recommend the pro version of Right Click Enhancer (our review), which allows you to greatly extend the context menu’s functionality.
If you’re looking for more enhancements there are 7 awesome context menu tools you should check out.
Windows Taskbar Tricks
You may be aware of some of the tricks you can do with the Windows Taskbar, such as pinning folders to the Windows Explorer pop-up menu, which can be quite handy in cleaning up your desktop.
Other built-in functions include accessing programs’ additional functions by right clicking their icon, reducing the size of the Taskbar and icons to allow for more screen space, and organizing the icons in the Notification Tray.
This is by far not all the things you can do with the Taskbar. Further useful Taskbar tricks include disabling or changing the size of Aero Peek thumbnails, running applications with administrator privileges and the secret behind middle-clicking a Taskbar app icon.
7+ Taskbar Tweaker (our review) is the ultimate tool for adjusting the Taskbar exactly how you want it.
Add A Dock Or Replace The Taskbar Completely
Having a dock not only spices up the look and theme of your Windows PC, it adds awesome features, accessibility and can even be a taskbar replacement.
So what are your options when it comes to docks?
- RocketDock (shown above in combination with Stacks Docklet)
- ObjectDock (our review)
- Winstep Nexus (shown below)
If you’re interested in a different look altogether, perhaps one that’s not modeled after the Mac OS X dock, you should check out Circle Dock.
Switch Your Wallpaper… Automatically
How long have you had that wallpaper on your desktop? With all the awesome images both on the Internet and your own computer, why are you sticking with the same one day after day?
So how can you change your desktop wallpapers? You can try one of the following apps:
- John’s Background Switcher (our review) — which pulls images from different sources;
- Wallpaper Master – an advanced wallpaper manager
- Desktopper (our review) — a website that connects with Dropbox and relies on Windows’ native wallpaper changer
Pulse (our review) and Wally (our review) are both great open source solutions full of functionality.
What About Finding Awesome Wallpaper?
If you’re stuck on what wallpaper you want to use, first I (again) recommend taking a look at Desktoppr – it has some incredible images. Below are some other great options.
- Tumblr blogs
- Cool 3D backgrounds
- “Socially Selected” Wallpaper: 4walled & Social Wallpapering
Personalize The Windows Logon & Start Screen
You have put up with that boring logon screen in Windows long enough – here’s how to give it your own spin and style. One of the most basic changes you can make is your profile picture, which Tina shows you how to do in her article of 5 cool ways to customize Windows 7.
The best ways to customize the Windows Welcome Screen:
Alternatively, you can manually edit the Windows Logon Screen message and font with a program called Resource Hacker.
Windows 8 has several customizations built in on the Lock Screen where you can add your own background, choose an app to display a detailed status, decide which apps can run in the background, and show quick status and notifications.
Start Screen Tweaks:
10 Windows 8 Start Screen hacks such as running modern apps in the Desktop, adding shutdown shortcuts and moving the Start Screen onto the Desktop.
Lastly, if you absolutely hate the Start Screen you can completely disable the Modern User Interface.
Hack That Start Button
It’s no secret – removing the Start Button and the Start Menu in Windows 8 caused a lot of distress among Microsoft’s users. And when Microsoft added the Start Button back in Windows 8.1, they still left out the Start Menu. If you’re longing for the Start Menu on your Windows 8 machine, you have a few options:
Non-third-party software solutions:
- Build a Desktop Start Menu replacement – utilizes Windows 8.1 features
- Build a custom Start Menu using toolbars in the Taskbar
While you’re moping about your missing Start Menu, go ahead and hold down the Windows Key + X.
Whoh! That’s new! Well, actually it’s been around since the beginning of Windows 8. This is known as the “power user menu” and although it’s awesome in itself, a third-party program called Win+X Menu Editor (our review) allows you to edit these shortcuts – a pretty nifty tool.
Third-party Start Menu options:
What’s that? You say you’d rather get rid of the Windows Start Button? Well, don’t worry, you can still do that while having Windows 8.1.
If you’d like to change and customize the Start Button in Windows 7 we recommend a program aptly named Windows 7 Start Button Changer.
Change Up Your Mouse Cursor
A really simple option for customizing your PC is to change the mouse cursor from that plain and boring default one. There are two solid programs we recommend for this:
Complete Overhaul: Theme Windows
The final touch to personalizing Windows is a theme.
The non-third-party route:
minimalist Desktop (my preference) or adding several “moving parts” to your Desktop, there are plenty of ways to personalize your PC.
There are some amazing Windows 8 themes and also some pretty neat Windows 7 themes. Of course, the ones we covered are only a small amount of what’s available on websites like deviantART. Below is one of the many themes I’ve had.
In combination with themes, a great addition is to change the way Windows runs based on the time of day using tools like f.lux (our review), as well as many others.
Style In Combination With Functionality
There are some awesome tools you can use in combination with your customizations, that will add both functionality and style to your computer:
There are so many excellent ways to customize Windows to make your computer more accessible. Whether you’re tech-savvy or have a hard time finding your way around the computer, there’s always the perfect customization option for you.Are you looking for even more tips and ideas on customizing Windows? Our in-depth Windows Customization guide is sure to answer all your questions.
What are your favorite Windows customizations? Do you have any additional tips and preferences to add? We always look forward to your feedback in the comments.