How to Install and configure apps In Windows 10 or windows 11?
How to Install and configure apps In Windows 10 or windows 11?
Apps make it possible to get things done with Microsoft Windows 10. That’s true for businesses of all sizes, which use productivity apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel to enable employees to create, collaborate, and communicate. Large organizations often rely on a mix of custom line-of-business applications and off-the-shelf accounting and management software, some of it written decades ago. And apps aren’t just for work, as the success of PC-based games and streaming media services makes clear.
A default installation of Windows 10 includes dozens of apps. In Chapter 7, we provide instructions on how to be more productive (or have more fun) with some of the most useful ones. But the real strength of Windows is its ability to run a truly astonishing range of old and new applications, some of which are available through the Microsoft Store, which is itself a Windows app.
Later in this chapter, we cover the tools and techniques for installing, configuring, troubleshooting, and uninstalling third-party programs. Those tools are especially useful for dealing with the legacy desktop programs that are still the mainstay of many Windows 10 PCs.
We start with a discussion of how those old-fashioned programs, many written for earlier Windows versions, are able to coexist happily alongside more modern apps.
UNDERSTANDING THE WINDOWS 10 APP LANDSCAPE
If you’ve been using Windows 10 since its earliest days, you probably think of apps in two big buckets: those you can download from anywhere, and those that come through the Microsoft Store. That was largely true in 2015, but the app landscape has grown significantly in the years since.
During Windows 10’s first few years, apps created exclusively for Windows 10 were variously called modern apps, UWP apps, or trusted Microsoft Store apps. (In this book, we prefer the term modern app.) In editions of Windows 10 released during those early years, entering the name of one of these apps in the search box on your taskbar returned a search result that looked like this:
Legacy desktop programs returned a search result with a slightly different label: “Desktop app.”
Beginning in early 2019, however, those distinctions abruptly disappeared. In current versions of Windows 10, when you search for a program, the tile that appears in the search results list is labeled simply “App.” That’s true whether that app came from the Microsoft Store or whether you installed it with the help of a third-party website.
That’s not just a semantic distinction. Instead, it reflects the significant changes in the Windows app landscape over the past few years, with two new app types available besides the familiar desktop apps and modern apps built for Windows 10. Developers can now package desktop apps and distribute them securely through the Microsoft Store. In addition, developers can turn websites into Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that function like native apps. You’ll find some PWAs packaged for delivery through the Store; in addition, using the new Microsoft Edge browser, you can tell Windows to install a supported website as a PWA.
In a direct reflection of this blurring of app categories, Windows 10 now gives the Apps category its own toplevel heading in Settings. The resulting Apps & Features list includes modern apps, desktop programs, packaged desktop apps, and PWAs, regardless of their source.
Above this list, you’ll find the option, introduced in version 1703, to specify whether apps can be installed from locations other than the Store.
In the remainder of this section, we look more closely at the differences that define legacy desktop apps, modern apps, packaged desktop apps, and PWAs.
Legacy desktop apps
The oldest category consists of Windows desktop programs that were developed using the Win32 application programming interface (API). Don’t let the name fool you: This API has its roots in 16-bit Windows versions but over the years evolved to support 32-bit and then 64-bit Windows versions, which is one reason its formal name is now simply the Windows API.
These legacy programs, sometimes called Win32 apps, are designed to run on all versions of Windows, using whatever features and capabilities are available in the version on which they’re running. They’re typically delivered as self-contained packages that can be downloaded and installed by anyone with administrative rights on a Windows PC.
Windows 10 continues to support such programs, which make it possible for PC owners to upgrade successfully from Windows 7 while continuing to be productive.
These traditional applications are designed, for the most part, for use with a keyboard and a mouse, and many of them first came into being during the era when desktop machines dominated the computing landscape.
The second category consists of apps that run only on Windows 10 and are delivered through the Microsoft Store (previously known as the Windows Store)—or “sideloaded” with an administrator’s permission in managed enterprise environments. Apps that are available in the Store have passed a stringent vetting process and can be trusted to be free of malware. They are also “sandboxed,” which means they run in secure isolation, free from potentially hazardous interactions with other running processes.
The earliest generation of apps delivered through the Store were optimized for use on touchscreen-equipped mobile devices running Windows 8. Later, Microsoft developed a subset of Windows APIs specifically targeting Windows 10 devices called the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).
The word universal was the key to that platform, which offered a core application programming interface (API) that developers could use to create a single app package for installation on devices with a wide range of sizes and modalities, including mobile phones, small tablets, traditional desktop or notebook PCs, an all-in-one device, an Xbox console, or even the HoloLens wearable computer. Adaptive controls tailored the app’s behavior to the size and feature set of the target machine.
That vision made perfect sense in 2015, when Windows 10 debuted. But the demise of Windows 10 Mobile and the disappearance of small tablets made it unnecessary for developers to write these sorts of apps, and UWP was mostly deprecated.
Packaged desktop apps
In 2016, Microsoft introduced a hybrid app type that combines the capabilities of older desktop apps in a modern package that can be distributed through Microsoft Store. Over time, this standard evolved into MSIX, a new Windows app package format. Developers can use MSIX packaging tools to convert apps that meet proper standards, including the ability to run as a standard interactive user, with no reliance on kernelmode drivers or Windows services. The resulting package can be distributed through the Microsoft Store to control licensing and enforce security. Optionally, the developer can choose to enhance the app with features previously found only in modern apps, such as the ability to display live tiles or to share content.
This category of app is most commonly installed from the Microsoft Store, but it can also be delivered as a standalone package that you can install by double-clicking. When installed in this fashion, the app behaves just as if it had been acquired from the Microsoft Store.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Modern website developers can use an assortment of interesting open web technologies (Service Workers, push notifications, Fetch networking, Cache API, and Web App Manifest, to name just a few) to make websites work very much like native apps. With a few fairly simple incantations, a developer can transform that work into a packaged Progressive Web App that runs on just about any platform, just as if it were a native app. In Windows 10, PWAs can run in the context of the browser, using the Chromium engine, or they can run as Universal Windows Platform apps using the older EdgeHTML platform.
PWAs can interact with hardware (a built-in webcam and microphone, for example), access user resources (such as the calendar, contacts, and saved documents or local music files), and send notifications to Windows for display in Action Center, while still under the control of the same Windows security features that keep modern apps safely sandboxed.
Developers can submit PWAs to the Microsoft Store as packaged UWP apps, but Microsoft also uses its Bing App Crawler to identify sites that include a Web App Manifest and makes some of those apps available in the Store. (You can spot these apps easily—the publisher is listed as Microsoft Store.) In addition, sites that work as PWAs can be installed using the Apps menu in Microsoft Edge.
INSTALLING, MANAGING, AND UNINSTALLING APPS
As we noted in the previous section, you can acquire legacy desktop apps from just about anywhere. All other apps typically arrive through the Microsoft Store (or, in the case of PWAs, through a browser). In this section, we look at how these two different installation methods determine where program files are located and how the programs are allowed to interact with other system resources.
Regardless of its origin, every app you install gets an entry in the Programs list on the Start menu. Right-click any item on that list and then click Pin To Start to display that app as a resizable tile, to the right of the Programs list. (You can use similar steps to pin an app to the taskbar or to unpin an app from either location; right-click the app’s tile or its entry in the Programs list and then click More to see these options.)
Regardless of how they’re installed, desktop programs appear in the apps list on Start and can be pinned as tiles alongside modern apps. Indeed, since the not-soglorious days of Windows 8 in which switching between modern and desktop apps was a jarring change that made it appear that you were using two completely different operating systems, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two types of apps. They both run in resizable windows on the desktop, and they share many similar features.
You might notice a few differences on Start: desktop applications, whether they’re spawned from a local installer file or from the Store, do not have a live tile (but then, not all modern apps do either). And as shown in Figure 6-1, the shortcut menu that appears when you right-click is a bit different. (We discuss these differences in more detail in the following sections.)
Figure 6-1 When you right-click an app on Start, the menu that appears is slightly different for a legacy desktop program (top) than for a modern app (bottom).
To see a full list of every app that’s available to the current user profile, go to Settings > Apps > Apps & Features. This lengthy scrolling list includes modern apps that are preinstalled with Windows 10 as well as legacy desktop apps you’ve installed and additional apps you’ve acquired through the Microsoft Store. As the example in Figure 6-2 shows, there’s no obvious distinction between the different types of apps.
Figure 6-2 The list under the Apps & Features heading includes modern apps and legacy desktop apps. Use the search box to filter the list by the name of the app or the developer—in this case, showing only apps from Microsoft.
Each entry initially displays the name of the app, the name of the app’s developer (if available), the amount of disk space used by the program (independent of its data files), and the date on which it was installed.
The list is arranged in alphabetical order by default, but you can use the Sort menu at the top of the list to change the order to Size (to identify potential disk hogs for removal when storage space is tight) or Install Date (to quickly remove one or more apps you recently installed for evaluation and decided not to keep). You can also filter by drive, in the unlikely event you have apps installed on a secondary drive in addition to your system drive.
If the list feels too unwieldy to scroll through, try filtering its contents by using the search box. Note that the results include matches for the app name and the developer name; the latter option is a particularly effective way to see all the apps preinstalled by the PC’s manufacturer. Click any app in the list to manage it. What you see in this expanded listing varies depending on the app’s type. Figure 6-3 shows your available options for a legacy desktop app (top) and a modern app (bottom).
Figure 6-3 Options available from the Apps & Features list are slightly different for legacy desktop apps (top) and apps installed from the Store (bottom).
For legacy desktop apps and PWAs, the app version number appears under the app name, along with Modify and Uninstall buttons. (Most PWAs configured from the Microsoft Edge browser will report a version number of 1.0.) If the Modify option is grayed out, it means the installer for that app doesn’t include a so-called maintenance installation option in which you can add or remove features or otherwise change the current configuration.
Modern apps and packaged desktop apps acquired from the Store include an Advanced Options link (more on that shortly), as well as Move and Uninstall buttons. The Move button is grayed out and unavailable unless you’ve configured your system to allow apps to be installed on multiple drives.
Using and managing legacy desktop apps
As we’ve noted previously, Windows 10 supports virtually all legacy desktop applications that are compatible with Windows 7, with only a few rare exceptions. If you upgraded from Windows 7 (or from a Windows 8.1 system that itself was upgraded from Windows 7), all your desktop applications from the earlier environment should be happy and ready to go.
Any desktop programs you own that aren’t available in the Microsoft Store can be installed in the usual ways, from installation media or by double-clicking an installer file you download from the internet.
Uninstalling a desktop program
When you install a legacy desktop program, the installer provides Windows with instructions for how to uninstall the program (you can find some examples of these instructions in the registry, at HKCU\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall). To execute those instructions, right-click the app’s entry in the Start menu, and then click Uninstall. If the app included instructions for quietly uninstalling itself (most don’t), you’ll be asked to confirm your intention; when you do, the app will be uninstalled without any further interaction.
For desktop programs that don’t include the switches necessary to quietly uninstall, choosing that option from the right-click shortcut menu takes you to the old-style Programs And Features page in Control Panel. Select the program’s name from the list and then click Uninstall to continue.
If you’d rather skip the side trip to Control Panel, start in Settings > Apps > Apps & Features. Select the name of the program you want to remove, and click Uninstall.
Running desktop programs as an administrator or another user
As in Windows 7, some desktop applications must be run with an administrative token. If you want to edit the registry, for example, you need to run Registry Editor (regedit.exe) as an administrator. You can run most programs as an administrator by right-clicking the executable file or any shortcut for the program (on Start or elsewhere), choosing Run As Administrator, and satisfying the User Account Control (UAC) prompt with either consent or credentials. (This option does not work for File Explorer, Explorer.exe.) Here are two additional ways to accomplish the same result:
- Start a Command Prompt or PowerShell session as Administrator: press Windows key+X and then choose Command Prompt (Admin) or Windows PowerShell (Admin). There, you can type the name of the executable file for whichever program you want to run as an administrator. To run Registry Editor, for example, type regedit. Because you already passed UAC inspection for the Command Prompt session, and because whatever you run from Command Prompt is a child process of Command Prompt, you don’t have to deal with any further UAC prompts. (The same rules apply to PowerShell.) This method is excellent for situations where you need to run a sequence of programs as an administrator. Keep one administrative-level Command Prompt or PowerShell window open, and run your programs from the command line.
- Type the name of the program you want to run in the taskbar search box, and then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter.
To run a program under a different user account, you can use the Runas command. You can do this from Command Prompt or PowerShell. The syntax is
Runas /user:username programname
After you issue the command, you’re prompted to enter the password for the specified user account. Note that the Runas command does not work with File Explorer or with Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins.
Creating shortcuts to desktop apps
Knowing where to find executable files for desktop apps is useful if you like to create shortcuts to your programs. For example, you can easily populate your Windows 10 desktop with shortcuts to the legacy programs you use most frequently. From Start, right-click the program’s tile and choose More > Open File Location. (That action takes you to the shortcut’s location in the Start Menu folder; if you want to go to the folder where the program’s executable file is stored, right-click that shortcut in File Explorer and choose Open File Location.) Then right-click the item in the Start Menu folder and click Create Shortcut. Windows informs you that you can’t create a shortcut in that location, but it offers to create a shortcut on the desktop—which is just what you set out to do.
Dealing with compatibility issues
Programs that run without problems on Windows 7 should run equally well on Windows 10. Certain older desktop applications might create problems, however.
Windows attempts to flag potential compatibility problems when you first run such a program. The Program Compatibility Assistant that appears offers you the alternatives of checking online for solutions (such as downloading a more recent version) or going ahead and running the program.
If you install a program and subsequently run into compatibility issues, a program compatibility troubleshooter might appear. Alternatively, you can run the troubleshooter yourself from Control Panel. You can find it by typing compatibility in the taskbar search box. Click Run Programs Made For Previous Versions Of Windows to launch the troubleshooter, and then click past the opening screen.
The troubleshooter begins by scanning for problems it can detect automatically. If it finds none, it presents a list of applications installed on your system from which you can select the one that’s giving you difficulty. Select the offending program and follow the prompts to try to resolve your problem.
Using and managing Store apps
As you might suspect from its name, the Microsoft Store is an emporium where you can purchase a variety of digital goods and services: games, movies, TV shows, and apps. (It’s not an ever-expanding marketplace, however.
In the years since the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft has stopped selling music and ebooks through the Store, and we suspect most TV shows and movies are purchased or rented by owners of Xbox consoles; those consoles run a variant of Windows 10, after all, and use the same Microsoft Store to deliver digital content.) But focusing only on commerce risks missing the real point of the Store, which serves as a secure channel for distributing and updating apps you buy from the Store but also apps that are preinstalled with Windows. Part of that security comes from the fact that apps have to go through a vetting process to be distributed through the Store; it’s unlikely that a malicious app can survive that vetting process, and in the unlikely event that a bad app managed to sneak into the Store, it would be shut down as soon as its misbehavior was discovered.
An equally important part of the Store’s security model is the way it manages the installation of modern apps and packaged desktop apps—a highly structured process that installs files to a restricted hierarchy in the file system, marks their contents as read-only, and locks everything down using file permissions. That combination prevents Store apps from contributing to “Windows rot” and degrading system performance. They can also be uninstalled cleanly, without leaving digital detritus behind.
The executable file (along with supporting files) for a desktop application is normally stored in a subfolder of %ProgramFiles% or %ProgramFiles(x86)%. By contrast, modern apps are stored in a hidden folder called %ProgramFiles%\WindowsApps. This folder is locked so that only the Microsoft Store app or the Windows System account can view, run, or modify its contents. Although that might frustrate folks who like to crawl through every hidden nook and cranny of their hard drive, there’s a good reason for the high security: unlike for most desktop applications, the entire app package is signed, making it possible to validate the contents of any or all files in the package. Instead of running an executable file and calling other resources, Windows runs the entire package in a protected app container environment. Because users (including you) and other apps are prevented from making changes, the app files are safe.
Legacy desktop apps can be installed for all users or for a single user. By contrast, modern apps are installed only for the current user account. After installation, you’ll find data files for the newly installed app in a part of your user profile, where they are kept private and can’t be tampered with by other apps. You can view these folders (but you can’t change their contents) at %LocalAppData%\Packages.
Anyone who signs on to another user account on the same PC can share the installed app files, but only after going to the Store, installing the app for their own account, and setting up their own private data folders.
Uninstalling a modern app is, likewise, a per-user activity that cleans up the data folders for the current user without touching files for other user accounts that have installed the same app. If you uninstall an app that’s not in use by any other accounts on the same PC, Windows completely removes the app and its resources from the %ProgramFiles%\WindowsApps folder.
Packaged desktop apps you install from the Store (as well as apps built using the same tools but distributed as standalone packages) follow a similar security-focused installation routine. Unlike legacy desktop apps, which typically require administrative permission to install and can splatter files throughout Windows system folders, these packaged desktop apps follow a rigid set of installation rules that dramatically lessen their ability to mess with the system.
Just as with modern apps, packaged desktop apps are installed to a well-managed location, with file permissions keeping the package contents safe from tampering. Unlike modern apps, however, they’re not required to run in a sandboxed app container. Instead, these so-called full-trust apps run in the context of the user account that launched them. As a result, they can mimic the behavior of a legacy desktop app.
Behind the scenes, however, these apps are managed in a way that keeps them from interfering with the rest of the system. Specifically, on Windows 10 versions beginning with 1903, these modifications are made to the file system and registry:
- When the app attempts to write files or folders to the user’s AppData folder, Windows intercepts those requests and writes them instead to a private location that is merged with the actual AppData folder when the app runs. This architecture allows apps to uninstall cleanly and avoid “Windows rot.”
- Any files that would normally be added to the Windows\System32 or Program Files (x86) folders (such as DLL files) are stored instead in a virtual file system (VFS) folder as part of the app package. These files are dynamically merged with the actual system folders when the app runs, so that the app thinks everything’s working as its developer intended.
- App packages contain a registry.dat file, which mirrors the contents of the corresponding branch of HKLM\Software. When the app runs, this virtual registry merges its contents into the registry to allow the app to run as expected.
- When the app makes changes to HKCU, those changes are written to a private location and merged when the app runs, which allows the system to clean this information when the app is uninstalled.
Finding apps in the Microso Store
We expect that most of our readers can find their way through the Microsoft Store app, which organizes apps and digital content into tabs that keep, for example, Gaming and Productivity categories separate. You can scroll through curated lists to find popular apps or collections of related apps. If you know more or less what you’re looking for, you can use the search box to find it. Search by name or publisher, and the search results will include entertainment offerings as well as apps.
The offerings in the Microsoft Store are not organized by price, but if you type free in the Search box, you can choose from filtered lists showing only free apps, games, or digital content. When you consider the cost of a socalled free app, however, you should check to see if the price is adorned with a plus sign and a small-print notation that the app comes with “in-app purchases.” This is a delicate way of alerting you that the app, once installed, will give you the opportunity to buy extra goodies. Some apps are quite low-key about this; others are nearly useless unless you pay up. When you click on an item, the details page that appears might enumerate the extra offerings.
An app’s details page includes most of the information you need to decide whether an app is worth installing, including the developer’s name, a description, screenshots depicting the app in action, and reviews and ratings from other people who’ve used the apps.
To begin the process of installing a free app for the first time, click the Get button, as shown in Figure 6-4. (Or, if you plan to add multiple apps in a single session, click Add To Cart and then click Continue Shopping. When you add the final item, click View Cart to check out and install your selections.) Then click the Install button to initiate the installation.
Figure 6-4 Check the details page for any Store app before installing it. The System Requirements section should alert you to any incompatibilities.
If money is required, the price appears at the top of the details page, just above a Buy button. The payment process is managed through your Microsoft account. If your Windows 10 user account signs in locally, rather than through a Microsoft account, you’ll be prompted at this point for Microsoft account credentials, and you’ll be guided to create such an account and configure a payment mechanism if you haven’t already done so.
While the app is being downloaded and installed, you can follow its progress. A status message—along with Pause and Cancel buttons—appears on the details page in place of the Install/Buy button. You can also view the progress of this installation on the Downloads And Updates page in the Microsoft Store app; click the download indicator in the menu bar or tap the ellipsis in the upper-right corner and then choose Downloads And Updates from the menu. On this page, you can also view progress for other apps that are queued for download, previously installed apps that have updates available, and apps that have been recently installed, as shown in Figure 6-5. (This information is also visible in Action Center, allowing you to track the progress of a download without having to continually return to the Store app.)
Figure 6-5 While one or more downloads are in progress, an indicator appears in the menu bar. Clicking that indicator displays this list of current and recent downloads.
Next to the progress indicator—either on the details page or the Downloads And Updates page—you can also pause or cancel a download. You might want to pause if you have several lengthy downloads going at once and want to prioritize them.
Uninstalling and reinstalling Store apps
The easiest way to uninstall an app—either modern or desktop—is to right-click it on Start and then click Uninstall. You can also find Uninstall options in Settings > Apps > Apps & Features; click the entry for the app in question to expose the Uninstall button. (Note that some apps installed as part of Windows 10 can’t be uninstalled.)
When an app is installed on a per-user basis, uninstalling works that way as well; if you’ve installed an app from multiple user accounts, you need to sign in to each account and repeat the procedure to uninstall it.
Resetting or repairing a Store app
For a variety of reasons, sometimes an app stops working properly. Since the dawn of the Windows era, the classic recommendation for legacy desktop apps has been to uninstall and reinstall the program. The hope is that this two-step process will remove whatever’s causing the problem and replace it with a clean installation with default settings. Unfortunately, this approach has historically produced mixed results because uninstalling a legacy app often leaves behind some settings and data (and even program files).
As we noted earlier, Windows 10 installs modern apps and packaged desktop apps in an orderly way specifically designed to eliminate the possibility of this sort of “Windows rot.” In the case of Store apps, the easiest way to repair a modern app that’s misbehaving is to reset it, which has the same practical effect as removing and then immediately reinstalling the app. Follow these steps:
- Open Settings > Apps > Apps & Features.
- Select the app you want to reset, and then click Advanced Options.
- Click Reset, and then (after reading the warning) click Reset again.
As an alternative to steps 1 and 2 in this sequence, you can right-click an app in Start, click More on the menu that appears, and then click App Settings. The App Settings command, introduced in Windows 10 version 1803, takes you directly to the app’s Advanced Options page.
Note that resetting an app permanently deletes all currently saved data and settings for that app. After resetting an app, you need to sign in again (if the app requires it) and re-create your preferences.
Managing permissions and other settings
The Advanced Options page for an app, in addition to offering the potentially handy Reset button just described, also provides access to a variety of other useful and interesting settings. In the following illustration, for example, we see that the Weather app has been granted two permissions—to know our current location and to run as a background process when another app has the focus:
If you’ve ever granted location permission to an app, you have likely seen a message telling you that you can rescind that permission in Settings. Here is where you can withdraw permission, should you choose to do so.
This illustration also indicates that the Weather app has been permitted to display notifications on the Lock Screen. Clicking the Configure link below this statement takes you to Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen, where you can make any desired adjustments.
Every app listed in the Microsoft Store is required to disclose which permissions it requires. A packaged desktop app is a “full trust” application, and its Store listing page includes the following permission: “Access all your files, peripheral devices, apps, programs, and registry.” For a full list of the 30 or so available app permissions, see https://bit.ly/Windows10-apppermissions.
Deploying line-of-business apps
Enterprises can develop line-of-business (LOB) apps for use within their organizations. Such apps can be deployed either through a private Business Store— managed and deployed by the Microsoft Store app—or through a process called sideloading.
The process of distributing a Windows 10 app through a private Business Store requires that an enterprise have Azure Active Directory accounts for each user in the organization. (These accounts are used instead of Microsoft accounts.) Installation files are managed and deployed by the Microsoft Store app, which also tracks license usage. Updates are delivered via normal update channels—Windows Update or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).
LOB apps distributed within an organization without using the Microsoft Store app don’t need to be signed by Microsoft and don’t require Azure Active Directory accounts. They do need to be signed with a certificate that’s trusted by one of the trusted root authorities on the system. Using a sideloaded app requires three steps:
- Turn on sideloading. In a domain environment, this can be done with Group Policy.
- Trust the app. Open the security certificate provided for the app package and choose Install Certificate. In the Certificate Import wizard, select Local Machine and import the certificate to the Trusted Root Certification Authorities folder.
- Install the app. Open PowerShell in the folder with the app package, and then run the Add-AppxPackage cmdlet. Organizations that use mobile device management software can also use that mechanism to deploy packages over the network.
In addition to creating and deploying apps, administrators can use Group Policy to control the use of all apps, including those that are supplied by Windows itself. For example, an organization might choose to remove the Movies & TV app or prohibit it from running.
MANAGING PROGRAMS AND PROCESSES WITH TASK MANAGER
Task Manager is a tool that serves two essential purposes. You can use it to track aspects of your system’s performance and to see what programs and processes are running, and you can use it to terminate items when the normal shutdown methods aren’t working.
The easiest way to run Task Manager is by means of its keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Without a keyboard, right-click or long-tap the Start button or any empty space on the taskbar and choose Task Manager. Figure 6-6 shows the Processes tab of Task Manager. If you don’t see a tabular layout similar to that shown in Figure 6-6, click More Details at the bottom of the window.
By default, the items listed on the Processes tab are grouped by type—apps at the top, followed by background processes, Windows processes, and so on. Grouping is optional; clear Group By Type on the View menu if you want a single list.
Note that some items in the Apps list have outline controls. You can expand these to see what files or documents are open. In Figure 6-6, for example, the Microsoft Management Console entry has been expanded to reveal the name of the snap-in (Hyper-V Manager) that’s currently open. The lists are initially sorted by name (within each group if grouping is enabled), in ascending alphabetical order. Click any performance heading to sort by that column, in descending order, an arrangement that allows you to see at a glance which apps or processes are making the greatest use of the resource in that column; click again to reverse the sort. Clicking the CPU heading, for example, gives you a continually updating sorted list showing which apps and background processes are responsible for your laptop fan kicking into action.
Figure 6-6 Task Manager is useful for terminating recalcitrant applications and processes, as well as for monitoring system performance.
Terminating a program with Task Manager
The Processes tab also includes a Status column. (If it’s not visible, right-click a column heading and choose Status.) Most of the time, the entries in this column will be blank, indicating that everything is humming along. If an app hangs for any reason, you’ll see the words Not Responding in this column. In that case, you can attempt to shut down the miscreant by right-clicking its name and clicking End Task. Don’t be too quick on the trigger, however; Not Responding doesn’t necessarily mean permanently out to lunch. If the program is using every bit of resources to handle a different task, it might simply be too busy to communicate with Task Manager.
Before you decide to end the program, give it a chance to finish whatever it’s doing. How long should you wait? That depends on the task. If the operation involves a large amount of data in memory (transcoding a large high-definition video, for instance), it’s appropriate to wait several minutes, especially if you see signs of disk activity. But if the task in question normally completes in a few seconds, you needn’t wait that long.
Finding detailed information about a program
To see detailed information about the process that’s running an app, right-click the app and choose Go To Details. This takes you to a related item on the Details tab. Right-clicking Microsoft Outlook, for example, takes you to Outlook.exe, the name of Outlook’s executable file (see Figure 6-7).
For each process, Task Manager includes the following information by default: image name (the name of the process), process ID (PID), status (running or suspended, for example), user name (the name of the account that initiated the process), CPU (the percentage of the CPU’s capacity the process is currently using), memory (the amount of memory the process requires to perform its regular functions, also known as the private working set), and description (a text field identifying the process). To display additional information for each process, right-click one of the headings and choose Select Columns.
Figure 6-7 Right-clicking an item on the Processes tab and then clicking Go To Details takes you straight to the related item on the Details tab.
The App History tab, like the Processes tab, provides information about how programs are using system resources. But App History, shown in Figure 6-8, knows only about apps that are distributed as packages through the Store; that includes all modern apps, of course, but desktop applications are listed here if they’ve been converted to an app package by using the MSIX packaging technology described earlier in this chapter.
App History accumulates its information over some range of time, giving you an approximate idea of how you have been using your computer. If you never clear and restart the history, it will record everything going back one month. You can start fresh by clicking Delete Usage History.
Figure 6-8 The App History tab tells you how much CPU time and other resources an app has used over a period of time.
As on other Task Manager tabs, you can sort information on the App History tab by clicking column headings. Clicking CPU Time, for example, brings the heavy hitters to the top of the list. Note, however, that Task Manager already calls your attention to the biggest consumers by means of color mapping, with the darkest colors assigned to the largest numbers.
History is interesting, but you might also find the App History tab useful as a program launcher. Right-click any item in any column, and you’ll find a Switch To command. If the program is running, this command brings it front and center. If it’s not running, Task Manager launches it.
MANAGING STARTUP PROGRAMS
Setting up a Win32 desktop application to run automatically when you start Windows is easy. Many programs do this automatically, sometimes without bothering to ask for your consent; if you want a specific legacy desktop program to run every time you begin a Windows session, create a shortcut for the program in the Startup folder. Here’s one way to do it:
- On Start, right-click the program you want to run at startup and choose More > Open File Location. You’ll find a shortcut for the program in the File Explorer window that appears.
- Open a second File Explorer window, and type shell:startup in the address bar to navigate to the Startup folder in your user profile: %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.
- Copy the program’s shortcut from the first File Explorer window to the second.
Other ways a program can be made to run at startup A shortcut in the Startup folder is only one of many ways in which a program can be made to run at startup.
Programs that set themselves up to run automatically have a great many other methods at their disposal (and administrators who configure systems for others can use the same techniques). The list includes the following:
- Run key (machine) Programs listed in the registry’s HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run key are available at startup to all users. For 32-bit programs, this data might be stored in HKLM\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\Curren tVersion\Run.
- Run key (user) Programs listed in the HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run key run when the current user signs in. A similar subkey, HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows\Run, can also be used.
- Load value Programs listed in the Load value of the registry key HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows run when any user signs in.
- Scheduled tasks The Windows Task Scheduler can specify tasks that run at startup. (See Chapter 19.) In addition, an administrator can set up tasks for your computer to run at startup that are not available for you to change or delete.
- Win.ini Programs written for 16-bit Windows versions can add commands to the Load= and Run= lines in the [Windows] section of this startup file, which is located in %SystemRoot%. The Win.ini file is a legacy of the Windows 3.1 era and is available only on 32- bit Windows 10 installations.
- RunOnce and RunOnceEx keys This group of registry keys identifies programs that run only once, at startup. These keys can be assigned to a specific user account or to the machine:
- HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ RunOnce
- HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ RunOnceEx
- HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\R unOnce
- HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\R unOnceEx
- RunServices and RunServicesOnce keys As their names suggest, these rarely used keys can control the automatic startup of services. They can be assigned to a specific user account or to a computer.
- Winlogon key The Winlogon key controls actions that occur when you sign in to a computer running Windows. Most of these actions are under the control of the operating system, but you can also add custom actions here. The HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Userinit and HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Shell subkeys can automatically launch programs.
- Group Policy The Group Policy console includes two policies (one in Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Logon and one in the comparable User Configuration folder) called Run These Programs At User Logon that specify a list of programs to be run whenever any user signs in.
- Policies\Explorer\Run keys Using policy settings to specify startup programs, as described in the previous paragraph, creates corresponding values in either of two registry keys: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\E xplorer\Run or HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\E xplorer\Run.
- Logon scripts Logon scripts, which run automatically at startup, can open other programs. Logon scripts are specified in Group Policy in Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Scripts (Startup/Shutdown) and User Configuration > Windows Settings > Scripts (Logon/Logoff).
In addition, modern apps can programmatically configure themselves to run at startup and can also run utility apps that are installed along with the app package.
Suspending or removing startup items
The problem many users have with startup programs is not with creating them (that’s easy, and in many cases, it happens without your explicit consent when the program is installed) but getting rid of them. Having too many startup programs not only makes your system take longer to start, it also has the potential to waste memory. If you don’t require a program at startup, you should consider removing it from your list of auto-starting programs.
If you created the startup item in the first place by the method described in the previous section, you can remove it by revisiting the Startup folder and pressing the Delete key. Often, the situation is not so simple, however, because—as we noted earlier—there are many other ways by which a program can be made to run at startup.
To see a list of startup processes, open Task Manager and switch to the Startup tab. As Figure 6-9 shows, this tab identifies each item and includes an estimate of its impact on the time required to start your Windows environment.
You can’t remove a startup item from this list, but you can disable it so that the item will not automatically run each time your computer starts up. To do this, select the item and then click Disable.
Figure 6-9 The Startup tab in Task Manager shows you which startup programs are enabled and how much impact each is estimated to have on your startup time.
By default, the Startup tab shows a bare minimum of information about each item on the list. For a more complete picture of each startup item, including detailed performance information, right-click any column heading on the Startup tab and make one or more of the following columns visible:
- Startup Type Lists where the command item is stored
- Disk I/O At Startup Measures total disk activity for the selected item during the most recent startup
- CPU At Startup Measures how long the CPU was active for the selected item during the most recent startup
- Running Now Distinguishes between commands that continue to run and those that exit after performing a startup task
- Disabled Time Displays the date and time when the item was disabled
- Command Line Displays the full path, including switches, for startup items
This list is far from exhaustive. It includes items that are in one of the CurrentVersion\Run keys in the Registry as well as items that are installed as part of a modern app and are programmed to run automatically at startup.
(You can identify the latter class of startup items from the Startup Type column, where the entry is blank; in addition, the Command Line column for this type of item shows the name of the executable but not the full path.)
If you’re not sure whether an item on the Startup tab is justifying its existence there, try disabling it and restarting. Alternatively, or additionally, you can rightclick the item and use the handy Search Online command to learn more about it. (For an alternative way to manage this set of startup programs, go to Settings > Apps > Startup.)
Advanced tools for managing startup items
The Startup tab in Task Manager is a fine way to disable startup behavior established by registry keys. Note, however, that Task Manager might not list every startup item; in particular, the list does not include items established by Group Policy or Task Scheduler.
To get the most comprehensive listing of items that run at startup, as well as a handy tool to prevent certain programs from starting, we recommend using Autoruns, a free utility from Microsoft’s Windows Sysinternals collection. Autoruns, which you can download from https://bit.ly/autoruns, shows all the registry keys and startup locations listed earlier. It also shows Explorer shell extensions, services, browser helper objects, and more. Autoruns is particularly useful for finding processes that don’t belong (such as a Trojan horse or other malware) or that you suspect of causing problems.
You can then disable these items without removing them while you test your theory, or you can delete their autorun command altogether.
Select an item, and its details appear at the bottom of the screen, as shown next. Disable an item by clearing the check box next to its name; you can later reenable it by selecting the check box. To clear an item from the autorun list, select it and click Entry > Delete. (Note that deleting removes only the entry in the registry or other location that causes the item to run; it does not delete the program.)
Although the tabs at the top of the Autoruns window filter the list of autorun items into various categories, the number of items can still be daunting. One nice feature of Autoruns is its ability to filter out components that are part of Windows or are digitally signed by Microsoft, because these are presumably safe to run. Commands on the Options menu control the appearance of these items.
You can also use the Compare feature in Autoruns to compare before and after snapshots of the data the program finds. Run Autoruns before you install a new program, save the data, run Autoruns again after you install the program, and compare the results to see what changes to autorun behavior were made by the program’s installation.
SETTING DEFAULT PROGRAMS AND FILE-TYPE ASSOCIATIONS
Most programs you use in Windows are associated with particular file types and protocols. These associations are what enable you, for example, to open an MP3 file in File Explorer and have your favorite audio program play the file, or click a hyperlink in a document or an email message and have your preferred browser take you to the appropriate website. Some of these associations were probably established by the operating system when you performed a clean install or an upgrade from an earlier version of Windows. (The Windows setup program gives you choices in this matter during the installation process, allowing you, for example, to accept the associations that Windows proposes or keep the ones you established before upgrading.) Regardless of how the associationsbetween programs and file types and protocols are currently set, Windows allows you to see and modify the settings.
For a quick and easy way to set the default apps for the six most common computer tasks, go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps. Figure 6-10 shows an example of what you’re likely to see.
Figure 6-10 The Default Apps page in Settings provides a quick way to change the program associated with certain types of documents.
In the figure, you can see that, for example, the built-in Photos app is the default photo viewer. To change that, click the Photos icon:
As this example illustrates, a default installation of Windows 10 includes no fewer than four programs that you can use for viewing and editing photos: As an alternative to the Photos app (which is given special treatment with the Recommended For Windows 10 label), you can choose the old-school Paint, the newfangled Paint 3D, or the even newer-fangled Snip & Sketch app. If none of these options works for you, click the final link to look for something else in the Microsoft Store.
But just because a program is identified in Settings as the default for a file type does not mean that program is assigned to open every file type it can open. To see all the file types that a program is capable of opening, click Set Defaults By App at the bottom of the Default Apps list in Settings. Then click the name of an app and click Manage. In the following illustration, for example, you see a small portion of a long scrolling list that shows Photos has been set as the default app for 50 of the 74 file types that it can open.
To change the association for a particular file type—for example, to change the app assigned to .tiff files from the legacy Windows Photo Viewer to the more modern Snip & Sketch—click the program name in the column to the right of the file type. Then make your selection in the Choose An App list that appears.
What if, for some reason, you want to assign a file type to a program that does not appear in the Choose An App list? To do this, return to the Default Apps page in Settings and click Choose Default Apps By File Type. As Figure 6-11 shows, Windows responds with a long alphabetized list of all the file types known to your system.
Figure 6-11 By clicking Choose Default Apps By File Type in Settings, you can control the associations for every file type recognized by your system.
Scrolling through the list to the file type in question and clicking the name of the program currently associated with this type allows you to choose a different installed program or visit the Store.
Using a nondefault program on a case-by-case basis
If you just want to open a file occasionally in an application that’s not the default for that file type, there’s no need to go through all the business of changing the default application. Right-click the file in File Explorer and choose Open With. Windows displays a menu offering the various applications that can open the selected file type. If you don’t find the one you want, click Choose Another App. This time a menu similar to the one shown in Figure 6-12 appears.
Figure 6-12 Right-clicking a file in File Explorer and choosing Open With > Choose Another App leads to a menu like this.
You can do two things in this menu. You can change the default for the selected file type (by selecting one of the listed apps and then clicking Always Use This App), or you can go for something altogether different by clicking More Apps. Doing this brings up a list of programs, many if not most of which will be completely unsuitable for the selected file type. Select one of these if you’re curious to see what will happen. But don’t click Always Use This App unless you’re quite sure. If the program isn’t what you want, it will simply make a nuisance of itself, and you’ll have to go to the trouble of making something else the default.
TURNING WINDOWS FEATURES ON OR OFF
If you want to disable or enable certain default Windows features, open Settings and type turn windows features on or off in the search box. Run the top search result to display the dialog box shown in Figure 6- 13.
Figure 6-13 The Windows Features dialog box provides a simple way to disable or enable selected programs.
Here you can enable Hyper-V Management Tools (if they’re not already enabled), disable Internet Explorer 11 if you have no further need for it, and so on. Note that some items in the list have subentries. Those marked by a filled check box (rather than a check mark) have some components enabled and some not.
As with so many features in Windows 10, you can find an alternative to some of these options; visit Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > Optional Features to see a much shorter list of features that includes options for uninstalling Internet Explorer 11 and Windows Media Player.
SETTING AUTOPLAY OPTIONS
AutoPlay is the feature that enables Windows to take appropriate action when you insert removable storage media such as a CD, DVD, or memory card into a drive. The operating system detects the kind of disc or media you inserted and takes the action you requested for that type of media.
If you don’t want Windows to take any action, you can simply ignore the message; it disappears after a few seconds. Otherwise, clicking or tapping the message brings you to the screen shown in Figure 6-14.
Notice that your choices here are limited to ones that are appropriate for the device type and Take No Action. (For example, if you insert an audio CD, your only choices are the default app for playing audio CDs and Take No Action.) If you don’t want to commit to any of the options on this menu, press Esc.
Figure 6-14 When you insert a removable drive, Windows asks what you’d like to do with similar actions in the future.
In any case, if you set a default action for a particular media type and subsequently change your mind and want a different default, open Settings > Devices > AutoPlay. Shown in Figure 6-15, AutoPlay in Settings gives you options for configuring removable drives and memory cards. To configure AutoPlay settings for DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and CDs, you’ll need to go the corresponding page in Control Panel.
Figure 6-15 The AutoPlay page in Settings lets you configure AutoPlay behavior for removable drives and memory cards. Use Control Panel to configure AutoPlay for DVDs, CDs, and other removable media.
In the Control Panel counterpart for this corner of Settings, you’ll see a dialog box comparable to the one shown in Figure 6-16.
Figure 6-16 For each media type, Windows displays a list of appropriate possibilities you can choose from.