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Handy Windows 11 Tricks and Keyboard Shortcuts that Make Life Easier

You’ll find in this post the Windows 11 tricks and keyboard shortcuts that help you handle a computer much more efficiently. So much so that they might inspire you to move to the latest operating system if you’re still using Windows 10.

If so, the very first tip below will help you with the migration process, including when you use a computer that doesn’t meet the new operating system’s hardware requirements.

Make it a weekend project to master them all — they are pretty straightforward — or check back once in a while for reference when you forget. I’ll likely update this post with new tricks anyway.

There are a lot of ways to customize Windows 11 to your likings.

Windows 11 tricks and keyboard shortcuts: The list

Before we continue, let’s go through a few mundane things that we tend to assume that everyone knows.

In reality, well, some don’t, or at least don’t care enough to remember which is which. And we can’t go forward if we’re not on the same page in terms of names, to say the least.

Common windows items and shortcuts

Again, savvy users need not apply, though this part can be a good refresher on Microsoft Windows in general. But if you think you’re too cool for it, click here to cut to the chase.

  • The Taskbar: This is the bar that, by default, runs at the bottom of your computer’s screen. Among other things, it holds the Start button and shortcut icons of other software.
  • The Start button: This is the first icon on the Taskbar (from left). It has the logo of Windows. When you hit the Start button, the Start menu will appear.
  • The Start menu: It’s the iconic graphical user interface element available since Windows 95. The menu, invoked via the Start button or the Windows key on the keyboard, holds shortcuts to applications and settings of the computer.
  • The Windows key: Available in most QWERTY keyboards, the Windows key lies between the Ctrl and Alt keys at the lowest row. Its name comes from the fact it has the Windows logo on top. If you use a Mac keyboard (on a Windows computer), the Command key functions as the Windows key.
  • Esc (escape) key: This is the key at the top left corner of a keyboard. It’s generally used to quickly dismiss certain dialogs, or invoke the “Cancel” command.
  • A keyboard combo: A combination of one or more special keys (Ctrl, Alt, Windows, or Shift) with a regular key to start an action. To execuate a combo, you press and hold the special key(s) and then another key on the keyboard. Common Windows keyboard combos:
    • Ctrl + C (press and hold the Ctrl key and then press on C): Copy. The selected item will be stored in the Clipboard (you don’t see it) ready for you to paste it somewhere.
    • Ctrl + X: Cut. This is similar to Ctrl + C but when you paste the item, it will be removed from its original location (when possible.)
    • Ctrl + V: Paste (or place) the copied item at a new location.
    • Ctrl + Z: Undo an immediate previous action (when possible).

With that out of the way, let’s move on to other cool tricks.

1. Upgrade an “unsupported” Windows 10 hardware to Windows 11

By now, you must have been aware of Microsft’s ridiculous hardware requirements that prevent users from upgrading a Windows 10 computer, including some with powerful hardware, to its latest Windows 11.

See also  Windows 11: Possibly the Coolest, Albeit a Bit Controversial, Windows Release

The truth is, those requirements are arbitrary. All Windows 10 computers can be upgraded to Windows 11 for free. And there’s now an easy way to make that happen.

Windows Tricks Installing Windows on Windows computers
Windows tricks: Steps to install Windows 11 on a non-qualified Windows 10 computer.

All you have to do is:

  • On a non-qualified Windows 10 computer, (if you use the 32-bit version, which is rare, you will need to install the 64-bit version), download this tool.
  • Run the tool as administator and the rest is self-explanatory. But the screenshot above will help.

If you need more detailed instruction, this post on the in-place Windows 11 upgrade will hold your hands through the process. But the formula is:

Windows 10 (64-bit) + this upgrade tool = Windows 11

Tip: You can use this trick to put Windows 11 on a BootCamp Mac computer, too.

2. Avoid creating Microsoft account

When you want to create a new account in Windows 11, you’ll note that Microsoft tries to coerce you into making a Microsoft account — one that’s tied to its server so that it can link and put other services on you (like One Drive, Teams, Sky, etc.) later.

This approach is a terrible practice — it’s bad for your privacy, too — and it seems impossible to avoid if you use the Home version.

Windows 11 Tricks: Turning Internet off before making an user account in Windows
Windows 11 Tricks: Turning the Internet off before making a user account in Windows will save you from having to create a Microsoft account.

But you sure can avoid it, here’s how:

Disconnect your computer from the Internet before you proceed to create a new account.

Here’s how to temporarily disconnect, when applicable:

  • Unplug the computer’s network cable. Or
  • Temporarily turn off or disconnect its Wi-Fi via the little icon at the Taskbar’s right corner — you can also turn on the Airplane mode. (This is a good opportunity to use the Win + A keyboard shortcut — more below.)

The lack of Internet access will force Windows to allow you to create a local account.

You should also do this when you turn on a new Windows 11 computer for the first time. Skip the part where the OS asks you to connect to the Internet during the initial setup process. You can easily get connected after logging in — again, Win + A combo for the win!

(By the way, if for some reason you enjoy being treated as a product by Microsoft, you can always turn a local account into a Microsoft one by adding email to it — the OS will give you a lot of opportunities to do so.)

3. The Windows key shortcuts everyone should know

These are keyboard shortcuts that start with the Windows key (“Win” for short). To use it, you press and hold the Windows key and then press on another keyboard key.

For example, the Win + A combo means you press and hold the Windows key, then hit the A key on the keyboard.

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts note the Windows key among special keys
Windows Keyboard shortcuts: Note the Windows key with the iconic logon on this partial picture of a typical QWERTY keyboard. Can’t find it? Look more closely!

If you’re on a computer, you can try any of these combos below right now. They are fun! By the way, most of these also work on Windows 10 and earlier. (Again, if you’re on a Mac running BootCamp, use the Command key in the place of the Windows key.)

Win + AOpen Quick Settings where you can change time, Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, notification, etc.
Esc to close.
Win + BMove the mouse’s focus to the first item at the Taskbar corner at the lower right corner of the screen. Now you can use the Left and Right arrow keys to move between them and Enter to open the selected one.
Win + COpen Microsoft Teams.
(Windows 11 installs Microsoft Teams by default — good luck getting rid of it!)
Esc to close.
Win + Ctrl + DOpen a new Virtual Desktop. You will get a new desktop screen that’s clean.
Now you have the following applicable shortcuts:
Win + Ctrl + Left (or Right) Arrow: Switch between virtual desktops.
Windows + Ctrl+ F4: Close the current virtual desktop you’re viewing.
Win + DToggle: Minimize all windows and get you to the Desktop screen, or restore them to their original statuses.
(Toggle means you can switch between two repeatable actions by pressing the regular key again while still holding the special key (s) down.)
Win + EOpen File Explorer
Win + GOpen the Game Bar (only gamers need to apply).
Esc to close.
Win + HOpen Microsoft Speech Service (Windows 11’s built-in voice dictation).
Esc to close.
Win + HomeToggle: Minimize/restore all other windows, except for the one you’re working on — you won’t see anything if your current window is in the maximized state or if it’s the only open window.
Win + IOpen Windows 11’s Settings.
(This is equivalent to clicking on the Start menu and then on the Settings cogwheel.)
Win + KOpen Cast to connect the computer to a wireless display
(TV, projector, external display, etc.)
Esc to close.
Win + LLock the computer.
(You should always do this when you leave the computer for an extended amount of time.)
Win + MMinimize all open windows (similar to Win + D above, except it’s not a toggle).
Win + NOpen Notification Center.
Esc to close.
Win + POpen More Display setting, similar to Win + K but only for wired screens connected to the computer via a cable.
Esc to close.
Win + Pause/BreakOpen System -> About
(This is a quick way to know the specs of a computer)
Alternatively, you can use Win + I then click on About.
Win + PrtScnTake a screenshot of the entire screen
(On most computers, just the Prtscn will do.)
Ctrl + V: Paste the screenshot on an application, such as Paint.
Win + R Open the Run dialog
(This allows you to enter a quick command.)
Esc to close.
Win + S (or Q)Open the Search window and set the focus don’t eh search field. You now can type in a search term.
Esc to close.
Win + Shift + STake a screenshot of a portion of the screen.
(You’ll have the option to draw a rectangle of what you want to save as a photo.)
Ctrl+V: Paste the shot to any application.)
Win + Space BarRotate between available keyboards.
(Applicable only to those using multiple input languages or methods, such as English, Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.)
Win + TSet focus on the first application icon on the Taskbar (to the right of the Start button). Now you can use the Left and Right arrows to move between them and Enter to call up the selected application.
Win + TabDisplay all the Task Views (all open windows). You then have the option to pick which one you want to work on.
Esc to close.
(Alternatively, you can use the Alt + Tab, and in this case, you can keep holding Alt while tapping on Tab to move between the windows, releasing the Alt key to open the selected window.)
Win + VOpen the Clipboard. Here you have the option to turn on its History and manage items that you have stored in it via the Ctrl+ C combo mentioned above.
Esc to close.
Win +  WOpen Windows 11’s Widgets window.
Esc to close.
Win +  XOpen Menu X.
(Equivalent to right-clicking on the Start button.)
Esc to close.
Quick Win + keyboard shortcuts for Windows 11
Windows Tricks Windows System
Windows 11 Tricks: You can quickly call up the Windows System page via the Win + I combo. This page alone allows for lots of customization.

By the way, of these combos, the Win + S, Win + X, Win + R, Win + D, Win + I, and Win + E are my favorites, in that order. I use them almost every day.

See also  Windows Print Spooler Vulnerability: How to Manage it Today

Most importantly, practice the Win + S combo a few times and remember it! We’ll use it a lot from here on out.

4. Make your computer run faster by reducing unnecessary graphic effects and animations

By default Windows 11 comes with many flashy animations and transitional effects that, while cool, only make the computer slower.

The Windows 11 trick to improve system performance
The Windows 11 trick to improve system performance

For the most part, they waste system resources, and we should turn them off. Here are the steps:

  • Hit Win + S and enter the following text om the search field (you can copy and paste):
  • Press Enter to call up the System Properties window.
  • Pick the Advanced tab
  • Check the Custom radio button on then uncheck seven top checkboxes. (You can pick and choose but, really, uncheck all seven and possibly more!)
  • Click on Apply and then OK.

And that’s it. You’ll notice the better performance.

5. Remove unnecessary Startup programs

Almost all applications you put on your computer these days want to run automatically each time you turn the computer on.

Windows 11 Tricks: You can disable startup items using Windows Task Manager.
Windows 11 Tricks: You can disable startup items using Windows Task Manager.

While some must run on startup, most are just a waste of recourses while nagging for your attention, and we should disable them. Here are the steps:

  • Hit Win + S and enter the following text om the search field:
task manager
  • Press Enter to call up the Task Manager window.
  • If you see “More details” at the window’s bottom, click on it.
  • Pick the Startup tab
  • Select each startup program you don’t need to use and click on the Disable button.

6. Add shortcuts of an account’s profile folders to the Start menu

There’s an area at the bottom of the Start menu, which is blank by default that you can place shortcuts to your account’s quick access folders (Pictures, Downloads, Music, Video, etc.). They will come in handy.

Windows 11 Tricks: Here's ow to add personal folders' shortcuts to the Start menu.
Windows 11 Tricks: Here’s how to add personal folders’ shortcuts to the Start menu.

Here’s how to populate that area:

  • Hit Win + S and enter the following text om the search field:
start setting
  • As “Start settings” appears in the search result, hit Enter or click on it to open Personalization -> Start window
  • Click on Folder
  • Slide the dot for each folder to on (or off).

6. Customize Taskbar, including moving the Start menu to the left

By default Windows 11 put the Start menu in the middle of the screen and put the Taskbar items, including shortcuts of Search, Widgets, Chat, and Task view, on the Taskbar.

Windows 11 Tricks: Here's how to customize the Taskbar's items and move the Start menu to the left
Windows 11 Tricks: Here’s how to customize the Taskbar’s items and move the Start menu to the left.

Here’s how to change that:

  • Hit Win + S and enter the following text om the search field:
taskbar settings
  • Hit Enter or click on the search result to call up the Personalization -> Taskbar window.
  • To add/remove the Taskbar items: Move the dot to on or off on each of them.
  • To move the Start menu to the left: Click on Taskbar behaviors and change the value of Taskbar alignment to “Left”.
  • You can also use this page to customize other aspects of teh Taskhbar, including the corner overflow (right end) and more.

7. The good-old “God mode”

God mode is a fancy name for a trick dated back to Windows Vista. It’s a way for you to create a shortcut that opens up a window containing a vast collection of tools to customize the OS quickly.

Windows 11 Tricks: God mode is a folder that contains hudreds of quick-access shortcuts to diffrent functions of the opersating system
Windows 11 Tricks: God mode is a folder that contains dozens of quick-access shortcuts to different functions of the operating system

Here’s how to create this God mode shortcut:

  • Right-click on an empty space of the desktop, choose New -> Folder.
  • Copy and paste the following text and use it as the name of the new folder, then press Enter:

That’s it. Now you’ll see the icon of the folder change into that of the Control Panel. Open (double-click) it, and you will see a long list of shortcuts.

Alternatively, you can also rename any existing folder with that name to get the same result.

Important: If you choose to rename an existing folder with content (sub-folders and files) into this name, you will lose access to its content — it can be hard to get that back. The point is don’t do it. Only rename an empty folder to this name.

And that’s it for now. Check back in a while, and you might see more valuable tricks.

The takeway

For the most part, Windows 11 is Windows 10 in disguise. However, it does have a new user interface that requires some getting used to.

Hopefully, the new interface will remain more consistent than the case of Windows 10. But if not, using the Win + S combo and typing in the name of the item you need access to is will likely persist throughout different versions, as it has been that way since Windows 8.

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2 thoughts on “Handy Windows 11 Tricks and Keyboard Shortcuts that Make Life Easier”

  1. Dong, totally off topic but do you have any suggestions for a good all around laptop around $1000? Maybe something that you use and would recommend? Thank you!


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