Windows 10’s registry is packed with useful hidden settings you can’t find anywhere else in Windows. From classic registry hacks that worked on Windows 7 to all-new hacks for Windows 10, here are our favorites.
Switch Windows With a Single Click on the Taskbar
Like Windows 7 before it, Windows 10 combines multiple windows from running applications into a single button on your taskbar. When you click the button, you see thumbnails of your open windows and you can click the one you want.
But what if you could simply click an application’s taskbar button to open the last window you actively used? What if you could keep clicking the button to cycle through your open windows? You could switch between windows much more quickly.
That’s what the “LastActiveClick” setting does. You can also simply press the Ctrl key and hold it down as you click a taskbar button to achieve this behavior, but LastActiveClick makes it the default behavior when you click a taskbar button—no holding down a key required. You have to enable LastActiveClick with a registry hack.
This was one of our favorite registry settings on Windows 7, and it’s just as useful on Windows 10.
Add Apps to the Desktop Context Menu
Applications often add shortcuts to your Windows context menus, and you can remove them if you like. If you want to add your own shortcuts, visit the registry.
You can add a shortcut for any application to the Windows desktop’s context menu, giving you the ability to launch your most frequently used applications with a quick right-click on the desktop. Whether that’s Notepad or a web browser, you can hack anything you want into that menu via the registry.
Show Seconds in the Taskbar Clock
Windows 10 lets you add seconds to your taskbar clock so you can see the precise time at a glance. Most people won’t need this, but that precision is valuable. After all, Windows automatically synchronizes your PC’s clock with network time servers so it should be accurate down to the second.
This wasn’t possible on Windows 7 without a third-party utility that modifies your taskbar clock. In fact, Microsoft first experimented with this feature back in the 90s. It caused performance problems on PCs back then, so it was removed before the release of Windows 95. Now, 25 years later, you can finally get seconds on your taskbar by adding the “ShowSecondsInSystemClock ” value to your registry.
Remove 3D Objects (and Other Folders) From This PC
The “This PC” view in Windows 10’s File Explorer includes quite a few folders you may never use, like “3D Objects.” C’mon, Microsoft: How many Windows users really need a folder for 3D models front and center in their file managers?
While Windows doesn’t offer an obvious way to remove them from the This PC view, you can do it in the registry. You can remove the 3D Objects folder from File Explorer by editing the registry. You can also remove other folders like Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos, if you like.
Hide OneDrive from File Explorer
OneDrive is built into Windows 10, but what if you don’t want to use it? You can uninstall OneDrive, sure. But, even if you do, you’ll see a “OneDrive” option in File Explorer’s sidebar.
To actually get rid of OneDrive and clear up the clutter in File Explorer, you’ll have to get rid of the OneDrive sidebar entry in the registry.
Ditch the Lock Screen
Windows 10 includes a lock screen featuring beautiful images thanks to Windows Spotlight. It even has widgets so you can see information from “Universal” apps like Windows 10’s Mail and Calendar apps on your lock screen.
But let’s be honest, the lock screen was originally designed for Windows 8 tablets. If you’re using a desktop PC or laptop, the lock screen is just another screen you have to press Space to bypass before typing your PIN or password. It is beautiful if you enable Windows Spotlight, though—and we haven’t seen Microsoft abuse Spotlight by inserting advertisements in a while—so it’s not all bad
To get rid of the lock screen, you can edit your registry and add the “NoLockScreen” value. Windows will go straight to the sign-in prompt whenever you boot, wake, or lock your PC.
Remove Bing Search from the Start Menu
When you type a search in your Start menu, Windows normally searches the web using Bing.
That’s all fine and good if you want it, but what if you just want local search? Well, Microsoft doesn’t offer an easy way to disable it.
Thankfully, you can still disable Bing with a registry hack. Toggle “DisableSearchBoxSuggestions” off and the Windows taskbar will just search your local files. Your searches won’t be sent to Microsoft’s servers and you won’t see Bing results when you’re just looking for local files.
Get Rid of Cortana
Cortana is also tightly integrated into Windows 10’s taskbar experience. You can disable Cortana completely, but only by editing the registry. Disable the “AllowCortana” value and Microsoft’s voice assistant won’t appear as an option for the taskbar or in your Start menu.
RELATED: How to Disable Cortana in Windows 10
Disable Shake to Minimize
Did you know you can shake a window to minimize all your other windows? Many people only come across this feature by accident when they start moving a window by dragging its title bar and move their mouse around quickly.
It’s easy to see how this feature can get in the way. To prevent accidentally triggering this feature if you never use it—and really, how many people do?—you have to enable “DisallowShaking” in the registry.
Use Windows Photo Viewer Instead of the Photos app
Okay, let’s be honest—Windows 10’s included Photos app is a little slow. Every time you double-click an image in File Explorer and wait for Photos to load and display it, you have a split second to wonder “Weren’t image viewers faster a decade ago?”.
The Photos app isn’t the only game in town, and you can still install third-party applications for a different, faster image-viewing experience. The old standby IrfanView is still around and is as fast as ever.
But, if you miss the Windows Photo Viewer application from Windows 7, you can get it back. It’s still included on Windows 10, but Microsoft removed the registry settings that let you open image files in it and set it as your default image viewer. They’re not present on a new PC with Windows 10 or an old PC with a fresh install of Windows 10, but they are present if you upgraded your PC from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
No matter, because you can use a registry hack to import the necessary registry settings on any Windows 10 PC. After adding the necessary settings to your registry, Windows Photo Viewer will appear as an option in the “Open With” menu and you can even set it as your default application for any type of images, replacing Windows 10’s Photos app.
These registry hacks all still work on Windows 10’s were tested on Windows 10’s October 2020 Update, which was the most recent version available in mid-April 2021.
Many of these options can also be changed in the Group Policy Editor instead of RegEdit, the Registry Editor. However, you can only edit group policy if you have Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise, or Education. The registry hacks will work on all versions of Windows 10, including Windows 10 Home.