Some things in life are certain: death and taxes, the Cubs finding a way to avoid winning the World Series, and Microsoft Windows driving people crazy.
I can't do anything about the Grim Reaper, the IRS, or the Cubbies, but I can help with solutions to the six Windows 10 annoyances I hear about most frequently.
Sign in with a local account instead of a Microsoft account
The single biggest complaint I hear from new Windows 10 users is that Setup forces you to sign in with a Microsoft account. That's not actually true, but Microsoft has hidden the local account option so well that the publishers of Where's Waldo? are thinking of filing a patent infringement lawsuit.
During the initial setup, Windows 10 encourages you to sign in with a Microsoft account (or create a new one). You can choose a local account instead by choosing the ever-so-tiny Skip this step option during setup. When creating a new account in Windows 10, you have to choose the equally teensy I don't have this person's sign-in information option to get to that step.
If you were snookered into connecting your Windows 10 PC to a Microsoft account, here's how to undo that decision.
Open Settings. Click Accounts > Your email and accounts. That takes you to this page.
Click Sign in with a local account instead. That takes you to a dialog box like this one, where you can enter a local user name and password.
You'll still be able to use services that require a Microsoft account. You'll just need to sign in to each one individually.
Tone down telemetry settings
No, Windows 10 isn't spying on you or stealing your personal files. But it does share a lot of telemetry information with Microsoft. Mostly, telemetry information is about how well (or poorly) your PC operates, along with a smattering of information about how you use it.
But the default setting sends a maximum amount of information to Redmond, including detailed crash reports that could include confidential information. Yes, you can override the default settings and choose the Customize option. If you slide that bottom switch to the left, you're good, right?
Wrong. When you flip that switch during setup, all you're doing is switching from Full to Enhanced, which is like changing your Starbucks order from Venti to Grande. The setting you want is called Basic, and to get to it, you need to open the Settings app and then click Privacy > Feedback & Diagnostics. Click the arrow at the right of the Send your device data to Microsoft option to see this full list.
Choose Basic, close Settings, and bask in your newfound privacy.
Set your default browser
Are you sure you don't want to use Microsoft Edge? Are you really sure?
Windows 10 handles defaults apps in a different fashion from its predecessors. So when you install your favorite browser and choose the option to set it as the default, you might find Edge popping up more often than you expected.
This, for example, is what you might see if you install Google Chrome and then try to open a local HTML file.
The secret is to change all the default file type associations, which can only be accomplished by going to the old-school Control Panel and opening the Set All Defaults dialog box. Open Control Panel, choose Programs, and then click Set your default programs under the Default Programs heading. You should end up here.
As you can see, there are a few defaults (17 of 19, to be exact) missing in this configuration. Click Set this program as default to make your preferred browser pop up every time you expect it to.
"Please go away, Cortana"
If you don't want Microsoft's personal assistant to chime in when you use the search box, that's your right. With Cortana disabled, the search box on the taskbar stays focused on local files, settings, and apps.
You have to opt in to Cortana, who is charmingly persistent in her attempts to get you to click the next button and begin using your Bing-powered personal assistant.
If you missed the "No, thanks" opportunity and turned Cortana on, you can change your mind any time. Click in the search box on the taskbar to bring up the Cortana pane. Click the hamburger menu in the upper left corner, click Notebook, then click Settings (look for the gear icon) to open this menu.
Slide that top switch to Off, and Cortana is silenced until you reverse that setting.
Keep your BitLocker key under lock and key
Business editions of Windows 10 (Pro, Enterprise, and Education) include BitLocker Drive Encryption as a built-in feature. You can encrypt the system drive on devices with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, and you can encrypt any removable drive using BitLocker as well. New UEFI-based devices running any edition of Windows 10 include full disk encryption, which is turned on when you sign in for the first time with a Microsoft account.
By default, the recovery keys for those drives are stored in your OneDrive account.
That's convenient, but it also makes some people nervous. If you'd prefer to keep those keys out of the cloud and manage them yourself, here's how.
First, go to the BitLocker Recovery Keys page at https://onedrive.com/recoverykey, and sign in with your Microsoft account if necessary. Click the arrow next to the key you want to remove to expose a few extra details and, crucially, a Delete option.
Copy the key first, save it to a safe place, and then click Delete.
If you're worried that a copy of that key might still be recoverable from OneDrive, take an extra step. From the BitLocker Control Panel, disable encryption for the device, making the saved recovery key useless. Then re-enable BitLocker encryption, but this time skip OneDrive and instead save the key locally or print it out and lock it up.
Stop Windows Update interruptions
One of the biggest changes in Windows 10 is the way it handles updates. Instead of delivering each update individually, with the option to accept or reject each one, Microsoft has decided to deliver updates as cumulative packages, installed automatically, with no option to reject individual updates.
One resulting annoyance is that those automatic updates might end up installing at an inconvenient time. For that, there's an easy fix. Open Settings, click Update & Security, and on the Windows Update page click Advanced options. Under the heading "Choose how updates are installed," change the setting from Automatic to Notify to schedule restart.
The next time Windows downloads a package of updates, you'll see a notification of a suggested installation time. You can reschedule that date and time by up to five days.