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The 12 Windows apps I keep (and the 11 I dump) on every new install

A default installation of Windows 11 includes dozens of Microsoft apps. Which ones are worth keeping, and which ones should you uninstall? These are my top picks.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor
recycling can full of paper
Spiderstock/Getty Images

Prompted by European regulators and the Digital Markets Act, Microsoft is about to greatly expand your ability to declutter a Windows PC -- specifically, by adding an uninstall option to some Microsoft apps that previously lacked that choice. That's a pretty big deal!

Also: The best Windows laptops: Expert tested and reviewed

Windows (the operating system) is valuable to Microsoft on its own, thanks to PC makers that pay a royalty for every new PC they sell. But that's just the base revenue. Windows is even more valuable for its ability to bundle and promote a collection of free and paid apps and services, many of them owned and operated by Microsoft. They're installed alongside Windows and occasionally pop up to pester you with the goal of getting you to spend more money on Microsoft services, thereby increasing your value to Microsoft Corporation (MSFT:NASDAQ).

Here, for example, is what the Start menu looks like on a brand-new Windows 11 Pro virtual machine I just set up using a Microsoft account.

windows-11-start-default-apps

All these apps are included by default with Windows 11, but you can remove them if you like.

Screenshot by Ed Bott/ZDNET

Some of those are third-party apps, of course. In this example, Spotify, WhatsApp, and Camo pay Microsoft for the privilege of being included on the Start menu. Those aren't actually installed apps, only shortcuts that download and install the app if you click them. Right-click one of those third-party shortcuts, click Unpin from Start, and it's like they were never there.

Also: How to use Copilot (formerly called Bing Chat)

But that's not the case with the Microsoft-branded apps and utilities included with Windows 11. Want to see the entire collection? Go to Settings > Apps > Installed Apps and type Microsoft in the search box at the top of the page. When I tried that on a Surface Pro 9, that list included nearly 50 apps, some essential and others completely unnecessary.

And that's where the aforementioned European competition rules come into play. Thanks to a recent update, you can now uninstall most of those apps.

This isn't about disk space or system resources. These built-in apps take up very little disk space and use no CPU or graphics power unless you choose to run them. The real issue is simple: If you don't want an app on your PC, you have the right to remove it.

Also: Windows 11: Do these six things right away after you finish setup

I've done exactly that on the systems I use day in and day out for productivity. Some apps earn a place of honor, pinned to Start, or to the taskbar, or to both. Others get uninstalled completely, because I know I have no use for them. And then there's a third group, representing apps that I don't want cluttering up the Start menu but keep available in the All Apps list, just in case.

Here's a rundown on how I decided which apps to keep and which to toss.

The apps I use

A handful of apps get top billing on my PCs.

  1. Microsoft Store

Do not attempt to uninstall this app. It's necessary for updating many of the built-in system apps, and thanks to recent changes in the Store's design, it's also a great way to find and install conventional desktop apps from a secure source.

2. Microsoft Edge

Microsoft's default browser is at the top of my list. Because it's based on the open-source Chromium engine, it doesn't suffer from the serious compatibility problems that plagued its predecessor (which had the same name, confusingly). It's even compatible with extensions from the Google Chrome store. And it has tracking protection features that eliminate the need to install an ad-blocking extension.

Also: How to tighten your security in Microsoft Edge

Edge has its share of annoyances, especially its insistence on showing coupons for shopping sites and its hard-to-customize home page. But I still consider it a keeper. If you prefer an alternative browser, feel free to remove its shortcut from Start and replace it with your choice.

3. Snipping Tool

I absolutely love this little utility, which lets you capture all or part of your screen with a click. You can save the result as a PNG or JPEG file or paste a snip directly into an email message or social media post. It hasn't replaced SnagIt, which is still my go-to program for capturing screenshots for work, but it's good enough for everyday tasks. 

Also: How to screen record in Windows 10 or Windows 11

Amazingly, Microsoft's developers keep adding features to this product that actually make it better, like the recent addition of the ability to extract text from a capture, as well as the ability to record screencasts coming soon.

This one is worth memorizing the keyboard shortcut: Windows + Shift + S.

4-5. Microsoft OneNote and Sticky Notes

I'm going to lump these together in the same entry because they're all tied together.

I've been using OneNote since it came out 20 years ago. I have a collection of notebooks that represent my entire work history, and my wife and I also use shared notebooks to handle a myriad of household tasks. It was originally part of Microsoft Office but the app is now included with Windows and uses the free OneDrive account you get when you sign in with a Microsoft account. If you don't use OneNote, you can safely uninstall it without any consequences.

Also: The best note-taking tablets

The Sticky Notes app for Windows should feel familiar. Apps that let you stick a virtual Post-it® note on your PC display have been around as long as I can remember. This one, which is built into Windows 10 and 11, retains the simplicity of the original. Its killer feature is that you can also create sticky notes on a smartphone and sync them with your Windows PC. I've got the corresponding widgets installed on my Android phone and my iPhone (where it syncs seamlessly with Apple's own Notes app!), making it pretty easy to jot a quick note to myself and find it later.

6-8. Notepad, Paint, and Calculator

Let's hear it for the throwback apps, which have been around since the earliest days of Windows and are still in active development. All three of these apps have received updates to support modern UX standards. Notepad now does multiple tabs and auto-saves your work. Paint can do format conversions with minimal effort. And good old calculator can do much more than numbers, including unit conversions and date calculations. It can even produce graphs!

9. Solitaire 

This one's my guilty pleasure. I even pay the $10 a year to remove ads, which are otherwise too annoying for me to play.

10. Microsoft OneDrive

I have a Microsoft 365 Family subscription and a Microsoft 365 Business subscription, each with 1 TB of online storage, and I use them regularly. Even if you don't use the Office apps included with Microsoft 365, though, the 5 GB of storage included with a free Microsoft account is useful for quickly transferring files between devices and is accessible even if you sign in with a local account. I don't recommend deleting this app.

11. Media Player

Microsoft is infamous for assigning confusing names to its apps, and it should get extra credit for this one. The Media Player app in Windows 11 is not the same as Windows Media Player, which has been part of Windows for more than three decades and is still available in Windows 11 for no apparent reason. The new app with the old name is the successor to the ill-fated Groove app from Windows 10, which in turn can trace its lineage back to the ill-fated Zune app.

Also: Can you still get a Windows 10 upgrade for free?

Anyway, this is a perfectly good option for playing back random audio and video files. I recommend leaving it installed but replacing it with your favorite alternative media player. (For me, that's MediaMonkey.)

12. Microsoft Photos

Microsoft Photos is more than competent as a way to view your photo library and do minor edits. You probably have a preferred alternative, so consider doing as I do: Leave this app installed but remove its shortcut from the Start menu and replace it with your favorite photo editing app.

The apps I dump

I mean no disrespect to the apps on this list, but several are already deprecated and others might as well be, given how little attention they've received in recent years. If you're a fan of any of these apps, feel free to keep using them. The rest of us can cheerfully right-click the Uninstall option and move on.

1. Microsoft To Do

It makes a simple task list overly complicated.

2. Xbox Live

I'm not a gamer, so this is an easy decision for me. Uninstalled.

3. Movies & TV

This app is mostly a front end to protected video content you buy or rent from the Microsoft Store, where you can also find content from Amazon Prime Video. I replace it with VLC Media Player.

4. Maps

Back when Microsoft had a mobile strategy, it made sense to have an app that would work with your GPS. Today, if you want to find a location on your Windows PC, you use Google Maps or Bing Maps. I suspect this app will be gone when the next major version of Windows is released.

5. News and Weather

It's a mystery why these two apps are still available in Windows. They haven't been updated in years and Microsoft's current strategy is to cram news into Windows 11 Widgets and the default home page for Edge.

6. Cortana

This app is officially deprecated. If you try to run it, you get a message telling you so.

7. Journal

This was supposed to be a showcase for the digital pen included with tablet PCs, but I've never seen anyone use it except as part of a Microsoft product demo.

8-10. Mail, Calendar, and People

These legacy apps are being replaced by the new Outlook.

11. Microsoft Teams (free)

Unless you have a compelling reason to keep this one around, feel free to dump it. It's not the same as the Teams app you use for work, and it's just going to confuse you. 

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