Optimize Windows 11 for Special Purpose Use

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Strip Down and Optimize Windows 11 for Kiosks Digital Signage and Special Purpose Systems

Debloated Windows 11 OS

Windows 11 is an excellent operating system enabling robust and reliable machines for nearly any computing requirement. Due to its popularity, broad developer support, breadth of built-in capabilities, and unrivaled out-of-the-box support for peripheral devices, it is the platform of choice for hundreds-of-thousands of mission critical, industrial applications such as kiosks, digital signage, POS, and other specific purpose systems.

A shortfall of using Windows 11 out-of-the-box is dealing with the bloatware included that often absorbs valuable system resources and increases security risks. However, these issues can be addressed by stripping down and optimizing the operating system. The remainder of this article is dedicated to the many options available to strip down (debloat) and optimize Windows 11 for special purpose use.

Optimize Windows 11 for Special Purpose Use

In order to optimize Windows 11 for specific purpose functionality, the OS environment should be:

Configured specifically to support the special purpose application
Stripped down to include only the needed OS features
 Optimized for speed and increased system resources (CPU, memory, storage)

To assist with these optimizations, Inteset has provided a detailed check-list and brief instructions on the various Windows 11 elements that can be adjusted or removed to improve the environment for special purpose use. It is recommended that a series of OS images or Windows Restore Points be created periodically during the configuration process so that, in case of any misconfigurations, the system can easily be reverted to the last good setup. In addition, when configurations are completed, a master image can be created for deployment on multiple systems with the same hardware. There are several image creation solutions available such as Macrium Reflect or AOMEI Backupper.

Note that the list below constitutes as recommendations and in its entirety, may not fit all Windows configuration scenarios. Also note that many of the suggestions listed do not provide specific instructions as they go beyond the scope of this article. In this case, links to relevant detailed instructional sites are provided for your convenience.

Adjust Windows Settings for Special Use

This section covers recommended changes to various Windows 11 settings that are more suitable for special purpose use.

1. Create a New Administrator Account: In addition to the Windows account used for the special purpose use, it is recommended that a second, password protected local administrator account be created to more easily facilitate a system recovery if needed.
2. Configure Windows Auto Login (detailed instructions) - Typically special purpose configured systems are set up to boot directly into the application. Auto login provides that ability.
3. Turn Off Windows Notifications: Settings > System > Notifications
4. Turn Off System Icons: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Taskbar icons on or off
5. If using Windows Defender: Create an Exclusion for your application folder
6. Turn Off Windows Defender Notifications: Settings > Windows Defender > Open Windows Defender > Settings (icon) > Windows Defender Antivirus | Firewall Notifications
7. Turn Off Snap: Settings > System > Multitasking  > Snap
8. Turn Off Virtual Desktops: Settings > System > Multitasking > Desktops > Only the desktop I’m...
9Set Taskbar to Auto Hide: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Automatically hide the Taskbar
10. Set Taskbar to not display badges: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Show badges...
11. Set Taskbar to not display badges: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Show badges...
. Set Taskbar to not share windows: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Show my taskbar on all displays
13. Set Taskbar to not show the desktop: Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Share any window...
14. Remove Start Menu Items: Settings Privacy & security > turn off all options
15Turn Off UAC: Control Panel > User Accounts > Change User Account Control settings
16Disable WiFi Services: Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi
17Disable Mobile Hotspot: Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile Hotspot

Remove Windows Start Menu Items

This section discusses how to remove items from the Windows Start Menu in order to display only the desired applications.

1. Remove Folders: Settings > Personalization > Start > Folders > Choose which folders appear on Start next to the Power button
2. Remove Start Menu Recommended Apps: Right-click on each item and choose Unipin, or Uninstall (if available)
3. Remove Start Menu List Items: Enter the following in the Windows Run dialog, then delete the unneeded shortcuts and folders:

%AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

Remove Unnecessary Apps and Windows Built-In Components

This section covers the removal of unneeded Windows applications and features such as Internet Explorer 11 and many built-in Windows 10 packages.

1. Remove Unnecessary Apps & Features: Settings > Apps > Apps & Features

Be sure not to uninstall needed system applications such as special graphics or network application specific to the computer. Be sure to uninstall Windows Update Assistant. If it is not uninstalled, it will download and install all Windows Updates (even if the Windows Update Service is disabled).

2. Remove Optional Apps & Features: Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > Manage optional features
3. Remove Unnecessary Built-in Windows System Apps (detailed instructions)

Remove or Disable Other Windows Features

This section lists several miscellaneous Windows core components to remove or disable such as Cortana, Edge Browser, and OneDrive as well as other unnecessary features. Performing these suggestions will assist in better boot speeds and improved system resources.

1. Turn Off Windows Recovery Screen: remove the Windows Recovery screen if there is a power failure.

Run a command prompt as an admin
Type "bcdedit /set {current} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures"

. Disable Windows Recovery Dump Files:  Control Panel > System and Security > System > Advanced system settings > Startup and Recovery > Settings

Disable Write an event to the system log
Enable Automatic restart
Set Write debugging information > none

3. Remove Cortana (detailed instructions)
4. Remove Connect (detailed instructions)
5. Remove Edge Browser (detailed instructions)
6. Uninstall OneDrive (detailed instructions)
7. Uninstall other unneeded apps (detailed instructions)
8Remove Unneeded Windows Services (detailed instructions)
9Disable the Windows Update Service (detailed instructions)
10Delete the Windows Restore Partition (detailed instructions)

System BIOS Settings to Consider Adjusting

To optimize boot times further and improve security, there are several BIOS-level settings to consider.

1. Set a password to access the BIOS
2. Set the system to power on after a power outage
3. Enable Quick Start boot options
4. Disable any unused BIOS-level components such as boot from network or USB options

Lock Down Windows

To secure the setup of the special purpose system and to ensure that only the application(s) intended for the system are available, it is highly recommended that the applicable Secure Lockdown product be incorporated into your Windows 11 configuration.
Learn more about Inteset Secure Lockdown...