Windows 10 Setup is Still Too Incomplete

Posted on January 4, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Windows, Windows 10 with 56 Comments

If you recently picked up a new Windows 10 device or performed a clean install of the OS, you were probably greeted by Cortana during the setup experience. Microsoft integrated Cortana into the Windows 10 setup experience to improve ease of access and although the feature may be useful to some, it has mostly annoyed the rest of us.

When you start setting up Windows 10, Cortana will talk you through the setup experience with its loud voice. That’s fine if you are in the United States, but in the UK, some parts of Cortana’s voice is computer generated so it just feels really weird and awkward. In the upcoming Windows 10 19H1 release, Microsoft is silencing Cortana’s voice by default so you won’t have to hear it everytime you set up a new computer.

But that’s not enough.

Silencing Cortana doesn’t actually get rid of it. It’s still there. This means when it’s talking, you won’t be able to skip parts of the setup experience. Instead, you will have to wait for it to finish talking instead of being able to just skip a certain part. It makes the setup experience unnecessarily long and annoying. Look, I know it’s just a few seconds but it really does get quite annoying.

And let’s be honest, the Windows 10 setup experience itself isn’t particularly well designed. There are way too many different screens, especially since Microsoft started detailing the privacy-related settings in their standalone, separate screens. The setup experience takes too long to complete, and regular consumers just want to use their new computer instead of having to go through all of this. Combined with Cortana, the experience gets frustrating.

The point here is that Microsoft really needs to learn to streamline the Windows 10 setup experience going forward. Silencing Cortana is a good first step, but more needs to be done. That will involve getting rid of Cortana (or at least making it completely optional), and then moving to other features. Take this iOS feature for example:

This option pops up on an iPhone when it’s near a brand new iPad/iPhone that’s being set up. When you start setting up the new device, it asks you whether you want to carry over the data from your other, existing devices — and you can then transfer the content from your existing device and use it to set up your new iPhone or iPad. This makes the first run experience of the device so much easier — it automatically connects to your WiFi, for example, downloads all of the apps you have downloaded from the app store, etc.

Microsoft could do the exact same thing here — for example, if you have an older Windows 10 laptop next to your new Windows 10 device, you can simply carry over the data like the WiFi credentials, your privacy preferences, apps you have downloaded from the Microsoft Store, and maybe even providing a secure way of automatically logging into your Microsoft account to help you get started with your new device much faster.

Moral of the story: Windows 10’s setup experience is inconvenient and incomplete. Plus, Cortana really doesn’t have to be on the Windows 10 experience. There are much better ways of improving the experience and its ease of access for all users, and Cortana certainly is not one.

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Comments (56)

56 responses to “Windows 10 Setup is Still Too Incomplete”

  1. AliMaggs

    The one feature I miss from Windows 8 was that you could sign into your Microsoft account on a new device and, in addition to syncing personal settings such as colours/themes, it would also sync all of your apps and your Start Screen layout. It made getting up and running so much faster than setting up a Windows 10 device. No idea why this was cut, but it should still be a feature.

  2. Daniel Blois

    They should bring back the syncing of settings that Windows 8 had including the start screen (maybe have where you can have different profiles) - so I can save a desktop profile and a laptop profile so when I get a new desktop (or laptop) I just choose the relevant profile and bam all my settings are in place (except any new ones that came out since the setting was last saved.


  3. glenn8878

    Setup is still a crapshoot. I just hope everything is setup accord to my preferences and hope I don’t have to fix it after the fact, but even correcting the configuration is confusing since Settings is an awful mess. It doesn’t matter that much since PCs are mainly a backup computer. I do my real computing on a smartphone.

    • warren

      In reply to glenn8878:


      Windows Setup works just fine for setting everything based on what you say. It's not a "crap shoot".


      If you struggle with understanding the Privacy section of Settings, that's on your lack of ability to learn and your lack of interest in being good at computers. The UI is fine. There are a lot of settings, but it's clearly laid out and there is a lot of descriptive text.

      • glenn8878

        In reply to warren:

        Where did I say I struggle with understanding the Privacy section of Settings? You made up that yourself. Settings isn’t merely about Privacy, which I don’t gave a problem with. Hoping that the Settings maintains my preferred Configuration is hard to keep track of, which I given up on.

  4. cadrethree

    Like others said, why couldn't you save your desktop with all your apps, settings, preferences to Azuze as a master template. Then when you do a clean install the first time a screen prompts you to skip install and put on a generic copy on. Then it prompts you first to set up wireless and then sign onto your Microsoft account. Then it copies your template from Azure with everything set.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to cadrethree:

      Because many don't want to use Azure... which is just the beginning of getting you locked into the MS cloud.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to cadrethree:

      I’d prefer saving to a file, whether usb or cloud, leave the location to the user.

    • cadrethree

      In reply to cadrethree:


      Yeah but people like Paul or Professionals who switch hardware and software consistently might find that useful. He's always talking about that font that he has to hunt down. With Microsoft 365 or Office 365 his master Windows template on Azure could remember and deploy across new installs. But instead just a font it's every app and preferences you have on Windows, Word, Excel and anything you have your desktop, automatically downloaded and installed. Kind like that restore option they tried out for in Windows awhile back. You would roll back Windows to an earlier point, which I never found worked right. Even being able to put in my model number of machine before deploying the Master Template so it knows what drivers to pull. Especially if I'm doing multiple computers at once.

  5. Jorge Garcia

    It's not just the setup process. The update process sucks really hard as well. If you leave a PC untouched for a while, the chances of you being able to actually use it when you open it up are slim. Your PC preventing you from using it should NEVER happen...at least not without a TON of warnings and chances to delay. Even a short interruption between you and your PC can actually cost a lot of money (or other suffering) if it happens at the exact wrong time. I understand that OS updates are mandatory and (mostly) necessary, but how about the following routine as a much more fair updating strategy...


    So you turn on your PC and an already-downloaded update wants to install itself. (BTW that whole stealth auto-downloading is also very big and wholly separate problem!) 


    Power-up #1. Windows launches normally, but there is a semi-obnoxious, bright yellow bar, immediately below the task bar, taking up about 5% of your screen real estate. It states that a mandatory update is ready to install and very importantly, it also tells you approximately how long it should take to complete. You are allowed to "X" out the bar and get your entire screen real estate back.


    Power-up #2. The same bar appears time, but you can no longer "x" it out, it is persistent.


    Power-up #3. This time, it turns RED, and now takes up the entire bottom 10% of your display. You cannot make it go away, but at least you can still work.


    Power-up #4. This time, it grows to 20%. It becomes quite annoying to work now.


    Power-up #5. This time, it grows to 30% of your screen. You can still do your work, if you really must, but it is a terrible experience and you have now been fully warned.


    Power-up #6. This time it stays at 30% but gives you a 10-15 minute countdown to do something, then it forcefully executes the update.


    Power-up #7. If you did not let it complete last time, then it does so upon launch.


    This all might sound crazy, but the OBNOXIOUS updating of Windows (if you leave a device untouched for a while) is among the main things that is going to make Google the next Microsoft of the "Average Joe" PC world. As far as I know Chromebooks don't ever PREVENT you from getting work done right when you power them up. That is a deal-breaker in 2019.

    • Stooks

      In reply to JG1170:

      So just yesterday my laptop, on 1809, in the middle of some crazy data center work (using the laptop a bunch, lid close, lid open, sleep, unsleep etc)) popped up and asked me if I wanted to reboot to finish the install of some updates.


      I said no and continued working on the ESXi network/teeming issue we were having.


      What is the issue with updates????????

      • Jorge Garcia

        In reply to Stooks:

        So...in your example, you said no to the update. The next time, you might be busy and say no again. Then maybe again. But Microsoft is leaving it up to YOU to keep track of how many times you have said no to the update. If you forget about it, there will come a day when the PC will just say screw you and auto-update...most likely at the moment you most need to use it. With my system...the nagging and persistent bar, which slowly eats up your bottom screen real estate...is much more forgiving and doesn't force the USER to keep track of how many updates they've postponed. The PC, by becoming progressively more annoying to use, but still usable, is letting you know that a hard interruption is coming if you keep postponing the update. You are clearly a technical person and might not see this through the eyes of an average user who doesn't wish to keep track of how many update postponements they've already done. I just think you should never open up a computer and have to wonder whether or not you will be allowed to see the desktop immediately or not.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to Stooks:

        So just the other day my laptop (which is old and has approximately 30 minutes of available battery power) got its cord pulled without me noticing.


        I tossed it in my laptop bag and it failed to properly sleep.


        I had had told it to postpone a reboot to finish up the install of some updates that morning.


        I pulled it out when I got to the Dr office, wanting to get another feature coded in the 30-40m wait I’d gave. Well...it was dead.


        Guess what happened when I booted it... yup, it took approximately 30m to finish that install. And about the last 60% of that was at “100% do not turn off your computer”.


        Luckily my Dr is awesome... he just nodded and chuckled and let me toss it on a counter in the exam room and finish the update while we talked.


        Yes, there are many problems in this anecdote (mostly an old laptop/battery) but it is what I have for my work PC. This sort of situation is also fairly unlikely overall to happen. But I guarantee you I’m not the only one with this sort of issue.


        Regardless, an update should *never* happen without a cancel option. I get updates need to eventually happen, but I should *always* be able to trigger that. The OS should never place itself into a situation where it has downloaded an update that must happen on the next boot cycle. Download it, fine. Bug me periodically about when I want to pull that trigger, fine.


        But don’t ever aim the gun at my head and pull the trigger when I’m not paying attention.


        Edit: I was just reminded by my MacBook I have had an update I’ve canceled every day since about early November. Hasn’t forced me once to install it.

  6. bbold

    Better yet, instead of MS making the decision for everyone, give us users an *OPTION* to turn Cortana assistance on or off, as well as any other settings they fiddle with continuously! I don't get trashing features when they can simply allow an option for US to make up our own minds for our own use cases. One size truly never fits all.


    Bb

  7. Lewk

    Worse I think is that they took away the ability to name your PC during the setup process. Something it is absolutely needed, especially with Home Networking, remote desktop, OneDrive, Miracasting, Cast from device and many other scenarios where you need to find your PC. Such an incredible removal of such an important step in the setup process.

  8. clive rennie

    I have no problem with the setup experience never noticed it took long i skip through cortana by clicking next but for some like my Grandma she loved the lady that talked to her when she hot that dell laptop for christmas i was on the phone helping her set it up and she heard the voice i told her it was cortana and just follow what she says and she was happy so i think its personal preference.

  9. vigilant

    Windows setup using manual methods has never been pleasant.


    Year over year it’s gotten marginally better (some years better than others).


    This whole Cortana thing should have been A/B tested, and the reality that Microsoft didn’t do that for an Out Of Box Experience is inexcusable.


    I love Microsoft products. I probably own most of their consumer facing products and indirectly (more than you’d expect) most of their enterprise facing products.


    Windows is the most cringe worthy product they make. Developers love it for the frameworks, and tools. Most people hold their nose, and keep clicking till Google Chrome takes over.


    I’m sorry... but I’m not wrong... which is further demonstrated by Microsoft abandoning Edge engine for Chromium.


    LOVE Azure, .Net and Xamarin. Recommend it for days. My wife knows more about Azure from me talking about it than most consultants.

  10. Rycott

    The fact hitting a letter on the keyboard no longer jumps you to results starting with those letters anymore is infuriating.


    Region for example. Most Lenovo PCs default to US. I am in Australia. So when I setup a random customers PC I need to spend the extra time scrolling to A instead of just hitting A.

  11. blackcomb

    Windows 10 Setup is very inconsistent. There's still Windows Vista and 7 elements during the installation of the iso.

  12. charlesverrier

    I get that Microsoft are trying to make the setup process for non-techy/domestic users more friendly, but the main problem is the lack of any way for power users to skip past it to something a little denser and faster. When I was in larger organisations, then we'd just re-image the whole PC, but there is a very large number of organisations that don't have the infrastructure or time for that, but who just need to get new machines built, joined to a domain, and deployed as quickly and painlessly as possible.


    I remain puzzled as to why Microsoft can't offer different 'experiences' (shudder) for Home and Pro/Ent SKU's - that recognise the different priorities of different user types. Similarly, why do they insist on bundling the XBOX app with the Pro edition (and highlighting it and games on the default Start tiles) - It all just adds work for small IT departments who have to spend time removing it. I have a user who logs a call at least once a week when they find themselves accidentally launching the UWP Mail app instead of Outlook, and then reports that her "email is broken again".


  13. mlbriggs24

    Just yesterday I purchased a new SP6 and walked through the setup process for the first time in a few years. And thought how nice and streamlined it is now compared to how it used to be. I also have an 0365 account and getting everything up and running was very smooth.

  14. wmiller

    Not to try and excuse it all, but Cortana, while annoying to some, adds a layer of accessibility for others who mightn’t have been able to finish setting up their own PC in the past... and the privacy screens, while annoying, can easily be explained away due to GDPR requirements.


    Windows used to have better device to device migration - added in Vista... for whatever reason, the company scaled this back entirely, rather than trying to improve it.

  15. cmdrkeene

    How often does a typical end-user ever see this anyway? If you get a computer from Dell or even walk into BestBuy to grab one, hasn't this part of setup already been done? And even if not, they're only going to see this approximately once or twice in the lifetime of that computer. Set your time zone, choose your privacy settings, you're golden.

  16. Ulfvar

    I agree with this. Microsoft needs to make the new device setup more streamlined and easier, but also important is to make it look good.

    I think making Cortana a central part of the experience was a mistake because 1. she is only in a handful of countries (and only works well in the U.S.) 2. some people think AI assistants = invading your privacy, so they might start to distrust Windows and Microsoft.

  17. Jeff Fodiak

    The biggest problem with the setup is that it should give the user all the configuration options first, then finish the installation based on that, instead of prompting the user several different times during the install. Most of the time the user will walk away and do other things while it's installing. The way it is now, you'll return after an hour just to find you need to click some dialog boxes before it resumes the install. It would be much better if initiate install, click the options, come back after an hour to a fully complete installation.

    • waethorn

      In reply to manicscholar:

      If anything, they could get the initial installation options out of the way, start the file copy process, and while that's running, prompt for OOBE questions ala Linux installers like Anaconda.


      Even the Gnome OOBE has few questions to get started, but then I'm talking about Linux which doesn't require so many permission prompts because it respects user choices and privacy from the outset.

  18. provision l-3

    It is Apple's total control over the ecosystem that makes this possible on iOS devices. It's a combination of security verification via Apple ID, owning the back up solution (iCloud), Application delivery and knowing the possible hardware configurations. It is super slick and super convenient but in order to get it users are accepting the "lock in" of Apple. Suggesting Microsoft could easily replicate that without the level of control that Apple has is a bit of an oversimplification.

    • waethorn

      In reply to provision l-3:

      iOS has LOTS of prompts on a major update now. I can't say it's any better than Microsoft's at this point.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to Waethorn:

        I moved from a iPhone 6 to a Xs last month and doing so took minimal effort. I did the holding them next to each other that is mentioned in the article, entered my Apple ID for the iCloud back up and then set up Face ID. That was about it. That said, the ease comes with a trade off. To do it I had to stay within the confines of Apple ecosystem.


        On a side note, I think it is misguided of Mehedi to compare Windows 10 to iOS. A more apt comparison would be MacOS which is not as easy as going between iOS devices. MacOS is, of course, not as tied to the Apple ecosystem so that brings up back to my original point.

  19. robinpersaud

    Installing Windows 10 Home (1809) build today on an Asus laptop, and Cortana chimed in at *maximum volume*.


    The volume down key (F11) didn't work, nor did Fn+F11. Had to click the microphone to mute it.


    Interesting that the same key works just fine when in Windows, but not during initial setup. This should be corrected.

    • cadrethree

      In reply to robinpersaud:


      Coincidentally I too fired up my Asus laptop for the first time in years yesterday. First message I got was that Windows 10 component wasn't updated and wouldn't load and repair tool wouldn't work. Jumped on my Android phone and it took me to the download page on Microsoft and starting going through the drop down bars to download. Went onto another Windows 10 computer to find this page and hunted around for a good long time. Weird that Android found what I needed in seconds but Windows couldn't. Finally found it, downloaded it and reinstalled Windows from a USB drive. There was a lot of wrong with that. Android was more helpful than Windows.

  20. Jeff Jones

    I recently installed a copy of 1809 on a new computer (without speakers) and there was one point where I thought the setup had frozen because there were no progress bars moving or new text scrolling past, or buttons to click next, or whatever. And it set there for a good 2-3 minutes.

  21. sno_wacko

    Honestly this is my favorite thing about Apple products - they go way out of their way to make your setup, pairing and migrations very smooth.

  22. sevenacids

    I agree that Windows setup is too complicated the way it is, but on the other hand, as a pro-user, I miss a lot of customization options as well. That is, it would be great if there really was an express-route for the average user (with privacy-first defaults), but also the other way round to serve the IT professional. Make it possible to select which apps, features and components are installed out-of-the-box. Right now, I have to use the deployments tools to clean up the Windows image twice a year for a new release just to get rid of all the provisioned nonsense and use group-policy and registry scripts to make the system work like it should. That amount of work was not necessary when I think back to the Windows 7 days, where the system defaults were quite good.

  23. Tony Barrett

    Without a doubt the Cortana voice install part of the current Win10 setup is just awful. I mean tiresome, grating, annoying and unnecessary. When you've a few of those going in the office, you're literally driven to despair. Your average home user will likely never even see Windows setup anyway - only IT Pro's and home geeks will see it, so why not give them more control? Yes Microsoft, give the people who actually use these setup routines some granular control back. While you're at it, maybe do what Linux does and ask all the questions first before installing rather than stopping at every step. Just dumb.

  24. robinwilson16

    I remember when Windows 8 used the Microsoft Account it was connected to to sync a lot of settings such as start screen layout and theme and certain settings including WiFi and I think even the desktop background. Due to this I spent quite a while getting the start screen just how I wanted it then they removed the feature and it reset back to default.

    Since then I have never spent much time customising it as often reinstall or switch PCs.

  25. juanguapo

    I attempted to Boot Camp my MacBook Pro with Windows 10 Home a few days ago, and the absolute plethora of checkboxes was nothing short of hostile. Nobody should have to spend so much time going through privacy-focused switches just to protect my privacy, and call it "transparency."


    What galls me with Windows is everything comes up as opt-out rather than opt-in; on other platforms, namely macOS, it's the reverse.

  26. dontbe evil

    something that I really miss, is that when I setup a new pc with my ms account, doesn't restore my apps, start screen and ALL settings of my previous pc (something that win 8 and/or 8.1 did)

    • waethorn

      In reply to dontbe_evil:

      You can configure an XML file with settings and link it with an unattended installation script to make that work....


      Cuz an engineer runs Microsoft now, and this is the way they do things. No more point-and-click ease-of-use for the end user because typing up a configuration file is somehow easier.


      /s

  27. lordbaal1

    You complained before that they didn't give enough notice for all the privacy stuff. Now they tell you more, now you don't like it. It takes under 1 minute to get it set up and running.

  28. waethorn

    You wanna know what's really freaking annoying about the OOBE ever since around 17xx install images? Microsoft reverted back to installing the base language pack default keyboard layout ala Windows 8.x. If you use a non-US English language pack installation image, it's going to be based on the UK version because "British English" is what most regional Englishes are based on. They made that switch when Windows 8 was released to make "International English" comply with UK/British spellings (for the most part - they still get things wrong, cuz Americans just don't get it), but included an addendum dictionary for certain words to match the selected region apart from the UK. And it would install the UK keyboard layout even if you picked something different during the OOBE. But the original Windows 10 release fixed that error. Up until one of the 2 releases in 2017 anyway (I forget which one), and they haven't fixed it back since!


    Even the build updates from 1509 up to and including 1607 would not install the base language pack keyboard layout during an update or clean install. They made it so that if the user chose a different default keyboard layout, they would respect that choice and not try to circumvent it with a keyboard layout that you'd have to subsequently remove after every install to get rid of that damn language selector on the taskbar or prevent from switching to an alternate layout through whatever keyboard shortcut it was (I never looked it up, but I know my clients hate it when their slash and quote keys get all mixed up).


    So here we are almost 2 years gone by since their regressive f*ck up, and they're still not respecting user choices.

    • BeckoningEagle

      In reply to Waethorn:

      In the last version of Windows 10 at least they allow you to setup a different keyboard and it will not install the default US English one. It specifically asks if you want to skip setting up the US Keyboard. This is may be a different behavior because it is triggered by the fact that I selected US English as the language but then a Spanish keyboard, in your case you are installing and English keyboard with English language, so you may not be seeing the prompt.


      To me this is a godsend. Where I live, most of the computers are setup for US English language, but the keyboard must be set to "United States International" for the accented character in Spanish (you could use the old-school ALT+1xx combinations with the numeric keypad, but we are in the 21st century).


      All versions of Windows 2000 and up would switch back to the US Keyboard for no apparent reason, even after removing all traces of the US English keyboard from all the different regional setting options available through settings or control panel or whatever MS has in the menu this time around (it didn't happen in Windows 3.1 or 9x, don't know why).


      I understand perfectly how annoying this problem can be. Too bad they haven't fixed this for all countries.

  29. waethorn

    So does this mean that they won't be turning on the microphone and listening in as soon as you boot up a fresh PC?

  30. ebraiter

    Umm. Installed Windows 7 a few days ago. If you think Win 10 is long, when was the last time you installed Win 7? It has less driver support for modern hardware that you have to hunt down the updates after.

    On a good system installing is under 45 minutes easily.

    With the exception of the questions asked at the end, there is no real user interaction. Those who complain about them should know that a corporate image can bypass/incorporate those questions. So build one! Some apps that are part of Win 10 can be removed at the same time.

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