Rufus and ExplorerPatcher make Windows 11 less onerous • The Register | #firefox | #chrome | #microsoftedge

The latest beta of the popular Windows USB creation tool Rufus adds some handy features, such as removing Microsoft account requirements and turning off TPM chip detection – and there are others too.

In olden times, PCs used to come with recovery disks so that if your hard disk died you could fit a new one and reinstall. Then optical drives started to fade away, and PC makers found it saved money if they didn’t include the disks and just put a recovery image on the hard disk. Happily, though, Microsoft made downloads of ISO images of Windows free on its website.

If you try to download on another copy of Windows, it tries to push the Microsoft Media Creation Tool at you, but you can refuse and use your own. If you do, Rufus is a good alternative.

The latest beta version of Rufus, which in future will be version 3.19, has some interesting new additions. While it writes your ISO, you can optionally disable some of Windows’ more annoying features.

It has the ability to turn off TPM chip detection and the requirement for Secure Boot, which should enable you to install Windows 11 on older machines if you so wish. It lets you bypass the need for a Microsoft account – although you will need to disconnect the target PC from a network for this to work. It also allows you to automatically respond “no” to all Microsoft’s data-collection questions during setup.

All these sound welcome changes to us. The Microsoft account requirement recently popped up a new irritation on our test install: it automatically keeps the Desktop folder on OneDrive, which we found very annoying when we wanted to briefly keep a large file there.

This means that Rufus rockets up the chart of The Reg FOSS desk’s favorite tools for decluttering Windows, and it might even surpass the very handy Ventoy for USB installs.

Already on the list were two O&O tools: AppBuster and ShutUp10++. AppBuster makes it easy to uninstall most of the Metro Modern apps that Microsoft in its finite wisdom bundles with Windows.

You can also do this with a few PowerShell commands, but that kind of thing intimidates many people. Meanwhile, ShutUp10++ turns off a lot of Windows’ built-in telemetry.

There are also replacement shells for Windows, such as long-time Reg favorite OpenShell, but another new tweak makes bigger changes easier: ExplorerPatcher.

ExplorerPatcher makes a bunch of changes to the Windows 11 Explorer, including the TaskBar and Start Menu. The features we particularly liked are that it lets you once again have a vertical taskbar at left or right. You can re-enable toolbars in the taskbar, such as the classic QuickLaunch that was in every version from Windows 98 until Vista.

It was possible to re-enable it in Windows 10, but not in 11 – until now. You can also show or hide dividers between sections of the taskbar, and turn off the new Start menu, replacing it with the Windows 10-style list of apps.

If you like things clean and minimal, you might want to disable Windows 11’s “widgets” and “chat” buttons. At least no external tools are needed for that.

Despite many people’s reservations, including those of The Reg, it does seem that Windows 11 is gradually gaining market share. Making some tweaks like these easier may help it win over some of the doubters. ®



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