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How to configure notifications in Windows 10

Getting pop-up notifications with important news or alerts may be convenient, but it can also be a nuisance when you’re trying to concentrate on your work or watch a movie. Over time, a lot of Windows 10 users develop an aversion to the bottom right corner of their computer screen, where something is always flying out. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

Note: These instructions are for Windows 10 only. Microsoft has stopped updating previous versions of the operating system, making them vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, and other threats, so if you are still using Windows 7, 8.1, or an earlier version, we recommend upgrading to Windows 10 as soon as possible.

Which notifications should you keep?

Windows 10 users can disable almost all notifications, but we recommend leaving two categories active because they can affect the secure operation of your computer.

  • Antivirus protection. You should know about any suspicious activity on your computer, even if you have to pause a TV show for it.
  • System update. Operating system updates are important for security, fixing vulnerabilities that let attackers infect your computer with malware. Such updates sometimes arrive with little or no notice, particularly if malware is spreading actively through a newly discovered vulnerability. You need to install OS updates as soon as possible.

How to turn off notifications in Windows 10

You can confidently silence and hide any other notifications you find inconvenient. In fact, you have several options: turn them off completely; disable those from the most annoying programs; or use Windows 10’s Focus Assist mode to pause them.

How to disable all notifications at once

This process spares notifications regarding system updates and messages from Windows Defender, which you can configure separately. It will disable messages from other apps, such as your e-mail client or games.

  • Open the Start menu and choose Settings by clicking the gearwheel;
  • Choose System and then Notifications & actions;
  • Scroll down and turn off Get notifications from apps and other senders.

You’ll find several other useful options here, such as:

  • Hiding notifications from the lock screen (so random people can’t read your personal Facebook messages);
  • Disabling Windows’ tips, tricks, and suggestions about setting up your device (which appear after you install updates or simply while the system is running).

Configuring notifications for separate programs

Suppose you don’t want to disable all notifications, just those that come from certain programs. In that case:

  • Open the Start menu and choose Settings;
  • Choose System, then Notifications & actions;
  • Scroll down to Get notifications from these senders;
  • Toggle the switches for the apps on the list — on for notifications, off for none — or select individual applications for more app-specific options:
    • Toggle off the Play a sound when a notification arrives switch to disable the sound but keep the pop-up alert;
    • Uncheck the boxes next to Show notification banners and Show notifications in action center to remove pop-up messages but keep the sound.

If you explicitly allowed notifications such as those from websites — news alerts from media sites, promotions from online stores, and so on — you may find your browser spitting out new messages every minute. You’ll fix those notifications at the browser level; to learn how, see our instructions on managing browser notifications in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Opera.

Focus Assist mode: Pausing notifications

Windows 10 includes a mode called Focus Assist that lets you pause some or all notifications instead of disabling them altogether. Focus Assist options are located in the Settings menu, under System. To configure the notifications:

  • Select Alarms only to hide all notifications except for alarms or countdown timers, or
  • Select Priority only if you’re concerned about a set time period — such as during working hours — and want to receive notifications only from apps or contacts from your (customizable) priority list.

Here’s how to configure your list of priority contacts and programs:

  • Click Customize your priority list (right below Priority only);
  • Select the types of notifications to allow — texts and incoming calls or reminders;
  • Choose the contacts from whom notifications will appear in the CallingMail, or Skype apps;
  • Customize the list of programs allowed to send you notifications when Focus Assist mode is active. For example, you might keep just your e-mail client or apps for remote working on this list. To remove unnecessary apps from the list, click on the app’s icon and then click Remove.

You can also set up automatic rules for Focus Assist mode, for example to enable it automatically during a daily meeting and to hide nonurgent notifications when you’re duplicating your display, playing a game, or using any other app in full-screen mode.

Using Focus Assist doesn’t mean you’ll never see notifications, only that they’ll remain hidden until you disable the mode. You can view those notifications anytime in the Action center, which opens with the button to the right of the system clock, at the bottom of the screen.

Rather than having to comb through all notifications, you can get a quick summary by checking the Show me a summary of what I missed while focus assist was on box. That way, each time Focus Assist ends, the system will give you a brief report on what you missed.

Peace and quiet

Now, your computer won’t get in your way when you’re working, studying, or relaxing. We advise using caution when deciding on a notification strategy — you don’t want to miss a truly important notification, so leave them active at least for protection tools and system updates, which help ensure your computer’s continued operation.

Windows 10 users aren’t the only ones who can tweak a few settings for more peaceful computing; Android, iPhone and iPad, and macOS users can also take advantage of detailed notification options. And to achieve even greater peace in our connected world, we recommend getting into your own Digital Comfort Zone.

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