Whether you’re on someone else’s device or your own, this lesson is here to help you become more comfortable using a laptop or desktop. It will help you through the first steps of using and personalising your device.

If you or someone you know needs help setting up a device for the first time, they can phone our free Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. It is open Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm. The Digital Helpline can give one to one support with digital skills to anyone over 18. You can call them if you need in the moment support or more support with getting online. If you're unsure whether you need our Digital Helpline, you can use chapter 1 to test what you know. You can also use it to help someone else.

Once you are set up, this lesson can help you make the most of your device. You'll learn to adapt it to better suit your needs, so you can get the benefits of your device.


  • Check you know the basics.
  • Be able to carry out the first steps of using and personalising a device.
  • Change your device settings to be easier to use, more accessible and tailored to your needs.

Read time

14 mins

Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Read time

1 min

Are you or the person you are trying to help able to:

  • Turn on a device?
  • Use the controls?
  • Understand the parts of the device? E.g. charger, screen, volume buttons
  • Lock and unlock the device?
  • Use your keyboard, mouse or touchpad to use the device?

If you've answered no

If you've answered no to any of these questions, then chances are you might need some help before starting chapter 2. Our Digital Helpline is free to use and can walk you through how to do this one to one. You can call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333.

If you answered yes, then you can go straight on to chapter 2.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Read time

13 mins

Getting started

If you're reading this, you have already made a good start in getting online. For now, let's focus on making your device even better for you. By changing your device's settings, you can personalise it to meet your needs. This can make it easier to use, see, hear or experience.

Let's take a look at the main features of your device which you can use to help. All devices are different, so we won't be able to tell you exactly where to find these features on yours. We can give you some general tips on finding tools to make your device easier and help you decide if they are a good thing for you.

We suggest checking your device's instructions or asking someone if you need more help. You can also call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. AbilityNet also have a section of their website where you can get help for your specific needs, set up and device.


Finding your settings

With laptop and desktop devices, you will need to use a mouse or touchpad to move your cursor and move it to the settings. Your settings can usually be found on your screen's background or on your start menu. This will depend on the device you are using, so check your instructions or use the help we outlined above.

If you are stuck

There is a search option on most devices. You can use this search option to scan through the items on your device and quickly find your settings application. You can also use it to search for something more specific like 'display'. So, you can search for 'Display settings' or 'text' and it will bring you options.


Other ways to find your settings

There are two other main ways you may be able to use to find your settings. From your home screen, you can go to your menu, or you can type 'settings' in the search box.


Using settings you can:

  • Change your system settings - Here you will find lots of options which can help make your device easier. Most devices will let you change how your screen appears, your sound, your notifications. This can help with how easy it is to see, focus and use
  • Connect devices - Using wires or wireless connections, this can help you connect devices that can make things easier. This can be a mouse or a more usable keyboard
  • Link your phone - For similar reasons, linking your phone to your laptop or desktop can remove barriers. It can be easier to manage your files across devices
  • Personalise your device - You can change how things appear on your screen. From the text to the colours and images. This means you can make things more visible and readable for you
  • Change your accessibility settings - Your ease of access settings take personalisation to the next level. You can make your screen brighter. You can adjust how your mouse pointer and text cursors appears and much more
  • Update your security and privacy settings - This can help to keep you safe


Changing your system settings

As we mentioned, system settings can help you to make a lot of helpful changes. They are the core of how your computer runs. Let's take a look at some of the things most devices will allow you to do in system settings.


You can usually change:

  • How things appear on the screen - From the size of your text to how bright it appears. So, if you find it hard to look at bright light for long periods you can make your device screen darker or brighter to suit you. Or if you find things on your screen too small, you can usually adjust them here
  • The notifications you see - These are alerts that come up on your screen and tell you information. They are very useful for telling you when you need to do something on your device or even if you've received an email. They can be distracting though. If this is the case for you, you can change them in your settings
  • Change your sound settings - If you are finding some sounds on your device too loud or too quiet, you can adjust them here. You can change your overall volume, or you can set applications to different sound levels


Connecting a device

There are many ways connecting a device can make it easier to use. Perhaps it's a mouse that's easier to use. Maybe it's adding switches to help with mobility or a microphone. You can also usually adjust how these devices run in these settings. Meaning, you can make them work in a way that suits you.


These settings can also help:

  • Adapt your mouse - You can change your cursor speed to make it faster or slower. Your cursor is the pointer that moves around the screen as you move your mouse. It can be moved by a touchpad on a laptop. You can switch what the buttons on your mouse do if you're left-handed or make it faster or slower to scroll a page.
  • Change your touchpad - If you're using a laptop, these settings will be useful. Similar to using a mouse, you can change how quick your cursor moves across the page and what tapping your touchpad does. You can often change what multiple taps and gestures do as well. This can give you more options. You can also consider removing options to make sure there is less chance of doing anything other than the main taps and swipes by accident.


Working between a phone and another device

It might not seem obvious how linking your phone to your laptop or desktop could help. But if you have this ability on your device, it can really help. If you prefer using one device to the other, this makes it easier to work on your preferred device. You can then seamlessly see and transfer web pages, images and text to the device you need them on.


Personalisation settings

These settings help you change the basic look and feel of your device. It can help with visual things your background and the colours of your windows. It can also help you to change how you move around your device, by adapting your start menu, lock screen and other windows to suit you.


Change your accessibility settings

These settings take personalisation one step further. They allow you to make lots of small changes that can make your device much easier to access. In fact, these settings can sometimes be called ease of access.

They can be helpful to anyone, at any time. Especially if you are finding your device hard to use. This can be a temporary or long-term need. So for example, you might have broken your arm and need to use your device using one hand. This is a short term need to adapt your device. Whereas, you may have a visual impairment which might mean you need to adapt your device permanently. Most devices will help with three main things: vision, hearing and interaction.

Here are some of the ways you can adapt the device if you struggle with your vision:

  • Change the text on your screen - You might find the writing on your device too hard to read or you may be out and have forgotten your reading glasses. Maybe it's too small or too thin. In your text settings you can make it bigger or change what is called the 'weight' to make the letters more bold and easier to read
  • Change the size of your apps and text - This affects how large things appear on your screen so you can see them better
  • Change how your cursor appears - On most laptops and desktops you will have the choice to change the colour and size of the cursor. This can help make it more visible and help you to use your device
  • Change how your text cursor appears - Your text cursor is the line that appears when you're writing text. To make it more visible there is often options to make it bigger, thicker or change the colour
  • Magnify the items on your screen - If you would like to see things on your screen more closely, some devices will have a magnify setting which can be used to zoom in and out on everything on your screen. If you have this setting on your device, the menu in the settings should give you clear instruction on how to use it
  • Change the colour of your screen - Some people find it easier to use their device if the colours are a certain way. If you find it hard to look at a bright screen, you might choose to use your screen in dark mode. This is sometimes called 'greyscale'. Some devices will also give you colour filters to help with colour blindness. They do this by changing how colours appear on your screen
  • Apply high contrast mode - For similar reasons, most device will allow a high contrast more. This makes items easier to see by using distinct and more bold colours
  • Screen reading - These types of tools help by describing what's on your screen. This means you can more easily use your device without having to rely on vision


Here are some of the ways you can adapt the device to help with hearing:

  • Change your audio settings - In audio settings you can usually adjust your device's audio. You can also switch to 'mono' audio. This means you can choose to hear sounds in only one headphone. So, you aren't missing any sounds if you struggle to hear in one ear
  • Use captions - If you prefer to or need to read because you can't access audio, you can turn on captions. Most devices will allow you to change how this text appears. You can change the colour, boldness, size and more. You can also change the background behind the text to make it easier to see


Here are some of the ways you can adapt the device to help with interaction:

  • You can talk instead of type - Most devices will allow you to use 'dictation'. This means you can speak instead of type and control your device using your voice
  • Use keyboard shortcut options - Shortcuts are buttons or sets of buttons you can press together to make something happen quicker. For some people though, it can be difficult to press multiple keys at once. Most devices will allow you to press a particular key or use 'sticky keys' to allow you to press the buttons in a shortcut one at a time. So, instead of 'ctrl' and 'C' being pressed together to copy something, you can press 'ctrl' and then 'C' one at a time. You can also usually change your settings to help your device to ignore when you accidentally press keys more than once
  • Control your cursor with your keyboard - This setting allows you to use your keyboard instead of your mouse if you find using one difficult or uncomfortable
  • Use an eye tracking device - This option requires using an eye tracking device. Once you connect one, your device will use your eye movements to control your mouse and type

Managing your privacy and security settings

These are also in your settings menu. They can be used to make sure you are happy that your device is safe and secure. You can change what apps can do through giving or taking ‘permissions’ from them. You can also backup your files and update your software.

Keeping your software up to date is really important

It makes sure your device is using the latest versions of everything your device creator makes.

Your provider will always be looking for ways to improve your experience of your device. This includes sending you updates to improve your security. It also includes sending you updates that will fix any security issues they do find. These are all forms of software. It’s what makes your device work.

So, always check your device menu to make sure your security and software are up to date. Most devices will give you a notification if you need to download an update.

One final way you can manage your device's security is by protecting the device itself

In your settings you can set a password or code for your device. This will let you lock your device and open it and will keep others out.

Most devices will also now let you set up something called 'biometrics'. These are ways of locking your device that are unique to you. Your fingerprint, your voice, the shape of you face are all things that no one can copy. So, they make good ways to lock your device.

If you lose your device, it adds an extra layer of safety on top of your password or code.

Finally, lots of devices will now have a 'Find my device' setting. Once you set this up, you can use it to track the location of your device. So, if it's stolen or lost you can more easily track it down.

Activity - explore your settings

Activity - explore your settings

There are many other settings you can use to make your device suit you. Take 10 minutes now to look through your settings. Answer these two questions. What will be helpful for you in future? Is there anything you want to change to make your device suit you more?

If you are still unsure about any of the settings, remember you can:

  1. Check your device's instructions
  2. Speak to the shop or seller you bought your device from
  3. Speak to a trustworthy friend or family member
  4. Call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333
  5. Go to AbilityNet who have a section of their website where you can get help for your specific needs, set up and device


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now be able to use and your device and change your settings to make it easier to use. We suggest you keep your learning going with our lesson 'Connecting to the internet'. It will help you connect your device to broadband internet or mobile data to help you get online. Or, if you have a laptop or desktop you would like to personalise you can go to our lesson 'Using your mobile and tablet'


Up next for you:

Next module: Connecting to the internet

Back to: Using your device

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.