You might be on someone else’s device or your own. Either way, this lesson will help you feel more comfortable using and personalising a laptop or desktop.

Do you or someone you know need help with setting up a device for the first time? Why not call our free Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm.

The Helpline gives free one-to-one digital support to help you get online. You can use this service if you live in the UK or Channel Islands and you’re over 18 (or supervised by a parent or guardian if under 18). Not sure whether you need our Digital Helpline? Use Chapter 1 of this lesson to test what you know. You can also use it to help someone else.  

Once you’re set up, this lesson can help you make the most of your device, including how to adapt it to meet your needs.


  • 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:

11 mins

Chapter 1

Check the basics

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? For instance, charger, screen, volume buttons 
  • Log in to the device?
  • Lock and unlock the device?
  • Use your keyboard, mouse or touchpad to use the device?


How did you do? 

If you've answered no

If you've answered no to any of these questions, then then chances are you might need some help before starting chapter 2. Please feel free to call our Academy Digital Helpline. Our Academy Digital Helpline will give you free one to one help with getting started. You can call on 0345 222 0333.

If you answered yes

then you can go straight on to chapter 2.

Chapter 2

Creating a device that's right for you

Read time:

10 mins

Getting started

To start, let’s look at how to make your device even better for you. By changing some settings, can adapt it to meet your needs. So it’s easier to use, see, hear and experience.

In this chapter, we’ll look at what you can change on your device. They’re all different, so we won’t be able to tell you exactly where to find these features on your device. But we’ll give you some general tips on finding them. You can then test whether they make using your device easier. 


Need more help?

  • Check your device's instructions
  • Ask a friend or family member
  • Call our Academy Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333
  • Go to AbilityNet


Finding your settings

You’ll need to use a mouse, touchpad or touchscreen to access the settings. The settings are usually on your desktop or start menu, but it might depend on the device you’re using. Can’t find them? Check your instructions or use the help we’ve mentioned.


The ‘settings’ symbol can often look like a small cog or gear

Feeling stuck?

There’s a search option on most devices. You can use this to find the setting you’re looking for. For example, you can search for ‘display settings’ or ‘text’ and it will bring you options. 


Using settings you can:

Change your system settings

Like how your sound, notifications and screen appear. This can help with how easy it is to see, focus and use

Connect devices

Use wires or wireless connections to link devices like your mouse, keyboard and phone

Make your device easier to use

Change the size and appearance of items on your screen, and connect with accessibility devices

Update your security and privacy settings

These can help  keep your device and your data safe

Changing your system settings

System settings can help you make some really helpful changes. They’re key to how your computer runs. Let’s look at some of the things you may be able to change in system settings.


You can usually change:

  • How things appear on the screen
  • The notifications you see 
  • Your sound settings


How things appear on the screen

This could be anything from the size of your text to how bright the screen is. For example, if you find it hard to look at a bright light for long periods you can make your screen darker. Or if things are too small, you can make them bigger. 


The notifications you see 

These are alerts that come up on your screen and tell you information. They can remind you to do something, or let you know you’ve got a new message. If you find them distracting, you can turn them off in your settings.


Your sound settings

If some sounds on your device are too loud or too quiet, you can adjust them. You can also change the overall volume, or set applications to different sound levels.


Connecting a device

There are many ways connecting a device can make your laptop or desktop easier to use. Perhaps it’s a mouse that fits better in your hand. It could be switches to help you operate your computer. Maybe a microphone to allow voice commands. Whatever device you’re connecting, you can usually adjust its settings to make it work in a way that suits you.


Here’s how to adapt your mouse:

  • Change your cursor speed - Your cursor is the pointer that moves around the screen as you move your mouse. You can make it move faster or slower
  • Switch the buttons – Left-handed? You can switch what the buttons on your mouse do when you click them
  • Pick the scroll direction and speed – When you’re scrolling up and down a screen, you can change the direction you swipe your mouse.  You can also make it faster or slower to scroll 


Here’s how to adapt the touchpad on your laptop:

  • Change cursor speed – Like the mouse, you can change how fast your cursor moves
  • Personalise the taps – Tapping your touchpad lets you do different things. You can usually change what multiple taps and other gestures do
  • Reduce tapping options – You can even remove touchpad options to make it simpler and stop you from tapping something by accident

By connecting your phone and another device, like a laptop, you’re able to see and transfer web pages, images and text between the two.

Personalising your device

These settings help you change the look and feel of your device. For example, you can change your background and the colours of your windows. They can also help you change how you move around your device, by adapting your start menu, lock screen and other windows to suit you.


Changing your accessibility settings

These settings take personalisation one step further. They allow you to make changes that can make your device much easier to access. In fact, sometimes you’ll see these settings under ‘ease of access’. Most devices will help with three main things: vision, hearing and interaction. 

This can help anyone, at any time, especially if you’re finding your device hard to use. You might need your device to work differently for a short while or long term. For example, say you’ve broken your arm. You’ll be using your device with just one hand. So it will need to work this way just until your arm is better. If you have a visual impairment, you might need more permanent changes. 


How to adapt your device to suit your needs – select each heading to learn more

  • There are many settings on your device to make text and other objects on your screen easier to see. You can:

    Change the text on your screen

    You might find the writing on your device too hard to read. Maybe you’re out and you’ve forgotten your reading glasses. You can make text bigger, bolder or 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’ll have the choice to change the colour and size of the cursor. This can make it more visible and help you use your device.

    Change how your text cursor appears

    Your text cursor is the line that appears when you’re writing text. Just like the cursor, you can make this bigger, thicker or change the colour.

    Magnify the items on your screen

    Like to see things on your screen more closely? Some devices let you zoom in and out on everything on your screen. Look for ‘magnifier’ in your settings to see if you have this, and 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, dark mode could help. You might see this under ‘greyscale’. Some devices also give you colour filters to help with colour blindness. They do this by changing how colours appear on your screen.

    Switch to high contrast mode

    Most devices have a high contrast mode, where they use more distinct and bolder colours. This makes it’s easier for you to see items on the screen.

    Use screen readers

    These tools help by describing aloud what’s on your screen. This means you can use your device more easily, without having to rely on vision.

  • Most devices have settings to help you access audio content in different ways. For example, you can:

    Change your audio settings

    You can usually adjust your device’s audio. For instance, you can switch it to ‘mono’ so you hear sounds in only one headphone. This means you don’t miss any sounds if you struggle to hear in one ear.

    Use captions

    Do you prefer or need to read instead of listening to audio? Captions can help you do this. Most devices let you change the size, colour and other features of this text. You can also change the background behind the text to make it easier to see.

  • There are many different ways to use a laptop or desktop. Do you find it hard to use a keyboard or mouse? You may prefer to:

    Talk instead of type

    Most devices let you to use ‘dictation’. This means you can speak instead of type. It helps you to control your device using your voice.

    Use keyboard shortcut options

    Shortcuts are keys or sets of keys you can press together to make something happen. It’s not always easy to press more than one key at the same time, though. So most devices let you press a particular key or use ‘sticky keys’ so you can press one at a time. For instance, one shortcut we use is pressing ‘Ctrl’ and ‘C’ together to copy something. If you switch ‘sticky keys’ on, you can press ‘Ctrl’ first, then ‘C’. There’s also a helpful option on most devices for them to ignore when you accidentally press keys more than once.

    Control your cursor with your keyboard

    Do you find using a mouse difficult or uncomfortable? This setting lets you use your keyboard to move your cursor instead.

    Use an eye tracking device

    You can connect your eye tracking device to your laptop or desktop. This lets you use your eye movements to control your mouse and typing.

Managing your privacy and security settings

These are also in your settings menu. Use them to make sure you’re happy your device is safe and secure. You can do this by giving or taking ‘permissions’ from each app. You can also back up your files and update your software.

Here are some ways to keep your device safe.


Keep your software up to date

Keeping your software up to date makes sure your device is using the latest versions of everything. This includes the software that keeps your device running. You’ll see update notifications every so often. These include changes to make the software run better or do extra things.  Some of them improve your security or fix security issues. So always check your device menu to make sure your security and software is up to date. Most devices let you know if you need to download an update.


Set a password or code

Another 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 lets you lock your device and open it, and will keep others out. Some devices also let you set up ‘biometrics’. These are ways of locking your device that are unique to you and no one can copy. For example it may use your fingerprint, voice or the shape of your face. If you lose your device, this adds an extra layer of safety.


Set up ‘Find my device’

Finally, many 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 lost or stolen, you can track it down more easily.

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, then 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’re still unsure about any of the settings, remember you can:

  • Check your device's instructions 
  • Ask a friend or family member
  • Call our Academy Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333
  • Go to AbilityNet


Lesson complete!

Well done on completing this lesson. You should now be able to use your device and change your settings to make it easier to use. We suggest you keep your learning going with our next lesson: ‘Connecting to the internet’. It will help you connect your device to broadband internet or mobile data to help you get online.


Up next for you:

Next lesson: Connecting to the internet

Back to ‘Getting started online


Bank of Scotland Academy 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. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 8th November 2023.