The 15 essential Windows 10 tips and tricks you need to know

Essential Windows 10 tips

Upgraded to Windows 10 and need some pointers? These are the Windows 10 tips you can’t be without

Having finally struck gold with Windows 10Microsoft is really pushing its latest operating system by giving it away to upgrading users for absolutely nothing.

With Windows 10 Microsoft has brought in a raft of new features and tweaks, meaning that no matter if you’re completely new to Windows or have upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1, there’s plenty of new features to brush up on. And that’s why we’ve put together this list of the 15 Windows 10 tips and tricks that you really, and we mean really, need to know.

1. Make Cortana recognise your voice

Don’t fancy clicking on Cortana’s search and typing in your query? You can actually just ask Cortana a question, but to do so you first have to enable it to respond to the sound of your voice saying “Hey Cortana”. Bear in mind, you may be asked to set your microphone up to use this feature if Windows doesn’t think it’s compatible.

Here’s how to set Hey Cortana up:

  1. Open Cortana
  2. Click into “Notebook” (the icon underneath the Home button in Cortana’s side menu)
  3. Click Settings
  4. Scroll to find “Hey Cortana” toggle switch and flick it to On

2. Turn off Windows Explorer’s “Quick Access” view

While Quick Access is great for finding a recently or commonly used file or folder, those who just want to quickly find something on their computer might prefer the “This PC” view from Windows 7 and Windows 8. Thankfully you can switch Explorer back to how it used to be in just a couple of simple steps.

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Click “View” then “Options” on the far right
  3. The “Folder Options” menu will appear
  4. Next to the “Open File Explorer to” option, select “This PC” from the dropdown menu.
  5. Click “Apply” then “OK” to confirm the change

3. Take control of Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 may remove much of the effort when it comes to updates but it also has a terrible habit of resetting your computer at the worst times. Yes, you can delay some updates if you’re running Windows 10 Pro but Home users have no choice but to succumb to Microsoft’s update will.

Thankfully there’s a way to make this process a little more palatable, saving your internet bandwidth as well as your open documents in the process. However, doing so means you do still get Windows 10 updates Microsoft deems as “essential”, but you’ll stop seeing app updates and updates to Start screen tiles.

Here’s how to set Windows 10 to reduce update downloads over Wi-Fi and warn on resets:

  1. Open Settings and go to Network and Internet
  2. In “WiFi” click “Advanced Options”
  3. Under “Metered Connection” toggle the “Set as metered connection” switch to On.
  4. Next go back to Settings and select “Update & Security”
  5. Choose “Advanced Options” and then use the drop down menu to select “Notify to schedule restart” instead of “Automatic” and now you’ll be notified when Windows 10 is about to restart, so you can stop it.

4. Stop Microsoft Edge Browser opening everything by default

Microsoft’s replacement for its creaking Internet Explorer browser is definitely a welcome change, but it’s over-eager desire to open everything as the default app is not.

Thankfully you can stop Windows 10 using it as default, and in the process set defaults for all your other applications.

  1. Open Settings and go to System
  2. Towards the bottom of the options you’ll find “Default Apps”
  3. In here you can reassign defaults for a whole array of services and applications, even assigning them by the type of file they open.

5. Ditch Bing and start searching with Google

Seeing as Bing is the default search engine for Microsoft Edge and the Windows 10 search bar, it’s hard to get away from Microsoft’s search engine. However despite improvements and its best efforts to force Bing upon Windows users, Google will always reign supreme.

While totally removing Bing from Windows 10 is impossible, you can kick it out of Edge and clumsily replace it in the Windows 10 search bar.

Here’s how to remove Bing from Microsoft Edge:

  1. Open Edge and select the ellipsis (the three dots) on the right
  2. Go to Settings, then Advanced Settings
  3. Under “Search in the address bar” change the default option of Bing to “Add New”
  4. Here you’ll see a list of available search engines. If the list is empty (as it tends to be) navigate to your browser of choice and repeat the process. You should now see it listed as an available provider.

Here’s how to remove Bing from Windows 10 search bar:

  1. Open Chrome and download “Bing2Google” from the Chrome App Store
  2. Now, when you perform a Windows 10 search Chrome will boot up and take you through to a Google search. Thankfully you don’t lose any standard Cortana or device search by doing this either.

6. Make your active windows more noticeable

Windows 10 may look sleek and stylish, but when you’ve got multiple windows open its design is terrible as the active window is never really highlighted.

Microsoft is aware of the issue and is working on a fix, but in the meantime you can make things easier on yourself with a subtle border surrounding your currently active window.

  1. Right click on your desktop and select “Personalise”
  2. Select “Colours”
  3. Turn off “Automatically pick an accent colour from my background”
  4. Select an accent colour you’ll recognise most against your Windows 10 background and your windows and highlighted points will all change

7. Remove the Windows 10 login screen

Now Windows 10 knows more about you than ever before, it really does make sense to keep your profile behind a password or biometric lock. However, it’s endlessly annoying to boot your desktop or laptop up, walk off to do something and come back to discover it still hasn’t booted into desktop and loaded startup apps because of your lock screen.

While we don’t recommend completely removing your password and security logins, it can be done with just a little bit of brute force from the Windows tweaker’s favourite tool: the command prompt.

  1. In the Windows 10 search bar type “CMD” and select Command Prompt
  2. Type “control userpasswords2” into the box and hit enter
  3. A “User Accounts” pop up will appear, uncheck the tick box at the top “users must enter a username and password to use this computer”
  4. You’ll be prompted to enter and confirm your password to change the settings. Once done you’ll never have to login to your computer again!

8. Have Windows 10 play DVDs

If you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8.1, playing DVDs is a complete cinch thanks to your video licence carrying over from the previous OS. However, if you’ve purchased a new laptop or desktop that’s running Windows 10, you’ll discover you can’t play DVDs at all!

Microsoft does have a solution in the form of a Windows DVD Player app on the Windows Store for those that just have to have DVD playback functionality. The app is currently free until the 29 July 2016, but after then it’ll cost a hefty £11.59.

9. Disable Flash in Edge at the flick of a switch

Adobe Flash changed the face of the web. It was often slow and cumbersome – forcing you to wait for Flash-heavy sites to load – but it opened the doors to a whole new world of website design. It was exciting and fresh, for all its technological failings. Now though, Flash is a buggy, lumbering nuisance with security holes aplenty. It’s had its time in the sun.

If you’d like to keep Edge browser running silky smooth and without security holes, you can turn Flash off at the flick of a switch.

  1. Open Edge and click the ellipsis (three dots) in the right corner.
  2. Select Settings and scroll until you can click “View Advanced Settings”
  3. Toggle “Use Adobe Flash Player” to off

10. Streamline your notifications

Windows 10 certainly likes to let you know what your apps and social feeds are doing. While this can be a really useful feature, it often becomes rather annoying to deal with when you have a lot of active apps and programmes running.

Luckily Microsoft knows that not everybody wants notifications from Windows Feedback or other pre-installed apps, so it now lets you select the apps you want to hear from.

  1. Open Settings and then go to system
  2. In System select “Notifications & actions”
  3. Here you can toggle notifications from every app installed on your computer
  4. You can also click on an app to tailor what type of notifications it shows you when notifications are enabled
  5. Rejoyce

11. Snap windows together at the press of a button (or two)

Windows 7 brought us the wonder that is window snapping with Aero Snap, a feature Apple has only just rolled out with OS X El Capitan. While Windows 8 refined the feature, Windows 10 outdoes it entirely by allowing you to snap together four different windows and apps. The best bit? You can do it all with just two key presses and no fuss.

  • Windows Key + Up = Snap active window to top
  • W Key + Down = Snap active window to bottom
  • Windows Key + Left = Snap active window to left
  • W Key + Right = Snap active window to right

12. “Print” documents to PDF

Not so much a trick but more of a tip for those who hadn’t already noticed: Windows 10 finally lets you “print” documents to PDF. No more installing a third-party app to save a web page or document for use offline, now you can select PDF as a printing output option to have Windows 10 export documents into Adobe’s indispensable file format.

13. Extend your Laptop’s Battery Life

Microsoft has introduced a new Battery Saver tool into Windows 10, helping boost your laptop or tablet’s battery life if you fall below a certain threshold.

You can find Battery Saver settings through Settings > System > Battery Saver and Battery Saver Settings. In these menus you can have Windows automatically switch to battery saver mode when your charge falls under a certain threshold, disabling push notification and lowering screen brightness in the process.

Rather handily, Microsoft also allows you to exempt apps, meaning they’ll run as normal regardless of your Battery Saver settings.

14. Turn off Microsoft’s worrying “Wi-Fi Sense” functionality

Microsoft has, what it believes is, a handy system for sharing your home wireless network with friends. Anyone who’s in your contacts list automatically gets your Wi-Fi password, meaning when they come round to your house or office they’ll automatically connect to your network without needing to bother you with the password.

While Microsoft says this is completely safe, with users unable to access networked storage or be privy to any other sensitive data, alarm bells should clearly be ringing.

If you’d like to keep your home network unclogged from your friends’ Instagram feed and YouTube streaming, Microsoft does allow you to turn this functionality off via “Share network with contacts” when you first connect to a new network. However, that doesn’t stop other Windows 10 users from sharing that information when they connect to your home network.

If you want to completely remove your wireless network from Windows 10’s Wi-Fi Sense scheme you actually have to rename your network’s SSID to include “_optout”, which is less than ideal.

15. Windows Key shortcuts you HAVE to know

We all know our Ctrl + Alt + Del and Windows Key + D shortcuts, but with Windows 10 Microsoft has included a new set of incredibly useful keyboard shortcuts that you need to commit to memory right away.

  • Win Key + A = Open Action Centre
  • Windows Key + S = Open search
  • Win Key + C = Open Cortana in “listening mode”
  • Windows Key + Tab = Open Task View
  • Win Key + Ctrl + D = Opens a new virtual desktop
  • Windows Key + Ctrl + Right/Left = Cycle between open virtual desktops
  • Win Key + Ctrl + F4 = Close current virtual desktop
  • Windows Key + G = Opens Game Centre

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