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100 Windows 10 tips and tricks

TechRadar logo TechRadar 11/05/2016 Mayank Sharma

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Getting started

Windows 10 is brimming with new and updated features for streamlining all your computing tasks. The new release combines the familiarity of Windows 7 with the functionality of Windows 8.

While you can use some features to increase your productivity intuitively, others aren't so forthcoming and require a trip down the menus and settings before they make your life easier.

We've overhauled our Windows 10 tips and tricks guide by grouping the tips into categories, so it's now even easier to find the best Windows 10 tips for your needs.

In this guide we'll take you through Windows' nooks and crannies and help you tweak your Windows installation in a variety of ways to suit your style of working.

Using the tips, you'll be able to shave some time off of tasks that need to be performed regularly and streamline your navigation around the system. We'll also share tips to help tweak the new features based on your preferences, enabling you to use your new installation productively.

Also make sure you check out our huge collection of guides on how to use Windows 10 to make sure you get the most out of the new operating system.

1. Use Custom Install

When you're setting up Windows 10 on a new PC, make sure you select the Custom install option instead of the default Express install.

It's more involved but lets you modify important aspects of your installation such as the privacy settings.

2. Remove old files after installing Windows 10

If you have no intentions of reverting to the previous version of Windows, you can save disk space by getting rid of the old OS files. Head over to Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Disk Clean-up and toggle the 'Previous Windows installations' box in the list.

3. Sign out of Windows

The Power menu in the Start menu only includes options to Shutdown and Restart the computer. To sign in as another user bring up the Start menu and click on your name displayed at the top.

This brings up a menu which includes the Sign out option.

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4. New Action Center

Windows 10 includes a new Action Center that keeps track of notifications from all over the system.

Click on the text bubble icon in the system tray and the panel flows out from the right-hand side of the screen.

5. New snap keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard warriors can save time and snap windows without using the mouse. Use the Win key + Arrow key to snap to one of the four corners of the screen and double-up commands to reach the quadrants.

For example, pressing Win + Right Arrow, then Win +Up Arrow places the current window in the top-right corner.

6. Make Windows touch-friendly

If your computer has a touch screen you can manually enable Windows 10's touch-friendly Continuum interface to operate Windows in a tablet mode.

Head to Start > Settings > System > Tablet Mode to manually alter its behaviour.

7. Disable WiFi Sense in Windows 10

If you're worried about Wi-Fi Sense's security implications you can disable it by heading to Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Wi-Fi settings.

Now disable all options and ask Windows 10 to forget any Wi-Fi networks you've signed into in the past.

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8. Customise Privacy settings

To take charge of general and app-specific privacy options head over to Start > Settings > Privacy. From here you can also individually define which apps can access the connected hardware like cameras and microphones.

9. Customise Battery Saver

The Windows 10 Battery Saver clamps down on background activities in order to maximise your system's battery.

You can enable it from under Start > Settings > System > Battery Saver. It comes online automatically when the charge drops below 20%.

10. Unlock PC with a fingerprint

Windows 10 includes a suite of new biometric security features known as Windows Hello. If you have the required hardware then you can use fingerprint detection or face recognition to log in.

Head to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options to explore the various available options.

For more information on using biometric security, check out our guide on how to use Windows Hello.

11. Stream media across the network

Go to 'Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center' and click on 'Change advance sharing settings'.

Then go to All Network section and click the 'Choose media streaming options' link and turn on media sharing.

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12. Monitor with Task Manager

Windows 10 also includes an improved Task Manager with a better layout and easily digestible information and useful graphs.

Familiarise yourself with the Task Manager to monitor the resources of your PC and to terminate unresponsive processes.

13. Create a local account

If you don't want the benefits of OneDrive synchronised account, you can create a standalone offline account. Head to Start > Settings > Accounts and click the 'Sign in with a local account instead' link.

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14. Contact Support

If you need help setting up a Windows app or are facing any issues, you can use the Contact Support app under the Start > All apps menu.

The app will help you find discussions relevant to your technical problems on the community forums.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Desktop tips

15. Arrange windows

In addition to snap, you can arrange windows in other ways as well. Right-click on the taskbar to reveal three window arrangement schemes: namely, Cascade Windows, Show windows stacked, and Show windows side by side.

16. Scroll inactive windows

If you often work with multiple open windows at the same time, Windows 10 lets you save time and effort by allowing you to scroll through inactive windows in the background when you hover over them.

17. Snap windows to corner

Windows 10 includes a Snap Assist feature which lets you snap two windows side-by-side by offering you a choice of windows to snap. Also, to snap a window to a quarter size of the monitor, just drag the window to a corner.

18. Use Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 finally lets you add multiple virtual desktops. For this, click the Task View button on the taskbar and then click on New desktop button.

For more on how to use Windows 10's virtual desktops, check out our in-depth guide.

19. Peek at the desktop

Right-click on the thin button at the far right end of the taskbar and choose 'Peek at desktop'. Now when you roll the pointer over it, it'll show you a quick preview of the desktop and revert back when you move away.

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20. View apps from across desktops

By default the taskbar displays windows and apps from the current desktop. To change this behaviour, head to Start > Settings > System > Multi-tasking > Virtual Desktops and select the 'All desktops' option from the pull-down menu.

21. Move Windows between Virtual Desktops

To move windows, bring up the Task View and drag an open window from the current desktop straight into the desktop you want to move it into. Or drag a window to the 'new desktop' button in order to create a new virtual desktop for the window.

22. Get back icons on the desktop

For easier access to certain key locations on your computer, head to Start > Settings > Personalisation > Themes. Then click the 'Desktop icon Settings' and select the icons you want to place on the desktop.

23. Manage notifications

To customise which quick action icons are displayed in the Notification Center, head to Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions and then click on the four icons displayed to select a different icon from a pull-down list.

24. Shake to minimise

To declutter your screen you can quickly minimise all open windows except the one you're viewing currently. Just click, hold and shake its title bar.

Repeat the action to restore all minimised windows.

25. Enable jumplists

You can save considerable amount of time by using Jump Lists with the most used apps. Open the Settings app from Start Menu and go to Personalisation > Start and enable the last option if you wish to see jump lists on Start Menu and Taskbar.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Start menu tips

26. Colourise Start

The default colour of the Start Menu doesn't please all eyes especially after several hours of use. To pick your own colour, head to Start > Settings > Personalisation > Colours and disable the 'Automatically pick an accent colour from my background' option and pick an accent colour from a palette.

27. Streamline Start

If you don't want Start Menu to show the most used programs in left-side pane, open Settings app from Start Menu and head to Personalisation > Start and set the 'Show most used apps' option to Off.

28. Hide Recently opened apps

Similarly, if you don't want Start Menu to show your recently opened programs and files, head to Settings > Personalisation > Start Start and toggle the 'Show recently added apps' option to off.

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29. Choose which folders appear on Start

Open the Settings app from Start Menu and go to Personalisation > Start and click on the 'Choose which folders appear on Start' link. Now you can customise the folders list that shows on the Start menu.

30. Prevent an app from showing in the Recently Used List

You can also prevent particular apps from showing up in the recently used apps list despite how frequently you use it instead of turning off the feature entirely.

For this right-click on an app and select 'Don't show in this list'.

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31. Keyboard-friendly Start

You can operate the Start menu almost entirely using the keyboard. The Windows key to bring it as always and you can then use the search feature and the arrow keys to navigate it without a mouse.

32. Turn off Live Tiles

If you're distracted by the constant updates and changes in the tiles, you can turn off their ability to display updates. Just right-click on them and select the 'Turn live tile off' option.

33. Switch to Start Screen

If you wish to pin more items to the Start menu you can actually make it stretch across the entire screen. Head to Start > Settings > Personalisation > Start and toggle the 'Use full-screen Start when in the desktop' option.

34. Pin Most used settings

You can pin shortcuts, files and folders to Start Menu. Just right-click on the desired item and select the 'Pin to Start' option.

This will immediately pin the item to the right-side of Start Menu.

35. Alter names and icons of the tiles

Right-click on a tile of a non-Modern app and select the 'Open file location' option.

This will open the Programs folder. Press F2 to rename the shortcut. To change its icon, right-click on the shortcut and head to Properties > Change Icon.

36. Remove tiles

On the other hand, if you have no use for the tiles on the Start menu you can remove each and every one of them by right-clicking on each and selecting the 'Unpin from Start' option.

37. Resize the Start menu

To make room for your customisations, you can easily resize the Start menu to your liking. Just move your mouse pointer to the top-border or right-border of the Start Menu, the pointer will change into arrows and you'll be able to increase or decrease height and width.

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38. Find apps faster

To avoid scrolling through the alphabetically arranged list of apps, click on any of the letters to view all the letters of the alphabet.

Now click any alphabet which takes you directly to the apps grouped underneath it.

39. Uninstall apps from the Start Menu

You can right-click on any Modern or a traditional desktop app in the Start menu and then select the 'Uninstall' option from the pop-up menu to remove that app from your PC.

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40. Label and group tiles

By default, the Start menu arranges tiles inside two groups. Click on these labels to rename them. If you've pinned tiles of your own, hover over the area above them and click on the two parallel lines to name the group.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Change the look

41. Hide the task view button

If you don't use virtual desktops or use the keyboard to switch between them, you can hide the Task View icon by right-clicking on the taskbar and deselecting the 'Show Task View button' option.

42. Remove Cortana's search box

Similarly, you can reduce the space taken by Cortana in the taskbar. Right-click on an empty part of the taskbar, select Cortana and choose 'Hidden' to change it to a popup.

You can keep Cortana on the taskbar as a standard icon by choosing the 'Show Cortana icon' option.

For more tips check out our how to use Cortana in Windows 10 guide.

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43. Find the original Control Panel

The new Settings panel is easy to find and is easier to navigate than the old Control Panel. But the latter is still available and comes in handy for accessing advanced options. You can find it by pressing Win + X on your keyboard and bringing up the power user menu.

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44. Decrease effects

If you are running Windows 10 on a resource strapped machine, you can squeeze more performance by turning down the bling. Head to Control Panel > System and Security > System and click 'Advanced system settings'.

Now click Settings under the Performance section and customise the effects.

45. Streamline the Navigation Pane

To remove the OneDrive link in Windows Explorer launch the registry editor and head over to the key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{018D5C66-4533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6}.

Then in the right-side pane, change the value of the System.IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree variable to 0.

46. Restore the previous Volume Control UI

To bring back the vertical volume lever in the system tray, simply bring up the Registry Editor and head over to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\key.

Then create a new key named MTCUVC and under it create a new DWORD named EnableMtcUvc and set its value to 0. The volume control UI will be restored.

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47. Customise Quick Access

Quick Access allows you to immediately jump into your favourite folder and most recently used files. To customise its contents, switch to the View tab in Explorer and hit Options.

Note that at the bottom of the General tab are further options to show or hide certain bits of information.

48. Customise the Power User menu

Here you'll notice three folders that house entries for the Power User menu. You can move them around or remove them to suit your workflow.

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49. Disable new battery flyout

To bring back the old battery display in the taskbar, head to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell key in the Registry Editor.

Here create a new DWORD named UseWin32BatteryFlyout and set its value to 1.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Using Cortana

50. Make Cortana respond to voice commands

For a hands-free operation, click on the Cortana search bar, select Notebook from the left menu, choose Settings, and enable the 'Let Cortana respond to "Hey Cortana"' option.

Now repeat the phrase anytime to activate Cortana.

51. Make Cortana respond only to you

You can now ask Cortana to respond only to your voice. Head back to the Settings in the Notebook and press the 'Learn my voice' button and speak the phrases to teach Cortana your voice.

52. Cortana natural language search

Since Cortana can understand natural language you can use it for complex search tasks. For example, ask Cortana to 'Find pictures from August' and the intelligent assistant will rummage through your local and online files and apply the appropriate filters to fetch results.

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53. Share your preferences with Cortana

You can get better recommendations if you let Cortana know your preferences. For example, open Cortana's Notebook and head to Eat & Drink to define your choice of cuisine, price range and more.

Now repeat the process for other sections as well.

54. Send an email with Cortana

You can also use Cortana to send an email hands-free. Say 'Send an email to [Name]' followed by the message.

Cortana searches for the [Name] in the People app and composes the email with the text you spoke. If you don't wish to make any changes, say 'Send'.

55. Cortana in Edge browser

Cortana can also help you as you browse the Internet. To enable it in Microsoft Edge, go to Settings > Advanced Settings >View Advanced Settings and under 'Privacy and Services' enable 'Have Cortana Assist Me in Microsoft Edge'.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Files and folders

56. Pin and reorder folders

You can also pin folders in the Quick Access list on the navigation panel to make sure they don't disappear regardless of their frequent or recent use.

To change their listing order, simply select a folder and drag it above or below the other listed folders.

57. Change the default view in File Explorer

File Explorer now defaults to the Quick Access view, but if you want it to go straight to This PC on launch, click on the View tab, select Options and change the 'Open File Explorer to' setting to 'This PC'.

58. Selectively Sync folders with OneDrive

OneDrive is now more flexible and user-friendly. To customise the folders it syncs, right-click on the OneDrive icon in the notification area, select Settings, switch to the 'Choose folders' tab, and click the 'Choose folders' button to select the cloud folders that you want available locally.

59. Access files remotely

Under the OneDrive Settings tab, if you toggle the 'Let me use OneDrive to fetch any of my files on this PC' option, you can access your files from another computer using the OneDrive website.

60. Automatically back up libraries

To backup your libraries, plug in an external drive and head over to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Backup.

Click on the 'Add a drive' option and select the plugged in drive and then enable the option, found under File History.

61. Access Previous versions of files

Once you've set up the File History preference, you can right-click on any file, select Properties, and open the Previous Versions tab to see past revisions to the file saved by either File History or Windows' system restore points.

62. Restart Explorer

To quickly apply changes that require restarting the computer, launch the Task manager by right-clicking on the taskbar.

Click the 'More Details' button and under the 'Processes' tab look for an entry named 'Windows Explorer'. Then right-click on it and select 'Restart'.

63. Change the location of Edge's Downloads folder

To force the Edge browser to use a custom Downloads folder, head to the Registry Editor and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Classes\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\AppContainer\Storage\microsoft.microsoftedge_8wekyb3d8bbwe\MicrosoftEdge\Main key.

Create a new String named 'Default Download Directory' and set its value to the path of the new folder, such as D:\Downloads.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Apps

64. Swipe menu

All your apps run full-screen when you're using Windows in the Tablet mode. To bring up the menu and access any commands and the window control, simply swipe in from the top.

65. Analyse available storage space

To figure out what kind of files are taking up room on your computer, head to Start > Settings > System > Storage and click on the drive name to get a breakdown of how the space is being used.

66. Save apps to external drives

If you use an SSD as your system drive you can ask Windows 10 to install apps on another disk by heading to Start > Settings > System > Storage and pointing to it under the 'New apps will save to' option.

67. Customise your default app associations

If the default file associations don't work for you, you can change them by right-clicking on a file and selecting the 'Open with' option. Now select the 'Choose another app' option and pick the app you wish to use.

68. Define a keyboard shortcut for any app

To get faster access to apps, you can launch them by using custom keyboard shortcuts. For this, right-click on an app's icon and head to Properties > Shortcut.

Now click inside the text box labelled 'Shortcut key' and press any key.

69. Customise your app notifications

Notifications from all the installed apps can make you miss the real important ones. To curb notifications head to Start > Settings > System > Notifications & action. Scroll down and selectively turn off apps that you don't want to hear from.

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70. Offline maps

Save time and money when searching for directions on the go by downloading an offline version of a map. Head to Start > Settings > System > Offline Maps and then click the Download maps button.

Now you can drill down to the geographic region you're interested in to download the map.

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71. Side load Windows apps

Just like Android, Windows 10 now lets you install Windows apps from other sources besides the Windows Store. To enable this action, simply head over to Start > Settings > Update & security > For developers and click the 'Sideload app' option.

72. Speed up app launches at boot

On a super-fast machine you can disable the artificial app startup delay. Launch regedit and navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer.

Right click Explorer, select New > Key, and name it Serialize. Under this key, simply create a DWORD value called StartupDelayInMSec and set it to 0.

73. Run app as admin

If you want to run installed apps with escalated privileges for more freedom, right-click on them and select the 'Run as administrator' option.

Remember however that this facility is available only for regular apps and isn't available for Modern apps.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Productivity tips

74. Use the Power User menu

The new Start menu doesn't bring back Control Panel to the menu list, but you've still got the power user menu from Windows 8. Just right-click on the Start icon or use the Win + X keyboard shortcut to bring it up.

75. Print to PDF

You can now save documents as PDFs without any third-party software as both the Modern apps and the traditional desktop programs offer the option as part of their standard printing options.

76. Mail gestures

The new Mail app in Windows 10 supports a couple of gestures for common tasks. Click on the gears icon in the app to bring up the Settings and switch to Option section.

Now enable the 'Swipe actions' option and use the pull-down menu to define actions for the left and right swipe gestures.

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77. Mount ISO images

You don't need any third party software to browse the contents of an ISO image. Right-click on an ISO image and click 'Mount'.

The ISO images are auto-mounted as virtual discs and you can then access them from the File Explorer.

78. Manage contacts

A contact in the People app can include an email address, work/home address and more. And depending on what information has been added to the contact, you can use the app to launch a Map view of the address or compose an email to the contact.

79. Edge Reading enhancement

Edge has a distraction free view for reading web pages that you can switch to by clicking on the Reading View icon (or pressing Ctrl + Shift + R on your keyboard) .

To configure the Reading View head to Settings and scroll down to the Reading section.

80. Move Photos from your phone

Plug your Android/iOS phone to your Windows 10 computer using the regular microUSB cable. This will launch the new Phone Companion app with information about your phone.

Now scroll and select the 'Import photos and videos into the Photos app' option.

81. Enable new features in Command Prompt

The new Command Prompt in Windows 10 allows you to use Ctrl+C or Ctril+V to copy and paste commands more easily.

To activate the feature, simply open the Command Prompt, right-click its title bar and select enable the new features under the 'Edit Options' section.

82. Record a video of an app

You can now use Windows 10's Game DVR function to record video of any open app or desktop software. Press Win + G to open the game bar which has a circular Record button. Recorded videos are saved under Video > Captures folder.

Note that recording may slow performance depending on the demands of the app.

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83. Edit and share photos

You can use the built-in Photos app to fix many common photo flaws. You can straighten and sharpen images and apply filters and effects.

If you have installed social apps such as Facebook or Twitter you can use Photos to share images with friends and family.

84. Generate a Battery Report

If you want to keep tabs on your laptops' battery level, launch the Administrative command prompt and type the following command: powercfg -energy -output C:\report.html. The command will analyse the battery status and create a Power Efficiency Diagnostics Report in the root directory of the C: drive.

85. Create a recovery disc

Plug in a USB drive and head to Start > Settings and type 'recovery' in the Find a setting textbox and select the 'Create a recovery drive' option.

This will launch a wizard which wipes the USB drive and transforms it into a recovery drive. Our how to create a Windows 10 recovery disc guide explains the steps further.

86. Create a system image

Head to Start > Settings and type 'file' in the textbox and select the 'File History' tool. Click the 'System Image Backup' link in the lower-left corner to start a wizard; this lets you select the destination drive for storing the backup image.

Windows 10 tips and tricks: Advanced tips

87. Bypass the sign-in screen in Windows 10

Speed up boot by logging straight into Windows 10 by typing 'netplwiz' in the search bar to bring up the User Accounts window.

In the Users tab, deselect the 'Users must enter a username and password to use this computer' option.

88. Set display per-monitor

With Windows 10 you can configure different DPI scaling ratios if you've got multiple monitors attached to your computer.

Right-click on the desktop and head to Display settings which lets you configure each detected display individually.

89. God mode

GodMode is a one-stop panel that gathers all Control Panel commands within Windows 10. Create a folder on your desktop named: GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}.

Once created the folder will change to the Control Panel icon and rename itself 'GodMode'.

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90. Customise Sync settings

You can easily take charge of the settings that synced from the current installation to your online account. Head over to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings and disable any of the listed settings that you don't want to sync with your Microsoft account.

91. Use maximum CPU power

You can make sure you are using the maximum power of your main processor on a desktop PC running Windows 10 by heading to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options.

Here click Change Advanced Power settings > Processor power management > Minimum processor state and change it to 100%.

92. No automatic updates

By default some Windows updates will automatically restart your computer to finishing installing. To put yourself in charge, head to Start > Settings > Updates and Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options.

Under the 'Choose how updates are installed' pull-down menu, select the 'Notify to schedule restart' option.

93. Schedule restarts

To continue working uninterrupted, you can ask Windows 10 to delay applying an update that requires a restart. Head to Start > Settings > Updates & security.

If you have an update pending, you can schedule your reboot after selecting the 'Select a restart time' radio button.

94. Get updates from other sources

Windows 10 lets you download updates from other computers on the network and the Internet using peer-to-peer technology, rather than Microsoft directly.

To tinker with the setting, head to Settings > Update & Recovery > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Choose how you download updates.

95. Setup Metered connections

If you are connected to a mobile WiFi hotspot, you might want to configure it as a metered connection to restrict your data usage.

Head over to Notifications > All settings > Network & Internet > WiFi > Advanced options and under 'Metered connection' enable the 'Set as metered connection' option.

96. Slide down the desktop to shutdown

Head to Windows > System32 and double-click on the slidetoshutdown.exe program. Performing this action from now on will drop in your lock screen image from the top and cover half of your screen.

Just slide the image to the bottom of your screen to shut down your computer.

97. Disable data collection

To prevent your computer from communicating with Microsoft HQ, type 'services' in the Start menu search bar to bring up the Services Management console. Now find and disable the services named 'Diagnostics Tracking Service' and 'dmwappushsvc'. You're done.

98. Improved Registry Editor

If you use the Registry Editor, Windows 10 now lets you navigate the quintessential power user app with ease.

You can now jump between the same entries under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_CURRENT_USER hives using a special context-menu entry.

99. Modify Windows update policy

If you want to always be notified of an impending Windows update, you can change the setting in the Registry Editor.

Launch regedit and head to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows key. Here create a new key under Windows key and set its name as WindowsUpdate.

Then create another new key under WindowsUpdate key named AU. Here create a new DWORD named AUOptions and set its value to 2.

Lastly click 'Check for updates' in Windows Update to bring the changes into effect.

100. Enable the handy Administrator account

By default, the built-in Administrator account is hidden to users. To enable it, launch the Command Prompt as Administrator and type net user administrator /active:yes. Now logout to see the newly added Administrator account on the login screen.

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