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

Alphr logo Alphr 13-11-2015 Vaughn Highfield

Upgraded to Microsoft's latest OS and need some pointers? These are the tips you can’t be without

Having finally struck gold with Windows 10, Microsoft 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, whether you’re completely new to Windows or you've upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1, there are plenty of new features to learn. 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

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

Here’s how to set up Hey Cortana:

Open Cortana

Click into Notebook (the icon underneath the Home button in Cortana’s side menu)

Click Settings

Scroll to find the “Hey Cortana” toggle switch and turn it 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 find something quickly on their computer might prefer the “This PC” view from Windows 7 and Windows 8. Thankfully, you can switch Explorer to this arrangement in just a couple of simple steps.

Open File Explorer

Click View then Options on the far right. The “Folder Options” menu will appear

Next to the “Open File Explorer to” option, select “This PC” from the dropdown menu

Click Apply then OK to confirm the change

3. Take control of Windows 10 updates

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

Fortunately, there’s a way to make this process a little more palatable, saving your internet bandwidth as well as your open documents. You'll still get Windows 10 updates Microsoft deems “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:

Open Settings and go to “Network and Internet”

In WiFi, click “Advanced Options”

Under “Metered Connection”, toggle the “Set as metered connection” switch on.

Go back to Settings and select “Update & Security”

Choose “Advanced Options”, then use the dropdown menu to select “Notify to schedule restart” instead of Automatic. 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 a welcome change, but it’s eagerness to open everything as the default app is not.

However, you can stop Windows 10 using it as default – and set defaults for all your other applications.

Open Settings and go to System

Towards the bottom of the options, you’ll find “Default Apps”

Here, you can reassign defaults for a whole array of services and applications and even assign them by the type of file they open

5. Ditch Bing and start searching with Google

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Since 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 Microsoft’s 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.

How to remove Bing from Microsoft Edge:

Open Edge and select the ellipsis on the right

Go to Settings, then “Advanced Settings”

Under “Search in the address bar”, change the default option to “Add New”

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

How to remove Bing from the Windows 10 search bar:

Open Chrome and download “Bing2Google” from the Chrome App Store

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 functions 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, since the active window is never really highlighted.

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

Right click on your desktop and select Personalise

Select Colours

Turn off “Automatically pick an accent colour from my background”

Select an accent colour you’ll recognise most against your Windows 10 background; your windows and highlighted points will all change

7. Remove the Windows 10 login screen

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Now that Windows 10 knows more about you than ever before, it makes sense to keep your profile behind a password or biometric lock. However, it’s endlessly annoying to boot up your desktop or laptop, 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 brute force via the Windows tweaker’s favourite tool: the command prompt.

In the Windows 10 search bar, type “CMD” and select "Command Prompt"

Type “control userpasswords2” into the box and hit enter

A "User Accounts" pop up will appear. Uncheck the tick box at the top that reads “users must enter a username and password to use this computer”

You’ll be prompted to enter and confirm your password to change the settings. Once done, you’ll never have to log in 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 cinch – your video licence will have been carried over from the previous OS. However, if you’ve purchased a new laptop or desktop that runs Windows 10, you’ll discover you can’t play DVDs at all.

Microsoft has a solution in the form of a Windows DVD Player app on the Windows Store. The app is free until 29 July 2016, but after then it’ll cost a hefty £11.59.

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

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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 has had its time in the sun.

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

Open Edge and click the ellipsis in the right corner

Select Settings and scroll until you can click “View Advanced Settings”

Toggle “Use Adobe Flash Player” to off

10. Streamline your notifications

The 15 ESSENTIAL Windows 10 tips and tricks you need to know© The 15 ESSENTIAL Windows 10 tips and tricks you need to know

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

Luckily, Microsoft realises not everybody wants notifications from Windows Feedback or other preinstalled apps, so it lets you choose the apps you want to hear from.

Open Settings and go to System

In System, select “Notifications & Actions”

Here you can toggle notifications from every app on your computer

You can also click on an app to tailor what type of notifications it shows you when notifications are enabled


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 has outdone it entirely by allowing you to snap together four 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

Windows Key + Down = Snap active window to bottom

Windows Key + Left = Snap active window to left

Windows Key + Right = Snap active window to right

12. “Print” documents to PDF

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Not so much a trick as 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 level, disabling push notifications and lowering screen brightness in the process.

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

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

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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 any other sensitive data, alarm bells should be ringing.

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

Windows Key + A = Open "Action Centre"

Windows Key + S = Open Search

Windows Key + C = Open Cortana in listening mode

Windows Key + Tab = Open "Task View"

Windows Key + Ctrl + D = Opens a new virtual desktop

Windows Key + Ctrl + Right/Left = Cycle between open virtual desktops

Windows Key + Ctrl + F4 = Close current virtual desktop

Windows Key + G = Opens "Game Centre"

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