windows 10 tips and tricks

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windows 10 tips and tricks

Some of these may break as the operating system evolves, given Microsoft’s new “Windows as a service” mentality. We plan to update this article over time to reflect the OS’s current status. Got any tricks of your own? Please share them in the comments!

Shop with Edge

After you install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you might just want to make Microsoft’s Edge your go-to browser—at least for shopping. That’s because if you open a site like Target.com or BestBuy.com in Edge, Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, will often appear and offer to use one of several coupons it found automatically. Now that’s helpful. You can also install extensions in Edge now, though the selection is incredibly limited in these early days.

Activation Troubleshooter

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update added a killer feature for DIY types: The ability to tie your Windows 10 license to your Microsoft Account, rather than to your PC’s hardware.

If windows freaks out after you upgrade your PC, go to Settings > Update & Security, add your Microsoft account (if it isn’t linked already), and then click Troubleshoot at the bottom of the screen. Hit Microsoft’s Account Troubleshooter FAQ for the full scoop.

Another awesome perk for enthusiasts: You’ll find a new Start fresh with a clean Windows install option alongside Windows 10’s Refresh and Reset tools, which goes even further than the other options by blasting away any bloat ware preinstalled by your device manufacturer. You’ll be prompted to download a tool from Microsoft’s website in order to start the procedure, though.

Dark theme

dark theme

Believe it or not, a dark theme was the most-requested feature that users wanted from the Anniversary Update. Your wish has been granted. Find it at Settings > Personalization > Colors.

Calendar embraces Calendar

The Anniversary Update also worked some helpful new functionality into the Windows taskbar’s calendar, which has long been the barest of bare-bones features. Now, the taskbar calendar integrates with Windows 10’s core Calendar app, so if you click the date and time in the right-hand side of your taskbar, the calendar that pops up includes a full look at your schedule for the day.

Make Cortana’s ears perk up

Cortana’s finally made the leap to the PC in Windows 10, assuming control of the operating system’s search functions and dishing out just as much sass as the Windows Phone version. But by default, she doesn’t listen for your commands.

If you’d like to be able to just bark commands at your PC, open Cortana by clicking the search field in the taskbar and select the Notebook icon in the left-side options pane. Select Settings from the list, then simply enable the Let Cortana respond when you say “Hey Cortana” option. You’ll need an active microphone for this to work, of course. While you’re poking around Cortana’s options, you can dive into the Notebook menu to fine-tune exactly what personal data Microsoft’s digital assistant can access. Remember, however, that like Google. Now, Cortana’s effectiveness is directly related to how much she knows about you.

Powerful natural language search

Cortana can handle all sorts of commands you issue using natural language, such as playing music, creating reminders, showing the weather, or even remembering random facts for you. The most powerful use of her natural language abilities revolves around basic search capabilities. You can give Cortana basic commands like “Find pictures from June” or “Find documents with Windows 10” and she’ll apply the appropriate filters. Then scour your local files and OneDrive storage for results.

You can now enable Cortana on the Windows lock screen as well, where you can use voice commands to view and edit your schedule at a glance. It’s pretty handy! To turn on the feature, open Cortana and head to “Cog” icon > Settings > Use Cortana even when my device is locked.

Cortana everywhere

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update ties Cortana on your PC and Cortana on your phone closer together. This drastically increasing the usefulness of installing the digital assistant on all your devices. Cortana will be able to pull notifications and low-battery warnings from your phone and beam them to your PC. You’ll be able to receive your Android or Windows 10 Mobile phone’s notifications on your Windows PC, and be able to respond to texts via Cortana. Pulling up Maps directions on your PC and pushing them over to your phone via the Cortana app.

Muzzle Cortana

But what if you don’t want Cortana listening in on you whatsoever? Microsoft unfortunately disabled all overt methods for disabling the digital assistant in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, along with a  handful of other things.

Don’t despair. There’s still a workaround for closing her eyes and ears: Simply logging out of your Microsoft Account in Cortana. To do so, head to Notebook > About me > User account > Sign out. This will severely limit functionality, though. Alternatively, you can limit Cortana’s awareness and use a third-party local search tool. We cover those details in PCWorld’s guide to taming Cortana after the Anniversary Update.

Customize your Start menu

Don’t forget to make the Start menu your own. If you appreciate the blend of the traditional interface with the Live Tiles, note that you can right-click on any tile and select Resize to alter the tile’s dimensions—just like on the Windows 8 Start screen.

Alternatively, if you loathe Live Tiles and the Metro interface with the ferocity of a thousand suns, you can also right-click on every one of the defaults in the Start menu and select Uninstall to wipe them from your system. (Or simply Unpin from Start if you’d rather hide than eradicate them.) Repopulate them with desktop software of your choosing—you can right-click any app or program and select Pin to Start—and before you know it, it’ll be kind-of-sort-of like the Windows 7 Start menu all over again.

Secret, powerful new Command Prompt tools

windows 10 CMD

Windows 10 packs a slew of nifty new command-line features, including the ability to copy and paste inside the command prompt with Crtl + C and Crtl + V. To activate the goodies, open the command prompt. Right-click its title bar, then select Properties. You can find and enable the new features under the Edit Options section of the Options tab.

Bash comes to Windows

If you got all hot and bothered over the ability to use keyboard shortcuts to paste text in the Command Prompt, wait until you get a load of this.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update added the full, legendary Bash shell to Microsoft’s operating, thanks to a partnership with Canonical, the company that guided Ubuntu Linux’s development. And it’s running natively, without virtual machines or containers. With  the right tricks, you can even use Bash to run graphic Linux applications or even the Unity desktop itself right inside Windows—though those unintended features are definitely limited.

To enable Bash, you’ll need to be using a 64-bit Windows 10 AU build. Head to Settings > Update & Security > For Developers and enable Developer Mode. With that done, navigate to Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows Features On or Off and activate Windows Subsystem for Linux (Beta), then click OK. You’ll be prompted to restart your PC. After you do, just search for “Bash” in the taskbar search menu to start your development engines.

Audio source switching

The Anniversary Update added a niche, yet nifty touch to Windows 10’s in-taskbar volume controls: selectable sources. Now, clicking the audio device name in the volume controls summons a list of all connected audio outputs, meaning you can switch from your headphones to your speakers and back again without having to dive into the Control Panel.

Find My Device

find my device

Windows isn’t just on desktops anymore, and a handy new feature released in the Windows 10 November Update acknowledges that: Find My Device, which does exactly what you’d think. (Though sadly, it doesn’t offer remote lock or wipe capabilities yet.) To active it, head to Start > Update & Security > Find My Device, then click the big Change button and enable the “Save my device’s location periodically” option when prompted. Once it’s on, you can log into your Microsoft account and head to account.microsoft.com/devices to see the last known location of your Windows 10 gizmo.

Install Windows Store apps elsewhere

The Windows 10 November Update fixes another longstanding frustration for both mobile and desktop users: The inability to install Windows Store apps to external storage. Ever since the Windows Store debuted in Windows 8, it’s forced you to install apps to your device’s primary hard drive—a sore point for Windows tablet owners, or users who run Windows off a small SSD boot drive.

No more! After you’ve installed the Windows 10 November Update, you can  save apps to external storage  or secondary drives by heading to Start > Settings > System > Storage after you’ve connected the storage to your PC, be it a thumb drive or SD card. From there, click the drop-down menu under “New apps will save to” and select the external storage drive you want to use.