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Windows 10: Tricks you’ll wish you knew sooner

In homes and offices across America, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Windows PC. You’ll see Microsoft running on monitors in almost every business, big and small, and in living rooms, bedrooms and dorms from coast to coast.

Related: Want to accelerate your workflow? Click here for the speediest Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts.

Windows is so commonplace, many of us don’t realize that it has special features that boost your computer’s speed, stream media to multiple devices, share content with your family, and customizable options to make it your own. Windows has come a long way in the past 30 years, and the number of handy tricks may surprise you.

Here are a few of the most interesting tools in the Windows 10 arsenal.

1. A secret start menu

The start menu is a Windows classic. It’s easily accessible through the stylized Windows icon in the corner of your screen. Click on it, and you get a layout of your most-used programs, access to power options, and shortcuts to your file explorer and computer’s settings. But there’s also a more “secret” version of the Start menu you might not be aware of. By holding down the Windows key and clicking the letter X, you’ll access an advanced menu with options like Device Manager, Task Manager and Disk Management. You can also right-click on the Start button to access the same menu.

2. Disk cleanup

Remember disk cleanup? It was a way to make your computer run faster when PCs had less storage than they do today. Disk Cleanup fell by the wayside for most of us as PCs and laptops have become more sophisticated. But your computer could still use a de-bloating now and again.

Disk Cleanup is a simple way to delete files and to ensure your Recycle Bin is cleared out. On Windows 10, type “disk cleanup” into your taskbar where it says, “Type here to search.” Click on Disk Cleanup app, and use the drop down menu to select which drive you want to clean up and then choose folders, such as temporary files. Tap or click here to find out other ways to remove old files and improve your PC’s performance.

3. Malware removal

It’s more important than ever to have a multilayered approach to cybersecurity. Windows Defender is a security tool that can be set up to block malware attacks in real time or you can perform a scan when you need it.

To make sure it’s on, type “Windows Defender” into your taskbar. Select Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security app, then click on Monitoring to make sure protection is turned on.

RELATED: Microsoft Defender is coming to Android and iOS to fight malware on your phone

4. Open taskbar quickly

Windows 10 brought with it a slew of new and convenient keyboard shortcuts. Take a look at the taskbar at the bottom of your screen where you have program icons lined up, most likely including your web browser and the Windows file explorer, among others. You can open those programs by holding down the Windows key and then clicking on the number that corresponds to the location of the icon in the bar.

Let’s say, from left to right, you have the File Explorer folder icon, the multi-colored round Chrome browser icon, and the new blue and green icon for Microsoft’s Edge browser. Hold down the Windows key and press “2,” and Chrome will open right up for you. It’s a quick way to access your most popular apps without reaching for your mouse.

5. Easy screen sharing

We all have that tech-challenged family member, don’t we? It might be your Aunt Sally in Boise, your best friend from high school or your book-smart but computer-novice dad.

That’s why there’s Quick Assist. In Windows 10, type “quick assist” into your taskbar > select Get Assistance or Give Assistance and then follow the onscreen instructions to remote in to help.

6. Video streaming

If you’re like me, you probably don’t think about Windows 10 as a way to stream videos on your TV. You can, though, using compatible devices such as Roku and Xbox One. Type “media streaming” into the Windows 10 taskbar > select Media Streaming Options. Turn on the feature if not already enabled and follow the instructions.

7. Shake your Windows

Here’s a fun one. If you have stacks and stacks of windows open, and you want to declutter down to just one, do this. Click on the top bar of your desired window, hold it down, and shake the mouse to instantly minimize all other open windows. Do it again to restore those windows.

8. Find slow programs

You’re working on your computer, but it’s dragging. You want to shout “Hurry up!” as you wait for tabs to switch or changes to take hold. It’s time to find out what’s slowing you down, so open up the Task Manager and check out the Processes tab.

It will show you which apps and background processes are running and how much of your CPU, memory, disk and network resources they are each hogging up. Right click on any apps or processes that are hogging CPU and memory and then click End Task. Be aware that you may lose work when you do this, so save first if you can.

RELATED: Slow computer? 9 ways to make it run faster

9. Stay focused

If you’re distracted by the sheer number of notifications you receive, you can cut down on the number of interruptions using Focus assist. Click on the Start button > Settings > System > Focus assist. You’ll then see options for customizing which notifications you receive and which go silently to the Action Center. You can also set up rules including which times of day Focus assist is enabled.

10. Track your apps

When you open your regular Start Menu, you see a list of your apps running down the side. The recently installed followed by most-used apps are on top, but the rest are laid out in alphabetical order. You could scroll through them all to find the one you want to open, but a quicker way to manage it is by clicking on any of the main letters (like “A”). This opens up a view of the entire alphabet. Just click on the first letter of the app you want, and you will be taken directly to that part of the Start Menu.

11. Task Scheduler

Task Scheduler does what you think it does; it helps you schedule tasks on your computer, like turning it off at a specific time each day. Type “task scheduler” into your taskbar to get started.

12. Find missing or corrupted files

Remember this: cmd. It’s a command prompt that can help you find files that your Windows operating system needs to work properly. It can also help you fix problems.

Type “cmd” into the taskbar > right-click on Command Prompt > select Run As Administrator. Choose Yes when asked if this program can make changes to your computer. To find missing or corrupted files, type “sfc/scannow.” To check for disk problems, type “chkdsk /f.” Tap or click here for common Windows 10 issues and how to fix them.

13. Share files

You and your family members probably send each other files all the time. You can send a document or a video by email, but a better way is to set up everyone in your house on a Windows network.

You start by clicking on File Explorer, which looks like a folder icon on your taskbar. Find and select a folder or file you want to share, then right-click and select Share. Then choose a person or app you want to share the file with, along with the method such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

14. Print PDFs

If you print documents, you’re invariably hearing “send it to me as a PDF.” PDF is a file format that’s compatible across multiple operating systems and software programs. Windows 10 can easily convert a Word document into a PDF.

To do this, go through the steps to print as you normally would. When you see the option to choose a specific printer, select the one that says, “Microsoft Print to PDF.”

RELATED: How to electronically sign a PDF

15. Enable ‘God Mode’

If you want all kinds of Windows options and settings right at your fingertips, “God Mode” will make it easy. Just right-click anywhere on your desktop. Select > New > Folder. Change the name from New Folder to this: GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} and let the magic happen.

16. Speed up your startup

When your computer gets slow, access Task Manager and trim down the number of programs that load on startup. Click on the Startup tab, and you will see a list of all your programs, whether they’re enabled, and what sort of impact each one has on your startup time.

Select a program and hit the Disable button to remove it from your start-up process. Scrutinize anything with a medium or high impact, but focus on programs you don’t use often.

What questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

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