Nearly a billion computers around the world run Windows 10. Critics have praised it and some users love it while others hate it. Some estimate Windows 10 dominates nearly 40 percent of the desktop OS market, handily surpassing the popularity of Windows 7.
Speaking of, are you still using Windows 7? Microsoft is ending support for the 10-year-old operating system in January. Tap or click to learn how to bring your PC up to date before it’s too late.
Using the slogan “upgrade your world,” Microsoft has described Windows 10 as the “final” version. Instead of replacing the operating system every few years, Windows 10 has offered free updates — but it isn’t perfect. Here’s how to improve your Windows 10 experience.
1. Take control
Windows is good at installing updates. This process is straightforward and automatic. The bad news is you usually have to reboot your computer, and you have no idea when a new update will suddenly start downloading.
Be careful. Did you get an email reminding you to update Windows? It’s a scam. Tap or click to learn how cybercriminals are tricking users into a dangerous ransomware trap.
To prevent unscheduled interruptions, go to your settings menu, and open Update & Security. Here, you can check for updates and stay up to date on your time, or you can set time parameters. This forces your computer to stop itself from updating during “active hours.”
To set time parameters, go to Settings, Update & Security, tap Change active hours and either choose to have your computer automatically adjust the active hours of your device based on your activity or manually choose your active hours by clicking Change.
You can also pause updates altogether. This could impact your security, so you don’t want to wait too long. But if you want a short reprieve, go to your Settings menu, choose Update & Security and find Advanced Options.
From there, you can use the drop-down menu to adjust the Pause updates option up to 35 days.
2. Limit Cortana
Like other virtual assistants, Cortana is always listening for the wake command. Unfortunately, a flaw in the programming may allow hackers to break into a Windows 10 computer using Cortana’s voice commands, even when it’s locked.
Anyone can issue voice commands to Cortana and force it into downloading malicious malware, but you can stop Cortana from putting your data at risk by removing it from your lock screen and teach it to respond to your voice alone.
● Go to Settings, then choose Cortana.
● Under Hey Cortana, turn the Let Cortana Respond to “Hey Cortana” switch to on.
● Next, click the link labeled Learn How I Say “Hey Cortana.” This allows you to go through the voice recognition training.
● From here, click the Cortana start button and repeat the six provided phrases. This will teach Cortana your voice.
● After the training is complete, you can go back to Cortana in the Settings menu and enable the Try to Respond Only to Me option.
3. Change search from Bing to Google (or the search engine of your choice)
Bing is set as the default search engine for Microsoft Edge, but that may not sit well with you. Tap or click here for search engines that don’t track you.
Here’s how you can change your default browser. We’ll use Google as an example:
● Start by searching Google.com in Microsoft Edge.
● Click Settings and more…, then go to Settings.
● Scroll to the bottom and choose Advanced.
● Go down the list until you find the Address bar search option. Click it and select Change search provider.
● Click on Google from the list that generates and choose Set as default.
4. Use a PIN
You can lock your computer with a long, convoluted password, or you can set it to a simple PIN. Your PIN is only four digits long and doesn’t require any complicated parameters such as special characters or mixed case letters. It’s less secure, of course, but a PIN makes unlocking faster and easier.
Setting up your PIN is pretty simple. Just do the following:
- Go to Settings then Accounts.
- Choose Sign-in options and click Windows Hello PIN, then Add.
- Click Next and confirm your current password to reach the Set up a PIN window.
- Enter any 4-digit PIN you want and click OK, then restart your computer.
5. Resize your Start menu like a pro
The start menu acts as the central hub for everything you do on Windows 10. Because of that, its default appearance can seem a little bland. Users have complained about the size of the start menu, never realizing this is customizable.
To customize the size of your menu, do the “Windows drag.” Simply click on the Windows icon and move your cursor to the top-right edge of the menu until it turns into a two-sided arrow. Click, hold and drag to resize the menu to your preferred size, then let go.
You can easily resize your desktop icons, too. Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide.
6. Play DVDs the easy and free way
By now, you’ve probably noticed that Windows 10 won’t play DVDs, and Windows Media Player has been removed. While Microsoft offers an official DVD playback option, this feature costs $15 and seems to have persistent problems.
Fortunately, there’s a better option available that can have you watching DVDs quickly and free of charge: VLC video player. Tap or click here to learn how to download and install it. Just be sure to download the desktop app instead of the Windows Store version, which won’t support DVDs or Blu-Ray discs.
7. Silence all the annoying announcements
Depending on your settings, Windows may start announcing everything you touch with an actual voice. Windows will also record and recite any text you type into the Cortana search box, which may feel excessive.
If this starts happening out of the blue, you may have inadvertently turned on the Narrator feature, which is used by visually impaired users to better navigate the system without having to type.
Here’s how to turn Narrator off:
- Go to Settings and choose Ease of Access.
- On the left menu, go to Narrator.
- On the right menu, look for Narrator and toggle it off, then clear Allow the shortcut key to start Narrator box to disable the shortcut and keep from accidentally enabling it again.
Hopefully, these tips will come in handy the next time you feel like customizing your Windows 10 experience.
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