Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system pulls off an impressive highwire act of taking users’ favorite elements from the popular Windows XP, skimming over the much-maligned Windows 8, and then updating the whole Windows system for modern users.
Windows 10 first came out in mid-2015, which has given users a lot of time to get familiar with it. It’s still easy to overlook some features that can come in handy, so check out these quick tips and tricks covering everything from the start menu to getting the most out of the Task Manager.
A different sort of 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 settings. All of that is handy, but you can get a completely different look from the start menu when you right-click on the icon instead. If you’re using a touchscreen, then just touch the icon, hold it down for a second and then release. Alternately, use the keyboard shortcut by hitting the Windows key combined with “x.”
The right-click version delivers a quick and clean start menu. The power options and access to programs are still there, but it also puts a lot more at your fingertips, including the Task Manager, control panel, device manager, and even the command prompt.
Find your apps fast
When you open your regular start menu, you see a list of your apps running down the side. The 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.
Quickly open a taskbar program
Windows 10 brought with it a lot 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 hitting the Windows key and 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 blue “e” 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.
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, then 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.
Embrace the Task Manager
The Windows Task Manager used to be a fairly utilitarian feature that mainly came into play when you needed to force an unresponsive program to shut down. The Windows 10 Task Manager is almost downright fun by comparison. You can summon it through the right-click start menu or by hitting the traditional keyboard combination of control-alt-delete and selecting it from the menu that appears.
Task Manager tip 1: Speed up your startup
If you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for your computer to boot up, then you might want to pop into 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.
Task Manager tip 2: Identify the slow pokes
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.
If you find an app eating more than its fair share, then you can shut it down by selecting it and clicking “End task.” Be aware that you may lose work when you do this, so save first if you can. If it’s an app you need and you don’t want to uninstall the culprit, then check for the latest updates. Still causing problems? Maybe it’s time to look for an alternative program or consider if your whole computer might be in need of an upgrade to handle the latest software.