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5 new Windows 10 features to try right now

Microsoft updates bring new features, security patches, updated drivers and bug fixes. That doesn’t mean they always go smoothly. Those same updates often leave Windows users frustrated or staring at the Blue Screen of Death.

But once the kinks are worked out, it’s time to take the best new upgrades for a test drive. The October 2020 update included a ton, including settings to personalize your desktop, level-up your graphics and make your taskbar more useful.

We picked out five of the coolest new features and we’ll walk you through how to use them.

First, you need to update

Are you running the Windows 10 October update? Here’s a quick and easy way to check what version your computer is running. Hit the Windows key + R, then type winver in the box that pop. Select OK. The latest version is 2009, build number 19042.572.

If you haven’t already, you can update Windows 10 by navigating to Settings, click on Update & Security, then click on Windows Update. From there, you’ll be able to see if new updates are available for download. If not, simply click on Check for Updates to force the process.

Now you’re ready to start using these new features.

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1. Customize your Start menu

The ability to choose an accent color to customize Windows 10 is nothing new, but the update brings an added twist. You’ll now be able to switch between Light or Dark as the default Windows mode, and for the default app mode.

The default Windows mode changed the color of the taskbar and Start menu, while the default app mode changes the color of windows and folders.

To switch between Light or Dark Mode:

  • Select Start in the bottom left corner
  • Click on Settings (the gear icon)
  • Select Personalization, then click Colors in the left menu
  • Under Choose your color, you can select either Light or Dark mode, or a combination of both

From there, you can choose an accent color for all your windows and colors.

Pro tip: Access this even faster with your mouse. Right-click on your desktop and select Personalize. Click on Colors and follow the last step above.

2. See all your open windows

If you have a lot of windows open, the taskbar can become cluttered with shortcuts and apps. There’s a much faster way to see which windows are open without having to search through the taskbar.

Press and hold down the Alt key, then press the Tab key. Windows will show you a snapshot of what’s open.

While holding Alt down, you can select a window either by tapping Tab or using your mouse cursor. To close a window, just click on the X in the top-right corner of the preview.

If you use Microsoft Edge, this action will also include any open browser tab.

BROWSER WARS: Microsoft Edge has a handy new search feature that may make you ditch Chrome

3. Switch to Tablet Mode if you have a Surface Pro or Surface Book

Your Surface Pro or Surface Book can magically transform from a PC to a tablet with a few clicks. This setting is great for when you need a device that’s more touch-friendly and super easy to navigate. It also makes using Windows apps designed for tablets work better.

The switch between tablet and PC mode is super easy:

  • Select Action center in the taskbar. It’s the speech bubble-like icon in the far right-hand corner, next to the clock.
  • Underneath the notifications, if you have any, there are several options that include Wi-Fi connections, Flight mode, screen snip.
  • Look for Tablet mode. Tap it to switch.
  • To switch back to PC mode, just follow the same steps.

Note: This feature only works if your device has a touchscreen.

4. Change your display refresh rate

The refresh rate of your monitor determines how smooth motion appears on screen. This is especially important when playing graphically-intensive video games, but you’ll also notice it when you’re dragging open windows around.

Determined by the manufacturer and model, monitors can different refresh rates. In general, a 60Hz monitor can display images at 60 frames per second.

If your graphics are lagging, check that your screen is at its maximum refresh rate:

  • Click the Start button in the lower left-hand corner, then select Settings (the gear icon).
  • Click on System, then Display. This should open automatically or choose it from the left menu.
  • Scroll down to the second-to-last option, Advanced display settings.
  • If you use dual monitors, select from the drop-down which monitor you want to change.
  • In the Refresh rate drop-down menu, you’ll see a few refresh rate options supported by your monitor.
  • Just click on the desired refresh rate and close the window.

RELATED: Optimize your monitor’s settings with this free tool.

5. Pin tabs to the taskbar

Just like pinning the calculator, snipping tool or you favorite app to the taskbar, the latest update allows you to pin website tabs, too. The provides easy and immediate access to your most frequently visited websites without launching your browser. Note: This only works with Microsoft Edge.

To pin tabs:

  • Open Microsoft Edge, and browse to the website that you want to pin.
  • In the top right-hand corner, click on Settings (the three dots).
  • Navigate to and hover over More Tools.
  • Click Pin to taskbar, and choose the title you want to appear when you hover over the pin.

As a bonus, you can follow the steps above but instead of clicking Pin to taskbar, select Launch taskbar pinning wizard. Microsoft Edge will take a couple of seconds to analyze your browsing habits and will make a few suggestions of websites to pin for you. Handy!

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