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Windows 10 essentials: Downloads you’ll wish you were already using

Since its release nearly five years ago, Windows 10 has grown to more than 900 million users worldwide. It’s also packed with more features than ever before, including apps like Your Phone that brings your PC and smartphone closer together.

Getting the most out of Windows 10 isn’t just about convenient apps — it’s also important to know how to maximize productivity, find the best ways to maintain your PC, learn how to modify the system to make it easier to use, clean it up and more. Tap or click for the most common Windows 10 issues and how to fix them.

With the end of support for Windows 7, hopefully, you’ve made the switch to Microsoft’s latest OS. Whether you’re new to Windows 10 or someone who’s been using it since its debut, we’re here to help you find the right tools to maintain your computer and customize settings. Let’s start with productivity apps.

Stay on task

Whether you work in a bustling office or on a laptop in the comfort of your home, it’s easy to get distracted. Alternately, it’s also very easy to get a little too into your work, resulting in more programs running than you can count and a cluttered browser.

The best way to combat distractions and overwhelming yourself? Helpful apps that organize your workflow and keep you focused.

Here are two of our favorites.

TidyTabs

Tired of jumping from window to window and tab to tab? It’s time to clean up that desktop with TidyTabs. Even if you have different apps open, like Excel, Word and PowerPoint, you can use TidyTabs to create a single window with each program in its own tab.

You can drag tabs in and out of windows and even create layouts to help streamline your workflow. Just save a group so your apps automatically come together in a specific order within the same window, or use a more complex arrangement by customizing the auto-grouping rules.

It also offers automatic tab sorting, keyboard shortcuts and more. There are three license options, but the one you need is Personal Freeware (free). Download TidyTabs to help keep your desktop clutter-free. For more information, visit the website.

StayFocusd

Do you often take breaks to check your social media accounts? It’s time to stop wasting time and start being more productive. Download browser extension StayFocusd to block unnecessary sites during customizable times and dates — like Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can also wean yourself from websites by giving yourself daily limits, like only 30 minutes of Facebook each day.

Obviously, if you really want to access these sites, you can use your phone or another device, but it’s not about stopping you — it’s a tool to help you reach productivity goals and learn to limit distractions. Whether you use it and learn from it is entirely up to you.

System tweaks

One of the best parts about owning a computer is all the customization options. You can do anything from using your smartphone to access your PC to completely redesigning and getting that classic Windows 7 look.

Feel like showing off your PC skills and customizations? Here are two simple but effective options to help get you started.

Connect your phone

No, we don’t mean plug your smartphone into your PC so you can download backups of photos and videos. You can actually use your device to interact with your computer.

There’s a trick that’s perfect when you’re having trouble with your wired mouse or the power died on your wireless mouse and you’re out of batteries. The solution? Combine your two favorite pieces of tech: Your phone and PC.

Tap or click here for the best apps to turn your phone into a computer mouse.

Get it back

If you’re one of the people who had to update from Windows 7 following the conclusion of support, you probably miss the look of your old operating system. But don’t worry, there’s still hope.

This app can help you make Windows 10 look like Windows 7 — but be prepared for multiple steps, since you’ll have to adjust everything from your Start menu to the File Explorer.

Tap or click here to change your Windows 10 settings so your computer looks like it’s still using Windows 7.

Maintenance

Your computer can last several years if you remember to maintain it correctly. Yes, dusting it off and cleaning the screen can help keep it in shape, but those are superficial. What you really need to focus on is what’s inside your system.

The more often you use your computer, the more it takes on clutter in the form of log files, cookies and more. But what can you do about it?

If you don’t know much about computers, it can be dangerous to start deleting things you don’t think you need. Instead, try CCleaner. It automatically cleans your browser cookies, trackers, internet history and download history.

Tap or click here to for more information on CCleaner.

More helpful tools

Now that you know how to clean, maintain, customize and prioritize things on your computer, it’s time for a little fun. There are tons of free programs you can use to edit photos or videos, watch movies or TV shows or stream other content.

Here are our top two favorite “extras” that can help transform your computer from a mere work tool to an entertainment machine.

Free editing software

If you love taking pictures, then take your time editing them, too. A few touch-ups are what make good pictures great. Try Pixlr, the free, Flash-based photo editing software that lets you draw, make quick adjustments, add filters and more.

Want to take your editing skills above and beyond? Try the paid service, which connects to Dropbox and lets you access Pixlr from any device, securely back up files, share edited photos and more.

Tap or click here to add Pixlr to your repertoire, then post all your stunning images across social media.

The program you never knew you needed

Computers are capable of amazing things. They help us get work projects done, connect to others, create, build and edit. But the one thing that often stands out more than anything else? Watching and listening to a variety of media files.

Try VLC, the VideoLAN Client can play DVDs, audio CDs, VCDs, MP3 and MP4 files. This free program is perfect for people who want to access their physical and digital media files without paying or dealing with ads.

Tap or click here to learn more about the free media player that plays just about everything.

Now that you know how to have fun with your device during downtime and how to clean up your gadget properly, the sky’s the limit for your Windows 10 laptop, PC or tablet. Whether it’s for work, school or play, with help from these apps and programs, you’re ready to go.

Bonus: Clean up your tech

Part of maintaining a healthy device is to ensure it is free of dust, grime and moisture. Luckily, unless you’re sweating over your keyboard or accidentally spilled a drink on your laptop, the moisture thing isn’t such a big issue.

What matters is whether your ports are choking on dust particles, your keyboard has food crusted to it or if your mouse is grimy.

Tap or click here for four simple steps to clean your keyboard and mouse.

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