The latest version of the Windows operating system (Windows 10) is packed full of features – some being brand new while others are improvements over prior versions. Even so, you might be surprised at how many of these features go unused.
Some may not be intuitive to find or are simply unheralded features. Others might have been meant for a specific purpose but have value in other areas as well. Let’s take a look at some of these tips and tricks.
Windows Tips and Computer Tricks
Here is a list of 10 things you didn’t know your computer can do.
1. Focus Assist to Minimize Interruptions
When you’re working (or playing) you likely find constant notifications a distraction. To help alleviate this, there is Windows Focus Assist. The feature is meant to filter the type of notifications you receive – thus allowing you to stay more focused.
You can customize its settings by going into Start, Settings, System and then click on Focus assist (or just search for it). This area will allow you to set priorities and create rules – for things such as setting timeframes that you wish not to be disturbed.
2. Pin Contacts to the Taskbar
You probably knew that you can pin many things to the Windows 10 taskbar. Did you know one of these is an easy way to access your favorite contacts?
To do so, click on the People icon on the taskbar and choose the Get Started button. This will bring up options for selecting contacts to pin – using email or Skype.
3. Game Screen Recorder
Meant to be used as a way to record gaming sessions, this hidden recording tool can also be used to record other activities/applications. You can create a how-to video for posting on a blog video, an easy way to send someone instructions and so on.
Access the Game Bar (Windows key + G) and click on the red button to start recording.
4. Optional Start Menu
For those who still hold the older versions of Windows (Windows 7 mostly) with some degree of nostalgia, there is a way to quickly produce a Start menu that (somewhat) resembles those past ones.
To bring it up (instead of the normal Start menu) right-click the Start button.
It will show a menu of items more familiar to seasoned Windows users. This is an easy way to bring up such items as the Run command or Task Manager.
5. Hidden Show Desktop Button
There are always some hidden tricks you didn’t know Windows could do. If not hidden, then at least difficult to find.
The show desktop button is situated on the far right side of the Windows taskbar. It’s thin, so finding it isn’t exactly intuitive. Once you do click on it, all open windows will be minimized to reveal the desktop.
There’s also a peek feature you can enable by right-clicking on the taskbar and choosing Taskbar settings. Once the option is turned on, you can hover your mouse over that small area/button to give a preview of the desktop.
6. Screen Capture Tools
Like most Windows users, you’re probably familiar with using the print screen (Prt Sc) key to capture screenshots. While this works, PC users have been known to envy the superior built-in screen capture features that Mac users are accustomed to.
Still, there is hope for the Windows user. One (built-in) tool is called simply Snipping Tool, has a mode that allows the dragging of a box to capture items (similar to the aforementioned Mac features) and one for entire window screenshots.
Snip & Sketch is another tool for grabbing screenshots. In order to use it, you may need to download it from the Microsoft Store first. Once done, you can use a hotkey (Windows key + Shift + S) to drag a box around what you wish to capture.
7. Save Websites to the Start Menu
The Windows 10 Start Menu can be customized to easily find what you’re looking for.
While you may already be accustomed to moving around tiles and changing their size, there is another item you can add that isn’t an application – a favorite website.
To do so, bring up the Microsoft Edge browser, browse to the desired site, click on the three-dotted menu and choose Pin this page to Start. A tile will appear on the menu for the website.
8. Cool Things Cortana Can Do
Cortana is a voice-activated personal assistant – similar to Alexa or Siri. The name (and voice) comes from a beloved AI (hologram) character from the popular Halo game series.
There are many activities that Cortana can assist you with – searching, setting reminders, controlling smart home devices, checking the weather and so on. You can even download skills for your Alexa device that allows it to open up Cortana (and vice versa).
Though not exactly a hidden gem – it’s a well-advertised feature – there are probably a lot of ways you’ve not thought to use Cortana. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
9. Sticky Notes
Who hasn’t seen (or used) those little squares of paper that are great for writing notes or reminders? Windows allows you to use this feature on your computer – to stick on your desktop instead of the refrigerator.
You can sync Sticky Notes to the cloud – or with other (Windows) devices, Outlook and so on. The app also lets you use a touchscreen for input – and can sync with Cortana to create reminders.
10. Maximize Your Laptop’s Battery
If you’re on the go, the last thing you want is for your laptop’s battery to run out while you’re using it. You won’t always have a way to plug in somewhere, so it might be wise to conserve that battery as much as you can.
The Battery Saver feature in Windows 10 (found easily via the taskbar’s search box) allows the system to scale back on usage once a certain threshold is hit (let’s say battery life of 20%). There are other settings and tips in this area to tweak as well.
What You May Not Know About Device Drivers for Windows
Your computer has many devices connected to it. The hardware requires special software to communicate with the operating system. This software, known as device drivers, is crucial to the operation of any given device.
With that being said, these device drivers can become outdated or corrupt – it’s even possible the incorrect one was installed for the hardware. In such cases, these drivers – which are typically taken for granted – can become a problem.
If a device has become unstable or stopped working altogether, it may be time to update its driver. There are a few approaches to doing so.
Let Windows Search for a Driver
This option lets the O/S do all the work. To do so, bring up the Device Manager (find it using the search box on the taskbar). Find the device in the list, right-click and choose to Update driver.
Then choose the option to allow Windows to search/install the driver.
Manually Search for a Driver Yourself
If you know the exact model (and/or serial number) of the hardware, you can seek an updated driver on the manufacturer’s website.
Once you find the correct driver, download and unzip it.
Then follow the steps above – but this time choose to browse for the driver yourself.