Winevice ows 10 is now in use on hundreds of millions of PCs and other devices worldwide, but it’s hard to find exactly the right information to get up and running. This is the guide you need, an organized collection of the how-to and informational articles I have written—and will continue to write—about Microsoft’s greatest-ever OS release.
Note: This article covers Windows 10 versions 1607, 1511, and 1607. For a look at the next version of Windows 10, please refer to the Complete Guide to Windows 10 Version 1703.
Get the book!
Windows 10 Field Guide is a full-length e-book about the latest version of Microsoft Windows, aimed at those users who will upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, or acquire Windows 10 with a new PC or device. It’s now being updated for the Anniversary update.
Windows 10 reviews
No software is perfect, as the old adage goes. But Windows 10 gets pretty damned close and, more important, Microsoft has a plan is to keep improving it over time. And really, you can’t ask for anything more than that.
Microsoft will soon release the Windows 10 Fall Update, incrementing the OS to version 1511 and providing users with a number of new and improved features. Here’s what you can expect from this release.
For the past several months, Windows Insiders have been treated to a steady drumbeat of change, testing the new features coming in the third major release of Windows 10. Soon, these changes will be made available to all Windows 10 users via the so-called Anniversary Update. And it makes the best version of Windows yet even better.
Windows 10 commentaries
I was so excited to hear Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella voice my “mobile first, cloud first, Windows best” mantra during his appearance at the Windows 10 event on Wednesday. And I thrilled to hear him say that Microsoft wanted people to love Windows. But I have bad news, Mr. Nadella. No one is ever going to love Windows until you fix this single glaring problem.
For all the great vibes around Windows 10—yes, it really does offer the best of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1—Microsoft’s latest OS isn’t perfect. And while many claim that Windows 10 will only get better thanks to the software giant’s rapid release strategy, there are two related issues that I think of, collectively, as Windows 10’s Achilles Heel. And I just don’t see a fix coming anytime soon.
Get ready for Windows 10
Microsoft announced the various Windows 10 product editions that it will sell to end users directly and with mainstream personal devices such as phones, tablets and PCs. But the software giant is inexplicably expanding the number of product editions for Windows 10, which could lead to some confusion.
Here is the PC hardware you will need to run Windows 10 when this new operating system upgrade arrives in late July. This list includes basic system requirements plus additional hardware that is required for certain features.
Several hundred million people could opt for Microsoft’s free upgrade offer during the first year of Windows 10’s availability, and many are probably wondering which version of Windows 10 they’ll get. Well, wonder no more!
In an interesting support note that appeared alongside today’s announcement about the July 29 launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has spelled out which features from previous Windows versions it will remove or deprecate when you upgrade. There are some expected entries—Windows Media Center, for example—but also a few surprises.
Upgrade and Setup
The Anniversary Update began rolling out around the world this week, but the release isn’t necessarily immediate, and many Windows 10 PCs still haven’t received the update. Here’s how you can get it immediately.
As expected, Microsoft is making Windows 10 available in ISO form, so you can download the installer and perform a clean install of this new OS. What wasn’t expected was the timing: you don’t have to wait, as the ISO download is now available. And this means you don’t actually have to wait for your Windows 10 reservation to arrive too.
With Windows 10, Microsoft has streamlined the way you download and create Setup media, which may confuse some who are used to doing things the old way. Here’s the foolproof way to do this correctly with Windows 10.
Thanks to overwhelmingly positive reviews, excitement in the free Windows 10 upgrade is building. But even many people who reserved their upgrade ahead of the Windows 10 launch are finding that they haven’t been given access. No worries, you don’t have to wait. Here’s how you can upgrade to Windows 10 right now, without having to wait on Microsoft to get to you.
Good news, Windows 10 fans: if you follow these instructions, your genuine Windows 7- or 8.1-based PC will always be associated with Windows 10, and you will be able to clean install the OS at will going forward, and without ever having to manually activate. It will just work.
One of the many questions swirling around Windows 10 in these confusing days leading to the launch is how it will handle upgrades on storage-constrained Windows 8.1 devices like mini-tablets and mini-laptops. But recent builds finally include the functionality I first heard about back in January. So now we can finally see how it works.
With Microsoft issuing ISO media for Windows 10, many people who qualify for the free upgrade are attempting to clean install the OS rather than upgrade. That may not work, but you can achieve a clean install of Windows 10 legally and easily enough.
In Windows 8.1, Microsoft provided a handy way to electronically upgrade from Windows 8.1 Core to Windows 8.1 Pro. This capability is still present in Windows 10 Home. But it’s in a completely different place. Here’s how to find it.
Over the next week or so, I’m going to embark down a path that could rip my family asunder. OK, not really. But I am going to upgrade my wife’s and kids’ PCs to Windows 10. And with such frequently-used PCs, there’s no guarantee of success.
Apple now supports dual-booting newer Macs with Windows 10 using a technology called Boot Camp. As with previous versions of this software, doing so incurs numerous performance and efficiency trade-offs, and in my own testing I’ve found virtualization solutions like Parallels Workstation to work better in some cases.
As you might expect, the various available options for running Windows on a Mac have been updated to support Windows 10. So it’s time to take another look at how this works, and figure out which is the best approach given your needs.
There are two main options for installing Windows 10 on a Mac: Apple’s Boot Camp, which lets you configure your Mac to dual-boot between Windows and OS X, or a virtualization solution like Parallels. In this post, I’ll explain how you can configure your Mac to dual-boot using Boot Camp as optimally as is possible.
Powerful virtualization solutions like Parallels 11 Desktop make it possible for Mac users to run both OS X and Windows 10 at the same time. But even more impressive, Parallels let you run Windows applications next to OS X apps, with no need to boot into different environments.
With Windows 10 and a new generation of crapware-laden portable and desktop machines shipping from a variety of PC makers, it’s time to take a look at how you can have the best and most error-free Windows 10 experience possible. And the first step is getting a clean version of the Windows 10 Setup media.
I feel that Windows 10 is a win-win for users regardless of the devices they’re using, and a much more positive experience than was Windows 8. But given overwhelmingly negative nature of online feedback, there is always a chance that some less-than-positive aspect of Windows 10—real or imagined—will overshadow all of the good news. And Windows 10’s automatic update requirement is clearly that thing.
While I feel that most Windows 10 privacy concerns are overblown, it’s fair to say that the anti-Windows FUD crowd has had an impact on the mainstream media. So here’s how you can configure the Windows 10 privacy features, both during Setup and after you’re already up and running. As you’ll see, Windows 10 is chock full of privacy options, each of which you can configure according to your needs.
I’m not sure how I forget to mention this yet, but the Windows 10 wallpaper you’ve seen in all my recent articles is available for download in HD-plus glory. If you want to fly the Windows 10 colors, please enjoy it.
If you’re just getting started with Windows 10, you should know that you’re benefiting from the work of over 5 million Windows Insiders who tested this system and provided feedback to Microsoft during the pre-release period. But you don’t need to sit on the sidelines, either: you can join the Insiders program today and get new Windows 10 features and updates more quickly than the general public. And if you would like, you can also let your own feedback be heard.
Windows has long provided an interface for configuring which apps are used by default to open certain file types or handle particular protocols. In Windows 10, this interface has been updated and simplified dramatically. But most users will probably want to change at least a few of the defaults.
When I think about the experience of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10, there is only one major area of concern from a user experience standpoint: the new Start menu. Yes, Microsoft should be applauded for listening to customers and bringing it back. And yes, I do feel that the new menu is both usable and better than the version in Windows 7. But for many users, and businesses nervous about training costs, this new UI could prove a bit too different from what they’re used to. Fortunately, there’s a fix.
This may be heresy to many Windows users, but a small and vocal minority prefers Windows 8.1 and isn’t too happy about the changes Microsoft made to Windows 10. Thankfully, the new system can be customized in ways that weren’t previously possible. And through this, I think we can reach a compromise that will be acceptable to most.
Windows 10 is unique in that it works equally well on traditional PC form factors as well as newer tablet and 2-in-1 designs. The key to this success is a feature called Tablet mode, which is part of the Continuum technologies in Windows 10. Here’s what you need to know to master this feature.
Windows will automatically scale to meet the needs of your PC’s display: it does so by examining the size and pixel density—or PPI, pixels per inch—of the display and then choosing an appropriate scaling level. Best of all, this now works properly with multi-display set ups, and you can configure each display independently.
Windows 10 presents an interesting challenge to upgraders for a number of reasons. Looking just at Start, yes it has a Start menu, but it’s different from the version in Windows 7, and quite a bit different from the Start screen in Windows 8.1 as well. Fortunately, Windows 10 Start is quite customizable. Here’s what you can do to make the Start experience more comfortable for you.
The taskbar has been a core part of the Windows user experience since 1995, and the version in Windows 10 builds of those from previous versions while adding some unique new features of its own. Here’s what you need to know about the Windows 10 taskbar, and how you can configure it to work more like the version in Windows 7 or 8.1.
Windows 10 is a lot friendlier than its predecessor, but once you become familiar with two new space-wasting items on the Windows 10 taskbar, you can safely remove them while still taking full advantage of the features they represent. Here’s how.
In Windows 10, Microsoft lets you pin Settings, Settings groups, and even individual settings to Start. But you can also create a shortcut to Settings on the taskbar and, with a little know-how, create shortcuts for individual settings on the desktop too. Here’s how.
While Windows 10 makes it easy to pin shortcuts to universal apps to Start and the taskbar, there’s no way to create shortcuts for these apps on the desktop, or elsewhere in the file system. Here’s how you can do so.
In Windows 8, Microsoft tried to push an unnecessary new document format called XPS. But Windows 10 finally embraces the PDF format everyone already uses. And you can now print to PDF.
Files and Storage
In Windows 10, Microsoft has replaced the Favorites view in File Explorer with a new Quick Access view that also automatically highlights recently and frequently accessed files and folders. Many users will find this annoying—and I certainly do. But you can fortunately reverse this behavior and cause Quick Access to work more like Favorites.
While testing small tablets with Windows 10, I noticed that it wasn’t possible to install apps to an SD card rather than internal storage. Well, it turns out this is by design: Microsoft has postponed this functionality “to a later release.”
One of the many things that makes Windows 10 unique is that this version of Windows takes up less space on a disk and requires fewer resources than its predecessors. Microsoft accomplishes this magic with a technology it calls OS compression, reducing the storage footprint of Windows 10 by 5.5 GB to 14.6 GB overall.
Microsoft has supported both consumer and business OneDrive accounts in its OneDrive mobile apps for some time now. But thanks to a recent update, you can also use the OneDrive sync client in Windows 10 to access both account types too. Here’s how.
Store and apps
If you’re familiar with Windows 8, you may know that Microsoft made it very easy to uninstall Modern mobile apps. In Windows 10, this capability has been extended to universal apps, of course. But it’s also available—gasp—for legacy desktop applications as well.
Windows 10 prevents you from easily uninstalling some of its core built-in apps. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get them off your PC. Here’s the easiest way to do so.
With millions of people testing the Windows 10 waters for the first time this week, we’re bound to see some problems. And one of the more common ones is an inability to download apps from the Store. Here’s a fix.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is touting a theme of “One Windows” in which previously separate Windows-based platforms that run on PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One and other devices are all unified into a single platform. And a key part of this strategy is the Universal Windows Platform, which will let developers create apps that run on all of these devices. Here’s what you need to know.
After fumbling with the Metro branding for Windows 8 apps and then settling on the horrible name Windows Store apps, it appeared that Microsoft had finally settled on a great new name for its new app platform: universal apps. But that’s apparently not the case: these apps will actually be called Windows apps going forward, Microsoft says. And as before, they are expected to supplant desktop applications.
Windows 10 ships with Microsoft’s new personal digital assistant, Cortana, in several locales, offering a more personalized search and help experience. But like any digital assistant, Cortana needs to get to know you a bit before she can be truly useful to you. Here’s how to get started.
While the Cortana personal digital assistant can be used to complete an amazing array of tasks using natural language, her ability to create reminders on the fly is perhaps one of the more useful. Here’s how you can create a reminder with Cortana.
The Cortana personal digital assistant in Windows 10 works pretty well without any training. But if you take a few minutes to train Cortana to recognize your voice, you will get much better results.
Microsoft’s digital personal assistant just keeps getting better: this week, the software giant announced that it has added instant language translation capabilities to Cortana in Windows 10 in the US and China. So let’s see how it works.
Action Center and notifications
In Windows 8, Microsoft finally introduced system-wide notifications to its flagship OS, letting Windows and apps notify uses of important events when needed. But Windows 10 finally makes this functionality complete, adding a notification center called Action Center that is used to access and manage missed notifications.
While Windows 10’s Action Center is useful for notification management, it also provides another function that is particularly helpful for those who upgraded a touch-first device like a tablet from Windows 8.1 to this new system: via a set of quick action tiles, you can quickly access frequently-needed system settings.
Starting with the Anniversary Update, the Microsoft Edge web browser in Windows 10 supports extensions, which can be used to personalize the browser and add functionality. Extensions are available via the Windows Store—there are both free and paid extensions—and are managed directly in Edge.
Microsoft Edge is powerful, fast and compatible, if lacking in a few basic features you may be used to with Internet Explorer or other browsers. That situation will improve over time, of course, but here’s what you can do now to configure Edge to work the way you want.
Microsoft is getting a lot of attention for pushing Internet Explorer towards retirement and replacing it with a young upstart called Edge. So here’s a quick overview of what you can expect from Microsoft Edge, the new web browser in Windows 10.
Mail and Calendar
While Gmail and Google Calendar users were shut out in Windows 8.1, that’s no longer true in Windows 10, where the Mail, Calendar and People apps natively support Google’s services. Here’s how you can configure these new universal apps to work with Gmail and Google Calendar.
If you’ve spent time looking over the bundled apps in Windows 10, you have probably noticed that Mail, unique among all of these apps, provides a background image option. Changing the image is easy. But what if you want to remove the background image?
The Calendar app in Windows connects to multiple accounts and helps you manage your work and personal schedules. Indeed, it only works with online accounts.
With Windows 10 heading towards a late July launch, it’s time to start examining each of the new features in this release. First up is Maps, a new universal app version of Microsoft’s Bing- and HERE- infused location and mapping solution.
Office Mobile: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
Microsoft’s universal Office mobile apps for Windows 10 are out of preview, meaning that they are now generally available to anyone using the new OS. As such, these apps will now require an Office 365 subscription on PCs and larger tablets for full functionality, as previous announced.
Windows 10 ships with a free OneNote mobile app that is tailored for touch-first mobile devices like tablets. But anyone can get a more powerful OneNote desktop application for free. Which should you choose?
Groove Music and Movies & TV
With Windows 10, a new generation of users will be introduced to Microsoft’s excellent digital music solution, which has been renamed to Groove Music in this release. As you might expect of a modern universal app, Groove Music integrates with Windows 10 in ways that are not possible with traditional desktop applications. And among the improvements is the ability to pin the music that you wish to access frequently to the Start menu.
Thanks to deep integration within Microsoft’s apps and services, you can copy your own music to OneDrive and then access it from any Windows 10 PC or device using Groove Music.
Starting with the Anniversary Update, the Groove app in Windows 10 can now help you discover music with a new feature called Your Music, somewhat closing the gap with more popular music services like Spotify and Apple Music.
In Windows 10, Microsoft has overhauled its media player solutions with new universal app versions. But the new Movies & TV app won’t keep playing when it’s minimized. In fact, it stops playing the video all together.
Xbox + games
With Microsoft evolving its Xbox gaming platform to include Windows 10, our game play options are about to explode. So Xbox fans will want to configure an Xbox One controller on their Windows PCs as well.
Microsoft announced today that the hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga is coming to Windows 10. Which is all well and good. But then you really don’t have a choice, either. The game will be “automatically installed for customers that upgrade to or download Windows 10 for periods of time following the game launch.”
Desktop applications and utilities
Mozilla’s Firefox 40 looks great on Windows 10, But If you are going to use Firefox on Windows 10, here are some tips for making it work even better.
This is a topic that will either mean quite a bit to you, or nothing at all. But I’ve received a number of questions about the compatibility of Windows 10 with products like Windows Home Server and Windows Server Essentials. Finally, Microsoft has provided an answer.
Windows 10 features yet another revamp to Microsoft’s parental controls functionality. This time around, there are some controversial changes, including a requirement that children use a Microsoft account instead of a local account. The good news? There are valid reasons for the changes. Here’s what’s happening.
Among the many important and positive changes to Windows 10 is one that hasn’t gotten enough attention: unlike Windows 8, which virtually demanded a Microsoft account sign-in, Windows 10 has broken that particular bond and elevated the local account, again, to its rightful place. This is great news for those many users who didn’t want to be so beholden to Microsoft’s online account.
For many users, protecting Windows against viruses and other malware is a combination of common sense and using the OS’s built-in security tools. But the security-minded can—and arguably should—do a bit more to protect their PCs from viruses and malware.
One of the neat things about Windows 10 is that it integrates some technologies that used to be available only to smart phone or tablet users. Key among these features is Find My Device, which can help you locate your PC if its lost or stolen.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Windows Hello on a loaner ThinkPad X1 Carbon. This new type of login, unique to Windows 10, makes it easier than ever to authenticate yourself on a PC. And it works with both existing and emerging technologies.
Among the many advances in Windows 10 is a new security feature called Windows Hello, which uses various biometric means, including facial recognition, to speed user sign-in. And sure enough, as Microsoft has demonstrated, Windows Hello facial recognition is wicked fast: in my own tests, the system identifies me and signs me in in less than a second.
Microsoft announced today that it will support more personal ways for you to authenticate your identity on Windows 10 devices and in apps and web sites. The Windows 10 feature is called Windows Hello, and it provides biometric authentication—via facial recognition or a finger touch—on new devices that will start shipping later this year. And a separate feature code-named “Passport” will help you to more securely sign-in to applications, enterprise content and online experiences without needing a password.
Having experienced everything that Windows Hello has to offer, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion about Windows 10’s biometric sign-in. You may want to just give it the finger.
I’ve lamented the lack of mainstream Windows Hello-compatible hardware peripherals. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any out there, and if you don’t mind going with an off-brand, you can inexpensive and easily add Windows Hello capabilities to your PC.
Backup and recovery
While Windows 10 doesn’t actually add any new backup or recovery tools, it provides great upgrades to the tools it previously offered in Windows 7 and 8. As important, full system image backup and restore capabilities are no longer squirreled away and hard to find or use.
Become a power user
Like Windows 8.1, Windows 10 has a secret power user menu—really called the Quick Access menu—which provides handy access to advanced system tools like Device Manager, Disk Management, and Command Prompt. This is a feature all power users and IT pros will want to know about.
If you’re a productivity worker who doesn’t like to take their hands off the keyboard, no worries: Windows 10 has your back with some truly useful keyboard shortcuts that will help you manage and navigate between open applications and windows, and even virtual desktops, with ease.
Windows 10 has a neat new feature that lets you scroll in non-active windows on the desktop, just as with the Mac. Here’s how it works, and how you can use this feature in your own work.
While Windows has long supported the ability to take screenshots—capturing all or part of the screen graphically so you can use the resulting image elsewhere—Windows 10 really expands on your options. Indeed, there are almost too many ways to take screenshots in Windows 10.
Starting with the Anniversary Update, Windows 10 users with mobile PCs and devices can quickly and easily enable mobile hotspot functionality, allowing you to share your Internet connection with up to 8 other devices.
Windows 10 supports broadband cellular networks provided by major wireless carriers. So if you’re lucky enough to have a SIM-enabled Windows PC or device, you can get Internet access this way, just as you do with your smart phone.
Hardware and devices
Since October 2014, I’ve tested numerous pre-release versions of Windows 10 on a wide range of existing PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s and phones. But this week, I had the opportunity to experience Windows 10 on a new Dell XPS 13. And despite the obvious allure of free upgrades for existing Windows 7 and 8.1 PCs, one thing is quite clear: you’re still going to have the best experience on a new PC.
I’ve tested the Windows 10 upgrade on a staggering array of hardware and the results have been mostly excellent. Mini-tablets, alas, are a curious exception. And while I’ve been successful more often than not, achieving success is time-consuming and complex, with no promise of a positive outcome.
With Surface Pro 3, we were introduced to the notion of a “precision trackpad,” which can be configured directly from within Windows. But with Windows 10, support for precision trackpads is improving, and the edge gestures we used in Windows 8.1 are being replaced by easier-to-use multi-finger gestures.
By default, Windows 10 quietly reconfigures your default printer every time you print. This may not desirable, especially if you use different printers, or occasionally “print” files to PDF.
Back in Windows 8, Microsoft added the ability to “cast” your PC’s display to an HDTV or other external display. In Windows 10, this capability comes full circle: Now you can cast your smartphone’s display to your PC too.