How to master... Windows 10

Dig into the Creators Update and more with these helpful tips and tricks

Windows 10 is a great evolution over the less-loved Windows 8 and is truly the ultimate version of Microsoft's PC operating system. But it can be complex.

While streamlined and approachable on the surface (or a Surface), Windows 10 has a load of behind-the-scenes options, multiple ways to accomplish some of the same tasks, and some very advanced functionality that you may not need or ever know about.

Still learning the basics? Don't sweat it: we've assembled 21 relatively straightforward tips, tricks, and techniques that can help you customise Windows 10 to your liking, utilise fun or productivity-boosting features, and ensure that the OS works exactly as you want it to. And a few of these are straight out of the new Creators Update, too.

THE BASICS...

1) Use virtual desktops

We use our computers for lots of different things, and sometimes one screen can feel rather confining. Well, you don't have to buy an extra monitor – just use virtual desktops.

Taking a cue from macOS, Windows 10 lets you split your active windows and apps across multiple desktop panels and swap between them with ease. You can click into Task View from the taskbar and then add and swap between desktops there, or use Windows + Ctrl + the left and right arrows to quickly move between them.

2) Customise the Start menu

The classic Start menu is not so classic-looking anymore. Sure, Windows 10 fixed the Windows 8 mistake of using all tiles all the time, but the end result is a hybrid of both approaches.

Fortunately, you can tweak it to your delight. Click and drag along the edges to make the menu wider or taller, right click on apps to pin and unpin them as well as resize tiles, or enable or disable live updating. And if you hate tiles altogether, just unpin them all and have a list.

3) Use the dark theme

Find Windows 10's white window backdrops off-putting? Fair enough: your computer screen is probably already bright enough without a big chunk of whiteness blinding you every time you double-click a folder.

No worries: Windows 10 added a dark theme that switches to black folder backdrops, and it's a lot easier on the eyes. Just hit Settings, go to Personalisation and then Colours, and you'll find the Light/Dark option near the bottom.

4) Get Cortana listening

We're all guilty of talking to our computers here and there, but wouldn't it be nice if they actually did something with your requests? Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant, is baked right into Windows 10, but by default she can't hear you unless you click the microphone icon.

You can change that: click the search bar, click the settings gear, and activate "Hey Cortana." Now, whenever you utter that phrase, Cortana will spring to life to answer your questions. So helpful!

5) Boost your games

Using your PC to play games? If so, then you might want to tap into Windows 10's Game Mode. It reallocates resources to push gaming performance above all, and could bring a small bit of improvement to your next play session.

Just hit the Gaming section under Settings and activate the Game Mode option. It's not likely to make a night and day difference, but if you're running a lower-specced machine, then every bit counts towards a stable frame-rate and smoother experience.

6) Limit notifications

Having a place to keep all of your notifications seems like a good idea, except when they're so frequent and unnecessary that they just drive you mad. So why not get rid of some?

If you want to limit the junk that appears in Action center and on your lock screen, go to Settings, System, and Notifications & actions, and you can limit them in broad strokes or otherwise choose which apps can or cannot pester you.

7) Use battery saver

If you use a Windows 10 laptop or tablet and want to squeeze some extra life out of every complete charge – not just when you're running low – then use Battery Saver.

The feature disables unnecessary background functions, including live tile updates and email and calendar syncing, and can also auto-dim your screen brightness. Click on it in the Action center, or find it under System in Settings. You can also see which apps are using up the most battery life.

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