The Windows 10 operating system was originally released on July 29, 2015. In the 5-plus years since that first version, Microsoft has added a lot of cool new features to the OS.
A lot of those features aren’t obvious unless you know where to look, however. Let’s look at some of the best Windows 10 features that you may not know are hiding under the hood.
When Windows 10 was originally released, the search box in the taskbar was connected to Microsoft’s Cortana assistant. While it added some personality to your searches, it also limited the functionality a bit.
Cortana moved from the Windows taskbar to the Microsoft 365 suite recently, giving the search box in your taskbar more power. You can use it to search the web without opening a browser, do quick conversions, perform calculations without opening the calculator app, and many other things.
It also gives you a fast way to launch apps. Instead of clicking on the Start menu and scrolling through a long list of apps, just start typing the name of the app you want to run in the search box. You’ll usually get the one you want within the first few letters then just hit enter to launch it.
If you use more than one PC in your day, the Windows Cloud Clipboard is one of the more handy features of Windows 10. This feature syncs your clipboard across all computers logged into the same Microsoft account.
For example, you can copy something to the clipboard on your work PC before you leave the office and if your home PC is logged into the same account, you can paste it into another app on it.
The work PC doesn’t even need to be turned on for this to work. The clipboard contents get synced to the cloud as soon as you copy something.
Using more than one monitor can make it a lot easier to work with several apps at once. For example, you can have a web browser open on one monitor while you take notes on the other one. Or play a video or livestream on one screen while you’re getting work done on the other.
Windows has supported more than one monitor for a long time but having two different sized monitors would sometimes cause some strange display problems. With recent versions of Windows 10, Microsoft has vastly improved the multi-monitor support so you rarely run into any issues.
You can even plug an external monitor into your laptop and use it along with the built-in screen to have multiple displays.
If you’ve used a modern smartphone with a fingerprint reader or facial recognition, you know how convenient it is to unlock your phone without having to type in a passcode every time.
Windows Hello works the same way on computers with biometric authentication features built-in. For example, some laptops have infrared cameras for facial recognition or fingerprint sensors for print recognition.
Windows Hello lets you use those features to unlock Windows so you won’t need to type your password every time you sit down at your PC.
At one time, the only way to get files from one computer to another was to save them on a floppy disk or USB stick and physically take them to the second PC. Now that high-speed internet connections are so common, cloud storage has replaced the old “sneakernet” system.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service so naturally, Windows 10 has excellent support for it. You can save files to OneDrive and they will automatically sync to any other PCs that are logged into the same account.
You can also offload files to OneDrive using its files on-demand feature. Those files are still listed in the folder on your computer but they don’t get downloaded until you need them. This lets you reduce the amount of storage you need but still have access to all your files.
If you use Windows 10 Pro, you have access to the Hyper-V virtualization software. This tool lets you create a “virtual” PC running inside of your main Windows system.
These virtual PCs can run older versions of Windows, Linux, or any other PC-based operating system. This lets you use older software that may not be compatible with Windows 10 or you can experiment with alternative operating systems without disrupting your main setup.
It’s also a good way to test unknown software in a sandboxed environment. Because it’s completely independent of your main Windows 10 installation, suspicious apps or websites can’t affect anything else on your PC.
As long as you have a reasonably powerful PC like the ones sold at www.lenovo.com you’ll be able to run virtual PCs within Windows 10.
Until recently, you had to buy expensive add-on software to do voice dictation. Windows 10 added it as a built-in feature in the OS.
You can turn it on in Settings by clicking on Speech and enabling Online speech recognition.
Once the feature is turned on, you can dictate anywhere you would normally type text. Just press Windows-H to switch to dictation mode and Windows will convert everything you say into text.
Hidden Start Menu
The Start menu has been part of Windows for more than two decades, going all the way back to Windows 95. But Windows 8 made some significant changes which were refined even more in Windows 10.
While the new Start menu gives you quick access to more things, you may miss the simpler layout from older versions of Windows. Fortunately, you can still access a similar version in Windows 10.
Right-clicking on the Start menu brings up the simplified version which gives you quick access to things like Device Manager, Settings, File Explorer, and Task Manager.
Show or Peek at Desktop
When you’re using a Windows PC, sometimes you need to take a quick look at your Desktop or switch over to it to access a file you saved there. If you’ve got a lot of applications running, it can be a bit of a pain to minimize or close them all to get back to the Desktop.
With Windows 10, you don’t need to go through all that trouble. Instead, use the small vertical rectangle at the far right of the taskbar.
Clicking on it will minimize all your open windows and immediately take you back to the Desktop. Or if you just need to look at something quickly without actually opening anything on the Desktop, hover your mouse over the rectangle to “peek” at it.
The Windows taskbar shows all your running applications and gives you a quick way to click from one to another but if you have several windows open in each app, it’s not always easy to switch between them.
The Task View in Windows 10 switches to a thumbnail view that shows small versions of all the open windows on your computer. You can quickly find the one you want and click on it to switch to it.
Windows 10’s Nearby Sharing feature is similar to OneDrive in some ways. It lets you share files with another computer or mobile device without having to save it to a portable drive or connect the two devices with a cable.
But instead of saving it to a cloud service that syncs it to another PC, Nearby Sharing uses the Bluetooth wireless protocol to quickly send the file to another computer or device within range.
You can send a file to a coworker or sync it to your smartphone without having to worry about installing any special software or sending someone a link to the file.
Keyboard shortcuts aren’t new in Windows 10 but they’re still one of the most useful productivity tools in Windows, which makes them worth mentioning in this list.
Windows is designed to work with a mouse but if you’re working in a word processor or another application that requires a lot of typing, reaching back and forth from the mouse can slow you down. It can also lead to repetitive stress injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if you do it enough.
Keyboard shortcuts let you perform common commands like cut, copy, and paste so you don’t need to move your hands off the keyboard. There are dozens of shortcuts and every app has its own so it’s tough to remember them all.
The secret is to pick a few that would be most valuable to you and practice them until they become second-nature. Then pick a few more and do the same with those. It won’t take long before you can make your computer sing without ever touching the mouse.
Which of These Windows 10 Features Is Your Favorite?
These Windows 10 features only scratch the surface of what’s available. And Microsoft keeps adding new capabilities so every update could add something else. Be sure to check the update details to see what cool new things they add next.
Check out our Tech category for more helpful tips and tricks to get the most out of your tech gadgets.