Windows 10 is a darn fine operating system, the best one yet that Microsoft has produced. Not only is it a lot more powerful now than what it is a few years old, it is also a bit more flexible.
But the sheer number of settings in Windows 10 is both a blessing and a curse. You get the ability to tweak and fine tune it to get the OS running just as you want it to, but this involves navigating an array of menus and panels to find the setting you are after.
And not just that, even though Windows 10 is growing in stability as it matures, it is still beset by little niggles here and there that can make the usage experience difficult. The good thing is that many of these problems can be banished by a little knowledge — of where to look and what to change.
This is exactly where this handy little article comes in.
We have brought together a collection of the most common Windows 10 problems, the most infamous annoyances and the best ways to solve them. Dozens of fixes for dozens of issues present in the OS, from misbehaving Windows updates to nosy digital assistants and everything in between.
By the time you are done reading this piece, you will hopefully know the right place to find the answer for whenever you are stumped.
Before we begin..
A little housekeeping, before we get started. This guide has been written with the latest version of Windows 10, the October 2018 Update in mind. But many of the suggestions here will work in older editions of the operating system.
Most of the suggestions here can be accomplished without the need of any additional, third-party applications. One such exception being the very popular, and highly useful, Winaero Tweaker, which you can download for free.
This recommend little program provides you access to hundreds of settings that you can change to make Windows 10 behave the way you want it. Most of the tweaks in Winaero are also possibly by flipping on some switches or editing the registry, but there are a number of advanced ones that are much easier to do in that program.
Fix 30 Common Windows 10 Annoyances
Two of the most maddening annoyances in Windows 10 have got to do with how updates are installed and reset of settings after each major release of the operating system. For this reason, we have focused a lot on these problems.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that Windows 10 has a nasty habit of undoing fixes and reverting to standard behavior every now and then. This happens particularly after a major update, so our best advice is to check your settings after you deploy and install any new release.
Enough talk, let’s start taking control.
1. Shutdown without installing updates
Windows always seem to wait to install update on your PC, often at just the moment when you want to quickly shutdown and restart your computer. Fortunately, there is a command that you can use to shut down in peace immediately and prevent the updates from being installed.
To get started, first save any files you are working on and close all the open programs. Then press the Win + R key combination to open up your Run dialog. Type cmd and press Enter to open up your Command Prompt window.
Type the following command here:
shutdown /s /f /t 00
Alternatively, you can use the power button to shut down your computer. Press Win + R and then type powercfg.cpl to open Power Options. Click Choose what the power buttons do and select Shut down for When I press the power button. Save changes.
Now, instead of using the shutdown option from the Windows 10 Start Menu, you can press the power button on your computer to get Windows to shut down without installing updates.
2. Manage Windows updates
Windows 10 will try to push updates, no matter whether you want to install them or not. But at least, it is possible to take some control over the process. For starters, you can open the Settings app, go to Update & Security and Change Active Hours to tell the OS not to install updates during this time.
You can select a maximum time period of 18 hours, for the start and end times.
Another good option to turn on can be found in the Advanced options link, where you can set the operating system to show you a popup box that will give you the option of restarting now, pick a time or snooze.
3. Stop Windows updates Completely
As good as these options are, the better bet is to completely stop downloading updates. This can be done by creating a batch file to turn off the Windows Update feature, and another one to turn it back on again.
For added convenience, you can also schedule this file to run at login every time you start your computer. This will prevent Windows from re-enabling the Windows Update service.
To get started, right-click on your Desktop, select New and then create a Text document. Name it Stop Updates.bat by selecting All Files in the Save as type section. You will see the icon change when saving it. This here bit is important, as the file will not run without the .bat extension.
Once the file is created, enter the following commands, one per line:
net stop wuauserv net stop bits net stop dosvc
Save the changes, and test the file out by right-clicking and selecting Run as administrator. To verify that your batch file is working, open the Start Menu and type Services to run the Services application. Scroll down to confirm that nothing is showing under Status for the Windows Update entry in the main window.
To enable Windows Update, you will need to go through the same process. Only this time, name the batch file Start Updates.bat and enter the following commands:
net start wuauserv net start bits net start dosvc
Run this batch file as an administrator and this will enable Windows Update for this session until you restart your computer. It is a good idea to save these batch files in a safe location on your hard drive, and add the first one to the Task Scheduler if you don’t want anything to do with updates.
To do so, search and run Task Scheduler from the Start Menu and create a new Task from the Actions menu. Enter a name, set up the when it runs and then navigate to the first batch file you created. In the Triggers tab, choose a delay of 30 seconds to schedule it to run half a minute after logging in — making the schedule work at startup fails for some reason.
All done, you will have a task that stops Windows Update from working.
Once and for all.
4. Fix a stuck update
A stuck Windows update can be a nasty beast. They can be either stuck at the download stage with the completion bar never hitting 100%. Or they can download but pause part ways through installing when you restart your computer. And in rare cases, Windows may refuse to find updates or throw up an error message saying they can’t be installed.
Fortunately, in all three cases, the fix to the problem is the same.
Restart your computer, do a hard reboot if you have to, and then launch the Settings app and go to Update & Security and the Troubleshoot section. Windows 10 will provide you with a bunch of tools for fixing common issues with the OS, including the Windows Update option.
If Windows finds any problems it will let you know and repair the issue.
There may be occasions where the Windows Update troubleshooter does not resolve the issue, in which case you will need to take a manual approach. You will need to boot in Safe Mode with Networking and log into your user account.
In Windows, launch a Command Prompt (Admin) window by searching for it and right clicking its icon and selecting Run as administrator from the menu. In the terminal, type net stop wuauserv and hit Enter. This will prevent Windows Update from running and give a few repair options.
Now, open a File Explorer window and go to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Select all the files in this folder and hit Delete. This will delete all the files that Windows Update has downloaded and forces them to be downloaded again. Once this is done, open up the Admin Command Prompt window again and type net start wuauserv and hit Enter.
Restart your computer and you should be good to go again.
5. Add storage space for updates
Major updates for Windows 10 require a chunk of storage. This leaves older computers or machines with small drives on the edge, many of them running into problems when downloading and installing these updates.
The amount of storage space required differs, but generally, you need anywhere from 2GB to 16GB.
And the best way to free up space is by temporarily moving your files and documents to an external drive. A USB flash drive works fine, but a hard disk is even better. Find the largest drive you can find and move the files yourself to give yourself some breathing room.
In some cases, Microsoft may actually try to help. A dialog box saying Windows needs more space pops up, giving you the option to delete nonessential files. It will show you have much space you need and allow you to use your external storage to run Windows Update and deploy the updates.
6. Stop Windows sharing your updates
Windows 10 comes with a useful feature that let you share updates across the devices on your home network. The advantage here being that you won’t have to download updates separately for any tablet or laptop that you have.
But Microsoft has also snuck in a little-known setting here that if left on will share your updates with other computers on the Internet. Yes, you read that right. Updates from your computer are uploaded to other random PCs.
Now, admittedly, the company designed this feature to deliver Windows updates more efficiently to millions of computers across the planet. However, you might not want to get involved with this generous initiative — particularly if you have limited upload bandwidth to spare.
In cases like this, it is best to turn this setting off and go solo.
To prevent Windows 10 from sharing updates with computer outside your network, look for Advanced options in the Update & Security section of Settings and go to Delivery Optimization. Now, make sure that the PCs on my local network, and PCs on the Internet settings is not selected.
Worth a mention that Microsoft now provides the ability to customize this in newer versions of the OS. But evidently, not everyone is comfortable with this idea of sharing updates across the Internet.
7. Enable System Restore
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft has something personal against System Restore. Not only is this option not included in the Windows 10 Setting app, it is switch off by default. And even if you turn it on, this is one of the first options that gets switched off after each major update.
Odd, considering this was one of the key features Microsoft pushed in previous versions of Windows.
We admit, the tool might be getting on a bit. But it is still a useful feature, and the fact that the company has failed to provide a viable alternative means that it continues to come in handy. Luckily, it only takes a few steps to ensure that System Restore is switched on.
Go to Start and type View Advanced system settings to bring up the System Properties panel.
Here, go to the System Protection tab, and make sure that your C drive is selected in the Protection Settings section. If not, click the Configure button and turn the option on from there. Windows will now set up System Restore for your PC.
8. Reboot quickly to Safe mode
The good old Safe mode in Windows is a lifesaver. But the path to this option is convoluted through Settings. Luckily, there is a quick way to get around it, and that is by pressing Win + R and typing msconfig to open the System Configuration panel.
Switch to the Boot tab here, tick Safe boot and choose Network to retain your Internet access if you want. Click OK and reboot, and you will go straight into your choice of Safe mode. Once you are done with your tinkering, return to the System Configuration panel again and untick the Safe boot option.
The above technique works best for the occasional forays into the Safe mode, but if you go there regularly, you can use the Winaero Tweaker to create Safe mode shortcuts and place them somewhere on your computer.
These will be ready for use whenever you want to restart in any of the various modes available on Windows. Just remember to create the Normal shortcut to return to Windows proper.
9. Bypass the login screen
The login screen is highly useful, but it’s not for everyone. If you are the only use of your PC, and keep your computer in a secure location, then you can save time when you start Windows by bypassing login and going straight to desktop.
To do that, press Win + R, type netplwiz and hit the Enter key.
Make sure your user account is selected from the list and then uncheck the Users must enter a username and password to use this computer. Click Apply then enter your password twice when prompted, and reboot your device to test.
You can restore the default behavior by going to this panel and ticking the box again.
10. Stop sharing your Location
One side effect of the mobile revolution is the uptick in location services, which some consider an invasion of privacy. Location sharing is also a big part of Windows 10 now, and when enabled it allows the operating system and other apps to offer a more personalized service.
If this is not for you, then you at least get a dedicated section in the Settings app for changing these settings. Open up Settings, then go to the Location panel in the Privacy section and either turn off the location service or adjust the settings to how you want them to be.
11. Stop Microsoft logging your Keystrokes
Microsoft still includes a keylogger with Windows. And worryingly, it’s switched on by default. The company claims that this improves how the operating system runs. But if you like to keep a tight grip on your privacy, then you would want to disable it entirely.
To do so, go to Privacy in Settings and then click Diagnostics & feedback. Scroll down and switch off the Improve inking & typing recognition to stop sending your keyboard data and everything you type.
12. Clean up the Notification area
There was once a time when you had to dig really deep into Settings to define which icons appeared in the Taskbar notification area. But thankfully, Microsoft has streamlined this in newer versions of the operating system.
Nowadays, the quickest way to hide the icons from view is to click and drag the on to the ^ button to the left. It is also possible to pin the icons hidden behind here. This way they are always visible in the notification area. You can do that by clicking ^ and then dragging them in the other direction.
And if you want to rearrange the order icons that appear in this list, simply click and drag them to their new location to keep your notification area nice and tidy.
13. Stop USB devices from going to sleep
Windows likes to power down USB devices when your screen is off. This is done for a good cause, in an effort to conserve battery life. But while this can be a useful feature, it can also cause problems and headaches, particularly for attached storage hardware like an external USB hard drive.
The last thing you want is your backup process interrupted because of this pesky little setting.
To adjust this setting, open the Settings panel and point your mouse to the USB section in Devices. Then untick the last box where it says Stop devices when my screen is off.
14. See all your devices
The Settings app may be a wonderful collection of options, but the traditional panels in Windows still have it beat when you want complete control over proceedings. Case in point the Device Manager, which shows all your connected devices and lets you manage them.
Annoyingly, the Settings app does not provide a link to this.
So, click Start, type device manager and press Enter to launch it. The Device Manager will show everything that is connected to your PC, both internal and external. You can also view properties and search for driver updates from here, as well as uninstall or temporarily disable a peripheral — useful for when you are troubleshooting.
15. Switch Playback device
Lost your sound? Or maybe you want to switch the audio coming from your monitor speakers to your headphones? All this can be done quickly and easily by changing the sound output device. Click the volume icon in the Taskbar notification area, then click ^ to select your chosen playback device from the list provided.
If it is not listed, you can also right-click the icon and choose Speaker setup and then Advanced setup to access the old styled Sound Control Panel.
16. Listen with one earpiece
A handy little option lies hidden away in Windows 10 that lets you convert stereo sound to mono. This is quite a lifesaver if you only have hearing in one ear or are using a single earpiece for some reason so that you can hear what’s going on around you. Whatever the case, Windows 10 offers a solution.
Depending on the recording, you may miss out on half the audio. But not if you convert it to mono.
To do that, fire up the Settings app, and in the Audio section of Ease of Access, simply slide the Turn on mono audio. Windows will now combine left and right audio channels into one channel, and you will receive all the audio through one earpiece.
17. Use your keyboard as a mouse
There may be times when you are not able to use your mouse. It may stop working for some reason, batteries my die out, or you may have lost it while travelling. It is at times like these when controlling your mouse with a keypad comes in handy.
To use your keyboard as a mouse, go to Settings then Ease of Access. Here navigate to the Mouse section and switch on the setting to control your cursor with your numeric keypad. You will also get settings to fine tune how it works appear here.
18. Control sync settings
If you use your Microsoft account to sign into Windows, you will find that your settings also fly in alongside. These include your password, language and accessibility settings and whatnot. They are all synced to all other Windows 10 devices that use the same account.
If you want to manage these, then go to Accounts and click Sync your settings in the sidebar. Here you can turn syncing off altogether, or use the sliders to select what you want to share.
19. Choose your Startup apps
We live in interesting times. Install a new program, and chances are that it will add itself to the list of items that load automatically when Windows starts. Sure, this can be useful, but these programs really do pile up if left unchecked.
Besides, loading too many items at startup can slow things down.
To remedy, press the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keys to bring up the Task Manager, then click on the link that says More details. Select the Startup tab and look through the list of enabled programs. These are applications that automatically load at startup. You can sort by impact to see which programs have a high impact, find anything that you don’t need and disable it.
Your last BIOS time is also displayed here, and you can measure it and shave off some seconds if you have a ton of installed programs and services that get going every time you start your computer.
20. Stop Annoying Notifications
Windows 10 sure does like to show you more notifications than older versions of the OS. Normally this is a good thing, but when other apps start to pop up banners and play sounds it can get a bit distracting. Luckily, you also get a fair amount of control here and can select which apps are allowed to notify you.
You will find all these options in Settings. Simply navigate to System and then the Notifications & actions panel. Plenty of customizable options are listed here, with simple sliders that can be used to turn specific notifications on or off. You can also turn notifications off on the Lock Screen as well as the random tips and tricks that Windows 10 occasionally throws at you.
And, of course, you will find all your apps listed below, and turn off notifications from the installed applications and games on your system.
21. Block Windows ads
Who would have thought Microsoft would be littering its operating system with promotional material? New adverts are delivered directly to your computer, promoting Microsoft products or other apps and games. But the good thing is that there are options to turn all this off.
Fire up Settings, go to Personalization, and then Start. Here, disable the Show suggestions occasionally in Start option, and this will stop Windows 10 from popping up new app suggestions in your Start Menu.
To make matters worse, Microsoft has also been showing ads for OneDrive and Office 365 since the Creators Update. To turn these off, click View, Options, and in the View tab, remove the tick from the Show sync provider notifications box. Click OK to save the changes.
23. Stop Windows from updating drivers
A useful little built-in feature in Windows 10 is how the OS automatically updates drivers for your hardware. It works well, for the most part. But occasionally, there have been instances with older devices where Windows 10 broke them from working.
Time to tell Microsoft to stop doing this, then!
To prevent Windows 10 from downloading driver updates automatically, search for and launch View advanced system settings from the Start Menu. In the Hardware tab, click Device Installation Settings and here you will find the option to disable Windows from hunting for new drivers.
This is another one of those options can be turned on again after a major update, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it if you are having problems or your hardware devices are misbehaving. It is also worth turning off if you install new hardware and can’t get it working.
Then again, for the best security and performance, it is recommended to update your own drivers manually. Particularly, graphics cards, as they receive performance upgrades on a regular basis.
24. Destroy Office 365 adverts
Running Windows 10 and have not installed Office? Then you are almost sure to be hounded by those Office 365 popups every now and then. These try to get you to pay and subscribe to the service.
This can get really annoying really quick. More so, if you don’t want the latest productivity suite. It all comes down to the app that is actually designed to make it easy for you to install Office 365. It is far too annoying to be left alone if you have no intention of deploying the cloud suite.
For this reason, you should uninstall the Get Office or My Office app from the Start Menu.
Right-click the entry, select uninstall, and be done with it.
25. Easily switch Windows features on or off
Windows 10 sure does come with a cornucopia of features, many of which you may have no need for. If there are unwanted features that you want to get rid of like Microsoft XPS Document Writer, Internet Explorer 11 or even the Windows Media Player, there is a place where you can do that.
Likewise, if you want to add new features to the operating system, like Hyper-V virtualization support, it can also be done from this panel.
You simply need to gain access to the Windows Features dialog box, which is hidden away in the Programs and Features section of the Control Panel. Save time and directly access it by launching the Run dialog by pressing Win + R, typing optionalfeatures and clicking OK.
26. Get Windows Photo Viewer back
One of the worst decisions Microsoft made in recent years was to retire the Window Photo Viewer in Windows 10 and replacing it with the bloated and clunky Photos app. Thankfully, the classic tool is not yet completely removed from the operating system, and is simply hidden.
You will need the help of Winaero Tweaker to get it back, via the Classic Apps and then Activate Windows Photo Viewer option. Once it is back in action, you can make it the default photo viewer once more from the Settings panel.
27. Modify the Send To options
Send To is a neat little feature in Windows that lets you right-click a file or folder and sent it to a specific location or device. But while you get a lot of options here like Bluetooth and email, holding down the Shift key as you select Send To reveals loads more — including your user folders.
Windows allows you to manage Send To items via its own shell folder. To access that type shell:sendto into the Run dialog box, and you will be able to remove unwanted shortcuts and add specific ones of your own here. By default, items are copied to these locations, but you can keep the Shift key held down to move them to their new locations instead.
28. Change default applications
One of the most annoying things about Windows 10 is how it handles default applications. In many cases you will try to perform a specific task, only to find an unexpected app like Edge launching and opening that file.
Sadly, Microsoft has removed the old Control Panel tool that let you easily select and app and then give it all its file permissions. Now you have to delve into the more manual system in the Settings app. That too, every time the operating system resets your defaults after each major update.
Certainly, one way that Microsoft has made Windows 10 worse since launch.
To fix this, launch the Settings app, click Apps, and then the Default apps panel. This screen will show you a list of default applications for common tasks like Email, Maps, Music player, Photo viewer, Video player and Web browser.
As good as these settings appear to be, they don’t do everything. To truly make things your own, you would do well to scroll to the bottom of the screen and select the Set defaults by app link and choose the app you want to control, like Mozilla Firefox for example. This will list all the file extensions and protocols that the app can deal with.
Plenty of options here to customize things to your likings and set them up just the way you want.
29. Avoid excessive data charges
Microsoft’s desire to keep everything always updated, can cost you a small fortune if you are on a network connection with a limited data allowance. Particularly true if you use cellular connectivity. To fix this, click your WiFi connection and click on Properties from that panel.
In the screen that appears turn the Set as metered connection to On. Among other things, this stops Windows updates from being downloaded. You can also fine tune options here by clicking the link below and opening up the Data usage section. From this screen, you can set data limits and also restrict background data to help reduce downloads on your selected connection.
30. Tame Cortana
If you put your privacy foremost and don’t need the personal assistant features that Cortana offers, you can disable Cortana completely. It is possible to convert it into a simple search box that search for programs, settings and files on your PC as well as some web suggestions.
Tweaking the registry is one way to go about this, but it is far easier and quicker to disable Cortana from the Winaero Tweaker by ticking Disable Cortana under the Windows Apps section. Reboot when prompted, and your search box will be transformed into something much simple, next time you are in.