Windows 10: The best tricks, tips, and tweaks

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Make Cortana's ears perk up
Cortana’s finally made the leap to the PC in Windows 10, assuming control of the operating system’s search functions and dishing out just as much sass as the Windows Phone version. But by default, she doesn’t listen for your commands.
If you’d like to be able to just bark commands at your PC, open Cortana by clicking the search field in the taskbar and select the Notebook icon in the left-side options pane. Select Settings from the list, then simply enable the “Let Cortana respond when you say ‘Hey Cortana’” option. You’ll need an active microphone for this to work, of course.
While you’re poking around Cortana’s options, you can dive into the Notebook menu to fine-tune exactly what personal data Microsoft’s digital assistant can access. Remember, however, that like Google Now, Cortana’s effectiveness is directly related to how much she knows about you.


Powerful natural language search
Cortana can handle all sorts of commands you issue using natural language, such as playing music, creating reminders, or showing you the weather, but the most powerful use of her natural language abilities revolves around basic search capabilities. You can give Cortana basic commands like “Find pictures from June” or “Find documents with Windows 10” and she’ll apply the appropriate filters, then scour your local files and OneDrive storage for results.

Customize your Start menu
Don’t forget to make the Start menu your own. If you appreciate the blend of the traditional interface with the Live Tiles, note that you can right-click on any tile and select Resize to alter the tile’s dimensions—just like on the Windows 8 Start screen.
Alternatively, if you loathe Live Tiles and the Metro interface with the ferocity of a thousand suns, you can also right-click on every one of the defaults in the Start menu and select Uninstall to wipe them from your system. (Or simply Unpin from Start if you’d rather hide than eradicate them.) Repopulate them with desktop software of your choosing—you can right-click any app or program and select Pin to Start—and before you know it, it’ll be kind-of-sort-of like the Windows 7 Start menu all over again.

Find My Device
Windows ain’t just on desktops anymore, and a handy new feature released in the Windows 10 November Update acknowledges that: Find My Device, which does exactly what you’d think. (Though sadly, it doesn’t offer remote lock or wipe capabilities yet.)
To active it, head to Start > Update & Security > Find My Device, then click the bigChange button and enable the “Save my device’s location periodically” option when prompted. Once it’s on, you can log into your Microsoft account and head to account.microsoft.com/devices to see the last known location of your Windows 10 gizmo.

Install Windows Store apps elsewhere
The Windows 10 November Update fixes another longstanding frustration for both mobile and desktop users: The inability to install Windows Store apps to external storage. Ever since the Windows Store debuted in Windows 8, it’s forced you to install apps to your device’s primary hard drive—a sore point for Windows tablet owners, or users who run Windows off a small SSD boot drive.
No more! After you’ve installed the Windows 10 November Update, you can save apps to external storage or secondary drives by heading to Start > Settings > System > Storage after you’ve connected the storage to your PC, be it a thumb drive or SD card. From there, click the drop-down menu under “New apps will save to” and select the external storage drive you want to use.

Turn off File Explorer's Quick Access view
When you open File Explorer in Windows 10, it defaults to a new Quick Access view that shows your most frequently accessed folders and recently viewed files. I love it, personally, but if you’d rather File Explorer defaulted to the “This PC” view found in Windows 8, here’s how.
Open File Explorer, then select View > Options from the Ribbon. A Folder Options window will open. Click the “Open File Explorer” drop-down menu at top, then select the “This PC” option. Click OK and you’re done!

Cast videos to TVs and more
No Chromecast? No problem, at least after Windows 10’s November update, which enabled the Edge browser to cast media to Miracast- or DLNA-equipped devices with just a few clicks—though beware that the implementation has some quirks, and won’t work with DRM-protected streams from Netflix, Hulu, and the like. YouTube works just fine though!
To beam a video to your TV, open it in Edge, then click on the three horizontal dots in the upper-right corner of the browser. A drop-down menu appears; click Cast media to device. After a moment, a black window with the names of all nearby Miracast/DLNA devices will appear. Simply choose the one you want and after a few minutes, it should begin to play.
Should. In our tests, casting to a Roku box proved tricky, while Vimeo delivered more consistent results than casting YouTube videos. Regardless, it’s a nifty feature. Try it out!

Secret, powerful new Command Prompt tools
Windows 10 packs a slew of nifty new command line features, including—hallelujah!—the ability to copy and paste inside the command prompt with Crtl + C and Crtl + V.
To activate the goodies, open the command prompt. Right-click its title bar, then select Properties. You can find and enable the new features under the “Edit Options” section of the Options tab.

GodMode
The legendary GodMode, a hidden staple for Windows power users, makes its return in Windows 10. As before, activating it unveils a power user menu that brings together all of your system’s far-flung settings and configuration options into a single location. Just create a new folder and rename it to following:
GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
Don’t forget the period after “GodMode”, and you can rename the “GodMode” portion whatever you’d like if you want another name for the folder.

Make Cortana use Google--or nothing
Cortana’s brains aren’t really on your PC—they’re beamed in from Microsoft servers. So it’s no surprise that Windows 10’s digital assistant relies exclusively on Bing. But while that makes sense for Cortana’s intelligent (or just plain snarky) responses, there’s no underlying reason to open Cortana’s simple web search results in Bing, aside from Microsoft forcing the matter.
Fortunately, two tools can help you use Google, DuckDuckGo, or other search engines with Cortana. The Chrometana extension (for Chrome, obviously) redirects all of Cortana’s Bing searches to the engine of your choice, while making Firefox for Windows 10 your default browser accomplishes the same thing, using your default search engine in the browser. Our guide to ditching Cortana’s Bing results has full, step-by-step details.
Or you could just kill Cortana if you’re not feeling her whatsoever.

SOS!
Did you break something in Windows 10 or one of your Microsoft apps? Don’t sweat it—help is just a few clicks away.
Just look for the new Contact Support app inside the All Apps menu. It can point you towards the appropriate community forums to find help for the issue, or even connect you with a Microsoft support representative via online chat or phone if you stumble into a particularly bad problem.

Offline Maps
Speaking of apps, the revamped universal Maps app, like any maps tool worth using (and unlike the Windows 8 Maps app), packs an offline maps feature. Click the Settings (gear) icon in Maps, then select Download or update maps under the “Offline maps” header.
You’ll be bounced to the Settings app, where you’ll be able to select which continent, then country whose offline map you’d like to download. (If you’re downloading a U.S. map, you'll also have to select which state you need.) Helpfully, Windows tells you how large the download will be before you start scraping the maps.

     
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