Windows 10 has been out for about two months now, and if you haven’t claimed your free copy for your home PC or upgraded your work systems, you’re really missing out! To help you get a jump-start on Windows 10, here’s a list of the 10 things you need to know to master the new OS.
1. Free is free, as in beer, for home users, but you have to take advantage of it before Windows 10’s first birthday!
Before you can start to master Windows 10, you have to install Windows 10 on your machine. Here’s how you can get your free version. Users running a licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8.1, or buying a new computer with Windows 8.1 already installed, can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. It’s the full, complete, no-strings-attached version, but the free offer does go away at the end of July 2016. The offer can upgrade virtual machines (even running on a Mac!) and does require a 3GB download, but it’s yours for the downloading. Companies running enterprise versions of Windows don’t get this free upgrade, but home users running consumer versions do! Click here to get your free copy: http://microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-10-upgrade
2. The upgrades are a “like for like” process.
If you want to take advantage of the free upgrade, but aren’t sure what you’re going to get, have a look at this table. It will tell you what version of Windows 10 you will wind up with, based on what version of Windows you started from.
3. Be prepared to get some new/different apps
Windows 10 no longer has a few apps that you may have come to depend upon in Windows 7 or 8.1. Most have been replaced, so you should be okay, but keep this in mind. There is no more Windows Media Center. If you are upgrading, you will get a copy of the “Windows DVD Player” app for free, but new installs or upgrades after July 2016 will have to buy the app, and while it plays DVDs just fine, it’s not the same as the Windows Media Center. If you have a laptop you travel with, this will probably be fine, but if this is your media PC, you may want to stay on 8.1 or find a third-party alternative. Unfortunately, some of the little things you took for granted may have changed in 10. Case in point-I loved the old “Preview” function for image files in Explorer. It’s been replaced by a new, black-themed app that is just not quite as good. It does everything the older app did, but I liked the older app just fine and it didn’t need improvement.
4. The App Store is amazing!
There are a ton of applications in the Store to do just about anything you could want to do on your PC. Many are free, and all have been vetted before being available in the Store, so you don’t have to worry about whether they are really apps that do what you want, or Trojans in disguise. Some of the free must-haves include Netflix, iHeartRadio, and VLC. Some of course require you to have a subscription to the underlying service (sorry, no Orange is the New Black unless you have a Netflix account) but the apps are solid, look great, and are free and easy to install. Better still, if you have multiple computers and use your free Windows account, your settings will sync across all your devices.
5. Enable speech recognition to get the most out of the new capabilities.
Windows 10 has great speech recognition built in. You can use it to interact with your PC in ways that just a few years ago would have seemed like science fiction. But to do that, you have to enable it, and then train your PC to your voice. Here’s how. First, make sure you have a microphone. You can use a headset, a desktop, or a built-in microphone. Make sure it’s not on mute, and then type “speech” in the search to launch the Windows Speech Recognition setup. Run through the wizard. You can opt-in to certain features that can make it easier and faster for your computer to understand you, or opt-out and rely just upon speech. You also have to opt-in to the “voice activation” mode, so don’t think Microsoft is looking to listen in on all your private conversations. If you want to turn it on with a click you can. Print the reference card and run the tutorial and pretty soon, you will have an excuse when people think you’re talking to yourself! You do have to train your PC to your voice, but that’s only because you do have such a cute accent!
6. Cortana really is your personal assistant!
Spartans and end users alike will appreciate the personal assistant that is built into Windows 10. Cortana can learn your preferences, locations, commutes – really anything you opt in to, so that computing can really be personalized. Cortana maintains a “notebook” of what she has learned, so you can see, and edit or redact, anything you are not comfortable with. Combine Cortana with the Speech Recognition, and it will feel like you’re on the bridge of the Enterprise. “Tea, Earl Grey. Hot.” Of course, I had to have Cortana call me “Master Chief” for about a day.
7. Microsoft Edge is amazing!
The newest browser from Microsoft is called Edge, and it really is amazing. Reading view has nothing to do with Word’s presentation of read-only content. It’s like an ad blocker, whitespace eliminator, and reflow all in one, letting you consume web content without any distraction or fluff. Add to that the ability to annotate and share web pages with your friends and family, and you have a completely new web experience. To activate reading mode, click the [open book] icon at the top of the browser and poof! All the ads, side-bar content, menu items, and everything else besides the good stuff is out of your way.
You can also click the [pen on notepad] button to bring up the ability to use stylus or mouse to free-hand notations, or add typed notes or snip content, making it incredibly easy to share things from web pages with others using tools built right into the browser. Give it a try and you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed to surf without Edge.
8. Your devices will recognize you, making passwords a thing of the past!
For starters, it’s not at all creepy so don’t start thinking big brother on me. Windows Hello, which does require compatible hardware, brings personal recognition to the operating system and your devices, so it will literally recognize you so you can unlock and start using your device without having to type in a password, insert a smartcard and PIN, swipe a fingerprint, or anything else. If it’s you, you’re in. You do need compatible hardware, so this one isn’t for everyone (yet) but if you have a new computer or tablet, you’re going to love this!
9. Free your mind…or at least, some disk space!
The Windows 10 upgrade can chew up some pretty serious disk space, and keeping the previous version of Windows’ data is one of the biggest offenders. If you’re happy with your upgrade, run the disk cleanup wizard, click “Clean up system files” and get rid of the old Windows install to get back several gigabytes of space.
10. Protect yourself, or Windows will protect itself!
One of the most important things for anyone using a computer today to have is antimalware software. If the version you have on your Windows 7 or 8.1 machine is current and compatible with Windows 10, it will be maintained after the upgrade. But if it’s not, then Windows 10 will install and enable Windows Defender so that it’s covered against the bad things that are out there.
Of course, if you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you had to expect that this list would go to 11, and it does!
11. Enable virtual desktops to get more from less (hardware that is!)
One of the best things about the KDE desktop (and others in Linux I’m sure) are the virtual desktops. I typically set up six, and can just spin my mouse wheel while hovering over the system tray icon to spin through multiple desktops. This makes it much easier for me to maintain multiple apps and switch between them more rapidly than ALT-TABing through them. In Windows 10, you can create multiple desktops too. Press WIN+TAB to see an icon in the lower right of your screen that looks like this. Click it to create one or more virtual desktops. Use WIN+TAB to preview and switch between them, and you can close them when no longer needed by clicking the X icon when you preview them.
So with 10 (+1) things you need to know to master Windows 10, what are you waiting for? Oh, more tips? Well, we can do that too. Check back later this month when we will have the top Windows 10 tips, tricks, hacks, and tweaks. See you then!