10 truly helpful Windows 10 tools you might not know about

 pcworld.com  08/26/2019 11:39:00  3  Brad Chacos

So youve mastered Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts and Snap open windows like a boss. Now what?

Windows 10 offers many other power tools for enthusiastsif you know where to find them. Some are older, yet still obscure. Others are relatively new, added during the twice-annual major upgrades Microsofts been pushing out since Windows 10 launched nearly four long years ago (though the second update looks to be minor this year). But all 10 of these little-used tricks and tools can help hardened PC users save time or eliminate headaches.

If youre looking for a guide to even more of the operating systems darker corners after reading this, be sure to check out our roundup of the best Windows 10 tips and tweaks, as well as our guide to time-saving Windows tricks. Most everyone will learn a little something! Microsofts been aggressive about rolling out new features for Windows 10, but not necessarily about promoting them. Speaking of which&

1. Timeline

Microsoft rolled out Windows 10s Timeline feature as part of the April 2018 Update, and its awesome. Its basically like a browser history for your desktop programs, showing files youve opened previously in chronological order. Selecting one opens the file once again. Paired with the Pick up where you left off in modern Microsoft Office apps, you can be knee-deep in that project from two weeks ago in no time. Better yet, Timelines tied to your Microsoft account rather than an individual PC. If you store your files in the cloud, you can pick up where you left off no matter which device you happen to use.

timeline Brad Chacos/IDG

Windows 10 Timeline feature is part of the operating systems Task View interface.

Timeline isnt perfect. Developers need to allow their software to hook into the feature, and many popular programsincluding Google Chromedont bother. That gives the tool a Microsoft-centric feel. But its incredibly handy regardless, especially if you spend a lot of time working in Office.

Open Timeline by clicking the Task View icon in Windows 10s taskbar or by pressing Windows Key + Tab, and be sure to read our Windows 10 Timeline guide for more granular details.

2. Virtual desktops

Virtual desktops are catnip for organization-obsessed power users. Theyre wildly useful, letting you set up separate virtual versions of your desktop, each running its own instances of software. You could run one virtual desktop for work tasks and another for your entertainment apps, for instance, or keep a primary working desktop stocked with Office apps for spreadsheet-slinging, and another devoted to multimedia editing.

Virtual desktops finally became native in Windows 10 after years of popularity on Linux operating systems&but Microsofts hidden away the once-prominent feature as the years have passed. To start rolling your own, click the Task View icon in Windows 10s taskbar to summon your Timeline and select the tiny +New desktop text at the top-left of the screen. Once youre set up, use the same Task View interface to swap among open virtual desktops in the bar that appears at the top of the screen. Enjoy your newfound productivity!

3. Cloud clipboard

cloud clipboard Brad Chacos/IDG

Its a multi-device world. If you have a habit of hopping from PC to PC, Windows 10s synchronization features (tied to your Microsoft account) can make every system you sit at feel like home. As of the October 2018 Update, even the contents of your clipboard can travel with you. The new Cloud Clipboard lets you copy text on one PC, then paste it on another. Its a sterling combination with the also-new Clipboard History enabled in the October 2018 Update.

To get started using it, head to Start > Settings > System > Clipboard and flip both toggles to the On position.

4. Nearby Sharing

nearby sharing Brad Chacos/IDG

Sometimes you need to share more than just text among multiple PCs, and inevitably its when you cant put hands on your trusty flash drive. Enter Nearby Sharing, another recent Windows 10 addition that uses the power of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to let you wirelessly share files and hyperlinks with local PCs. Simply right-click a file, select the Share option, and pick the destination local computer. The recipient will receive a Windows pop-up notification showing the transfer.

Youll need to set up Nearby Sharing before you can use it, and your rigs need Bluetooth capabilities to take advantage of the feature. If you meet that requirement, head to Start > Settings > System > Shared Experiences and turn on the option to Share across devices. You can choose whether the sharing feature works with any nearby PC, or only ones tied to your own Microsoft account.

Check out our Nearby Sharing explainer for more nitty-gritty details.

5. Storage Sense

storage space Brad Chacos/IDG

Your Recycle bin and Downloads folder are the silent space-eaters on your Windows PC. Over time, they can each bloat to gigabytes and gigabytes in sizeespecially if you regularly update your discrete graphics drivers, each iteration of which weighs in at around 500MB a pop. Combat the creep! Windows 10s Storage Sense helps to purge unwanted files in those locations automatically when specific, user-defined scenarios are met.

Head to Start > Settings > System > Storage to enable Storage Sense, then fine-tune the settings by clicking the Change how we free up space automaticallylink. Personally, I like to run it every day, but have the scans delete only files that are more than 30 days old.

If you want to give Storage Sense even more control over your stuff, you can have it manage the files that are stored in your local OneDrive folder and backed up to your OneDrive account in the cloud. Storage Sense can send any files that have been left unopened for a given length of time straight to the cloud, deleting the local version. Thats a bridge too far for my tastes, but if you lean heavily on OneDrive cloud storage, it could be a very convenient option to activate.

6. File History

external hard drives Michael Homnick/IDG

Sometimes you dont want to lose what youve left behind. Windows 10s awesome, yet obscure File History feature keeps recoverable records of every change youve made to a document, taking backup snapshots of your Libraries, Desktop, Contacts, and Favorites every hour (though the frequency can be tweaked). If you need to reclaim deleted text from a previous version of a file, File History has your back.

Youll need to dedicate a secondary drive to File History, but it can be either internal storage or a portable driveyay! Check out our File History guide for step-by-step instructions on setting it up, and our roundup of the best external hard drives if you need hardware to store all those bits and bytes on.

7. Secret power user menu

Heres an oldie but a goodie: If you right-click the Start menu, itll summon a big list of links to enthusiast-class features, like the Device Manager, Task Manager, Event Viewer, Disk Management, and PowerShell.

8. God Mode

If you want easy access to a whole host of tweaking options, look no further than this other ancient, yet oft-forgotten enthusiast tweak: God Mode. This Easter Egg consolidates a massive amount of power user settings into a single, easy-to-parse interface. The options are grouped into logical categories based on task types, such as Administrative tools, Ease of access center, and System. Its great.

god mode pic Brad Chacos/IDG

Behold, the face of God Mode.

To enable God Mode, create a new folder and leave it empty. (I like to plop God Mode on my desktop.) Then right-click the folder, select Rename, and give it the following name:

God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}.

Just cut and paste that in to be sure you dont make any typos. Feel free to change the text before the first period, which gives the folder its nameif you arent keen on the traditional God Mode moniker, you can change it to whatever pleases you. Press Enter to save the name change, and the folders icon will change to mimic the Control Panels image. Open up and bask in God Modes fully unified glory.

If you want to learn more about this Easter Egg, including alternative versions dedicated to specific types of settings, check out our God Mode explainer from the Windows 7 era. Told you its been around a whilebut many enthusiasts I talk to have never heard of it.

9. Dynamic lock

Enthusiasts often juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, and you dont want prying eyes peeking at those projects when you step away from your desk. But if you forget to jam Windows + L when you saunter off, your PC will be an open book to any bystandersunless you use Windows 10s Dynamic Lock.

Windows 10 Creators Update Dynamic Lock IDG / Mark Hachman

Windows 10 can use your phone to determine when youre away from your PC and lock it down.

Dynamic Lock pairs with your phone via Bluetooth and automatically locks the paired PC when you wander away. What more can you ask for? Activating the feature requires a quick multi-step process where you tie your devices together. Hit up our Dynamic Lock tutorial to turn it on, complete with deeper performance insights and links to handy tools that can help you fine-tune how far you need to wander before Dynamic Lock kicks in.

Heads up: Your computer will need Bluetooth capabilities to run Dynamic Lock, and the featureimpactsthe battery life of both your phone and laptop.

10. Windows Reliability Monitor

reliability monitor Brad Chacos/IDG

Finally, theres a little-known tool that can sometimes warn you of impending disasterbe it in software or hardware formbefore your system gives up the ghost. The Windows Reliability Monitor provides a day-by-day and case-by-case snapshot of the health of your system. Its especially handy if youre trying to hunt down problematic software that could be causing instability in your rig. (On my system, its the notoriously buggy yet hilariously awesome Goat Simulator that causes the most issues.)

To find it, simply type Reliability into the Windows search bar and select the View reliability historyoption that appears.

If you see an avalanche of red Xs when you check it out, make sure your backups are in orderand no, File History isnt an acceptable backup solution by its lonesome. Better safe than sorry!

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