17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

Stop tearing your hair out and follow our tips

7 - Fix privacy and data defaults

We're not a fan of some of the data-sharing defaults in Windows 10, and we'd recommend all users review them periodically. Use the Start Menu to search for and run the Settings app, then click Privacy. In the left-hand pane, you'll see many areas where your computer might be sharing data. It's worth spending time checking that you're comfortable with allowing apps to use your computer's camera, microphone, account information and so on, and where you are, checking that no surprise apps appear in the lists. Note, too, that the default Feedback & diagnostics setting is to send enhanced data to Microsoft.

If you use Windows Defender, click the back arrow and select Update & Security, then Windows Defender. Check that you're happy with the default behaviour, which is to enable Cloud-based detection and Automatic sample submission.

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of Wi-Fi Sense, which is designed to get you onto wireless networks more quickly. On a device with Wi-Fi, click the back arrow, select Network & Internet, click WiFi and select Manage WiFi Settings. We'd strongly recommend turning off Connect to suggested open hotspots, Connect to networks shared by my contacts, and disabling the button under Paid WiFi services if it's present.

Additionally, Wi-Fi Sense might result in the sharing of your network's wireless credentials among devices you don't control: allow a guest to log in and their contacts - and potentially theirs in turn - may also be able to. Ridiculously, the only fix is to rename your network's SSID so that it ends with "_optout". We'd recommend confining guests to a guest wireless network, configuring your own devices not to use Wi-Fi Sense, and asking staff to do the same before allowing their Windows 10 devices onto the main wireless network.

8 - Where's Safe Mode when you need it?

Nothing gets you out of Windows trouble like Safe Mode, which is why it's inexplicable that you can no longer enter it by pressing F8 or Shift+F8 at boot. Although it's still available in Windows 10, you have to boot into Windows first, then either restart holding the left Shift key or via an option within Update & Security in the Settings app. Neither method is helpful if your PC can't boot into Windows in the first place. 

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You can't get around this, which is why it's helpful to create a boot time Safe Mode option before trouble arrives. Hit Win+x and select Command Prompt (Admin), then type bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Windows 10 Safe Mode" and hit Enter. From the Start Menu type msconfig, run System Configuration in the results, and navigate to the Boot tab. Highlight the Windows 10 Safe Mode option you just created, tick Safe boot and select Minimal under Boot options and - if necessary - reduce the Timeout value so you won't be inconvenienced - the minimum is three seconds. Tick Make all boot settings permanent (in fact you can simply return here to delete the Safe Mode entry) and click OK.

You can repeat these steps, substituting suitable names in quotes at the Command Prompt, to create shortcuts for Safe Mode with Networking (tick Network rather than Minimal in System Configuration) and Safe Mode with Command Prompt (Alternate shell).

9 - Enable System Restore

Another inexplicable choice in Windows 10 is that System Restore isn't enabled by default; we wouldn't hesitate to turn it on. Search for 'Create a restore point' in the Start Menu and select it in the results, then highlight the system drive, click the Configure button and select Turn on system protection. Use the slider to set an appropriate amount of maximum disk space - about 5GB ought to be enough. Note that, annoyingly, the upgrade to Windows 10 version 10586 turns this off again - you'll need to turn it back on.

10 - Bad localisation, Cortana 'not available'

Windows 10's localisation options seem needlessly convoluted, and we've had multiple reports of incorrect localisation even in computers that were upgraded from correctly localised Windows 7 or Windows 8 installations. The most common issue seems to be system dates set in the American format MM/DD/YY, but Windows can also report that Cortana isn't available, even in regions where it is.

From the Start Menu, search for 'region' and choose Region & Language settings. Check that the United Kingdom is selected under Country or region, and check that your chosen language(s) appear under Languages. Select your primary language, click Options and click Download under the language pack, and speech options if they're present. Check on this page that the keyboard is also correct - if it isn't, add the correct one then select the wrong one and remove it.

Click the back arrow and select Additional date, time & regional settings. Under Language, click Change input methods, select your chosen language, move it to the top of the list if it isn't there already, and click Options. Under Windows display language you might see either Enabled or Available - if the latter, click Make this the primary language. If you don't see either, download and install the language pack, then make it the primary language.

Click the back arrow to return to the language preferences, and in the left-hand pane click Change date, time, or number formats and check that the format is set to the correct language. Check the Home location on the Location tab, and finally use the Administrative tab to check the System locale, and use the Copy settings button to apply the settings to the Welcome screen and new user accounts.

11 - Fix slow boot times

Like Windows 8 before it, Windows 10 uses a hybrid boot to enable fast boot times. When you shut the system down, apps and app processes are terminated, but the Windows kernel itself is hibernated to allow for a faster restart. In theory, it's great, but it seems to still be very slow for some Windows 10 users.

Disable it by searching for Power Options in the Start Menu and running the matching Control Panel applet, then in the left-hand pane click Choose what the power buttons do. Click Change settings that are currently unavailable, scroll down and un-tick Turn on fast start-up, then click Save changes. This should prevent very slow starts on affected PCs. Some users report that if they subsequently reboot, re-trace their steps and re-enable fast start-up the problem remains cured.

If you're dual-booting between Windows 10 and Windows 7, switching fast startup off will also fix the problem where Windows 7 checks the disks each time you boot it: With fast start-up enabled, the earlier operating system doesn't recognise that the disks have been properly shut down by Windows 10.

12 - The lock screen gets in the way

Return to a locked Windows 10 device and you'll see a pretty picture. That's nice, but it's a needless obstacle in the way of logging in. If you're as impatient as we are, disable the lock screen by searching the Start Menu for regedit, and running the Registry editor.

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Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. If you don't already see a key named 'Personalization', select the Windows key, right-click it, choose New>Key and rename this new key to Personalization (sic). Right-click the Personalization key, choose New again then select DWORD (32-bit) Value. Select New Value #1 in the right-hand pane and use F2 to rename it NoLockScreen, then double-click it, change the value data to 1 and click OK. After a reboot, the lock screen will be gone.

13 - I can't play a DVD!

Windows 10 shipped without an app to play DVDs on. Which isn't great if you like to watch movies on your PC. 

Luckily, Microsoft has released an app as a download. Trouble is it costs 11.59. It also has garnered an overall rating of just two stars. Alternatively, you can download VLC, which is free and works just as well if not better.

14 Stop Windows 10 using 4G data 

Windows 10 often uses your internet bandwidth invisibly in the background which can play havoc with your data allowance if you're using a portable hotspot.

To stop Windows 10 devouring your cellular data allowance in the background: 

  • Go to Settings, then Network & Internet.
  • Select Wi-Fi and then Advanced Options.
  • Click "Set as metered connection" to on, and Windows will stop fetching non-essential data in the background, such as app updates and Start screen tile updates.

Oddly, this tip doesn't work if your PC connects to the internet via Ethernet.

15 Save a web page as an HTML file in Microsoft Edge

Bizarrely, Microsoft's new Windows 10 web browser can't currently save web pages as an HTML file. The only workaround is to open the web page in Internet Explorer 11 (which is still included as standard with Windows 10) and save from there. 

To do this:

  • Select the menu on the far right-hand side of the Edge window.
  • Select the open with Internet Explorer' option. This will open your current web page in a new tab in IE.
  • In IE 11, press Control-S on your keyboard to access the Save as dialogue box.

16 - Turn on Pop-Up Blocker in Edge

If you used Microsoft Edge, you may find that pop-up ads will get in the way of the websites you actually want to visit. You can disable pop-ups by clicking on the icon with three dots on the right-hand side of the address bar and then clicking on "Settings", then "View advanced settings". Under "Block pop-ups" make sure this is set to "On". 

17 - Files opening with the wrong default apps

Windows 10 has a nasty habit of reverting all the file associations back to default settings when it updates. This means that even if you specifically set certain types of files to open with certain apps, they may switch back to the Windows defaults.

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This isn't ideal, especially given that the default Windows apps for many tasks are inferior to third-party alternatives. Luckily, there's a very simple fix for this, allowing you to restore your preferred associations.

Open Windows 10's Settings app, and under the System tab, you should find a category marked 'default apps'. From here, you'll be able to pick what kind of app opens different kinds of media. For example, you change it so that music is played in Windows Media Player rather than Groove Music.

You can even get right down to the fine details, changing which apps handle specific file extensions. This means that you can set different programs to open specific image or video files, for instance, while still having the majority handled by a different application.

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