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Windows 10 Tips & Tricks

Create a Recovery Drive

If your Windows 10 PC is operating perfectly right now, great. Take advantage of the opportunity to create a recovery drive so you have a way to perform repairs if something ever goes wrong.

The one immutable law of PCs is that stuff happens. And when it does, there's usually a way to recover, if you had the foresight to create a recovery drive first.

Booting from a USB recovery drive allows you to perform basic troubleshooting repairs on any Windows system. If you select the option to copy system files to the recovery drive, you can boot from that drive and reinstall Windows on the target system.

Creating a basic recovery drive requires a USB drive that is at least 512 MB in size. For a recovery drive that includes Windows system files, you'll need a larger USB drive; for a 64-bit copy of Windows 10, the drive should be at least 16 GB in size. The recovery drive tool formats the drive, so be sure to make backup copies of any important files on that drive before you begin the process.

You'll find the Recovery Media Creator tool in the old-style Control Panel, under the Recovery heading. The easiest way to get there is to type Create a recovery drive in the search box on the taskbar, then click the shortcut from the search results.

If you want your recovery drive to include files for reinstalling Windows 10, be sure to select the Back up system files to the recovery drive option on the first page.

Label the drive and keep it in a safe place

Find Any Setting Quickly

One confusing aspect of Windows 10 is the way it keeps some options in the old-style Control Panel and others in the new Settings app. The good news is you don't have to guess where to look, once you learn these two search secrets.

The Settings app in Windows 10 is filled with options, and with each major release it seems to get a few new entries. Unfortunately, some of the settings you're likely to use on any given day haven't made the move and are still buried in the old Control Panel.

Don't waste time poking through categories and scrolling through lists in the two separate places. Instead, master these two search secrets, which depend on a simple, little-known fact: The built-in search index includes every option in both locations.

Option 1: Use the search box in the Settings app.

The search box at the top of the Settings app. returns results from Settings and from Control Panel. You can tell the difference by the icon to the left of the result. Click one of the colorful icons and you jump straight to that item in Control Panel.

Option 2: Use the taskbar search box.

As you enter a word in the search box on the taskbar (just tap the Windows key and begin typing), Windows 10 returns results from a variety of locations, including settings, apps, documents, and the Web. To filter the search results so that the list includes only settings, click the small, nearly invisible arrow at the right side of the Settings heading. If you're a fast typist, you can skip that step by typing settings: (be sure to include the colon) followed by your search term. Here, too, the list of results includes entries from Settings and from Control Panel. 

Disable App Notifications

By default, Windows 10 apps (even desktop programmes like Outlook) can interrupt you with notifications. Here's how to take control of those pop-ups and sounds so they don't become a distraction.

One of the signature features of Windows 10 is the way it handles systemwide notifications, allowing any app (including desktop programmes like Outlook 2016 and Adobe's Creative Cloud) to display messages. The more apps you use, the more chaotic those notifications can get.

Take control by opening the Settings app and going to the Notifications & Actions section:
• To turn off all notifications from apps, move the Show app notifications slider to the Off position.
• To choose which apps are allowed to interrupt you, scroll down to the section headed Show Notifications from these apps. Move the slider for an individual app to the Off position to silence all notifications from that app.

For more fine-grained control over how an individual app can display notifications, click the app's entry in the Notifications list. That gives you five options.
• The top entry on the list, Notifications, lets you disable all notifications, greying out all the other options.
• For control over pop-up messages and sounds, use the Show notification banners and Play a sound when a notification arrives options.
• If you don't want the notification panel (formally known as Action Center) to be cluttered up with old notifications from an app, slide Show in action center to the Off position.
• Finally, use the Keep notifications private on the lock screen to hide calendar entries and alarms from displaying when you've stepped away from your desk and locked the screen.

Enjoy the peace and quiet.

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All Above Photo's Copyright: Roy Lowry © All Rights Reserved. You can see more of Roy's work here: https://www.flickr.com/people/99817330@N02/ 

More Windows 10 Tips & Tricks

Cortana's Secret Calculator

Who needs Windows Calc? Cortana can do simple maths, and with one extra keystroke you can display a full-featured calculator in the Start menu.

You don't need an app to do basic maths in Windows 10. If you've enabled Cortana, you can perform those calculations by tapping the Windows key and then typing the formula in the search box.

Make your formula as simple or as complex as you want, using standard operators: + and - for addition and subtraction, * and / for multiplication and division, % for percentages, ^ for exponentiation. Cortana automatically groups internal calculations; use parentheses if you want to control grouping.

Cortana displays the result of your calculation at the top of the search results list.

Want to do more calculations using the result of that formula? Press Enter to open the full calculator shown here.

Note that the calculator vanishes as soon as you click away, and you can't copy the formula or its results. 

Delay Anniversary Updates

Windows 10 updates can be disruptive. Even the routine cumulative security updates that arrive on the second Tuesday of each month (Patch Tuesday) require a restart followed by at least a few minutes of downtime as the operating system complete the installation process. The semi-annual feature updates involve much longer delays, leaving you unable to access apps or data for up to an hour, and occasionally even longer.

If you're about to hit the road on a business trip, the last thing you want is to deal with an unexpected update when you're rushing to finish packing or finalize an important presentation.

To avoid that unpleasant possibility, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options and click the Pause Updates button. (Beginning with Windows 10 version 1903, the Pause Updates button moves to the main Windows Update page)

That action immediately stops all updates, with the exception of Windows Defender definitions (which are typically small and don't require a restart).

How long does the pause last? That depends.

If you are running a publicly released version of Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education, you can pause updates for up to 35 days. (Microsoft has tested this capability on PCs running Windows 10 Home and may add it in the upcoming version 1903 release.) This pause is separate from any settings you've made to defer or delay updates

In either case, you can adjust the date on which updates resume. From the Windows Update page in Settings, click Advanced Options and choose a date from the drop-down list under the Pause Updates heading. 

The Pause Updates button offers one additional capability that's especially powerful. If Windows notifies you that it's downloaded an update and is ready to install it, you can veto that installation. Click Pause Updates to remove the downloaded updates from the queue and cancel the pending installation. 

Cortana's Secret Dictionary

Need to look up the meaning of a word? There's no need to fumble for a reference book or open your web browser. Just learn the magic word and you can ask Cortana.

Among Cortana's many skills is her excellent vocabulary, which is powered in the background by the Oxford Dictionaries.

If Cortana suspects you're trying to look up the meaning of a word, she immediately turns to the dictionary. So if you type (or say) What does disingenuous mean (with or without a question mark), you'll get a definition of disingenuous. Same goes for parsimony and hegemony and other similarly high-falutin' words.

But you can force Cortana to look up a word (and save yourself some typing) just by using the right keyword. Click in the search box and type define followed by a space and the word you want.

The top result should be a quick definition, which might be all you need. For more details, click that quick definition or press Enter. That opens an expanded definition, and if that's not enough you can click to see the full definition on the web.

Cortana has a sense of humour, by the way. If you don't believe me, just try typing define life. And, of course, don't forget about Cortana's secret calculator.  

Jürgen & Pep's Road to Madrid

Further Windows 10 Tips 

Access Special Characters

Entering special characters, including foreign currency symbols, fractions, and emoji, is a cumbersome task on most physical keyboards. Use this hidden Windows 10 option to open an on-screen keyboard that puts all those options at your fingertips.

Entering special characters in Windows can be inconvenient if those characters aren't supported directly by your desktop or laptop keyboard. In earlier versions of Windows, your only options are to memorize ANSI codes (which require a numeric keypad to enter) or to use a separate utility like Character Map (which is useful but clunky).

With Windows 10, there's an easier option: Use the touch keyboard. Don't be fooled by that name. The touch keyboard responds just fine to mouse clicks. This keyboard appears automatically if you're using a touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 PC in Tablet PC mode. Here's how to make sure it's at the ready even if you're using a conventional PC without a touchscreen.

Right-click any empty space on the taskbar to open the taskbar customization menu and then click the Show touch keyboard button option.

That action immediately adds a new button just to the left of the clock on the right side of the taskbar. Click that button while working in any desktop program or Windows 10 app to slide up the on-screen keyboard. Here are a few things you can do:
• Click (and hold) any letter or symbol to see variations of that letter, including those with accents and diacritical marks. On the symbols layout, for example, click and hold the 1/2 symbol to see eight additional fractions.
• Click the button labeled &123 to change from the standard QWERTY layout to one filled with symbols. Use the right and left arrows just above that button to display a second screen full of symbols, including symbols for the Euro and British Pound on a U.S. English configuration.
• Click the smiley face to display a keyboard layout filled with emojis and emoticons. Use the icons to the right to change to different groups of emojis, each of which has additional layouts available using the left and right arrow below Tab.

Click anywhere outside the keyboard or resume typing on your physical keyboard to hide the touch keyboard.

Privacy Protection in File Explorer

In Windows 10's File Explorer, the Quick Access pane is a real time-saver. It's also a potential source of clutter and, for PCs that aren't in a private location, a possible privacy risk. Fortunately, you can manage its contents easily.

The Quick Access shortcut appears by default at the top of the navigation pane. When you click that node, the contents pane shows pinned and frequently used folders on the right, with a list of recently opened files below that.

To change this behavior, right-click the Quick Access entry in the navigation pane and choose Options. That opens the dialog box shown here, which allows you to do three things:
•If you don't want Quick Access to appear when you open File Explorer, change the Open File Explorer To option from Quick Access to This PC.
•To stop displaying shortcuts to recently opened files, clear the top check box under the Privacy heading.
•Want to see only folders you've specifically pinned to Quick Access? Clear the second check box under the Privacy heading.

With both those options cleared, the Quick Access region becomes neatly uncluttered. You can still see your favorite folders in the top of the contents pane, but no other files or folders show up without your permission.

Switch to a Local Account

When you install Windows 10 for the first time, the Setup program tries very, very hard to convince you to sign in with a Microsoft account. The option to use a traditional local account is available, but it's easy to miss.

There are good reasons to use a Microsoft account on a home PC, especially if you use cloud services like OneDrive or Office 365 Home. The ability to sync settings between Windows 10 devices also comes in handy if you own more than one Windows 10 PC.

But if you don't use those services and you prefer to use a local account, you can remove the connection to a Microsoft account any time. Here's how:
1. Open Settings > Accounts and click Your email and accounts.
2. After confirming that the account is set up to use a Microsoft account, click Sign in with a local account instead.
3. Enter the password for your Microsoft account to confirm that you're authorized to make the change, and then click Next.
4. On the Switch To A Local Account page, enter your new local user name and password, along with a password hint, as shown here.
5. Click Next to sign out from the Microsoft account and sign back in using your new local account.

This change doesn't affect any files or installed Windows desktop programs.

If you've set up any apps from the Windows Store, you'll need to sign in again. You can continue to use any Microsoft cloud services as well; you'll just need to sign in individually.

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