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How to find out what’s slowing down your Windows PC

The Windows Resource Monitor can help you to track down the resource hog’s that are slowing down your Windows computer.

If your using Windows 7 click Start, and then Run and type ‘resmon’. For Windows 10 users fire up Cortana’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Box and type ‘resmon’. Now hit Enter and click on resmon.exe in the resulting search list.

For monitoring slowdown issues take a look at the Memory tab. This tracks usage and shows you how much memory a program or service is consuming. Also check the CPU and Disk tabs and see what particular program or service is causing your PC to slow down the most. Look particularly at the programs you’ve recently installed or uninstalled and see if any of those are using the bulk of your PC’s available resources.

All the memory hogging and performance sapping programs, services and modules can make your Windows computer less stable so its also a very good idea to check the Windows Reliability monitor too. For Windows 7 and Windows 10 users search for ‘Reliability History’ and select ‘View Reliability History’ from the resulting list.

Take a look at the blue trend line which may be flat or downward sloping. A sudden sharp drop is certainly worth checking out. If multiple programs are shown to be unstable perhaps something you recently installed or uninstalled is the culprit.

Click on the columns representing dates to see a list of the ‘activity’ for that particular day. This will show you what was successfully installed or run and what was unsuccessful. You may be able to fix the instability problem if ‘Check for a solution’ appears under the Action column at the foot of the screen.

Use these two tools to keep your Windows PC in good shape and to nip problems in the bud before they start to get out of hand!

How to change Windows 10’s default web browser

When you upgrade to Windows 10 from another version of Windows the ‘express installation’ option sets your default web browser to Microsoft’s Edge, even if you chose to use Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or another web browser, in Windows 7 or 8.

And Microsoft’s Edge has a nasty habit of resetting itself as the default browser if you update Windows 10 or even try to install another browser.

Fortunately, Windows 10 doesn’t uninstall your previous browser of choice, so it’s easy to change the operating system’s default web browser back again to your browser of choice – if you know where to find the settings to change this.

First, open the Start menu and select Settings, then click on the System option.

In the options that appear, select Default apps in the left-hand pane, then scroll down and click on Web browser, which likely has Microsoft’s Edge icon showing if you just upgraded from a previous version of Windows.

A list of browsers installed on your system will pop up. Select the browser you’d like Windows 10 to use by default. If you don’t see your browser of choice then it is not installed on your PC, so you will have to download it and walk through this very simple process again.

Once you’ve selected your preferred browser just return back to the main Settings page and your choice will be automatically saved.

From now on, all web links will open in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or whatever alternative browser you want to use.

How to remove Cortana from Windows 10

If you have Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise you will be able to shut down Cortana by simply typing gpedit.msc in the search box to open the Group Policy Editor. Navigate to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search. Double-click on the policy named Allow Cortana.

When the policy window appears just click Disable. That’s all you need to do shut down Cortana.

However, if you are using Windows 10 Home, you will need to edit the Windows Registry. Do not tackle this step unless you have experience editing the Registry. Additionally, you should set a restore point now in case things go sideways.

So if you are confident about working in the Registry Type Regedit into the search box in and open the Registry Editor. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search. That final key (Windows Search) may not be present in the Registry. If it is not present, right-click the Windows directory and select New > Key. Name it Windows Search.

Now select that new key. In the right-hand pane, right-click and select new DWORD and name it AllowCortana. Then right-click that value and make sure it’s set to 0, which means “off”.

Now sign out and back in again or restart your PC and you should notice that Cortana has been replaced with a generic search box.

How to turn off forced restarts when Windows 10 Updates

windows10-desktopIn the past you may have be used to setting up Windows Updates so that they wouldn’t install automatically. Even though Windows 10 handles post-update reboots pretty well, you may still like to have some control over these updates from the outset.

There is a simple workaround for users running Windows 10 Professional. From the Start Menu, search for ‘Group Policy‘.

From the search result pick ‘Edit Group Policy/Control Panel‘ from the top of the list.

Expand Computer Configuration in the left-hand pane and navigate to Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update. Double-click Configure Automatic Updates in the list, select the Enabled radio button, and in the left-hand box select 2 – Notify for download and notify for install. Now click OK, and you’ll be notified whenever there are updates – unfortunately, they will be a daily irritation if you’re using Windows Defender.

The Group Policy Editor isn’t available on Windows 10 Home, but you can at least open Windows Update, click Advanced options and select Notify to schedule restart from the ‘Choose how updates are installed’ list. While you’re here, all Windows 10 users might want to click Choose how updates are delivered and ensure that Updates from more than one place is either off or set to PCs on my local network.

How to shut down Windows 10 OneDrive completely

windows-10-file-explorer-favouritesOneDrive and Windows 10 are joined at the hip. So tightly, in fact, that OneDrive gets its own quick access link in File Explorer and its sync client runs automatically when you start up your PC.

Of course you don’t have to use OneDrive’s cloud storage. You may prefer a cloud service from another provider such as Google Drive, or perhaps you just do not like the idea of storing your files in the cloud. No matter what your reason may be, you are completely free to ignore OneDrive in your backup plans.

If you are not currently using OneDrive the sync client may keep asking you to sign in using your Microsoft Account. When the message pops up asking you to sign in, just click Cancel. Cancelling OneDrive still leaves the OneDrive icon in the navigation pane of File Explorer. To make this disappear, you will need to make a simple Registry edit.

In Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you can use the Group Policy editor to make this change. Open the Local Group Policy Editor by putting Gpedit.msc in the Windows 10 search box and go to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > OneDrive. Double-click the policy Prevent The Usage Of OneDrive For File Storage and set it to Enabled.

After you restart your PC, you’ll find that the OneDrive icon is no longer in the navigation pane and the sync client no longer runs.

On devices running Windows 10 Home, where Group Policy isn’t available, you have to edit the registry manually. Open the Registry Editor by typing regedit into the Windows 10 search box, select regedit from the top of the resulting list. In regedit navigate to HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\OneDrive. (If that key doesn’t exist, you will need to create it). Add a new DWORD value, DisableFileSyncNGSC, and set it to 1. Restart the PC to make the policy setting effective (Note that this change applies to every user of the selected device).

If you previously synced your files to OneDrive, they remain in the local OneDrive folder but are no longer linked to their cloud counterparts.

How do you open Safe Mode in Windows 10?

windows-safe-modeNothing gets you out of trouble like Windows Safe Mode. This was always easy to open by simply pressing the F8 or Shift+F8 keys as a PC started up.

In Windows 10 you can no longer enter Safe Mode by pressing F8 or Shift+F8 at boot. Although it is still available you have to boot into Windows first, then either restart holding the left Shift key or via an option within Update & Security which can be found in the Settings app. However, neither option is helpful if your computer cannot boot into Windows 10 in the first place.

To get around this serious limitation, you will need to create a boot time Safe Mode option before any trouble arrives.

Hit Win+x (The Windows Key and X key) and select Command Prompt (Admin) from the list of options. Now type bcdedit /copy {current} /d “Windows 10 Safe Mode” and hit Enter.

From the Start Search Menu type msconfig, run System Configuration in the results and navigate to the Boot tab. Now highlight the Windows 10 Safe Mode option that you just created, tick Safe boot and select Minimal under the Boot options and – if necessary – reduce the Timeout value so you won’t be inconvenienced – the minimum value is three seconds. Tick Make all boot settings permanent (in fact you can simply return here later and delete the Safe Mode entry) and click OK.

When you restart your PC you should now have a boot menu offering a choice of your normal Windows Operating System and the New Windows 10 Safe Mode option you just created.

So if you cannot boot into Windows, by restarting your PC you can now select Windows 10 Safe Mode.

To find out more about Windows Safe Mode see the article Safe Mode and It’s Uses.

How to make Windows 10 notifications last a bit longer

windows10actioncentreresize-200One of the best features of Windows 10 is the newly revamped Action Center and the new notifications system. Notifications slide out from the bottom-right corner of the screen. For some Windows 10 users these notifications might seem to come and go far too quickly.

By default, Microsoft sets Windows 10 notifications to pop out and stay visible for only five seconds before disappearing. That’s a good amount of time for most people, but if you’d prefer that notifications stick around just a little bit longer, you can easily do this by adjusting the Ease of Access settings.

In fact, you can make notifications stay visible for another two seconds or as long as five minutes. To change your pop-out notification time click on Start and select Settings to open the settings app. Then go to Ease of Access > Other options. The third option down is ‘Show notifications for’. Select the drop-down menu under that heading and choose whichever of the six time options is appropriate for you. Keep in mind this is a per-notification setting. If you choose 7 seconds then notifications will sit on the bottom right of your screen for 7 seconds each. Choose 30 seconds and they will be there for exactly half a minute.

If you want a longer notification time due to a physical disability there are tons of options available to suit everyone.

Just be careful not to extend the Windows 10 notification period for to long if you are using an email client like Outlook or the built-in Mail app. Pop-out notifications can quickly become a big problem if you get a large number of emails every day.

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?

windows10installissuesThe great thing about Windows 10 is that it just works. There’s not really a learning curve as there was with Windows 8 or 8.1. Even if you don’t get to grips with features like the task-bar, search or Task View, it won’t actually take anything away from your experience of Windows 10. And there are no navigational hassles, as there were with the charms menu; pretty much everything that you need can be found in the Start Menu or Action Centre.

However the most successful Window 10 upgrades seem to be from Windows 8.1. Upgrading from Windows 7.1 can sometimes be fraught with problems. In fact, some upgrades from both Operating Systems have just failed and others have led to the loss of all the data from a PC’s hard drive.

So before you even click a button to download your upgrade to Windows 10 or begin to install it from a DVD make sure you back up your entire Windows PC. Make sure you have a full image backup so that if anything does go wrong you can at least recover from it and get back to a fully working computer once again.

That’s not saying you should stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8, because Windows 10 is Microsoft’s best ever Operating System. Just be sure to prepare an image backup first, and test that it works before you begin the upgrade process.

Note: The free Windows 10 upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Features 3

windows10actioncentreresize-200New Mandatory Windows Updates

Microsoft will issue regular updates just as it always has. Only this time it’s different. You will not find an option in Windows 10 Home to turn off updates – updates are now mandatory.

Updates contain drivers as well as security (and non-security-related) patches, which may worry some people. For example, since Windows 10 launched, a broken NVidia driver has already caused problems for some Windows 10 users. No doubt Microsoft will figure out the best way to deal with problems like these, as it will not want millions upon millions of Windows users complaining when an update breaks all their machines in one fell swoop.

There are of course benefits to forced updates. Vulnerabilities and security holes will be addressed and patched on all Windows 10 machines (aside from Enterprise versions) at the same time, and people won’t be running vulnerable 6-year-old versions of Internet Explorer.

Windows 10 Privacy Issues

Much has been made of the ‘spyware’ and privacy issues in Windows 10, and rightly so. Windows 10 is the most connected, cloud-focused Operating System Microsoft has ever released and for the most part this is a good thing. Using a Microsoft account instead of a local account, for example, means your settings, wallpaper, start menu configuration and other things can be synced across all your devices – even to your Windows 10 phone.

Cortana, one of the best new features, needs to access personal data – emails, location etc. – if you want to use her full capabilities. Plus, OneDrive integration means your files are accessible from any computer, tablet or phone.

Note: The free Windows 10 upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Features 2

windows10actioncentreresize-200
The New Settings Menu

Control Panel is still available in Windows 10. And if you’re a technical user, you will come across it from time to time. But most of us will never see it.

The New Settings Menu is now a far more comprehensive solution and much more logically arranged.

Compared to Windows 8.1, Windows 10’s Settings menu is a more robust and more Control Panel-like version of the Settings charm. In the new Settings menu, you’ll find some familiar prompts: System, Devices, Network & Internet, Personalization, Accounts, Time & language, Ease of Access, Privacy, and Update & Recovery.

Each category in Settings leads you into a wordy sub-menu. It’s not quite as intuitive as the Control Panel was, but you can always find what you want.

What’s more, you can search in Cortana on the taskbar for a setting and you can search within the Settings app itself.

Windows 10 Task View

To the right of the search box you’ll notice an unfamiliar icon. Click it and Task View will open. It’s a lot like the view you get in Windows 7 or 8 when you press Alt+Tab. You can still use Alt+Tab in Windows 10 but the short-cut for Task View is Win+Tab.

Click the new Task View button on the taskbar and you’ll get an overview of all of the apps you’ve got open. Drag one of those apps onto the “new desktop” link, and it will be moved to its own independent workspace (a virtual desktop).

You could use one workspace just focused on work and then have a separate virtual desktop for gaming forums or playing games. In fact there’s no limit to the amount of virtual desktops you can create, and each one is treated as its own little private workspace.

You can quickly flip between desktops using Ctrl+Win+left cursor or Ctrl+Win+right cursor. This is much faster than using Alt+Tab and trying to find one Word document from 20 open windows.

Unlike the situation with Windows 8.1 you can use the new-style apps from within the Desktop area. This helps Microsoft make good on its claim that Windows 10 will feel familiar to Windows 7 users.

Note: The free Windows 10 upgrade offer is only available until 29th July 2016.

Next Month: New Mandatory Windows Updates and Windows 10 Privacy Issues.