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Navigating Windows 10

Updated June 4, 2020

It seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here are my favorite tips for navigating Windows 10.

Navigating Windows 10

Since I do computer repair for a living, I've had to find ways to navigate Windows' different versions. With Windows 10, Microsoft keeps some of the cooler features while adding some new ones. And they even brought back one feature from previous versions. Let's take a look at my favorite ways to get around inside of Windows 10.

Power User menu

This little pop-up menu is a fast way to find some of the core features inside of Windows 10. It first appeared in Windows 8 to supplement the loss of the Start Menu. It never got the publicity it deserved, and only real geeks knew it existed. My customers are still amazed the first time I use it in front of them.

Lucky for us, Microsoft decided to keep the Power Users menu in Windows 10. It is still the fastest way to get to features like the Apps and Features, Network Connections, and Computer Management. Here's how to display the Power User menu in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Power User menu

There are two (2) ways of displaying the Power User menu in Windows 10: Mouse or Keyboard.

Using your mouse to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu

Using your keyboard to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X

If you use the keyboard to bring up the Power User menu, you'll find that the programs/features listed have a single letter in their name underlined. These are also keyboard shortcuts to that particular program/feature. Here's a link to the complete list of the Power User menu keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Here's is another handy feature that nobody knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me, "What does that key with the Windows logo do?". Well, its primary use is to bring up the Start Menu, but it does more. Allot more.

The Windows logo key was introduced over twenty-five (25) years ago alongside Windows 95 and the new Start Menu. There were only a handful of Windows logo key shortcuts at that time, and you had to purchase a Windows 95 compatible keyboard to use them. Now you can't find a Windows-compatible keyboard without it.

There are now close to forty (40) Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 10. Once you try them out, you'll wonder how you lived without for so long. Here's a link to the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Shortcut keys in Windows 10

Here is one of those 'old school' features that I love to use. Did you know that you can open almost any shortcut with just your keyboard? By simply editing a shortcut, you open it with a combination of three (3) keys.

Now, if you have used Windows for a while, you know what a shortcut is. And if not, no biggie. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

Allot of people don't know that they can edit a shortcut and change how it works, including adding a keyboard shortcut to it. The keyboard shortcut for your shortcut needs to be a combination of three (3) keys, and the first two (2) keys have to be CTRL and ALT. The third key is your choice, but I try to use either the first letter of the program/file or a letter close to CTRL and ALT keys.

The shortcut key field inside of the properties a shortcut
The shortcut key field inside of the properties of a shortcut

How to add a keyboard shortcut to an existing shortcut

  1. Right-click on the shortcut you want to modify and from the context menu that appears select Properties.
  2. When the properties dialog box appears, make sure the Shortcut tab is selected.
  3. Go down to the Shortcut key field and left-click inside the area (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want to be assigned to the shortcut simultaneously (Windows will automatically add the ALT).
  5. Left-click on Apply and you are done.

Start Menu

And last but not least is the Start Menu. After a brief disappearance in Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring it back. It's now got a slightly different look and feel, but it still does what it is supposed to do: Navigate.

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

Updated August 16, 2020

The Start menu was first included in Windows 95 and was a big part of its success. It has undergone many changes over the years, but still is the primary way of navigating Windows. So here is how to customize the Start menu in Windows 10.

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

The Windows 10 Start menu is a combination of the Start menu that was in Windows 7 and the Start screen from Windows 8. You have the traditional Start menu features like folders and apps on the left and Start screen tiles on the right side.

The different areas of the Windows 10 Start menu

Now there are four (4) main areas of the Start menu that you can customize; Appearance, Folders, App list, and Tiles. You can also change the size, color, font, and transparency of the Start menu. Changing the size is relatively simple.

Just like any other application, you can change the width and height of the Start menu. Hover your cursor over one of the Start menu edges until the sizing arrows appear, then hold the left mouse button and drag it to the size you want.

Almost all settings to customize the Start menu are located in the Personalization section of the Settings app. To find the Start menu settings in the Settings apps just:

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and select Settings (the gear icon).
  2. Left-click on Personalization.
  3. In the left-hand column, left-click on Start.

Appearance

This is where you can set up the way the Start menu looks and operates. In the right-hand column, you will find a list of options that you can turn on. Their functions are pretty self-explanatory.

  • Show more tiles on Start
  • Show app list in Start menu
  • Show recently added apps
  • Show most used apps
  • Show suggestions occasionally in Start
  • Use Start full screen (similar to Tablet mode)
  • Show recently open items in Jump Lists on Start or Taskbar and in Explorer Quick Access

Folders

At the bottom of the list is a link labeled Choose which folders appear on Start. When you click on it, you get a list of the folders that you can toggle on or off. The folders that can be displayed on the Start menu are:

  • File Explorer
  • Settings (on by default)
  • Documents (on by default)
  • Music
  • Pictures (on by default)
  • Videos
  • Network
  • Personal Folder

Tiles

Some of the Tiles are Desktop program shortcuts, and some are UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps. All of the Tiles can be resized and unpinned. Live Tiles (tiles that display information, like the Photo app) can be turned on and off.

And there are a few that can be uninstalled directly from the Tile section of the Start menu. If you place the mouse cursor over a Tile and hold down the left mouse button, you can move a tile around. If you right-click on a Tile, you will get a context menu with different options.

You can easily pin a program to the Tile area of the Start menu. Just right-click on any application or shortcut in the App list, on the Desktop or inside of the File Explorer, and select Pin to Start from the context menu that appears.

App list

I left this area of the Start menu for last, as it is the most complicated to change. The App list is a special folder on the drive where Windows is installed. Actually, there are two (2) App list folders; a system folder that is for all system users and a user folder that is inside of each user profile.

You can perform almost all of the regular folder and file editing inside the system App list reasonably quickly. Just right-click on an item and select an action from the context menu. Remember that the system App list is propagated into the user App list, so if you make a change here, it affects all users.

Now adding to the system App list is hard, since you can not do it directly. When I say directly, you can not just click inside and select New > Folder or Shortcut from the context menu. You have to copy/paste or drag/drop a folder or shortcut into it. I recommend leaving the system App list alone and changing only the user App list.

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Modifying the user App list is easier and is the recommended way of changing the App list. It will have fewer folders and shortcuts, but most of the App list comes from the system App list. Here are the different App list locations.

Just copy and paste the code below into a Run dialog box (Windows logo key Windows logo + R).

The system App list location
%programdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
The user App list location
%appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Shortcuts are links to various types of objects on your computer like a program, file, folder, or another computer, and it can be placed on your Desktop, Taskbar or Start menu. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

To create a shortcut in Windows 10, you need to know where the object is located on your computer. Open File Explorer (left-click the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or left-click on the Start Menu and select File Explorer) and navigate to the object you want to create a shortcut to. If you're going to create a Desktop shortcut, make sure File Explorer is not in full-screen mode.

  • For a shortcut on the Start menu, right-click on the object and select Pin to Start.
  • For a shortcut on the Taskbar, right-click on the object and select Pin to Taskbar.
  • For a shortcut on the Desktop, press and hold the right mouse button on the object and drag it to the Desktop. From the context menu that appears, select Create shortcuts here.

Inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Note: the Windows 10 Technical Preview program expired on 4/15/15 and is no longer available.

Coming on the heels of the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft recently released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. With this new Windows version, Microsoft combines elements from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to enhance the keyboard/mouse user experience better. Let's take a look at what's new in the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

With this Windows version, we see a shift in the focus from touch-based devices to keyboard/mouse systems. The most significant change by far is the return of the Start menu. And it is a hybrid now, with elements from Windows 7 (Start menu (left-side)) and Windows 8.1 (Start screen Tiles (right-side)). But if you like using the Start screen, it's still there too. It's just a checkbox and a restart away.

You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

But let's be honest, the Start screen concept might work on a tablet or phone, but it fails miserably on a laptop or desktop computer without a touch screen. Customers have even told me that they had returned brand new Windows 8 systems because they could not stand the Start screen.

Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview
Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Along with the Start menu's return, Microsoft has also built-in the ability to run multiple instances of the Desktop called Task view. With Task view, you can have different sets of programs running in separate desktops. This feature is kind of cool if you're using a single display.

The Windows RT / Metro apps from Windows 8 / 8.1 also have undergone some changes. Their name has been changed to Universal apps, and they now run in completely re-sizable windows. You need to use the Store to install universal apps and can sync them across multiple devices using a Microsoft account.

There is a small change here and there too. One difference is with the way you copy and paste with the Command Prompt. You can now use the Windows keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + C for copy, Ctrl + V for paste) for these tasks.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for anyone who wants to give it a try. Remember; do not install the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a production system. Use only a system that can be reformatted after the preview expires (4/15/15). For this article, I used an Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine.

Six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use

Repairing computers for a living requires working on different versions of Windows. Windows 8 must have the most changes out of all the Windows releases I've seen in the last decade or so. It seems like what worked in previous versions of Windows doesn't work in Windows 8. So here are six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use.

1. Create Shutdown, Restart and Logoff shortcuts

Microsoft made shutting down and restarting Windows 8 kind of hard. You have to go to the Start screen and log-off before you can get to these options. Just seemed like too many steps for me, so I just created my own shortcuts and toolbar for shutting down, restarting and logging off.

How to create log-off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8.

2. Start menu replacements

Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8
Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8

If you're a die-hard Windows user and find the Start screen just doesn't work for you, there is hope. There numerous third party shell menus out there like Start8, Classic Shell and Pokki's Windows 8 Start Menu. Get one and Windows 8 will feel just like Windows 7.

3. Power users command menu

The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu
The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu

This is one of the Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8 (see below) but I think it deserves to be listed separately. It contains links to some of the most used programs inside of Windows. From the Control Panel, Computer Management and an Admin Command Prompt, if it's a commonly used Windows program, you'll probably find it here. Add it works on both the Desktop and Start screen.

PressTo
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User command menu. There are over a dozen different apps you can run from this menu.

4. Start screen hidden search feature

Most people find it hard to find programs on the Start screen (Windows RT). But there is one cool feature that actually will help you search for programs. If you go to the Start screen and just type the first couple of letters of the name of the program you're looking for, Windows RT will bring up the Search charm with Apps pre-selected. Remember that there is no box or form field associated with this feature, you just type.

5. Windows 8 Keyboard shortcuts

The Windows logo key Windows logo key has been around since Windows 95 and with every new version of Windows, Microsoft just adds more key combinations .There are now forty (40) different Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 8.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8.

6. Windows 8 restart options

Windows 8 restart option screen
Windows 8 restart option screen

It used to be when you had a problem with Windows, you could press F8 at startup and get to the boot options. This was the primary way to start Windows in Safe Mode or boot to other media. But with newer computers using Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Windows 8 booting faster, pressing F8 at boot is really hard, if not impossible. But there are a couple of ways to get there once Windows 8 is started. Note: If you want to boot from removable media, make sure that the media you want to boot to is attached (USB) or inserted (CD/DVD) before proceeding.

If you are logged off:

  1. On the logon screen, in the lower-right hand corner, tap or left-click the Power Icon. Hold the Shift key down while you tap or left-click on Restart.
  2. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  3. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  4. From here you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

If you are logged on:

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar.
  2. Tap or left-click Change PC Settings.
  3. Tap or left-click General.
  4. Scroll down to Advanced startup and tap or left-click Restart now.
  5. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  6. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  7. From here you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

And if you would like enable the Advanced Boot Options menu, you can do that too. Just remember that there is no timer on the Advanced Boot menu anymore. If enabled, Windows 8 will wait for user input every time the system starts. How to enable the Advanced Boot Options menu at start up in Windows 8.

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