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How to find Windows 10 features and programs

With the popularity of Windows 10 growing, I find that I am working on more and more Windows 10 systems. But finding some of the Windows 10 features and programs can be kind of hard. So here's my some of my favorite ways to find Windows 10 features and programs.

Power User menu

Did you know that you can get to the control panel, computer management or an administrative command prompt in Windows 10 with just a couple of keystrokes or mouse clicks? That's just what you can do and more when you use the Power User menu.

The two different versions of the Power User menu in Windows 10

The Power User menu first appeared in Windows 8 to kind of supplement users need to find essential programs and features quickly. Without a Start Menu, it was extremely hard for regular users to find anything inside of Windows 8. The Power User menu kind of made up for no Start Menu, well not really, but it was better than nothing at all.

The Power User menu contains a set of shortcuts to the most used programs and features inside of Windows 10 (see list below). There are two different ways of bringing up the Power User menu; by mouse or keyboard.

How to display the Power User menu using your mouse

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

How to display the Power User menu using your keyboard

Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X

Using the keyboard method, you also get keyboard shortcuts added to all of the menu selections.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Press To
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User menu
Then press To open
F Programs and Features
O Power Options
V Event Viewer
Y System
M Device Manager
W Network Connections
K Disk Management
G Computer Management
C Command Prompt
A Administrative Command Prompt
T Task Manager
P Control Panel
E File Explorer
S Search (Cortana)
R Run dialog box
U Shut down or sign out
U then I Sign out
U then U Shut down
U then R Restart
D Desktop

Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

Now it just so happens that the keyboard shortcut for the Power User menu is just one of almost forty Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10. The Windows logo key was introduced in '95 to coincide with the release of Windows 95 and the new, at that time, Start Menu. Microsoft has added and modified the Windows logo key shortcuts with every version of Windows since then. Some of my favorites are listed below and most of them only require one hand.

Press To
Windows logo key Open the Start menu
Windows logo key + A Open Action Center
Windows logo key + D Show desktop
Windows logo key + R Run dialog box
Windows logo key + S Search (Cortana)
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User menu

Click here for the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

If you like using keyboard shortcuts, I also personally like and use the general keyboard shortcuts and the dialog box keyboard shortcuts. And since I am right-handed and prefer to keep my hand on the mouse, I use allot of left-handed keyboard shortcuts.

For more information on any of the keyboard shortcuts in this article, please check out the links below.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Dialog box keyboard shortcuts

General keyboard shortcuts

My favorite left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

With Microsoft giving away free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, the one question that I keep getting asked is "Should I upgrade to Windows 10?" The real question should be "Will my hardware run smoothly with Windows 10?" Let's take a look and see if you should upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Should you upgrade your computer to Windows 10?

If you have the GWT (Get Windows 10) icon on the taskbar, you can find out if your hardware and software will run on Windows 10. Just remember that even if GWT says all everything is compliant with Windows 10, it doesn't mean it will work smoothly with Windows 10. I have seen systems that were completely compatible with Windows 10, but when they got the upgraded, the performance was below what it was with the previous version of Windows.

First thing we should look at are the hardware requirements for Windows 10. When compared to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, they are essentially exactly same for all three versions.

Windows 7 requirements:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor*
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Windows 8.1 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz)* or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

Windows 10 requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

So what differentiates Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8? The hardware drivers. Let me explain.

In the past when a manufacturer discontinued a piece of hardware, Microsoft would take the last known Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certified driver for that hardware and incorporate it into the driver's directory for the next version of Windows. The Windows\System32\Drivers directory is the generic driver collection that is included inside of the installation media for Windows. If Windows cannot find a driver for a specific piece of hardware in the driver's directory, it will go out to the Internet database and look for a suitable driver.

But when the hardware becomes out dated, usually it is the second version of Windows since it was discontinued, the driver can be removed from the driver's directory. That's when things can get tough. I've actually have had to go back into previous versions of Windows installation media and extract drivers from older driver directories. In fact, I have a customer that has a large format plotter that Windows hasn't had a driver for since Windows Server 2003 64-bit. But I have extracted the driver from the installation media and have used it on 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 with no problem.

So what am I saying? Well it comes down to whether the manufacturer(s) of your hardware are still supporting them with new drivers. If the hardware is no longer being sold, you can pretty much assume that there will be no new drivers for it. Now there are exceptions to this rule. Expansion cards, like graphic / video cards are one of them. I've found that companies like NVIDIA and AMD will create new drivers for what they call legacy hardware (discontinued hardware).

Before you decide to upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer, take a couple of minutes and go over to all of the manufacturer's website(s) and locate the drivers for your system components. A few minutes now can save you hours later. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Now with all of that in mind, if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 7, then the drivers in Windows 8.1 were Microsoft WHQL certified drivers. And if that is the case, then Windows 10 may or may not come with a compatible generic driver. It may have to go out to the Internet data base and find a driver. And if that's the case, you can bet it will be a completely generic driver.

But if the last version of drivers that came from the manufacturer was for Windows 8.1, then the Windows 10 driver will most likely be a Microsoft WHQL certified hardware driver.

Bottom line; if your system and/or components were built before the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and are no longer in production, then I would be skeptical on whether to upgrade to Windows 10. But if your system and/or components were built after the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and may or may not be still in production, there is a good chance that Windows 10 will run perfectly fine. But remember, there will be exceptions.

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

In repairing computers for a living, the one thing I find myself doing constantly is cleaning up and resetting web browsers. Removing adware, malware and viruses can really screw up the Internet Explorer. So here is how to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer.

How to clean up and reset the Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) has been included every version of Windows since Windows 98. Microsoft has made cleaning IE fairly easy, but there can be some tricky items. All of IE's settings are accessible from either inside of IE or from the Control Panel. The best way is to go through the Control Panel because that is when IE is not technically running. If you use Outlook or Windows Mail, you will need to close these programs too before attempting to clean up IE, as they actually use IE to rendered HTML formatted e-mails.

When it comes to resetting the IE, you have to first get into the Control Panel. With Windows Vista and Windows 7, the easiest way to do it is to type Control Panel into the search box above the Start button and select Control Panel from the search results. The easiest and fastest way in Windows 8 and Windows 10 is to use the Power Users menu (Windows logo key Windows logo key + X) and then select Control Panel. Once you have the Control Panel up, select Network and Internet then Internet Options (if viewing by category) or just Internet Options (if viewing by icons).

The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties General tab inside of Windows 10

The Internet Options haven't changed much over the years, so the tabs on the Internet Properties will look similar in Windows Vista as they do in Windows 10. When you first open Internet Properties, the General tab appears by default. From here you can go down to Browsing history and delete everything from temporary Internet files and cookies to form data and passwords. Remember that once you delete something like passwords you cannot get it back, so choose carefully.

The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Programs tab inside of Windows 10

Once you're done with the General tab, go over to the Programs tab and select Manage add-ons. Here is where you enable, disable and sometimes delete add-ons that have been installed into the IE. There are times when all you can do is disable an add-on, so that is when you'll need a third-party program like CCleaner from Piriform. In fact, CCleaner can cleanup all of the major browsers, but the only one I've had issues with getting rid of third-party programs is IE.

The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10
The Internet Properties Advanced tab inside of Windows 10

The last tab in Internet Properties is Advanced and it is the most powerful. It has only two buttons, Restore advanced settings and Reset. The first one you click is Restore advanced settings then click on Apply in the lower right-hand corner. Then to completely reset IE click on Reset. You will get a screen warning you that you are about to reset IE back to its original defaults settings. Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 users will also have the option of deleting personal settings. Remember that these cannot be undone, so choose carefully. If in doubt, leave the personal files check box empty. You can always come back and remove them if need be.

Now if after you have reset IE you find you cannot get into some secure sites, like bank websites, go back into Internet Properties and select the Security tab and deselect Enable Protected Mode. When you click Apply you will get a prompt telling you that your current security setting might put you at risk. Then try the website you were having problems with. If you can now get into it, you are all set.

The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10
The Windows features menu inside of Windows 10

There is one option that is not available to IE and that is to uninstall and reinstall. As I stated earlier in this article, IE is integrated into the operating system as a feature and is used by other programs like Outlook and Windows Mail. The only thing you can do is turn off the IE feature in the Control panel, restart your computer and then turn it back on. To do this go to the Control Panel and select Programs and Features, then Uninstall or change a program. In the left-hand column left-click on Turn Windows features on or off.

How to change default programs in Windows 10

The default programs that Windows 10 uses to open different file types are pretty good right from the start. But maybe you'd like to change what program opens music or photos? Here's how to change the default applications in Windows 10.

How to change default programs in Windows 10

As with Windows 8, Windows 10 has two (2) applications for almost every file type, one Universal and one Windows. That way Windows 10 can run on both a tablet (Universal apps) and desktop (Windows apps). In fact, there are two (2) different programs to modify the default applications for Windows 10. The Universal application is quite easy to use, but the Windows application has more features.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Universal program

The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Universal program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This is the easiest way to change a default program there is. Just left-click on the program listed under the file type (music player, photo viewer, web browser, etc.) and a list of programs will pop up. Just left-click on the program you want used to open that type of file and you are ready to go.

  1. Left-click on the Start button to bring up the Start menu.
  2. Left-click on Settings.
  3. Left-click on System.
  4. In the left hand column, left-click on Default apps.

The most common file types will appear in the right column. On the bottom of the right hand column, you will find three more advanced ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Choose default apps by type (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Choose default apps by protocol (Universal)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain protocols, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Set defaults by app (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set an application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.

How to change the default applications in Windows 10 using the Windows program

The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10
The Windows program for changing default applications in Windows 10

This way of changing default programs is the most familiar for anybody who has used Windows 7 or Windows Vista. You have to go to the Control Panel to access these options.

  1. Right-click on the Start button to bring up the Power Users menu.
  2. Left-click on Control Panel.

or

  1. In the search box to the right of the Start button type Control Panel.
  2. Left-click on the Control Panel (Desktop app).

or

  1. Left-click on the Start button and left-click on All apps.
  2. Scroll down to Windows System and left-click on it to expand it out.
  3. Left-click on Control Panel.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by category, left-click on Programs, then left-click on Default Programs.
  • If you are viewing the Control Panel by icons, left-click on Default Programs.

You have four (4) different ways of modifying the default applications:

  • Set your default programs (Windows)
    When you choose this option, you are presented with a list of installed programs and you can choose what each one does or does not do. You can set on application to open all of the types of files it can or select which types of files to open with that particular program.
  • Associate a file type or protocol with a program (Windows)
    Warning! By choosing the wrong application for certain file / protocol types, you can make your system unusable. This method of setting the default program requires you to know the extension / protocol of the object you want to open. Be certain of the file extension / protocol before making any changes. When in doubt, don't play around with these.
  • Change AutoPlay settings (Windows)
    This is where you change what happens when you insert removable media (CD/DVD, memory card, flash drive, etc.) into your computer. If you check Use AutoPlay for media and devices and don't choose a default, you will get prompted on what you would like to do every time you insert that type of media.
  • Set program access and computer defaults (Windows)
    This one has been around since Windows XP and has to be the most familiar way to change default applications. Just left-click on the Custom radio button and expand the choices by left-clicking the double arrows on the right hand side. Then just left-click on the radio button next to the program you want as default and you are ready to go.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

I was thinking the other day about what program I use the most in doing computer repair. The one program I use the most on Windows based computers would have to be System File Checker (SFC). SFC checks for system files that may have gotten corrupt or replaced with incorrect versions. Here's how to check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

SFC has been included in every version of Windows since Windows XP. In fact, you can also build it into the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). There is no shortcut or link to SFC in Windows 10, as it runs inside of an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

SFC running inside of Windows 10 Administrative Command Prompt

The following is the syntax and switches for SFC. The most commonly used syntax / switch is: sfc /scannow.

SFC [/SCANNOW] [/VERIFYONLY] [/SCANFILE=<file>] [/VERIFYFILE=<file>] [/OFFWINDIR=<offline windows directory> /OFFBOOTDIR=<offline boot directory>]

/SCANNOW (Scans integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible.)
/VERIFYONLY (Scans integrity of all protected system files. No repair operation is performed.)
/SCANFILE (Scans integrity of the referenced file, repairs file if problems are identified. Specify full path <file>.)
/VERIFYFILE (Verifies the integrity of the file with full path <file>. No repair operation is performed.)
/OFFBOOTDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline boot directory.)
/OFFWINDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline windows directory.)

Examples

sfc /scannow sfc /verifyfile=c:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll sfc /scanfile=d:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows sfc /verifyonly

Once SFC is done scanning the system files, it will give one of four possible results:

  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
    All system file are fine and you're good to go.
  • Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.
    There may be another program preventing SFC from running. In this case boot the system up into safe mode and run SFC from there.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them.
    All system files are now correct and you're ready to go. If you want to view the repair details, see below.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
    If you get this message, SFC found a file or files that it wasn't able to repair. The next thing you will need to do is find out what the name of the file(s) are. Using the Find String utility, you can filter out the SFC results with only the components that were scanned and create a text file with that information on your Desktop called sfcdetails.txt. Just copy the following code into an Administrative Command Prompt:
findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

Manually replacing a corrupt system file in Windows 10

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you will need to have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good source for files is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 10. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside of Oracle VirtualBoxes.

First thing to do is make note of the location (path) and name of the file(s) that need to be replaced from the sfcdetails.txt file. Once you have another copy of the corrupt file(s), you will need take administrative ownership of the file(s). To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

takeown /f path\filename

Example: takeown /f C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Next you will have to grant administrators full access to file(s) being replaced. To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

Example: icacls C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll /grant administrators:F

Third thing to do is copy over the new file(s) and replace the corrupt one(s).To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

copy path\filename path\filename

Example: copy C:\Temp\FileToBeReplaced.dll C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

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