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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 Windows 10 systems. But seeing some of the Windows 10 features and programs can be kind of hard. So here are some of my favorite ways to find Windows 10 features and applications.

Power User menu

Did you know that you can get to settings, computer management, or an admin command prompt / admin powershell 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 tough for regular users to find anything inside of Windows 8. The Power User menu made up for no Start Menu, well not really, but it was better than nothing at all.

The Power User menu contains shortcuts to the most used programs and features inside Windows 10 (see list below). In the Taskbar settings,
Windows 10 Power User menu with either Command Prompt or PowerShell option
you can choose to have either the Command Prompt or Windows PowerShell shortcuts. 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 Apps and Features
O Power Options
V Event Viewer
Y System
M Device Manager
W Network Connections
K Disk Management
G Computer Management
You can select to have either the Command Prompt or PowerShell on the Power User menu in the Taskbar settings
C Command Prompt
I Windows PowerShell
A Admin Command Prompt / Admin PowerShell
T Task Manager
N Settings
E File Explorer
S Search
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 only 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
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 love 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 a lot of left-handed keyboard shortcuts.

For more information on any of the keyboard shortcuts in this article, please check 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?

When Microsoft first released Windows 10, they had an application called Get Windows 10 (GWT). This program would analyze the hardware and software inside your computer and let you know if there was anything that was not Windows 10 compatible. That program is gone, but the Windows 10 installer will still analyze your computer before starting the installation.

Just remember that even if the Windows 10 installer says everything is compatible, 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.

The first thing we should look at is the hardware requirements for Windows 10. When compared to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, they are necessarily precisely the 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:
    • Windows 10 version 1809 and prior: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
    • Windows 10 version 1903 and newer: 32 GB for 32-bit and 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 hardware piece, 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 inside of the installation media for Windows. If Windows cannot find a driver for a specific type of hardware in the driver's directory, it will go out to the Internet database and look for a suitable driver.

But when a type of hardware gets outdated, Microsoft has been known to remove the driver from the driver's directory after a couple of years. That's when things can get tough. I've have had to go back into previous versions of Windows installation media and extract drivers from older driver directories. I have a customer with 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? It comes down to whether the manufacturer(s) of your hardware is still supporting them with new drivers. If the device is no longer being sold, you can 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."

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 database 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 or components were built before the release of Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 (October 2012) and are no longer in production, I would be skeptical about 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.

My digital toolbox 2

My Digital Toolbox

When it comes to computer repair, every technician has a collection of software that they use on a regular basis. Whether it is on a CD, DVD or USB drive, these programs are essential to diagnosing different computer related issues. Here are just a few of my favorite programs that I keep in my digital toolbox.

Junkware Removal Tool (JRT)

The main screen for the Junkware Removal Tool

JRT stand-alone (requires no installation) program is essential for finding and removing all sorts of known malware, spyware and adware. It is very simple to use, as it has no user interface. It just opens up in a command prompt window. But don't think for a minute that this program just a collection of scripts, it is quite powerful. And now that it is part of the Malwarebytes collection of tools, it has some major support behind it. If you're looking to clean up some adware or junkware, look no further than JRT.

Click here for more information on JRT

Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD)

The Ultimate Boot CD main menu

Another of my favorite diagnostic tools is UBCD. It contains a bunch of useful programs that run from a Linux based CD. All of the programs contained on the UBCD are free of charge. The programs included in it range from memory diagnostics to hard drive erasers. And it has the best selection of hard drive manufacturer's diagnostic programs you will ever find. UBCD does come as an .ISO file that you can burn to a CD or you can load it on to a USB drive. Their website has all of the instruction on how to do it. UBCD is a privately fund project, so if you find it useful, please make a donation.

Click here for more information on UBCD

Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)

The main screen for the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset

My all-time favorite set of diagnostic tools is DaRT. It is not just one program but a complete set of diagnostic tools that boots up on a version of Windows (depending on what version of Windows you build it on). It is similar to the system recovery disk you can make inside of every version of Windows, but it also includes various programs that you can use for diagnostics.

DaRT has quite a few programs straight out of Windows like File Explorer, Registry Editor and Computer Management. It also includes Crash Analyzer, SFC (System File Checker) and Locksmith (resets passwords for local accounts). When you create the DaRT media you have the option of configuring what programs are going into your DaRT build.

Now here is the downside. DaRT is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and is only available to Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service, MSDN or Action Pack subscribers. But if you or your company has one of these subscriptions, DaRT is one tool you'll be glad you have in your digital toolbox.

Click here for more information on the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT)

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

When it comes to repairing Windows based computers, there seems to be a couple of problems that I get allot of requests for help with. One of them is when a computer cannot get updates to Windows. So here are a few of my favorite resources for fixing Windows Update.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

There are several reasons why Windows Update can fail. There could be corrupted files and/or folders, the different services that Windows Update require are not starting, registry errors, etc.. The following is a list of some of the procedures I use in repairing Windows Update.

Note : Remember to always restart your computer after running any of these procedures before try Windows Update again.

Windows Update Troubleshooters

This is probably the easiest and most common way to repair Windows Update. Microsoft has a Windows Update troubleshooter for every version of Windows. The following link is a general page for troubleshooting Windows Update. Just select the version of Windows you are trying to repair and then click on the Windows Update Troubleshooter link. If you are prompted to run or save the file, I recommend saving it to your hard drive. That way if you need to run it again, you will already have it ready to go.

Repair Windows Update

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you can try resetting all of the Windows Update components. The following link has both the automatic Microsoft Fixit troubleshooter and manual instructions for resetting Windows Update components. I recommend using an automatic troubleshooter unless you are comfortable with going through all the of manual procedures. Again, when prompted to run or save the troubleshooter, I recommend that you save it to your hard drive, just in case you need to run it again.

Reset Windows Update components

Check your drive for errors

Now, if you have run both of the Windows Update troubleshooters (repair / reset) and Windows Update is still not functioning correctly, it's time to do some general system checks. Sometimes there can be an error(s) with the file system that is not allowing the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his own tail. At this point, I recommend checking your hard drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Once you are done with a checkdisk, go ahead and run the Windows Update Troubleshooters again. First run the repair troubleshooter and try checking for updates. If it doesn't fix it, run the reset troubleshooter. If Windows Update still won't work, then it is time to check to system files.

Check system files

SFC

Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) that can check system files for corruption and incorrect versions. SFC is run inside of an administrative command prompt. Just follow the link below for your version Windows for instructions on how to bring up an admin command prompt.

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

SFC is basically the same in all of the currently supported versions of Windows, Here is the link to the most detailed instructions for SFC (Windows 10).

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Once you are done running SFC and have corrected any problems it may have found, go ahead try running Windows Update. If it still won't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair / reset) one at time, running Windows Update in between. If you still cannot run Windows Update successfully, it may be time to run the most advanced system corruption repair tools.

DISM (Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10) / SUR (Windows Vista, Windows 7)

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System Update Readiness tool (SUR) are the most complete way of checking for file corruption in Windows. The link to the instructions on how to run both is below. DISM and SUR are meant to be used by advanced users, so if you don't feel comfortable running either one of these programs, please contact a local computer repair technician for assistance.

Fix Windows Update errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

After running either DISM or SUR check again to see if Windows Update will work. If Windows Update still will not work, it may be time to reset or reinstall Windows. The instructions on how to do this can be found online. If you require assistance with this process, please contact a local computer repair technician.

How to clean up and reset Mozilla Firefox

When it comes to computer repair, the most common problem I find is browser corruption. Malicious web sites with infected flash ads are the most common way a browser can get corrupted. So here's how to clean up and reset Mozilla Firefox.

How to clean up and reset Mozilla Firefox

In the past I've shown how to clean up and reset Google Chrome (#1 browser) and Internet Explorer (#2 browser), so this article shouldn't be any surprise. What might surprise you is that I actually have all three browsers installed on my personal computer and Firefox is my default browser. Each as their pros and cons, but the Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization and I've always been a supporter of the open-source community.

I've always thought of Mozilla Firefox as a cross between Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, having the best elements from both. Case in point is the way you can access the options in Firefox. You can either use the Menu button in the upper right-hand corner (the button with three (3) horizontal bars) or enable the Menu Bar on top of the browser window (similar to Internet Explorer).
The Firefox Menu Bar and Menu Button locations
To get the Menu Bar, just right-click the blank area above the Address Bar and select Menu Bar. And there are options that can only be accessed by using the Menu Bar, but I'll talk about that later in this article.

Let's start off with the basic options. If you're using the Menu Button, select Options; if you're using the Menu Bar, select the Tools pull-down menu and then Options. This will bring up the Firefox preferences. On the left-hand side is a menu with several selections; General Search, Content, Applications, Privacy, Sync and Advanced.

When you click on General, you are presented with the most basic settings. If Firefox is been modified by a malicious piece of malware / adware, you'll want to check the When Firefox starts settings to make sure that it's not opening up malicious web pages when it starts up. You can reset it back to the default settings by clicking on the Restore to Default button right below the Home Page box. One of the default settings on this page that I always change is the Downloads option. I prefer to be prompted on where to save a download, as I don't always want them just dumped into my default downloads folder.

The next selection on the left side menu is Search. This is where you can add or remove the search engines that Firefox uses.
The Search options inside of Firefox
You can change the default search engine here or you can change it on the fly by clicking on the magnifying glass on the left side of the Search box. At the bottom of this page you'll find a button called Restore Default Search Engines that does just that.

The next selection on the left side menu is Content. You want to make sure that the Block pop-up windows box is checked. And you may want to click on the Exceptions button and see if there are any websites that you do not recognize. If there are, just highlight the entry and select Remove Site. If you want to get rid of all of them, click on Remove All Sites.

The next selection on the left side menu is Applications. Here you can choose what happens when you choose different actions, like when you click on a mailto: link. Nothing really out of the ordinary here. I would just review them to make sure everything looked good. If you think something is questionable, just change the action. You can always change it back if doesn't work the way you want it to.

The next selection on the left side menu is Privacy. On the top of this page you can select whether to allow tracking cookies or not, it's your choice. One setting I modify on this page is under History. If you pull down the selections under Firefox will: and select Use custom settings for history, you get a few more options. I recommend that you check Clear history when Firefox closes box and then click on the Settings button.
Settings for clearing the history inside of Firefox
In the window that appears, you can choose what items you want Firefox to delete when it is closed. I personally deselect everything but Cache. But this is strictly a personal preference.

The next selection on the left side menu is Security. Here you want to make sure that Warn me when sites try to install add-ons, Block reported attack site and Block reported web forgeries are selected. You can also change whether passwords are saved and change them if you allow Firefox to save them. You can also add another layer of security for your saved passwords by using a master password.

The next selection on the left side menu is Sync. This a pretty cool feature if you have Firefox installed on multiple devices. I use this feature with a couple of computer and a smartphone. I love the way it will sync saved password across all of my devices. Enough said.

The last selection on the left side menu is Advanced. Here you'll find five (5) tabs; General, Data Choices, Network, Update and Certificates. There isn't much here that needs to be reconfigured, since the defaults are fairly 'run of the mill' kind of stuff. The one exception might be under the Network tab, where you can clear the current web page cache. If you use the clear history setting mentioned earlier in this article, the cache will be deleted when you close Firefox. But if you really need it cleaned immediately, this is where you go to do it.

Now that we've checked and reset and/or changed the preferences, let's take a look at the add-ons page. To get there just click on the Menu Button and select Add-ons. If you're using the Menu Bar, left-click on Tools and select Add-ons from the drop down menu. Once you have the Add-ons page up, you will find five (5) selections on the left side menu; Get Add-ons, Extensions, Appearance, Plugins and Services.

The first selection is Get Add-ons and as the name implies, this is where you can search for and install add-ons for Firefox. Pretty simple.

The second selection on the left side is Extensions. This is where you look for malicious apps that like to run inside of Firefox. Go through the list here and if you find one that you don't remember installing, just click the Disable button on the right hand side.
The Extensions options inside of Firefox
You be prompted the restart Firefox to completely disable it. Remember that even if you disable an extension, you can always enable it at a later date. Or if you find you don't need it at all, you can always delete it. But remember that if you delete an extension and then realize you really did want it, you will have to reinstall it.

The next selection on the left side menu is Appearance and this is where you change the look of Firefox. If you don't like the default theme, you can always download a new theme under Get add-ons.

The fourth selection down the left side menu is Plugins. Plugins add support for different types of Internet content, like PDF files and Flash content.
The Plugins options inside of Firefox
One thing you can do here for security is change Shockware Flash from Always Activate to Ask to Activate. In fact, you can do that with any plugin that you're not sure you want to automatically run.

The last selection on the left side menu is Services. These are usually service add-ons, like Facebook or Twitter and they require personal information like usernames and password to use them. If you have any services installed, double check the information you used to set them up.

Now if after going through the previous steps and Firefox is still not working the way it did when you installed it, there are two (2) things you can do. You can either do a reset or uninstall / reinstall. Normally a reset will fix about 90% of problems with Firefox, but there are times when only an uninstall/reinstall will work. I always try a reset first.

To reset Firefox, you will need to have access to the Menu Bar. To get the Menu Bar to appear, just right-click the blank area above the Address bar and select Menu Bar from the context menu. Once you have the Menu Bar, left-click on Help and then Troubleshooting Information.
Accessing the Troubleshooting Information inside of Firefox
When the Troubleshooting Information page appears, click on the Refresh Firefox button on the right side of the page. You will be prompted on how you're about to reset Firefox back to its default settings. Click on Refresh Firefox and Firefox will be reset back to its original default settings. It also creates a folder on your desktop called Old Firefox Data just in case you need to restore anything, like your bookmarks.

Now if that doesn't get Firefox back to normal, then the last resort is to do an uninstall / reinstall. This may take a little time to perform, but if you really want Firefox back to pristine condition, this is what it might take. First thing is to go into the Control Panel and select Uninstall a program (if viewing by category) or Programs and Features (if viewing by icons). Highlight Mozilla Firefox and then select Uninstall.

Once Mozilla Firefox is uninstalled, restart your computer. When your computer is restarted and you are logged back in, you will need to remove any traces of Firefox prior to reinstalling it. There are two places that you will need to look for any leftover files, inside your user profile and inside of the Program Files directory. The files inside your user profile are hidden by default, but you can get there quickly by bringing up a Run dialog box (Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R) and typing or copy / paste the following code:

%userprofile%/AppData/Local/Mozilla

This will open the File Explorer to the location of your Firefox user profile settings. If there is a folder named Firefox, go ahead and delete it. Next you will have to navigate to the location of the Program Files directory and check under the folder named Mozilla Firefox. Its location is usually C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox, but may be different if your version of Windows is 32-bit (C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox) or if you installed Firefox on a different drive. Once you get there, if you find a folder named Mozilla Firefox, go ahead and delete it. Now you can download and reinstall Mozilla Firefox.

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