Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows 10

Features | Personalizing | Sharing Files | Privacy | Security
Updates | Upgrading

Windows 10 sort of restores the Start menu.

Windows 10 Has Matured

When it first released, Windows 10 abandoned much of what we'd come to expect from a Microsoft operating system. An improvement over Windows 8, it included a workable Start menu and provided support for the traditional desktop using a keyboard and mouse.

Windows 10 has matured significantly in the five years since it was first released. This is good, because there is no other option unless you wish to abandon the Windows world altogether.

Back in 2015, Microsoft's vision for Windows 10 was expansive. It would run on a dizzying assortment of devices: smartphones running Windows Mobile, small tablets like the 8-inch Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000 series, PCs in traditional and shape-shifting configurations, Xbox consoles, the gargantuan conference-room-sized Surface Hub, and the HoloLens virtual reality headset.

 

In 2020, that vision has been scaled back. Windows 10 Mobile is officially defunct, and small Windows 10 tablets have completely disappeared from the market. Of all those chips scattered across the craps table, only the 2-in-1 Windows device category appears to have paid off. —ZDNet

That isn't to say that there hasn't been growing pains — there have been some doozies — but recent versions are quite workable.

Supported Lifetime Redefined

Released on July 29, 2015 Windows 10 support ends on October 14, 2025.

However, support is only valid for the supported lifetime of the device.

The Modern Lifestyle Policy requires that you continually maintain Windows 10 major updates and meet other criteria to retain support.

This is currently defined as 1 year of support for each of the major spring and fall updates.

Legacy Hardware Support Uncertain

Your hardware is going to determine the supportability of your computer. As it ages and newer technology emerges it becomes more likely that support for legacy hardware will be removed and your computer could become unsupported.

Windows 10 will not upgrade older systems, including those running the Atom processor-based systems past the Anniversary Update. End of support for some devices is determined by the manufacturer's discontinued support for hardware, including the loss of support for a single key component within your system.

Mobile-first, Cloud-first

Windows 10 was launched as a “mobile-first, cloud-first” hybrid.

Windows 10 is a mobile operating system designed to work with a Microsoft account, which provides access to OneDrive cloud storage and a growing number of online applications, such as Calendar, People, Tasks, Office, Sway, etc. It allows you to save files from your PC to OneDrive (eg from WordPad), as well as to create files online. — The Guardian
It's almost impossible to avoid the cloud now, because of the movement of commercial and government services to the web, the multiplication of computing devices and the rapid growth in smartphones. These different trends reinforce one another. — The Guardian

Windows 10 Editions

Windows 10 is designed as a single operating system with 12 different editions. The most common are Home and Pro, but there are also editions for educational and enterprise clients as well as other specialized versions.

Windows 10 S mode (formerly Windows 10 S) is designed to be more secure (it can only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store). Given that you can only use the Edge browser and Bing search, you may choose to leave S mode, but that is a one-way decision.

Specifications

System requirements are minimal for new Windows 10 installations:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz)+ processor or System on a Chip (SoC);
  • A minimum 16 GB (32 GB for 64-bit) hard drive space;
  • 1GB RAM (2GB for 64-bit);
  • DirectX 9 or later graphics card with WDDM 1.0 driver;
  • A minimum 800 x 600 display.
Internet connectivity is necessary to perform updates and to download and take advantage of some features.

These are minimums. Some features require additional or newer hardware which will improve your experience.

Features have been added and removed as Windows 10 matured.

Pricing

Windows 10 retail licenses include:

Pro Features

Windows 10 Pro adds BitLocker encryption, Remote Access, and the ability to run Hyper-V virtualization on your PC.

Windows as a Service

Windows 10 is Software as a Service (SaaS) — software running on the Internet.

We think of Windows as a Service — in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet. — Microsoft Blog

Designed for Mobile Access

People are more mobile and many want to access all their information on the go. Windows 10 was designed to meet the needs of the mobile user.

In the Cloud

Windows 10 is a cloud-based operating system hybrid.

In the past, Windows could be thought of as software that only exists on your device. Now, with Windows 10, important parts of Windows are based in the cloud, interacting with online services. — Microsoft

Placing your data “in the cloud” provides the ability to stop working on one devices and resume on another. Users can move between desktop and mobile devices as needed without losing productivity.

You No Longer Control Your Data

Of course, this also means that you no longer have direct control of your data and it is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world if your password is compromised (and probably accessible to cloud storage facility staff without any compromise unless you encrypt it before uploading files). This is not unique to Microsoft.

Local Searches Sent to Cloud

When you do a search for a local document or file on your Windows 10 computer, Microsoft sends the information about your system files up to their servers and does the search using Bing. That's what it means to be a cloud-based Windows system.

That only makes sense if you consider two things:

  1. it would allow for thin-client integration (computers that depend upon a cloud-based server to function much like Chromebook); and
  2. it would provide Microsoft more information about the sorts of files you have on your computer which could allow them to create a more accurate profile of you to improve advertising conversion rates.

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Windows 10 Features

Windows 10 is designed to take advantage of newer hardware and enables futuristic technologies like holographic computing, biometric login (Windows Hello), Windows Ink and 3D printing. The older your hardware, the greater the incentive to purchase a new computer to take advantage of the features that are important to you.

Additional features are added with each Windows 10 Update.

Changing Interfaces Disconcerting to Users

Constant change in the Windows interface is something that characterizes Windows 10 compared to earlier versions of Windows where the familiar layout was stable for 10 years while still receiving security fixes.

Legacy capabilities can be removed with the next feature update. While this may break some functions, it also opens up the ability to adapt very quickly to emerging technologies.

The usefulness of most new features was questioned by many in a survey of consumers and IT pros:

Only three percent of respondents found them “extremely useful” while almost half thought of the updates as rarely, if ever, useful. It's clear that Microsoft needs to give consumers a truly compelling reason to install new releases. This is especially the case for consumers, who might never be offered some under-the-hood changes, such as enhanced security features. — Ask Woody Newsletter

Clearly, Microsoft is not meeting the needs of everyone in its move to change the Windows 10 interface.

Search is often necessary to find settings previously contained within the Control Panel. Searches are more difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the Microsoft nomenclature.

At Launch

Windows 10 has gone through many changes as it matured

Cortana and Microsoft Edge were the most notable new items. The monetization of Windows included ads and the subscription fees to get rid of them.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge, released with Windows 10, was designed for modern websites using HTML5 and JavaScript rather than traditional plugins.

Bing Default Search Engine

Bing is the default search option. You need to load any alternative search engine before you're offered the ability to add it. You cannot remove Bing.

Internet Explorer Replaced

Internet Explorer is best described as a compatibility solution (a way to view obsolete websites that cannot be viewed on modern browsers).

IE is not a browser, so stop using it as your default — Chris Jackson, Microsoft

Update 202H replaced many of the default Internet Explorer functions with Edge.

Edge Now Chromium

Legacy Edge which originally shipped with Windows 10 has been replaced with a new Edge based upon Google's Chromium.

This has increased Edge's market share since the conversion, and Edge has some features lacking in Chrome. Some of Edge's innovative features, like the ability to draw on viewed content, is no longer present.

Continuum

If Continuum recognizes that a keyboard is installed Windows 10 automatically switches to the desktop mode. In Windows 10 desktop mode, apps can be windowed and resized (unlike Windows 8 which ran everything full screen).

Microsoft Default Apps Reset

Choosing to anything but Microsoft's defaults for email, maps, music player, photo viewer, video player and web browser can no longer be accomplished from within third-party apps.

You need to open Settings, select Apps then Default Apps from the list on the left. You can now choose your preferred alternative from the drop-down list. If you change your mind, there is a reset button to restore the Microsoft defaults.

News and Interests

The “news and interests” item was added in early 2021.

This feature can be either modified or disabled by right-clicking on an empty space on the Task Bar and selecting News and Interests. Choose Turn off to remove it or Show icon only to reduce its footprint.

To change what it displays, click on Manage Interests at the top of the window that appears.

Xbox Integration

The integration of Xbox with Windows 10 will allow gamers to play their Xbox games on their PC. It cannot be fully uninstalled.

For those of us that aren't Xbox gamers, it means that system resources are taken up by a feature we don't want and presents potential security vulnerabilities.

Xbox is the portal to all of Microsoft's entertainment offerings: the movies you can rent or buy and the Groove music services they hope you'll subscribe to. Ka-ching!

Like Windows 10, Xbox is tied to an online account using your Microsoft ID and provides the ability to play online with friends. Playing “as a guest” serves video ads lasting up to 60 seconds between games (but you can pay to disable them).

Removing Bloatware

You'll probably find you'll want to get rid of a bunch of the bundled software that comes pre-installed on Windows 10. Not everyone wants Candy Crush.

These instructions on removing Windows 10's bloatware include links to two freeware apps (10AppsManager and WXAR) that can remove Xbox and other unwanted Win10 apps.

Your mileage may vary and these changes can create issues with future Windows Updates.

Refreshing Windows 10 may reinstall Microsoft apps and restore defaults to those apps, potentially uninstalling third-party apps in the process.

Getting Started Guides

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Personalizing Windows 10

You'll want to make Windows 10 your own. Personalization has options to change your desktop and lock screen background, the Start menu and more.

Click on the Start button then Settings then Personalization (or right-click the desktop and choose Personalize).

Start Menu

The Start menu is an improvement from the Windows 8 experience but not as flexible as the traditional Windows Start menu (Windows 7 and earlier).

The open Start menu has changed slightly since Windows 10 launched but the various programs are listed in alphabetical order on the left beside a series of “folder” icons (power, settings, pictures, documents, account).

Pinned Apps

In addition to the alphabetical listing, Windows 10 allows you to pin apps to either the taskbar or to the Start menu. Pinned apps can be resized and live tiles turned on or off. Most Used and Recently Added apps are options.

You can resize and reorder these icons as well as enable/disable live status or uninstall most unwanted apps (some Microsoft programs don't have that option).

Uninstalling a built-in Windows 10 Universal app removes it from your user profile, but it doesn't remove the source files for the app from the system. If you set up an additional user account, you'll need to go through the uninstall routine for that account. — ZDNet

Start Menu Alternatives

If you don't like the default Start menu, third-party options are available:

  • Start10 from Stardock ($6.99 — included with Stardock's Object Desktop suite at $40.99) recreates the Windows 7 style menu in Windows 10.
  • Classic Shell (free) provides Windows 10 with a Start button plus other enhancements but is no longer being developed as of December 17, 2017.
  • Open Shell provides a classic style Start Menu for Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 based upon Classic Shell.

If you've used the Windows 10 interface for a while, you may find that reverting to an alternative interface doesn't help your productivity.

Repairing the Start Menu

Desktop or Tablet Mode

There are two basic modes: desktop mode and tablet mode. Your choice is going to be based upon your hardware and personal preferences but you can switch back and forth.

The primary difference is that tablet mode has a simplified Start menu with larger icons (similar to Windows 8's menu) and the desktop is not available to place icons. If you have a touch-enabled device, tablet mode will make more sense to you.

Desktop Mode

The desktop mode is clearly more optimized for touch than legacy Windows:

Windows 10
The open Start menu in desktop mode.

Tablet Mode

Tablet mode allows you to use your computer like a tablet by emphasizing Windows 10's touch capabilities.

Windows 10
The open Start menu in tablet mode.

As touch becomes more common on computers, this feature will become more useful.

The Lock Screen

The lock screen can be configured with images from Windows Spotlight, theme pictures or images on your computer as well as various apps such as time/date, weather, etc. The lock screen is shown below:

The Windows 10 Lock Screen can be configured in Settings

The Taskbar

The taskbar has three main groups of content:

  • Start, Search and File Viewer.
  • Pinned Apps.
  • Network, Speakers, Language, clock/calendar, Notifications, Show Desktop.

You can choose whether to include or configure several optional items including your search options, Cortana button, Task View, People, Windows Ink and Touch Keyboard.

Show Desktop is a very small area separated by a vertical line at the far right and clears everything on the desktop so you can see your icons and your wallpaper.

Many of these settings can be removed or modified by right-clicking the taskbar or via Windows settings and may be different in desktop and tablet modes.

Pin Frequent Apps on Taskbar

I recommend pinning only your most frequently used apps on the taskbar. Unpin unused Microsoft defaults then pin apps that make you most productive.

Prioritize Notifications

There are several icons on the left side of the taskbar including Task View and even more on the left side including People, Windows Ink Workspace, Touch Keyboard, Language (replaces the language bar) and Notifications (which brings up the Action Center).

Settings for Cortana (available by right-clicking the Taskbar) has changed over time, beginning as a part of the Search/Cortana unit to separation of Cortana onto its own setting.

The taskbar contains a Search function which is presented as a search bar by default:

Windows 10 Search

but can be simply the “magnifying glass” icon or hidden altogether. Right-click the task bar to change the options.

Windows Settings

Windows 10 uses Settings to manage much of what was contained in the Control Panel in earlier versions of Windows, including Personalization.

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 Settings

The Settings panel includes the categories shown in the above image, but is subject to change (my current Settings doesn't include the Cortana category as I've disabled Cortana).

The majority of settings are found under Settings (in the Start menu).

Searching for Advanced Options

If you don't find the setting you're looking for, try searching using the “Find a setting” search box. Windows 10 will provide suggestions but if you don't know what it is called, searching for it may be a challenge.

For example, search for “advanced printer setup” when installing a networked printer if the default Devices settings can't locate it.

Configuration Tools

Right-clicking the Start icon allows you to see a list of useful configuration options like Apps & Features, Device Manager, Disk Management, Network Connections and System without searching for them. Again, this listing is subject to change as Windows 10 evolves.

Tablet Settings

In Windows 10 you have much more control over how your computer starts and the transition is much smoother. You'll need to customize your experience for what works best for you and your hardware.

You can switch between tablet mode and desktop mode.

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 Tablet Settings

  • In tablet mode the appearance and function is much like Windows 8.1. The desktop is unavailable.
  • In desktop mode the Start button provides access to settings, an alphabetic listing of apps and pinned apps.

I've noticed many users that use the touch option are more likely to search for programs and settings than to look for them in a menu.

Action Center

The Action center (click on Notifications) includes a series of options for autoplay and program alerts as well as several settings. It is the highlighted taskbar icon located at the bottom right in the image below:

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 notifications center

Taming Windows 10

How to fix the most annoying things in Windows 10. Some fixes require editing the Registry (read the warning).

Learning More

These resources offer more help in personalizing various aspects of Windows 10:

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Sharing Files

If you have more than one computer or want to share files such as videos, photos, documents, etc. with other computers or other people, you will need to set up your network to allow this.

HomeGroup No Longer Available

Windows 10 initially supported HomeGroup, the method of sharing files used by Windows 7. HomeGroup is no longer available although you may see it listed as you make the necessary changes to view files and folders across your network.

Simple Sharing

The easiest method to share specific files, folders or drives is Simple Sharing. Be careful sharing entire drives.

Allow Private Sharing

Ensure that you have allowed Private Sharing

  1. go to Network & Internet in Settings;
  2. select Sharing Options;
  3. make sure Network Discovery and File & Printer Sharing are turned on in Private Network;
  4. then choose the Media Streaming Options under All Networks.

Choose What to Share

Now you can right-click on a file or folder you wish to share

  1. select Give Access To;
  2. choose Specific People (ignoring HomeGroup);
  3. click the arrow to add Everyone (recommended for most users on private networks);
  4. choose either Read or Read/Write for the Permission Level; then
  5. click on Share to complete the process.

You have the option to make files available as read-only or to enable changes:

  • Read provides the ability for everyone on your network to read documents or play videos or music in the shared folder.
  • Read/Write provides the ability to edit or delete the contents of the shared folder.

You'll want to be careful with Read/Write. Another user on your network might delete an important document.

Restart to Finish

You may need to restart all your computers before the settings are visible.

Adding Windows Credentials

I also had to go into the Control Panel and add the credentials for the other computer(s) on the network. In the following I assume that the networked computer is Main-PC and the user is Joe:

  1. open Control Panel;
  2. search for “Manage Windows Credentials”
  3. under Windows Credentials, click on Add a Windows credential.

The following dialogue box appears:

Screen capture showing the Windows 10 Add Credentials dialogue box

Enter the Credentials

Enter the following information (based upon our example system and user noted above):

  1. Enter the network address in the first box (e.g. Main-PC)
  2. Enter the user name in the second box (e.g. Joe)
  3. Enter the user's computer password in the third box (i.e. Joe's password).

Network addresses and user names are case sensitive.

Restart to Finish

When you've completed this for each computer that you want to access over your network, you should be able to see whatever files are being shared on that computer by that user. Unshared files will not be visible.

Try rebooting all the affected computers if you still cannot see the shared files and folders.

My ASUS laptop has no LAN connection and the network worked fine until early 2021. Suddenly I encountered Error Code 0x80070035 while trying to see my desktop computer (recommended solutions didn't work until I added a USB-LAN adapter).

Viewing Networked Files

You can open File Explorer then replace the text in the address bar with \\localhost to see a list of shared items on your computer.

Online Networking Resources

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Privacy Concerns

Microsoft uses draconian law to put Windows, the world's most-used operating system, completely outside the control of its users. Neither Windows users nor independent experts can view the system's source code, make modifications or fixes, or copy the system.
Free Software Foundation

Privacy is misrepresented. The “nothing to hide” mantra abuses privacy.

Privacy has nothing to do with having something to hide. It is a basic human need.

Don't confuse privacy with secrecy. I know what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door. That's because you want privacy, not secrecy. — Fábio Esteves

Loss of Privacy Irrevocable

Unlike a credit card refund, you can't simply undo the loss of privacy.

Once it is collected, it is extremely unlikely that it can be expunged. Your personal profile is sold and made vulnerable to data breaches.

The corporations and governments culling this information use anti-hacking laws to jail people that return the favour.

Privacy Protection Disabled by Default

If you purchased a computer with Windows 10 pre-installed or chose the default options when installing Windows 10 then chances are every privacy protection is disabled by default.

The alternatives warn you that you'll lose some functionality.

More than once when updating Windows 10 these low-privacy defaults have been restored along with restoring the Microsoft apps as default rather than your chosen (and probably safer) alternatives.

Remember, Microsoft is planning on making money the same way Gmail and other free Webmail vendors do — by culling and marketing your profile to advertisers.

Your Microsoft Account Tracks You

Microsoft requires a Microsoft account for access to the Microsoft Store and for other services like playing games in Xbox.

This requires that you accept the Microsoft Services Agreement, a 12,000-word document where you essentially agree to give up your privacy.

Like many tech companies, Microsoft gathers certain information about you — what you do in Windows and on the web, how and where you use your devices, and what type of content and data you access. — PCMag
So far, no privacy advocates or government agencies have come forward with any discoveries that contradict Microsoft's insistence that telemetry data is used only for product improvement. —ZDNet

What Does Microsoft Collect?

What kinds of data does Microsoft collect?

Privacy at Microsoft and Windows 10 and Your Online Services indicate how Windows 10 collects information and what it is used for.

Even if this isn't a big deal to you, Microsoft is still using your bandwidth to upload all this telemetry data.

Monetizing Windows

Microsoft has monetized Windows 10 unlike any previous version of Windows.

Don't believe what Microsoft tells you — Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements. — BetaNews
Microsoft executives made it very clear that buying a Windows license — or a device with Windows 10 on it — would ensure Windows owners had a license to Windows 10 for the life of the device. But Microsoft has also said that it wants to entice you to pay for additional services over that lifespan. — PCWorld

This provides an ongoing cash flow for Microsoft. Consumers will always get the latest and greatest without making a major purchase — as long as their hardware supports upgrades.

Like mobile phone contracts, it assumes that you're willing to sacrifice your privacy for very little in return.

Free Apps Now “Freemium”

Many of the Microsoft Windows 10 apps could more accurately be called “freemium” rather than free. Advertising is built into the Microsoft Solitaire, News, Money and Weather and other apps.

Cortana ramps up Bing's market share with every search you make. OneDrive backs up everything to the cloud, and of course you can buy more storage space if you need it.

The Video, Groove Music, and Xbox apps encourage entertainment purchases through Microsoft.

The Edge browser and the very operating system itself track you to serve targeted ads. The free Office apps encourage paid Office 365 subscriptions “to unlock full functionality.”

Underneath it all, the Windows Store is the repository for all of Microsoft's vaunted universal apps (and plenty of other things to buy).
PCWorld

Microsoft Solitaire

Even the “free” Microsoft Solitaire Collection entices you with the following if don't sign in (play as a guest):

By signing in with a Microsoft Account, you earn Xbox Live Achievements, view Leaderboards, and save your game data in the cloud. Are you sure?

The Microsoft Solitaire Collection contains ads which can be disabled for US$1.49 per month or US$9.99 per year (more in Canada).

Cortana: Your Personal Assistant

Cortana, like Siri and Google Assistant, is a surprisingly effective virtual assistant.

Accuracy Affects Your Privacy

Accuracy requires a lot of very personal information about your calendar, contacts, habits, relationships, current location, likes, dislikes, etc. If you're signed into your Microsoft Account (anything but a local account), then nothing is anonymous.

The data you provide is used to personalize advertising.

What Does “Personalized” Mean?

“Personalized” is a euphemism for profiled.

Personalization makes it more likely that you'll click on ads customized to your interests based upon data culled from your surfing history and social media posts.

Cortana's built from the ground up to get you using Bing — even if you aren't aware you're doing so — and to create a remarkably detailed profile about you for Microsoft. — PCWorld

Profiles Can Be Sold

Data aggregators develop a profile on you based upon personal information you provide and what is collected elsewhere.

Your profile can then be sold to third parties like advertisers and marketing companies.

Changing Privacy Settings

So how do you protect your privacy in Windows 10?

One of the first things you'll want to do is to make changes to the default settings.

Some of these settings are chosen during the installation process. Others can be modified.

While you might not be able to control all the privacy settings, you should reset the ones that you can.

Check Settings After Updates

As with Facebook, updates to Windows 10 may change the way you control privacy or even undo privacy choices you've made in the past.

Click Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Privacy. Check each of the categories listed on that page and those linked on the navigation pane.

You'll want to turn off at least these two privacy settings:

  1. The advertising ID is a unique identifier that helps to provide “personalized” ads (i.e. ads that are based upon sites you've visited, etc.). You're more likely to click on personalized ads than random ads.
  2. The “about how I write” allows Microsoft to track your keystrokes.

You'll also want to click on Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info then look at the settings for each of the browsers installed on your Windows 10 computer to change those privacy settings.

Shared Updates

By default, Microsoft will obtain Windows Updates not just from their servers but can also share them with other computers on your network or the Internet. The latter is not a good idea from a security point of view.

  1. Click on Settings then open Updates & Security.
  2. Click on Advanced Options then Choose How Updates are Delivered.
  3. Turn off Updates from more than one place.

If you're using wireless you can also limit the downloads of Updates by indicating that you're on a metered connection. This won't work for LAN (non-wireless) connections.

Taming Cortana

Change Cortana's settings to reduce what you provide or turn it off altogether.

Other Privacy Guides

The following articles provide more information about restoring some of your privacy:

These Microsoft sites offer insight into setting privacy preferences:

A Local Account Helps to Preserve Privacy

I'd recommend that you can sign in with a local account unless you need to move your work between multiple devices (and have considered the privacy implications).

You might see a security warning that you're not signed into your Microsoft account in the Windows Security panel. You can click “dismiss” to send it away.

Should you use a local or a Microsoft account in Windows 10? is a tutorial that can help you evaluate your choices.

A local account limits or removes many of the capabilities of Windows 10 including personalized searches, effective use of Cortana and the ability to continue your current work on another device even if the data is stored in the cloud.

You will probably find that you don't need all these features and will better preserve your privacy.

Microsoft tells you how to create a secondary Local Account (one in addition to your Microsoft Account) but that still leaves you vulnerable, at least when logged into the Microsoft Account.

Local Account Option Hidden by Default

Microsoft has now removed easy access to the use of a local account (the local account option is now invisible if the device is connected to the Internet).

Windows 10 version 1809 doesn't actually prevent users from creating a local account but it does urge users to connect the PC to the internet and doesn't state up front that the local account option is not displayed once it is connected. Microsoft dialed back the behavior in the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, version 1903. Microsoft has changed the name of the local account option to 'Domain join instead', which then allows admins to create an offline account. — ZDNet

To preserve your privacy you'll need to do a clean install with only a local account after you've obtained your Windows 10 upgrade.

Privacy Statements

Privacy statements and terms of use often change but companies seldom dump existing information even if a customer doesn't accept the new policies and quits using the service.

As invasive as it is, Microsoft does allow Windows 10 users to opt out of all of the features that might be considered invasions of privacy. Of course, users are opted in by default, which is more than a little disconcerting…. — BGR

Google Also Ignores Your Privacy

If you have a Gmail account and use Google Chrome as your default browser, then you've already given up much of your privacy, particularly if you're signed into your Google Account while browsing.

Remember, unlike Gmail and similar services where you're exchanging your information for a “free” service, Windows 10 is NOT free. Even if you took advantage of the “free” upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 you'd already paid for those versions of Windows (it was included in the purchase price of your computer).

Your Data “In the Cloud”

Your data is stored in the cloud on Microsoft OneDrive by default rather than on your computer but this setting can be configured to save data only on the computer.

Apps like Mail and Calendar can access other cloud services like your iCloud or Gmail accounts.

The Nature of Mobile Access

Microsoft responded to consumer and corporate demand for “anywhere, any time, any device” access but will benefit greatly by monetizing the data they'll collect as a result.

Cloud-based information is accessible from anywhere by anyone having your login credentials. More significantly, once data is in the cloud you no longer completely control how your personal information is used.

Collected Data Unprotected

The companies collecting your personal data paid little or nothing for it, so they are unwilling to spend much on securing your data — certainly not what they spend protecting their own. This won't change until the cost of being hacked is more than the cost of the necessary security upgrades.

Use a VPN

There are issues with security when using free WiFi unless you're also using a VPN.

Windows 10 now has a VPN button in the Action Center that appears when you click the Notifications button.

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Windows 10 Security

Microsoft boasts that Windows 10 is the most secure ever.

Better Security

There are several new security features, including Secure Boot, Windows Hello and ransomware protection that have appeared as Windows 10 evolved.

Initially Windows 10 Home users were denied the ability to delay updates, but after a couple of disasters, that policy was reversed.

Data Collection Disturbing

Microsoft's data collection policies were quite disturbing when it was first released, partly because they could be shared with “unnamed partners” according to the Microsoft Services Agreement published at that time.

Since then, Microsoft has modified both its Services Agreement and Privacy Statement to be fairer:

Microsoft uses the data we collect to provide you with rich, interactive experiences. In particular, we use data to:
  • Provide our products, which includes updating, securing, and troubleshooting, as well as providing support. It also includes sharing data, when it is required to provide the service or carry out the transactions you request.
  • Improve and develop our products.
  • Personalise our products and make recommendations.
  • Advertise and market to you, which includes sending promotional communications, targeting advertising, and presenting you with relevant offers.
  • Debloat Windows 10 shows you how to remove telemetry, which is unnecessary and drains system resources.

Microsoft Not Alone

Were it only Microsoft that was busy collecting the details of our electronic lives, it would be much easier to simply move to another system. However, that is not the case:

Almost everybody uses products or online services from Big Tech companies. These companies make up a considerable part of our online life.

 

This concentration of power in some sectors of the digital market (think search, social media, operating systems) by a small number of companies is having devastating effects on our rights. These companies are able to grow exponentially by constantly watching us and harvesting our personal data, which they then sell to data brokers, governments and dodgy third parties. With billions of users, these companies acquire an unprecedented level of knowledge about people's most intimate lives. — European Digital Rights (April 1, 2020)

You Need a Security Suite

Antivirus programs are no longer sufficient. You need a suite of security products to protect your computers and devices from the blended threats present today.

After many years of substandard protection, Windows Defender now provides sufficient protection for many users.

After years of lagging behind competitors, Microsoft Windows Defender has earned a coveted AV-Test "Top Product" award. The free, built-in antivirus software in Windows 10 performs just as well as — or even better than — many of its paid competitors. Your Windows PC can now repel the vast majority of malware threats right out of the box. — Tom's Hardware

While Windows Defender now provides excellent malware protection for home users right out of the box, I still prefer the comprehensive protection and privacy offered by ZoneAlarm Extreme.

Continual Updates

Continual (non-optional) updates greatly improve overall security but can also force updates that are undesirable because the engineers at Microsoft count on a uniform platform for the “Windows as a Service” environment.

Problematic Updates

Microsoft has released disastrous updates in the past on Windows 10 — consider the cases of loss of personal data following the October 2018 Update.

You might find that you're unable to reboot after a defective update.

Because Windows 10 Updates are an all-or-nothing deal, a bad update cannot be singled out for removal. You may be unable to uninstall a single component from the installed monthly updates.

Timing May Not Be Optimal

Major updates can take considerable time to download and install. If this happens in the middle of your workday or an important project that could be much more than inconvenient.

Even though your settings determine when the computer restarts, the download and installation can affect your computer's performance.

Removing Your App Default Choices

Microsoft sometimes insists on restoring their apps as defaults after some major updates.

Users wanting to use third party apps should be free to do so unless there is a verified security risk in doing so (in which case Microsoft should disable the app and provide information about the vulnerability).

Granted, apps available in the Microsoft Store can be vetted much easier than those downloaded from the Internet, but not everything is available that way and not all Store apps retain full functionality.

If a simple update fixes the problem, there is no need to uninstall or disable the third-party app.

The Windows Store was released with the then-pending Windows Phone in mind. There are now calls to end the Store as it provides few real options.

Ability to Delay Updates

Depending upon the version of Windows 10 you have and on changes brought about by the major updates, Windows may allow you to delay updates for up to a year. Delay longer than one year and you risk having your computer or device labelled as no longer supported.

Complex Passwords Necessary

Because the Microsoft ID is an online login ID, a very long, random and complex password is necessary.

This makes logging in prone to “fat finger” errors. The option to reveal what you've typed can guard against entry errors but doesn't help your memory.

“Microsoft Account Problem”

If you get a notice that there is a Microsoft account problem, don't try fixing your account. Try turning off Shared Experiences (Start ⇒ System ⇒ Shared Experiences) by disabling Nearby Sharing and Share Across Devices. This seems to fix the problem for most users.

If the problem persists, a glitch in the Windows help system may be responsible.

Few people use the Shared Experiences option, but you'll have to sign into your Microsoft Account on all your devices to make this work (and leave the settings for Shared Experiences enabled).

The PIN Option

Thankfully, an option to use a 4-digit PIN is available. The PIN only works on the current device (it is not a universal replacement for your password).

The PIN is tied to the specific device on which it was set up. That PIN is useless to anyone without that specific hardware. — Microsoft

Hello's Biometric Verification

Windows Hello provides a secure method of replacing passwords with biometric verification — provided you have the supporting hardware.

Two-factor Authentication

Microsoft is requiring two-factor verification when accessing certain information from your Microsoft Account such as:

  • when doing a clean install and registering it to your Microsoft ID;
  • when making changes to your Microsoft ID; or
  • any suspicious activity leads Microsoft to believe someone else might be using the computer or signed into your account.

Two-factor Options

The two-factor verification includes options to email or text special codes to an already-registered email address or phone number for your Microsoft Account.

Two-factor verification is only available when signed in with your Microsoft Account (not to Local Accounts).

Protecting Your PC

Learn more about protecting your PC while running Windows 10.

 

Windows Updates

Security Updates are released on the second Tuesday of the month.

These patch vulnerabilities and address other concerns.

Feature Updates

Major Windows Updates have been released twice a year, spring and fall.

The recent trend has been to release new features once per year.

Naming Conventions Changed

Updates are now labelled as H1 (spring release) or H2 (fall release).

  • 2004 was released in spring 2020.
  • 20H2 was released in fall 2020.
  • 21H1 was released in spring 2021.

Retaining Support

Your Windows 10 support requires having a currently supported build installed on supported hardware.

Keep it Current

Update to the most recent version supported by your hardware.

  • 1909 or earlier has expired.
  • 2004 expires Dec. 14, 2021.
  • 20H2 expires May 10, 2022.
  • 21H1 expires Dec. 13, 2022.

Don't let your Windows 10 license expire.

What Build Are You Running?

Press the Windows key + R, then type winver in the Open box, and select OK.

You can also click on Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ System ⇒ About.

Pause Windows Updates

There have been some issues with previous updates.

However, not patching leaves your system vulnerable.

Microsoft has been much more careful to avoid issues with recent updates.

Don't Want Updates?

You can pause updates by changing these settings:

Settings ⇒ Update & Security ⇒ Pause updates for 7 or more days.

If you don't want to update, do NOT click “check for updates.”

Don't risk losing support.

Prepare for Recovery

Before updating Windows, be sure you have a plan for recovery.

  1. Being prepared for a disaster can be critical if an update fails.
  2. If you encounter problems, have a look at troubleshooting failed updates.

After updating Windows, do these seven things to ensure privacy and prepare for recovery in the event of a system failure.

Spring 2021 Update

Update 21H1, released on May 18, 2021, expires December 13, 2022. Installation is recommended.

21H1 will install on most systems running updates 2004 or 20H2.

Older installations may not update.

What's New?

The new update offers three new user-facing features — improved Windows Hello support for systems with multiple cameras, an improved version of Windows Defender Application Guard, and improvements to the Group Policy Service that allow faster group policy updates for remote workers. — Ars Technica

What's Coming?

Microsoft is working on a major refresh of Windows 10, codenamed Sun Valley, for release towards the end of the year.

 

21H2 creates a dedicated folder for third-party drivers to isolate them from the operating system.
TechRepublic

October 2020 Update

The Update 20H2 expires May 10, 2022.

It will lock in Edge, remove the Control Panel, add a Meet Now button and modify the Start menu.

What's New?

20H2 Issues

[Microsoft] has urged Windows 10 users not to update the operating system using physical media (e.g. USBs/DVDs), ISO files or update management tools. — TechRadar

More about Update 20H2

May 2020 Update

Support expires December 14, 2021.

Lenovo Issues

These are issues with Lenovo computers.

New Features

New features help with productivity, security and speed, but are minor.

  • Edge is updated to the new Chrome-based version.
  • Cortana now a “personal productivity assistant” that can help with Microsoft 365 apps.
  • Virtual desktops can be given personalized names.
  • Windows Search has new search buttons and better capabilities.
  • Bluetooth pairing is moving to notifications from settings.
  • More Control Panel items are moving into settings.
  • Refresh Windows from a cloud-based installer.

Features Removed

Microsoft has removed a number of features from this update.

Ongoing Updates

Windows 10 continues to be updated.

There is also information about the updates for Windows 10 for a particular build (major update version).

You'll see listing prior versions in the left column.

Updates History

The following are the major Windows 10 updates since launch:

  • The Anniversary Update released a year after Windows 10 launch.
  • The Creators Update (Spring 2017) was designed to spark and unleash creativity.
  • The Fall Creators Update (Fall 2017) completed the Creators Update and moving between devices including Android and iOS.
  • The Spring 2018 Update (1803) included Timeline, sharing content via Bluetooth or WiFi.
  • The October 2018 (1803) included the Cloud Clipboard, dark-mode File Explorer and other tweaks.
  • The May 2019 Update (1903) included a light theme, speed improvements. Home users can pause Updates up to 35 days. 7 GB of dedicated space required.
  • The November 2019 Update (1909) enhancements to existing apps and improved user control.
  • The May 2020 Update (2004) provides security and productivity improvements and a new Edge.
  • The October 2020 Update (20H2) is a fairly minor update which locks in Edge and modifies the Start menu.
  • The May 2021 Update (21H1) is a fairly minor update which improves support for Windows Hello and Defender.

Troubleshooting Failed Updates

Everything doesn't always go according to plan. Untested hardware combinations can break the update.

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Preparing for Disaster

There are bound to be some issues with any release no matter how carefully it was tested.

Develop a recovery plan before something happens.

You should always be prepared for a failure. Disasters are unpredictable.

Develop a Plan

Have a plan for how to recover if something goes wrong with Windows and it won't boot.

Your recovery plan should include knowing how to boot your computer into Recovery Mode as well as having the necessary recovery tools.

Maintain a Current Backup

You should regularly backup your files using a system that ensures that critical files are always recoverable.

Windows Updates are a critical point where failures can occur. Backup your system prior to installing updates.

Create a Recovery Drive

A recovery drive can speed up recovery and provides a valuable asset if Windows fails to boot.

Be sure to recreate it after significant changes to your system (after each Windows Update) so that it is current when you need it.

Recovery Mode

If Windows 10 won't load, you'll need to be able to get into recovery mode.

Microsoft removed F8 recovery options as a default in Windows 10. Methods of reaching the recovery mode vary.

Learn how your computer loads the recovery console before disaster happens then write it down.

Documenting how to boot into recovery mode will safe a lot of stress when the inevitable boot failure happens.

Turn On System Restore Now

You can use System Restore to recover from a bad update, but you'll have to turn on System Restore in Windows 10 before that happens.

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Should You Upgrade?

Time has run out. Windows 10 is the only Microsoft option.

Windows 10 is a much better operating system than when released in 2015.

While there have been some hiccups, the current version works well for most users, particularly on newer hardware.

Hardware Influences Options

Your decision to upgrade, purchase a new Windows 10 system or move to an alternative is greatly influenced by your current hardware.

The more recent your computer, the more likely you are to have a decent Windows 10 experience.

Upgrading Windows 7/8.1

See Replacing Windows: Preparing to upgrade.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.


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Updated: June 3, 2021