Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows 10

Features | Personalizing | Privacy | Security
Updates | Upgrading

Windows 10 sort of restores the Start menu.

Windows 11 Replacing Windows 10

With the release of Windows 11 it is only a matter of time before Windows 10 is no longer available as an upgrade from earlier versions. New Windows computers are now all running Windows 11 except some more expensive devices aimed at enterprises.

Windows 11 is a free upgrade from Windows 10if your hardware supports it.

Microsoft has already begun to default to Windows 11 information. You may have to search for information specific to Windows 10 (it may be a separate tab).

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 since it was first released. This is good, because, except for Windows 11, 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.

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. That means you'll lose support if you don't continually install the updates released by Microsoft.

Beginning with the November 2021 (21H2) update, this is currently defined as 18 months of support for Home and Pro editions.

Legacy Hardware Support Uncertain

Assuming you maintain feature updates, your hardware is going to determine if your computer remains supported. As your device ages and newer technology emerges it becomes more likely that support for legacy hardware will be removed and your computer could become unsupported.

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.

Windows 10 will not upgrade older systems, including those running the Atom processor-based systems past the Anniversary Update.

Windows 11 significant system requirements clearly demonstrate Microsoft's intention to remove support for legacy hardware, especially systems with older processors and lacking TPM 2.0 support.

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 is no longer possible to install Windows 10 onto a local account without first logging into your Microsoft account unless you deny Internet access during the install.

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.


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 greatly improve your experience.

Features have been added and removed as Windows 10 matured.


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.

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.

Local Searches Sent to Cloud

The term “cloud” implies a remote location in the sky. Instead it is likely accessible to cloud storage facility staff (and possibly government agencies) unless you encrypt files before uploading them.

This is not unique to Microsoft or OneDrive.

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.

This sort of search 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.

Return to top

Windows 10 Features

Windows 10 was designed to take advantage of newer hardware and enables futuristic technologies like holographic computing, biometric login (Windows Hello), Windows Ink and 3D printing.

Additional features are added with each Windows 10 Update.

The older your hardware, the greater the incentive to purchase a new computer to take advantage of the features that are important to you.

With the release of Windows 11, fewer features are being added (see update 21H2).

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.

This trend has accelerated with the release of Windows 11.

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.

New Features Not Deemed Useful

Most new features were deemed less useful by many in a survey of consumers and IT pros. The loss of older features can be disturbing to those that depend upon them.

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.
Susan Bradley

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

Searching for Settings

Legacy Windows used the Control Panel to house the various settings.

More frequently these items have been moved, requiring users to search for them. 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 was 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, are no longer present.

Microsoft continues to make monopolistic changes in Edge, including new microsoft-edge:// links that won't work in other browsers.

Microsoft has backported this change to Windows 10. You can uninstall Windows Update KB5007262 to revert the change. This work-around will only work until the next cumulative update is released.
Ctrl blog


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 in 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 click Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Apps then select Default Apps from the menu listing on the left.

Once Default Apps is open, click on the current default in the appropriate category to choose your preferred alternative. The reset button restores the Microsoft defaults.

News and Interests

“News and interests” was added to the Windows 10 taskbar in early 2021.

This feature displays MSN feed content which can be either modified or disabled by right-clicking on an empty space on the Task Bar then 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 the settings cog at the top of the window that appears, then select Manage interests.

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 except by using third-party utilities (there may be future complications with Windows Update).

If you don't use Xbox, it means that system resources are taken up by a feature you 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 or many of the other bloatware offerings.

These instructions on removing Windows 10's bloatware include links to two freeware apps (10AppsManager and Windows X App Remover) 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

Return to top

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).

There are third-party alternatives to the default Start menu.

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.

Start Menu Alternatives

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

  • Start11 from Stardock (US$5.99 — included with Stardock's Object Desktop suite at $40.99) recreates the Windows 7 style menu in Windows 10 or 11.
  • 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. Tablet mode will make more sense on a touch-enabled device.

Desktop Mode

Even 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.

Pin additional apps on the Start menu that appears when you click on Start. These can be grouped, resized and arranged to suit your requirements. I recommend disabling live tiles unless you find the regular refreshing of content useful and doesn't impact your system.

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 search 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 that touch screen users 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 (advanced users only).

Learning More

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

Return to top

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.

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures — is this line: If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?


[This] accept[s] the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong.


It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.
Bruce Schneier: The Eternal Value of Privacy
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 over and over, 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.

When you select privacy options Microsoft warns you that you'll lose some functionality.

When updating Windows 10 these low-privacy defaults have been restored along with the default Microsoft apps instead of your preferred (and probably safer) alternatives.

Remember, Microsoft is planning on making money the same way Gmail and other “free” software 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 including playing games in Xbox.

Even though I created a local account on my Windows 10 installations, I've noticed that Microsoft is tracking much more on my Windows 10 computer since I installed Microsoft 365.

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.
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.

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 that 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.
Microsoft executives made it very clear that buying a Windows licence — or a device with Windows 10 on it — would ensure Windows owners had a licence 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.

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).

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.

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.

When 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 because they are customized to your interests based upon data culled from your surfing history and social media posts.

In other words, personalization makes it easier to sell to you.

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.

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 over and over again 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 (wired) 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? This 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 disabling them better preserves 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…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 has changed the name of the local account option to 'Domain join instead', which then allows admins to create an offline account.

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….

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 (or 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 your 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 don't 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.

There are issues with many VPNs (many of these companies are linked and some have shady histories).

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

Return to top

Windows 10 Security

Microsoft boasts that Windows 10 is the most secure ever. This requires a fully-updated Windows 10 system with Microsoft's Windows Security enabled at the very minimum.

Of course, that claim is now being made about Windows 11:

Windows 11 is also secure by design, with new built-in security technologies that will add protection from the chip to the cloud, while enabling productivity and new experiences. Windows 11 provides a Zero Trust-ready operating system to protect data and access across devices.
— Microsoft

I'd still recommend using a decent security suite for better protection.

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. Be wary of delaying updates too long or you could lose support.

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 were calls to end the Store because it provided few real options.

However, Windows 11 has revived the Store with new options and attempts at providing secure apps.

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.

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

Windows 10 continues to be updated.

After each major (or “feature”) update is installed, your Windows 10 version changes.

Version Naming Convention

The version (update) is indicated by a four-character designation, starting with the two-digit year:

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

Up until 21H2, major Windows updates have been released twice a year:

  • initially using the month number;
  • later as H1 (spring) and H2 (fall).

Future updates will be once per year.

Updates by Version

The monthly updates to your system will depend upon the version you're currently running:

Prior versions are listed in the left column.

Retaining Support

Your Windows 10 support requires a currently supported version installed on supported hardware (“supported lifetime of the device”).

Keep it Current

Update to the most recent version supported by your hardware.

  • 20H2 or earlier has expired.
  • 21H1 expires Dec. 13, 2022.
  • 21H2 expires June 13, 2023.

Don't let your Windows licence expire. You generally get one year of support after the release of a version before you lose support. You must keep Windows 10 updated.

What Version?

Learn which version of Windows 10 you're 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, then scroll down to see the version you're running under Windows specifications:

Look for the current Windows version under Windows specifications.

Run Windows Update

The easiest and safest way to update Windows 10 is to use Windows Update.

Download Windows 10 Installer

Have issues with Windows Update or have a corrupt Windows installation?

Only download from Microsoft (don't use third-party downloads).

Media Creation Tool

The Media Creation Tool can upgrade the current PC to the latest version or create installation media (e.g., USB drive) to upgrade another PC.

Using the media creation tool rather than Windows Update has some risks. It may remove non-Microsoft software or your data if you don't choose the correct options.

Pause Windows Updates

While there have been issues with previous updates, not patching leaves your system vulnerable and Microsoft has been much more careful.

Don't risk losing support.

Don't Want Updates?

To pause updates:

  1. Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Update & Security ⇒ Pause updates for 7 days.
  2. Don't “check for updates.”

Avoiding Upgrade to Windows 11

Prompts to upgrade to Windows 11 (or unauthorized updates) can be stopped using Steve Gibson's InControl.

There is also an option to add (and later remove) Registry keys that will block updating to Windows 11.

In either case you need to be careful that you don't avoid necessary update or lose your Windows 10 license because you failed to update.

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.

November 2021 Update

Update 21H2, released on November 16, 2021. Installation is recommended.

After this release, Windows 10 updates will be annual to match Windows 11 releases. Support for Home and Pro editions will be 18 months; 30 months for Enterprise and Education editions.

We are also transitioning to an annual Windows 10 release cadence to align with the Windows 11 cadence. The next Windows 10 feature update is slated for the second half of 2022.

Support for 21H2 will expire on June 13, 2023 for Home and Pro versions.

21H1 will install on systems running updates 20H2, and 21H1 (support for 2004 expired December 14, 2021).

Older installations may not update.

What's New?

The main features promised in update 21H2 have largely been moved to the Windows 11 release.

Like Windows 10's 21H1 update released in Spring 2021, this update is small and is focused on stability and polish.
How-To Geek

Learn More

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?

Update 21H1 has improved document load times and these new features:

  1. Improved Windows Hello support for multiple cameras.
  2. Improved Windows Defender Application Guard.
  3. Faster Group Policy updates for remote workers.

Learn More

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.

More about Update 20H2

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.
  • The November 2021 Update (21H2) is a fairly minor update focused on stability and polish.

Troubleshooting Updates

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

Return to top

Prepare 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.

Windows 10 saw the removal of the F8 recovery options as a universal default. 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 save a lot of stress if a 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.

Return to top


Time has run out. Windows 10 is the only Microsoft option except for the pending Windows 11 (which won't be a free upgrade from anything but Windows 10).

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.

Should You Upgrade?

Your decision to upgrade, purchase a new Windows 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.

Sharing Files

Sharing Files in Windows 10 has moved to Sharing Files.

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

Buy Me A Coffee


Return to top
Updated: May 14, 2022