Note: Our common Windows 10 problems feature has been fully updated. This article was first published in July 2015.
Windows 10 is now running on over 350 million PCs, tablets and smartphones, making it one of the most popular operating systems in the world. The successor to Windows 8.1 has been available for a little over a year now, which has given users plenty of time to get to know the OS.
Many of the initial quirks, bugs, and other annoyances that Windows 10 launched with have been fixed while others persist. Issues with printer connectivity, for example, have plagued users – and of course the recent Anniversary Update brought problems of its own.
At any rate, if you're suffering with the operating system, we've compiled a guide to 40 of the most common Windows 10 problems, as well as instructions on how to fix them. Read on for some troubleshooting goodness…
- Also check out our collection of how to use Windows 10 guides
1. Having enough space to install Windows 10
If you're planning to move to Windows 10, actually installing the OS is the first area you could potentially run into problems with. Installing a new operating system requires a certain amount of free space on your drive so that it can be downloaded and certain elements can be run successfully.
For Windows 10, the space requirement is 16GB, which should be kept free on the main system drive the computer uses. This is actually the same as previous versions of Windows, so if you've upgraded before you can most likely do it again.
To check how much space you have left, go to My Computer (or This PC depending on the version of Windows you're running) where any drives you have will be listed. You can see the remaining space indicated underneath each drive, or you can right click and select Properties for a clearer overview (the system drive is usually C:).
2. Checking you have a powerful enough PC
Just as with space requirements, your PC will also have to be capable of running Windows 10. This means that it must reach certain minimum system requirements.
The requirements for running Windows 10 are relatively low: A processor of 1GHz or faster; 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) of RAM; 16GB of free drive space; Microsoft DirectX 9 graphic device; and a Microsoft account combined with internet access.
To find out your PC's spec, go to Control Panel and select System and Security, then System.
3. Activating Windows 10
Some users have reported issues with activating their copies of Windows 10, which could have been down to a number of different reasons. In some cases, the easiest way to get around the problem is to purchase a legitimate copy of Windows 10.
Unlike previous versions of Windows, the latest one is almost exclusively available online, which means that official Microsoft websites are the best bet for your purchase. The company was giving the OS away for free, but that promotion has now ended.
Microsoft has a helpful website that provides a downloadable copy in either 32-bit or 64-bit versions.
If you do find that you're unable to activate Windows 10 successfully, handily Microsoft introduced a new activation troubleshooter feature with the recent Anniversary Update. You'll find this in Settings, then click Update & Security, go to Activation and select Troubleshoot (you won't see this option if the OS has been activated).
4. Avoiding inconvenient software update reboots
Windows 10 is, in many ways, a truly internet-based operating system. Mostly, this is a bonus but there are times when it isn't – and Microsoft's attitude towards operating system updates is one such time.
The most annoying part of automatic updates is the restarting, which can seemingly come at random (and inconvenient times). The simplest way to counteract this is head to Windows Update (in Settings > Update & Security), click on Advanced Options and then Notify to Schedule Restart, which means the OS will request a reboot rather than trampling all over the work you're not quite done with yet.
5. Updating old software to work with Windows 10
Each version of a new operating system comes with its own set of backwards compatibility issues and Windows 10 is no exception.
The transition from Windows 8.1 to 10 is far less jarring than the move from Windows 7 to 8 was, but there are still certain applications that can become broken and, in some cases, cease to work at all.
One such application is Chrome, which some users have even had to fully delete and reinstall. If a program isn't working with Windows 10, try looking in the Windows Store for an update and, if that doesn't work, delete and reinstall it.
Over time, more and more developers will get round to updating their programs for Windows 10 so, if you're reading this a few years from now, this likely won't be much of a problem anymore.
6. Changing privacy and Wi-Fi Sense settings
Data security is incredibly important, especially as hackers become increasingly sophisticated and the number of cyber-attacks is on the up.
Windows 10 comes with a decent set of built-in protection measures, but you can never be too careful. One such feature that should be disabled by privacy-minded individuals is Wi-Fi Sense, which automatically shares the Wi-Fi password across Windows 10 devices on the same account.
Microsoft updated Wi-Fi Sense to share less data, but switching it off is the ideal way of preventing anything you don't want happening. To turn it off, go to the Start Menu, select Settings and click on Network & Internet, then Wi-Fi, and head to Manage Wi-Fi Settings – turn off all the options in here.
Also in Settings, it's possible to get an overview of everything else happening on Windows 10 in terms of privacy – unsurprisingly, under the Privacy section. In here, you'll be presented with a bunch of toggles that adjust some privacy options to help keep everything under control.
7. Printer compatibility
Printer compatibility can be an issue for older devices. If you're jumping from Windows 7 (or earlier) to Windows 10 then it's definitely worth updating all available printer drivers, which should help prevent them not working post-upgrade.
Doing this is simple. Just search Google (or Bing, depending on your preference) for the name of your printer and download the latest Windows 10 compatible drivers. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install them and you're good to go.
8. Changing the browser to Chrome or Firefox
Microsoft ships Windows 10 with Edge, the successor to its Internet Explorer browser (although IE is still present in the OS). For many people, however, using Chrome or Firefox is the norm, no matter what Microsoft wants.
To install Chrome or Firefox – and get back to normality – open Edge, search for either, and find a Windows 10 version. Download it, install it, and make sure it's set as the default browser option so that Edge doesn't keep reappearing. To do this, head to Settings, System, and click on Default Apps – click under Web Browser and you can then select your preferred default browser.
9. Learning to use Edge
If, however, you do want to use Edge then you'll find it's actually a decent browser, despite a few notable flaws.
One thing to note in particular is that running Edge on a touchscreen PC or tablet yields the best results as Microsoft has optimised it to support touch or pen input. Websites can be doodled on, shared, and generally messed around with in a way that other browsers don't really facilitate.
Microsoft has also focused on making Edge fast and, above all, battery efficient. Anyone who has ever used Chrome on a laptop knows that it just sucks up battery life, so this may be a refreshing change for some.
Favourites, browsing history, passwords, and so on can be shared between Windows 10 devices, too, which means that using Edge on one machine will be the same experience as using Edge on another. It's worth taking some time to give Edge at least a tryout before you decide it's a problem and make any vows involving bargepoles and so on.
10. Edge won't stream music when minimised
The browser does come with some annoying features, however. Because it's a Universal Windows App, Edge runs on smartphones, tablets, PCs, and almost any other device. This means that it sometimes has a problem with being too much like a phone app rather than a PC program.
One of the ways this manifests itself is by sometimes refusing to play media when minimised, just as a phone app wouldn't. There's currently no fix for this, unfortunately, although you could obviously use a different browser until the problem is addressed by Microsoft. Or just use an entirely different app to stream your music.
11. Blocking pop-ups in Edge
Want to block pop-up ads in Edge? Fortunately, putting a stop to these bothersome things isn't difficult. Within the Edge browser, you need to click on Settings (found in the top-right 'ellipsis' menu, the three dots), then click on View Advanced Settings – in here you need to turn on Block Pop-ups.
12. Choosing Google over Bing
Many people just don't like Bing, most likely because they have always used Google. That's fine, and we're sure Microsoft understands.
Changing Edge over to Google is relatively simple. Navigate in Edge to Google.com (or Yahoo, or whatever your preference) and click the ellipsis button in the top-right corner. A drop-down menu will appear: select Settings, and then navigate down to click View Advanced Settings. From here, scroll down to 'Search in the address bar with…' and select Add New.
Some users have reported that Add New often has no results in it, suggesting that no new search engine can be added. This isn't true. To get past this, close and then reopen Edge and (hopefully) some results will have appeared.
13. Grappling with the touchscreen
If you've bought a Windows 10 machine that has a touchscreen then you are, by and large, getting the best experience with the OS.
Ever since Windows 8, Microsoft has been optimising its operating system for the finger – and sometimes pen – with large tiles, easy-to-scroll menus, and so on.
However, it can still be a little disjointed, but the easiest way to remedy this is simple: head to Start > Settings > System > Tablet Mode. Then turn Tablet Mode on – this optimises Windows 10 for fingers rather than pointers, making it far easier to use.
14. Grappling with the touchpad
Having a touchpad-enabled laptop is also good for Windows 10, but some users have reported that the upgrade from Windows 7 (and sometimes Windows 8) breaks it.
One of the ways to solve this is by first checking to see if your keyboard has a key that turns the touchpad off. If it doesn't – or the right setting is toggled – then head to Devices > Mouse & Touchpad> Additional mouse options.
A new window will appear. From here, select the tab that says Device Settings, then Devices, and then make sure the touchpad is enabled.
If none of these options work, press Windows Key + X, select Device Manager, then the option for Mice and other pointing devices, and update the driver. This should fix things.
15. Finding Safe Mode
Safe Mode is just what you'd expect – a safe way of booting up a PC and running the system with no startup apps and only essential drivers, which should hopefully allow the computer to boot successfully when it won't otherwise due to some issue or other.
With Windows 10, to access Safe Mode, hold down the Shift key during boot-up (or select Restart from the desktop while holding down Shift).
16. Making sure Windows 10 knows where you are
Location-based apps are fairly prominent in Windows 10 which makes it a good idea to let your PC know (roughly) where you are. Cortana, for example, can give far more information if it can accurately pinpoint where in the world it's being used.
To update your computer's location settings, head to the Start menu, click Settings, Time & Language, and click Region & Language – then make sure the correct country is selected. To turn on Location services, go to Settings > Privacy > Location, and flick the Location switch on.
17. Speeding up your PC
There are loads of ways to speed up a PC and Windows 10 comes with several options to do so with ease.
Having fewer programs boot during startup can, for example, make the whole booting experience faster. To streamline your boot-up, press the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys together and select Task Manager from the resulting screen, then select the Startup tab, and choose which services or apps are allowed to load (right click and select Disable to, well, disable any you don't want).
Deleting unused programs or files can also speed up a PC.
18. Removing the annoying lock screen
The lock screen on Windows 10 can be annoying, especially on a computer that doesn't have a touchscreen to easily 'swipe' it away. Windows Hello makes things somewhat easier, but only if you have a compatible computer with the necessary hardware to run the authentication system.
Luckily, Microsoft has provided a solution to the problem of the lock screen, albeit a complicated one that shouldn't be tried if you're not confident in tinkering with the Registry. Note that a misstep here can cause serious problems, so if you're a computing novice, it's probably best to steer clear of this one.
Okay, warning aside, to do this you need to first head to the search/Cortana box (next to the Start menu) and type in a search for:
This will run the Registry Editor. From here, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows, select the Personalisation key and select New before choosing DWORD (32-bit) Value.
Select New Value #1 in the right-hand pane, and use F2 to rename it to the following:
Now double click it, and change the value data to 1 and click OK.
It's a slightly complex process, but after a reboot you should be able to automatically bypass the lock screen.
19. Making DVDs work again
Annoyingly, Windows 10 ships without DVD playing software as a standard option. Microsoft does offer an app as a download from the Windows Store – called Windows DVD Player, imaginatively – but it costs £11.59 (around $15, AU$20).
The best bet for those who want to watch DVDs is VLC Media Player, which is a free download and was recently updated to support Windows 10. It also supports a host of other file formats – even the weird ones – making it a very useful tool to have around (or check out our 5 best VLC alternatives if you fancy something a bit different).
20. Banish annoying notifications
Microsoft introduced a nifty way to view all of your notifications at once in the Action Center, which is one of Windows 10's best features compared to Windows 7 or 8.1.
However, it does tend to get clogged up with notifications, including ones that are seemingly useless (we're looking at you, Windows tips). Luckily, turning these off is easy.
Go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions, and then simply toggle off any that are not useful or relevant while keeping the ones that are. Individual third-party app notifications can also be switched off.
21. Beefing up system security
As more of our lives increasingly spills over onto computers it becomes important that they're safe and secure. Windows 10 ships with a variety of security features that it's a good idea to take a look at.
One such feature to be aware of is Windows Defender, which is designed to detect and remove malware from PCs – you'll find it under Settings > Update & Security. Make sure you've got this turned on, if you don't have another third-party antivirus solution running on your machine.
Another nifty feature is Windows Hello which allows for biometric authentication on your machine (we'll come back to this and show you how to set it up in the next slide). And a further measure still is Windows Passport, which secures all your credentials in one place (read up more about that here).
It's impossible to stop all threats, but with its newest OS, Microsoft has taken a long hard look at the areas where Windows was more vulnerable and has patched things up nicely.
22. Setting up Windows Hello
Windows Hello is one of the most innovative features that Microsoft has built into Windows 10. Essentially, it lets a user login just by using facial recognition (or a fingerprint) virtually instantly.
The software, which is available to all Windows 10 users, does require special hardware (and most likely won't work on older computers). Assuming you have the necessary hardware, how do you set up Windows Hello?
You need to go to the Start menu, click on Account, and select Change Account Settings. Select Sign-in Options and set a PIN. Once you've done this, there will be an option to Setup under Face. Select this and follow the instructions.
23. Stopping Windows 10 from using loads of data
If you're on a tablet that has 4G, using a mobile hotspot, or surfing the web via a Windows 10 smartphone, then the operating system may have a nasty surprise for you.
Users have been reporting that the default configuration of Windows 10 sucks up data like there's no tomorrow, potentially putting you over your data allowance, and leaving you with a hefty bill.
Fortunately, there's an option that addresses the problem. Simply to go Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Click Advanced Options and then Set as metered connection. This means that Windows 10 will stop collecting so much data in the background.
24. Getting Cortana to respond to one voice
Worried someone else might use Cortana on your device? Well, one cool thing that Cortana can do is 'learn' a certain person's voice, making it far more secure than Siri or Google Now, which generally just accept simple commands irrespective of who they come from.
To do this, open Cortana, select the Notebook from the left-hand menu, select Settings, and make sure that 'Respond to' is set 'To me'.
It'll run you through a few test phrases to get the basics of your voice and tone correct before effectively logging what you say and learning – eventually – to just respond to you.
25. Getting Windows 10 working on high-res screens
Windows supports a huge range of devices going back a long way which, inevitably, means that some don't work as well as others.
Users have reported issues with high-resolution displays and Windows 10, including experiencing blurriness in applications that had been rendering fine on previous versions of the OS such as Windows 8.1.
The easiest way to solve the issue of blurriness is by going to Control Panel > Display and fiddling around with the settings here. There is no one single setting that will fix all issues, so experiment and see what works (and what doesn't).
To fix blurriness in specific applications, right click on the app's icon and select Properties. Under the Compatibility tab there is an option to 'Disable display scaling on high DPI settings'. Tick this and – hopefully – the problems will disappear.
26. Using less battery on laptops and tablets
Battery life is important to anyone who regularly uses a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and of course Windows 10 can be used on all three of those devices.
Microsoft recognises this – as shown by the marketing of its Edge browser as being battery-friendly – and has built several tools into Windows 10 to help cut down on excessive battery drain.
All apps that run in the background can be toggled off, for example, which stops them from sucking up precious juice. And as we saw in an earlier tip, a metered internet connection option can also be used, which cuts down on background data usage.
Windows 10 also includes a dedicated set of power options, which you can find via Settings > System > Power & Sleep. From here, display sleep times can be set and under Additional Power Settings you can select a power plan that means a lighter load for your battery.
27. Generating a battery report
Continuing with the theme of avoiding excessive battery drain, if just fiddling with the settings isn't enough, Windows 10 can also generate a battery report. To do this, head to the Command Prompt Admin (which you get from right clicking on the Start menu), and type in:
powercfg /batteryreport /output "C:\battery_report.html"
This will save a file to any chosen folder – e.g. C:\ in this case, the root of your system drive – which gives you a hugely detailed look at battery quality, cycles, how much charge is left, and much more. The report is a little dense, so be warned on that front.
28. Changing default app choices
Another thing a lot of users have complained about is default app choices – i.e. browser, word processor, and so on – changing when updating Windows 10.
The easiest way to change them back is to head to Settings > System > Default Apps. From here, almost every major default app – music, email, maps, calendar and so on – can be chosen based on the ones you have downloaded.
29. Opening older Microsoft Office files
This issue is still an annoyance in Windows 10 (indeed, it affects all versions of Windows and Office). The fix, however, is relatively simple.
If you're getting a lot of 'file is corrupt and cannot be opened' or 'unable to start correctly' warnings, then open Command Prompt (again, by right clicking the Start menu) and type in:
icacls "%programfiles%\Microsoft Office 15" /grant *S-1-15-2-1:(OI)(CI)RX
That should fix your problem – if it doesn't, then try to find each corrupted file, right click, select Change and then Online Repair.
30. Flickering screen issues
Flickering screens aren't always down to the hardware and some users have reported issues such as these caused by upgrading to Windows 10.
The easiest way to fix this is to update all relevant drivers for monitors as well as Norton Antivirus, iCloud, and IDT Audio, which are all suspected to be potential causes of these problems. It may even help to uninstall and then reinstall them.
Windows 10 does automatically update drivers, so there is also a chance it's forcing an incompatible version of a driver onto the PC without realising.
31. Fixing the Start menu
The Start Menu can become cluttered, especially if you have a lot of apps and other bits and pieces that will automatically show up on it.
Microsoft lets you resize the menu as well as add and remove applications, shortcuts, and almost anything else. The easiest way to ditch things is by right clicking and then removing – click uninstall – or you can drag apps or folders directly onto the menu to add them.
32. Staying safe with the Windows Store
Concerned about downloading software that could contain hidden malware, spyware or other nastiness? Then remember that using the Windows Store is safer than downloading apps from the web at large, because Microsoft checks over and vets programs on its store.
You can buy apps, games, films, music, TV shows, and everything else from the store, for reasonably competitive prices. To access the Store, simply find the icon on your desktop – or search for it – and click it. Purchasing is a breeze and everything is tied in with your Microsoft account.
33. Setting app permissions
App permission settings effectively control what, and how, certain apps do things. Do you want Facebook to be able to access your contacts, for example?
If not, you can switch this off, or adjust any permissions you're not happy about, by going to Start > Settings > Privacy. From here, you can select from the list of categories down the left-hand pane to adjust various easy-to-understand options on an app-by-app basis.
For example, going to the Location tab lets you choose which apps are allowed to use information pertaining to your location (assuming you have this turned on in the first place), and in Camera you can tweak which apps are allowed to use your PC's webcam.
34. Using Windows 10 across multiple devices
A Microsoft Account (which you can set up by heading to login.live.com and following the instructions) effectively binds all of your devices together by syncing settings, apps, bookmarks, and everything else between different pieces of hardware.
Almost every single one of Microsoft's main applications – Edge, Office, OneDrive, and so on – uses the main Microsoft account to get information from the cloud.
If you're wondering how to set up and sync the OS across all your devices, the process is simple – just login to each device with the same Microsoft Account. Then, in the Settings of each device, there will be a set of options concerning what gets shared and how. On your Windows 10 PC, you'll find this under Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings – first you need to switch Sync Settings on, and then you can adjust what's shared as appropriate.
35. Fixing problems with Bluetooth connectivity
If you find that Windows 10 broke the connection of a Bluetooth device (or devices) that was previously paired up just fine with your machine, then there is an easy enough fix for this. According to Microsoft, all you have to do is head to Device Manager (just type 'device manager' into the search/Cortana box next to the Start menu), select the Bluetooth driver and update it to the latest settings, which will be compatible with Windows 10. The operating system should be able to automatically search, and then update, the driver.
If that fails to work, un-pairing (or forgetting) the device before re-pairing it should fix the issue.
36. Backing up a Windows 10 PC
There's nothing worse than having disaster strike your computer and then realising you haven't properly backed up your precious data. Want to know how to do this easily? Fortunately, backing up is a simple task in Windows 10.
Indeed, Windows 10 has many of the same backup features that were present on Windows 7, accessed by going into Settings > Update & Security > Backup.
The options include adding another drive to backup to, or accessing a previous backup on another machine – you can restore from a backup you created using Windows 7, in fact.
OneDrive is also a quick and easy option for backing up files, providing an off-site alternative in case of fire or theft. You'll find OneDrive under File Explorer (which in turn is under the Start menu).
37. Fixing black screen errors
A black screen on Windows 10 can mean several things, depending on whether you've logged into the operating system or not.
If you haven't logged in, or Windows 10 hasn't booted, then check your internet connection and boot your PC via Safe Mode. (To access Safe Mode, hold down the Shift key as your machine boots).
If you logged in and then the screen went black, unplug all external devices and, failing that, boot via Safe Mode as above.
If the problems persist, contact Microsoft directly for further advice.
38. Protecting your PC with Windows Firewall
Naturally, you want to keep your Windows 10 PC safe, but do you need to go to great lengths searching for and installing security software to achieve this? Actually you don't, because the integrated security solutions Microsoft bundles with its OS are perfectly serviceable efforts.
Windows Firewall is one half of Microsoft's basic efforts to keep your PC safe from malware and other attacks. It's easy to turn on, but configuring the firewall is a slightly more involved matter.
To switch on the firewall, or rather to make sure it's switched on as it should be by default, simply type 'firewall' into the search/Cortana box (next to the Start menu), and click on Windows Firewall. From here, there's an option to turn it on (or off), and you can also adjust the relative 'strength' of the firewall.
Windows Firewall can be configured as incredibly strong via the 'Advanced Settings' option – i.e. it blocks all suspect apps without asking – or slightly weaker, which means there's a slightly greater risk that your PC will become hit with some kind of infection, but the firewall won't interfere as much.
The easiest way to find out which settings are best for you is to simply test things out for a few days and tweak as needed. If you forget what you've done in the settings or think you've messed things up, just click on Restore Default Policy on the right-hand side of the Advanced Settings menu to get things back to normal.
39. Benefiting from Windows Defender
Alongside the firewall discussed in the last slide, Windows Defender is the other half of Microsoft's essential defensive measures, and it focuses on keeping viruses off your PC by detecting malware and purging any infections present.
Activating Defender is simple: you'll find it under Settings > Update & Security, and then click on Windows Defender. It's a must that real-time protection should be turned on to allow Windows to constantly monitor for anything suspicious and step in should a detection occur. That said, even if it's been turned off, this is such a vital piece of the puzzle that the OS will turn it back on automatically after a while.
Note that if you have a third-party antivirus application installed, Windows Defender will be turned off so as to avoid conflicts. While much criticised in the past, Defender is actually a solid enough security solution these days, and is very nicely streamlined (plus it won't bother you with any pop-ups like some of the free antivirus programs do). On the other hand, we should note that it still doesn't score up there with the best rated antivirus packages (even the free ones).
40. Setting up device encryption
Basic protection from malware aside, what about defending your Windows 10 machine from nefarious hackers? To do this, you can elect to use device encryption, and fortunately Microsoft has provided strong encryption facilities, and it isn't particularly difficult to set all this up – the caveat being that you need to be running Windows 10 Pro for BitLocker encryption (not Home).
To enable device encryption, go to Start, search 'encryption' and select Change device encryption settings. After that, select Manage BitLocker and turn it on, then follow the subsequent instructions. With your data encrypted, if hackers do manage to somehow access it, the information won't be of any use to them.
The only downside is that performance may take a bit of a hit on older machines, but if you need peace of mind regarding your precious data, it's worth it.
- For a load more neat tips and tricks on Windows 10, buy: Windows 10 Beyond the Manual