16 top tips for optimising Windows 10

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16 top tips for optimising Windows 10
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6. Access your favourite files and folders 

The slow way

Most of us have specific folders on our computers that we return to time after time. Maybe it’s a specific folder of cherished photos, or a subfolder within your Documents folder where you store important letters. Either way, if you laboriously click Start | File Explorer, and then navigate to the relevant folder every time you want to access the files it contains, you’re wasting valuable time.

The fast way

In previous versions of Windows, you had the option of creating shortcuts for your frequently used folders by dragging them to your desktop. You can do this in Windows 10, but doing so for multiple items will soon clutter up your desktop. Windows 10 offers a much neater system called ‘Quick access’, which is the default view in File Explorer. 

Whenever you open an Explorer window ‘Quick access’ will automatically display shortcuts to any folders and files you’ve recently used. But you can customise it to display any folders you choose. Simply navigate to the relevant folder, right-click it and select ‘Pin to Quick access’.

Better still, you can now bypass File Explorer altogether when opening your favourite folders. For example, if you’ve already pinned a folder called ‘Letters’ to ‘Quick access’, simply right-click the File Explorer icon on your taskbar and you’ll see a shortcut to the folder listed in the Pinned section. Click this and you’ll be taken straight there.

7. Open programs faster every time

The slow way

Looking for a program that begins with the letter ‘W’? Such as Word 2016, for example? Well, it’ll be lurking at the bottom of your alphabetically arranged Apps list. Unless you’ve added a shortcut tile to your Start menu (see previous tip), you’ll need to click Start, ‘All apps’, then scroll through a lengthy list of all your installed programs to get to the one you want.

The fast way

Windows 10’s ‘All apps’ list offers a clever, albeit hidden, way to navigate to a specific program quickly. Click Start, ‘All apps’, then click the letter ‘A’. The list of programs changes to a grid of letters.

Clicking the letter ‘W’, for example, will take you directly to all the programs whose name begins with that letter, including Word 2016. Greyed-out letters in the grid mean there are no programs installed beginning with that letter. Click the clock icon at the top left to return to the ‘All apps’ list.

8. Launch Windows tools you use most often

The slow way

Device Manager, System Properties and Control Panel have always been among the most used tools in Windows. These and many other core functions and options are now accessible via the Settings app in Windows 10, which many people find easier to use. However, there are still crucial tasks that can only be carried out using these older tools. For example, if you need to roll back to an earlier hardware driver or check whether a device is working you’ll still need to rely on Device Manager. But to open it, you’ll have to delve deep into the ‘All apps’ list, find Computer Management (under Windows Administrative Tools), then select Device Manager from the left-hand pane of the window that opens.

The fast way

Thankfully, there’s a much quicker way to launch Device Manager and many of the other useful tools that Windows 10 tries to bury.

Right-click the Start button to reveal a handy hidden menu of shortcuts to important management tools, including Device Manager, Control Panel, System, Disk Management and the Command Prompt.

9. Navigate between open windows

The slow way

If you tend to work with multiple programs, browsers and File Explorer windows all open at the same time, you can easily get bogged down in an endless loop of clicking taskbar icons and dragging windows around the screen to see the one you want.

The fast way

If you prefer using the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut to cycle through taskbar thumbnails of all your open windows, you’ll be pleased to hear you can still do this in Windows 10. But there’s another, potentially quicker method too.

To the left of your taskbar you’ll see the Task View button (an icon with two overlapping rectangles). Click this and your screen will fill up with larger thumbnails representing all your open programs. Simply click the one you want to switch to it.

10. Access all your photos from the taskbar

The slow way

Earlier, we explained how to pin folders to ‘Quick access’ for… well, quick access. And that’s a great way to get to a specific folder in no time. But what if you want a fast way to access the files and subfolders stored within a particular folder, such as your Pictures folder? Of course, you could open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want. Or you could turn the folder into a toolbar and access its files directly from your taskbar.

The fast way

Right-click a blank space on your taskbar and select Toolbars. Here, you’ll see a small selection of default toolbars that you can add to the right-hand side of the taskbar to speed up certain activities.

For example, you can select Address here to add an address bar to the taskbar, which lets you access any web page directly from your desktop by typing its URL into the address bar and pressing return; the page will open in your default browser. The Links toolbar lets you navigate directly to a list of your bookmarked websites, but this currently only works with Microsoft’s Edge browser.

There will be other toolbars listed here that you can enable, depending on your PC and the programs you have installed. Alternatively, click ‘New toolbar’, then navigate to the folder you want (Pictures, for example), then highlight it and click ‘Select folder’. The name of the folder will appear on the taskbar. Click the pair of arrows (>>) next to the folder’s name for immediate access to any files or folders contained within it.

Next: Productivity tips

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