16 top tips for optimising Windows 10

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16 top tips for optimising Windows 10
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11. Find hidden settings by unlocking GodMode

The slow way

Windows 10’s Settings app is much easier to navigate than Windows 7’s Control Panel and easier to access than Windows 8’s PC Settings. But if you’re not sure what you’re looking for or where the setting you want might be, then it can still be time-consuming to trawl through the various pages of settings to find the one you want. This isn’t helped by the fact that some settings can only be found in the Control Panel, which can be a palaver to access. Luckily, there’s a way to view all of Windows 10’s configuration options in one place.

The fast way

GodMode is a hidden folder that makes a wide range of useful PC customisations available in one place. GodMode isn’t new to Windows 10. In fact, it’s available in Windows 7 and 8. But it’s particularly useful in Windows 10, whose settings are spread across two different environments (Control Panel and the Settings app).

Enabling GodMode requires a hack, but it’s a very simple one. Right-click anywhere on your desktop and select New, then Folder. The folder’s name will be highlighted – rename it with the following command and press Enter when you’ve finished typing: GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

A GodMode shortcut will appear, displaying a Control Panel-type icon. You don’t have to call it GodMode – you can type whatever you like before the full stop, and this will become the shortcut’s name.

Once you’ve created the shortcut, double-click it to view its contents. You’ll find more than 220 settings listed, all of which are grouped by type – Fonts, Troubleshooting, User Accounts and so on – and you can use the top-right search box to look for settings by keyword. Now, if you ever find yourself trying to track down an obscure setting or tool, such as Windows’ hidden program for creating custom characters for your fonts – the mysteriously named Private Character Editor – you know where to go.

GodMode recently came in for some bad press, when security firm McAfee revealed it had detected a new strain of malware that used GodMode-like techniques to make it difficult to detect or remove. But this doesn’t mean enabling or using GodMode on your PC is dangerous.

12. Instantly zoom in on hard-to-read text

The slow way

You’ll need to click your way through Windows 10’s Settings app to carry out many everyday tasks. For example, to switch on the Magnifier so you can zoom in on a piece of text, you’ll need to click Start, Settings, Ease of Access, Magnifier, then click the switch to enable the tool. The Magnifier is something you’ll probably only want switched on when you want to read small text, so wouldn’t it be good if you could quickly switch it on and off without this rigmarole.

The fast way

Well, as it happens, Windows 10 lets you add any setting in the Settings app to the Start menu as a tile.

To add the Magnifier to the Start menu, navigate to it in the Settings app (as described above), then right-click Magnifier in the left-hand column and select ‘Pin to Start’, then click Yes. The same method can be used to pin other settings.

13. Print photos and files faster

The slow way

To print a photo or a document, the conventional method is to navigate to the file you want, open it in a dedicated program, click File, then Print. It’s the logical way to do it, but it’s also the most long-winded.

The fast way

Windows 10’s File Explorer includes a tabbed ribbon toolbar at the top, which contains shortcuts for a number of useful tasks – including printing. So rather than opening the file you want to print, you could just locate it in File Explorer, then click the Share tab, followed by Print. But there is an even faster way.

File Explorer has a hidden toolbar called the Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll find it, by default, just above the ribbon in the top-left corner of the File Explorer window. The Quick Access Toolbar only contains two shortcuts – Properties and ‘New folder’ – but you can add others, including Print. Click the Share tab, then right-click the Print command and select ‘Add to Quick Access Toolbar’. You’ll now see the Print icon in the top-left corner whenever you open a File Explorer window, letting you print a selected file or photo with a single click.

You can customise the Quick Access Toolbar further, according to your needs. For example, you may want to add the ‘Burn to disc’ or Email shortcuts. In fact, you can add any command in any ribbon tab to the Quick Access Toolbar. Click the down arrow to the right of the toolbar’s icons to add even more icons (Undo, Redo, Delete and Rename) or select ‘Show below the Ribbon’ to give the toolbar more prominence.

14. Disable notification sounds when you sleep

The slow way

Notifications are useful, but there are times – at night, for example – when you might not want to be disturbed. You could click Start, then click Settings | System | Notifications & Actions, then switch off each individual option you require. Or you could use ‘Quiet hours’.

The fast way

‘Quiet hours’ is a setting in Windows 10 that instantly silences all notifications between midnight and 6am. You can reach it via the ‘Quick actions’ panel at the bottom of the Action Centre. This is a collection of handy shortcuts that you access by clicking the speech-bubble icon to the right of your taskbar. You’ll see only four ‘Quick action’ icons by default, so click Expand if you don’t see the ‘Quiet hours’ icon. And if that isn’t quick enough for you, simply right-click the speech-bubble icon and select ‘Turn on quiet hours’.

You can customise the ‘Quick actions’ panel to include other tasks. For example, it might be handy to have two-click access to Tablet mode if you’re using a touchscreen device, or to Flight mode if you regularly need to disable or enable all wireless connections. To choose which four ‘Quick actions’ you want shown when you open the Action Centre, click Start, Settings, System, ‘Notifications & actions’, then select your preferred options.

15. Read important notifications before they disappear

The slow way

While most of this feature is concerned with speeding up tasks in Windows 10, some aspects would be more convenient and save you time if they were slowed down. Notifications, for example, flash up in the bottom-right of the taskbar, then disappear before you get a chance to read them. Missing a notification can have serious consequences, particularly if it is alerting you to security problems or an urgent email. You can always visit the Action Centre to review your recent notifications after the event. But you wouldn’t have to waste time doing this, if the notification stayed on-screen long enough for you to read it in the first place.

The fast way

A quick tweak to your Windows 10 settings will make this happen. Click Start, Settings, ‘Ease of Access’, then ‘Other options’. Under ‘Visual options’ on the right, choose a longer period (anything up to five minutes) from the ‘Show notifications for’ dropdown menu.

Next: Diagnostic hints

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