Windows 10 tips

Windows 10 cheat sheet

Get to know the interface, features and shortcuts in Microsoft's latest operating system. (Now updated for the Windows 10 May 2019 Update.)

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The powered-up Windows Clipboard

The Windows Clipboard, introduced more than 30 years ago in Windows 1.0, has always been underpowered and not particularly useful. But with the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Microsoft finally gave it some serious attention, and it’s now surprisingly useful.

The new clipboard does much more than merely hold a single clip at a time so you can paste it into a document, which is what the old one did. Now, it stores multiple clips, lets you preview clips and choose which one you’d like to paste into a document, share clips across Windows 10 devices store clips permanently.

You’ll have to switch these new features on. To do it, go to Settings > System > Clipboard. In the “Clipboard history” section, move the slider from Off to On. If you’d like to sync your Clipboard history across multiple Windows 10 devices, move the slider from Off to On in the “Sync across devices” section.

To copy an item to the Clipboard, do what you’ve done in the past: Highlight what you want to copy and press Ctrl-C, or else use an application’s menu, such as Insert > Copy in Office applications. There are other ways as well, such as right-clicking an image on the web and selecting Copy Image from the menu that appears.

After you’ve copied clips into it, you can scroll through them, preview them, and choose which to paste into a document. To do it, put your cursor in the location in the document where you want the clip placed. Then press the Windows key and V. A small window appears with the clips you’ve pasted to the Clipboard. Scroll through, and when you find the clip you want to paste, click it. If you only want to paste your most recent clip into a document. Just press Ctrl-V as you do in earlier versions of Windows.

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The powered-up Windows Clipboard in use. (Click image to enlarge it.)

The clips you save while logged into your Microsoft account are also sent to the cloud and then to the Clipboard of any other devices running the Windows 10 October 2018 Update or later. So they’re always available, no matter which device you’re using.

When you turn off your PC, your clips are deleted. But you can save some permanently. To do it, launch the Clipboard, click the three buttons on the top right of any clip and select Pin. That pins the clip to the Clipboard. It stays there permanently until you unpin it.

You can also manually clean out your Clipboard by deleting individual clips or by deleting them all at once.  Click the three buttons on the top right of any clip and select Delete to delete an individual clip. To delete all the clips in the Clipboard, click the three buttons on the top right of any clip and select Clear All. Pinned clips won’t be deleted unless you delete them individually.

Keep in mind that the Clipboard has some limitations. It won’t hold any clip over 4MB. You can still copy and paste clips larger than that into documents, but you won’t be able to see and manage them in the Clipboard. And only clips that are 100KB or smaller are shared via the cloud with other devices.

Settings and preferences

In Windows 8, when you wanted to change your settings, you had to look in multiple places and hope you found what you wanted. Windows 10 makes your life easier. Most settings, and particularly the most important ones, are found in the Settings app.

Get to it by clicking the Start button, then clicking Settings. You can also get to it from the Action Center by clicking the "All settings" quick action icon.

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The Settings app is the control center for all your system settings. (Click image to enlarge it.)

The Settings app has 14 sections: System, Devices, Phone, Network & Internet, Personalization, Apps, Accounts, Time & Language, Gaming, Ease of Access, Search, Cortana, Privacy and Update & Security. It's straightforward to use: Click on an icon and navigate to what you need. If you want to get to a specific setting fast, type into the app's search bar, then click a setting that matches your search — for instance, to turn autocorrect off or on, you can type "autocorrect" in the search bar, select "Autocorrect misspelled words" and drag the toggle switch to the setting you want.

That's not to say that you'll find everything in the Settings app. If you're looking for something that only a tinkerer might want to change, you might find it instead in Control Panel. So, for example, if you want to assign your PC a static IP address, have your system display files that are normally hidden or access similar techie settings, Control Panel is the place to go.

You can get there by typing "control panel" in the Settings app's search bar and selecting Control Panel. Here you can navigate through the groups or search for your task; for instance, typing "hidden" in the Control Panel's search bar turns up "File Explorer Options: Show hidden files and folders."

Security settings

In Windows 10, all of your most important security settings are found in a single location, Windows Security. Get to it by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Security.

From here you can change all your important security settings. You likely won’t need to do that, though, because the default Windows settings are solid. However, if you’re looking for advanced customization options, such as letting apps through the built-in firewall (get to this setting from the “Firewall & network protection” section), here’s where to go.

And if you’re worried about ransomware, you can turn on an anti-ransomware capability called Controlled Folder Access, in which only approved apps can get access to Windows system files and data folders. To turn it on, in Windows Security select “Virus & threat protection.” Scroll down to the “Ransomware protection” setting and click “Manage ransomware protection.” At the top of the screen that appears, you’ll see the “Controlled folder access” section. Move its slider to on.

When you do that, you’ll also be able to customize how it works, including changing which folders should be protected and which apps should be allowed to access them. Click “Protected folders” to add a folder you want protected. (Note: You can’t remove the ones that Microsoft protects by default.)

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Controlled Folder Access protects against ransomware by only allowing vetted apps to access important folders. (Click image to enlarge.)

If you instead want to add an app that can access the folders, click “Allow an app through Controlled folder access,” then click “Add an allowed app.” When you do that, you have two choices: “Recently blocked apps” or “Browse all apps.” Click “Recently blocked apps” if Controlled Folder Access has blocked an app you want to let through. You’ll see a list of apps. Select the ones you want to allow through.

If you want to add an app that hasn’t been recently blocked, click “Browse all apps.” You’ll have to know the location of the executable file that runs the app. Navigate to the file, select it, and it will be allowed through.

Handy touchpad gestures, keyboard shortcuts and touchscreen gestures

Windows 10 supports a variety of keyboard shortcuts as well as gestures for touch-based devices. Try them out a few times, and before long they'll become second nature.

First, let's look at touchpad gestures. Touchpads are standard equipment on laptops these days, and for everyday computing a modern touchpad can do everything a mouse can, and more. (Note, however, that if you have an older machine, some or all of these gestures might not work.)

Next up are the most useful keyboard shortcuts — get to know these and you'll save oodles of time as you zip around Windows 10 without taking your hands off the keys.

Finally, if you're working on a tablet or a touchscreen PC, here's how to get around.

This article was originally published in December 2015 and most recently updated in June 2019.

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