The best enterprise tips and tricks for Windows 10

Here’s how to speed up Windows 10, keep it running smoothly, protect your privacy and more

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To make absolutely sure you’re not tracked online when you use Windows 10, head to choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out. In the “Personalized ads in this browser” and “Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” boxes (on the right side of the page), move the sliders from On to Off. Note that you need to go to every browser you use and make sure the slider for “Personalized ads in this browser” is set to Off.

Turn off location tracking

Wherever you go, Windows 10 knows you’re there. Some people don’t mind this, because it helps the operating system give them relevant information, such as local weather, what restaurants are nearby and so on. But if you don’t want Windows 10 to track your location, you can tell it to stop.

Launch the Settings app and go to Privacy > Location. Click Change and, on the screen that appears, move the slider from On to Off. Doing that turns off all location tracking for every user on the PC.

location Preston Gralla/IDG

If you click the Change button, you can turn off location tracking for every user on the Windows 10 device.

You can turn it off on a user-by-user basis as well — so if you have several people with different accounts using the same device, they can each turn location tracking on or off. To turn location tracking on or off for any single account, sign into the account, head back to this same screen and, instead of clicking Change, go to the slider beneath the word “Location” and move it to On or Off.

Finally, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair — you can turn off location tracking on an app-by-app basis. If you want your location to be used only for some apps and not others, make sure location tracking is turned on, then scroll down to the “Choose apps that can use your location” section. You’ll see a list of every app that can use your location. Move the slider to On for the apps you want to allow to use your location — for example, Weather or News — and to Off for the apps you don’t.

When you turn off location tracking, Windows 10 will still keep a record of your past location history. To clear your location history, scroll to “Location History” and click Clear. Even if you use location tracking, you might want to clear your history regularly; there’s no automated way to have it cleared.

Ditch a Microsoft account for a local account

When you use your Microsoft account to log into Windows 10, you’re able to sync your settings with all Windows devices. So, for example, when you make changes to your settings on a desktop PC, those changes will also be made on your laptop the next time you log in.

But maybe you don’t want Microsoft to store that information about you. And maybe you want to cut your ties as much as possible to anything Microsoft stores about you. If that’s the case, your best bet is to stop using your Microsoft account and instead use a local account.

It’s simple to do. Go to Settings > Accounts > Your info and select “Sign in with a local account instead.” A wizard launches. Follow its instructions to create and use a local account. Keep in mind that when you do this, you won’t be able to use Microsoft’s OneDrive storage or download and install for-pay apps from the Windows Store. You can, however, download and install free apps from the Windows Store.

local account Preston Gralla/IDG

Start here to set up a local account.

Get the most out of Cortana

Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, is one of the major additions to Windows 10 — and it’s a winner. Turn it on and Cortana alerts you to upcoming meetings; searches your PC and the Web; tells you about the weather, news and sports; and a lot more.

To help you get the most out of Cortana, I’ve put together a few of my favorite tips for using it — including using Cortana to answer questions directly without sending you to the web, using it to manage your Google Calendar, and using Cortana on the lock screen so you won’t even have to log into Windows to use it.

Note: These tips assume you’re already familiar with the basics of Cortana. If you want help getting started, see the “Say ‘Hey Cortana’” section of Computerworld’s Windows 10 Cheat Sheet.

Get a direct answer to your question

When you ask Cortana a question, it will typically show you the answer via a listing of web links; you then open the search results in your browser. That’s what happened, for example, when I asked, “What was the coldest day of the year in 2016 in Boston?”

That’s a useful but time-consuming process, because you have to browse through the search results, click one and then look for information from the web page that appears.

But there are plenty of questions that Cortana can answer directly without first sending you out to the web. Instead, you get your answers right in Cortana’s pane. Following is just a partial list — try experimenting on your own to see what else it knows.

Define [word] Want a definition for “absquatulate”? Just ask Cortana.

define word Preston Gralla/IDG

Cortana can offer you answers directly without sending you out to the web.

When is [name of holiday]? Cortana knows when holidays fall on the calendar.

Who is [title of person]? Cortana can tell you the names of the CEOs of Microsoft, Google and Apple, as well the president of the United States. Try other titles and names as well.

What time is it in [place]? Confused about what time it is right now somewhere in the world? Cortana knows.

Convert [currency] to [currency] Want to know the current exchange rates between currencies? Just ask.

How tall is [person]? It knows how tall most famous people are. So it knows, for example, that Barack Obama is six feet one inch tall, and that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is six feet four inches tall.

How long is [movie]? How long is The Godfather? Just ask, and Cortana will tell. However, it doesn’t know every movie ever made, so sometimes you’ll be sent out to the web for an answer.

What is the capital of [country or state]? If you need to know the capital of a country or state, Cortana knows.

Manage your Google Calendar with Cortana

Windows 10 includes a built-in calendar app that works with Cortana. However, if you’re a Google Calendar user, you can get Cortana to integrate with that as well, so you can use Cortana to create and edit appointments and show you your schedule with Google Calendar using the built-in Windows 10 Calendar app.

To do it, you need to integrate your Google Calendar with the Windows 10 Calendar. First, launch the Calendar app. (It’s typically found on the upper-left corner of the Start menu. You can also launch it by typing “Calendar” into Cortana, then clicking the Calendar app icon that appears at the top of search results.)

Next, click the Settings icon on the lower left of the Calendar screen — the icon is in the shape of a gear. When the Settings menu appears, select Manage Accounts > Add account. From the “Choose an account” screen, select Google. You’ll be asked to sign in with your Google account information. Follow the prompts to create the account.

google calendar Preston Gralla/IDG

You can create an appointment in your Google Calendar using Cortana.

That’s all it takes. From now on, your Google calendar will sync with the Windows 10’s Calendar app. So, for example, if you ask Cortana to “Create appointment,” you’ll be able to fill in the details using Cortana, including the date, time and purpose. Cortana will add the event to the Windows 10 Calendar. To save it to your Google calendar directly, choose the calendar from the dropdown list just above the Add button. Regardless of which calendar you add an event to, both Google and Windows 10 Calendar will remain in sync.

Also, when you ask to see your schedule — such as by asking, “What’s my schedule today?” — Cortana will show you the events from all of your calendars, including Google.

One downside is that you can’t add events to sub-calendars on Google Calendar (such as “home” or “work”) with any regular success. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Use Cortana on the lock screen

If you’ve got the Windows 10 Anniversary Update or the Windows 10 Creators Update, you can work with the digital assistant on the lock screen, which means you won’t even have to log into Windows to use it.

To get started: Click in the Cortana search bar and click the gear icon that appears on the left side of the pop-up menu. This brings up Cortana’s settings.

Scroll down to the lock screen section and move the slider to On. Look just below that for the setting, “Let Cortana access my calendar, email, messages, and Power BI data when my device is locked.” Switch that on as well. If you don’t, Cortana will be limited in what it can do for you from the lock screen — you’ll be able to listen to music and find out the weather from the lock screen, but you won’t be able to set reminders, send emails or add events to your calendar.

lock screen Preston Gralla/IDG

This setting lets you use Cortana on the lock screen in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

Once you’ve done that, to use Cortana from the lock screen, you can just say, “Hey Cortana,” and use it from the lock screen as you normally would, to set reminders, play music, check your calendar and more, without logging into Windows.

Miscellaneous tips

Finally, I’ve two more tips for you — one for tweaking the Start menu, and another to control how Windows updates itself.

Tweak the Start Menu

Don’t like the way the Start Menu looks? No problem — you can tweak it. To resize it, hover your cursor over any of its edges until a double-headed arrow appears, and then drag until it’s the size you want. You can also resize the live tiles on the Start menu. Right-click any of them and select Small, Medium, Wide or Large.

The Windows 10 Creators Update gives you an even more powerful way to tweak the Start menu: Place multiple tiles into a folder on the Start menu. It’s simple: You just drag one tile onto another. This automatically creates a folder with both tiles inside it. You can then drag any other tiles you want into the folder.

Folders look like tiles and display small thumbnail icons of all the apps they contain. Click a folder and it opens, with each app appearing as an individual tile. You can then click any tile to run the app. Click the folder again and all the tiles slide back inside.

windows folders Preston Gralla/IDG

Creating folders in the Start menu, each of which can contain tiles for multiple apps (see the third tile down in the “Play and explore” section).

Control Windows Updates

Many people have often complained about the unyielding way that Windows 10 updates itself — you can’t bypass an update, and you have to do it on a schedule set by Microsoft. However, if you have the Creators Updat,e you get some control over the process. In Creators Update, you’re no longer blindsided when Windows interrupts your work to do an update. You’ll be notified when an update is available and given the option of either installing it immediately, scheduling it for a specific time or putting it off by clicking “Snooze.”

Clicking “Pick a time” brings up a dialog box that lets you schedule the precise day and time the update runs. Clicking “Snooze” puts off the update for three days. Three days later another notification appears with the same three options. If you want, you can click “Snooze” again. You can keep doing this to indefinitely put off the update.

windows update Preston Gralla/IDG

This dialog box lets you schedule a time to update Windows 10.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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