5 Windows 10 tricks you need to know

Windows 10 is now installed on more than 200 million gadgets worldwide. That's quite a feat in the tech world, since its official release was only six months ago. If your computer is one of those gadgets, you've probably found Windows 10 has its share of sheer winning features and, unfortunately, very frustrating steps.

Of course, getting used to a new operating system always takes time and effort. You have to relearn tricks, find where familiar items have moved or change things around to suit your style of computing. Let me help you along with a few insider tips on taking control of the new Start menu, improving privacy, finding the traditional Control Panel, cutting down on annoying notifications and more.

1. Take control of the start menu

One of the biggest problems with Windows 10's predecessor, Windows 8, was the lack of a Start menu. Microsoft replaced it with a touch-friendly Start screen that left desktop and laptop users with a mouse and keyboard out in the cold.

Microsoft wisely elected to bring back the Start menu for Windows 10. This time, it incorporates great features of the Start screen, such as "live tiles" for getting information from apps without opening them.

When you install Windows 10, your Start menu has programs on the left with app icons on the right. Some app icons are "live tiles" that automatically update with new information, such as the current weather and new messages.

Of course, you might not want these hogging up space if you don't use them, or if you want your own app or program icons there. Fortunately, customizing is simple and flexible.

Simply right-click on any app icon to resize it or unpin it from the Start menu. Selecting "Unpin from Start" takes it away. You can uninstall programs with a right-click as well.

To add an app to the tile area, click and drag its icon from the left column or right-click on an app icon and choose "Pin to Start."

Once the icon is located in the right-hand area, drag it to exactly where you want it. Putting icons close together lets you group them. You can name groups whatever you want, and you can move groups around by clicking the icon with the horizontal lines next to the name. Give it a shot and you'll see it's super easy.

Don't forget … you can click and drag the edges of the Start menu to make it larger or smaller. You can have it take up most of the screen, or very little space at all. It's your choice.

2. Make Windows 10 more private

One valid criticism of Windows 10 is that it stores more information about you than previous versions of Windows. The personal assistant Cortana, for example, remembers everything you tell her and keeps tabs on what you do on the computer so she can offer you better suggestions and recommendations.

Not everyone likes this level of data collection, and you can make changes to send Microsoft less information. Click here for the exact steps to take control of your Windows 10 privacy. You can also get separate programs that bring important privacy settings into one spot, such as Win10 Spy Disabler and AntiSpy.

3. Visit the old Control Panel

Windows 10 shipped with a streamlined Settings screen that has most of the options you'll want. You can find it under Start>>Settings.

But while the new Settings screen is handy for the basics, it doesn't have all the options a more advanced user might want. Fortunately, you can get to the old Windows Control Panel with no problem.

Simply right-click on the Start button and select "Control Panel." Right-clicking the Start button is also a fast way to access other hidden familiar areas you might want to use, such as the Device Manger or the Run command prompt.

4. Get fewer notifications

Windows 10 added a handy notification area, similar to what you find on smartphones. Simply click the notification icon in the lower-right corner of the screen and it will pull out the Action Center on the right side of the screen to display a list of new emails, app updates and more.

But with lots of apps and Windows features using notifications, the Action Center can quickly get cluttered, or just annoy you with continual popups. That's especially true when your new computer comes pre-loaded with a ton of software and apps you don't need. Click here to learn how to quickly declutter this junk from your computer.

You can also choose which apps and programs use the notification area. Go to Start>>Settings and click "System." Then go to the "Notifications & Actions" area and choose whether to see Windows tips, app notifications, notifications on the lock screen and more.

If you scroll down, you can turn notifications on and off for individual apps. You can also choose whether the notification plays a sound for each app.

Bonus: When you click the Notifications button, you'll see a list of Quick Actions at the bottom of the Action Center. Be sure to set Quiet Hours on notifications. It's really handy if you want notifications only during certain times.

5. Get the look you want

OK, changing the colors and background picture in Windows might not seem that important, but you're looking at your computer for hours every day, so why not see something you like? A lot of people just live with whatever theme Windows has out of the box, but making Windows your own is simple.

Go to Start>>Settings and choose "Personalization." Your first option is to change the Background. You can choose from a picture, solid color or slideshow. Windows 10 has some very nice default background pictures, or you can click "Browse" to choose your own. Be sure to choose a fit that looks good so the image isn't squashed and stretched. Fill, Fit or Center are safe choices.

Don't have any pictures yet that you want to use? Get hundreds of great wallpaper images for free.

Next, go to the Colors area and pick your accent color. By default, this affects only a few icons and window borders. But if you scroll down and turn on "Show colors on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar," they will all take whatever color you pick.

Other options include letting the computer pick a color based on your background image, which is great for slideshows, and making the Start menu, taskbar and notification area transparent. Play around with those to see how you like them.

Moving on, the Personalization area lets you customize the lock screen image and what shows up there; choose and save collections of backgrounds, colors and sounds as "themes"; and edit how the Start menu works.

Hint: If you got used to Windows 8.1's full-screen Start screen, the Start area is where you can get that back. Just turn on the "Use Start full screen" option.

Want to know even more about Windows 10? I have a slew of step-by-step tips and tricks about Windows 10 at Komando.com.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.