7 Windows 10 fixes you’ll wish you knew sooner

Nearly a billion computers around the world run Windows 10. Critics have praised it. Some users love it while others hate it. Some experts estimate that Windows 10 dominates nearly 40 percent of the desktop OS market, handily surpassing the popularity of Windows 7.

Speaking of, are you still using Windows 7? Microsoft is ending support for the 10-year-old operating system in January. Tap or click to learn how to bring your PC up to date before it’s too late.

Using the slogan “upgrade your world,” Microsoft has described Windows 10 as the “final” version. Instead of replacing the operating system every few years, Windows 10 users have been able to download free updates. With the return of the Start menu and advent of Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 is arguably the best version ever produced.

But Windows 10 isn’t perfect. The last several updates introduced pretty serious bugs and flaws that broke essential features and left users with the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death.” Tap or click to get the scoop on one of the worst Windows updates and make sure you have the fix.

The operating system also has some quirks that may have sounded great at company meetings, but the vast majority of folks find these choices odd, annoying, and inconvenient. Luckily, you can change many settings to suit your taste.

How can you make your Windows 10 experience even better? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Take control of updates and reboots

Windows is good at installing updates. This process is straightforward and automatic. The bad news is, you usually have to reboot your computer, and you have no idea when a new update will suddenly start downloading.

Be careful. Did you get an email reminding you to update Windows? It’s a scam! Tap or click to learn how cybercriminals are tricking users into a dangerous ransomware trap.

To prevent these unscheduled interruptions, go to your settings menu, and set time parameters. This way, your computer will stop itself from updating during "active hours."

You can also pause updates altogether, halting them for up to 35 days.

This might impact your security, so you don’t want to go too long. But if you want a short reprieve, go to your Settings menu, choose the Windows Updates field and find Advanced Options. From there, you can toggle the Pause Updates option and switch it to On.

RELATED: Is your PC just not performing the way it should? Tap or click for 7 DIY tools to fix pesky Windows problems.

2. Limit Cortana’s interactions

Like other virtual assistants, Cortana is always listening for the wake command. Unfortunately, a flaw in the programming may allow hackers to break into a Windows 10 computer using Cortana's voice commands, even while it's locked. Anyone can issue voice commands to Cortana and force it into downloading malicious malware.

You can stop Cortana from putting your data at risk by removing Cortana from your lock screen and teach it to respond only to your voice alone.

  • Go to the Talk to Cortana option found in your Settings menu.
  • Under Hey Cortana, turn the Let Cortana Respond to Hey Cortana Switch to On.
  • Next, click the link labeled Learn How I Say Hey Cortana. This will allow you to go through the voice recognition training.
  • From here, click on the Cortana start button and repeat the six provided phrases. This will get Cortana familiar with your voice.
  • After the training is complete, you can go back to Cortana in the Settings menu and enable the Try to Respond Only to Me option.

3. Change search from Bing to Google (or your preferred search engine)

Bing is set as the default search engine for Microsoft Edge, but that may not sit well with you. Tap or click here for search engines that don’t track you.

So, here’s how you can change things up a bit.

  • Start by searching Google.com.
  • Click on the three dots at the top right corner to go to Settings.
  • Scroll to the bottom and choose View Advanced Settings.
  • Go down the list until you find the search in the address bar option. Click it and select Add New.
  • Click on Google and chose Add as Default. Done.

4. Use a PIN as your login

You can lock your computer with a long, convoluted password, or you can reset it to a simple PIN. Your PIN is only four digits long and doesn’t require any complicated parameters such as special characters or mixed case letters. It’s less secure, of course, but a PIN makes unlocking easier.

Setting up your PIN is pretty simple. Go to Settings > Accounts > Sign In Options. From there, click the Add button under PIN. Enter in any PIN of your choice and restart to give it a try.

TECH HOW-TO: Windows time-saving keyboard shortcuts you need to know.

5. Resize your Start menu like a pro

The start menu acts as the central hub for everything you do on Windows 10. Because of that, its default appearance can seem a little bland. Users have often complained about the size of the start menu, never realizing that this can also be customized.

To fix it, do the Windows drag. Click on the Start menu and move your cursor to the top edge of the icon until it shows as a two-sided arrow. Click, hold, and drag to resize the menu to your preferred size and let go.

You can easily resize your desktop icons, too. Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide.

6. Play DVDs the easy and free way

By now, you've probably noticed that Windows 10 won't play DVDs, and Windows Media Player has been removed. While Microsoft offers an official DVD playback option, this feature costs $15 and seems to have persistent problems.

Fortunately, there’s a better option available that can have you watching DVDs quickly and free of charge: VLC video player. Tap or click here to download it.

Be sure to download the desktop app instead of the Windows Store version, which won’t support DVDs or Blu-Ray discs.

7. Silence all the annoying announcements

Depending on your settings, Windows may start announcing everything you touch with an actual voice. Windows will also record and recite any text that you type into the Cortana Search Box, which may feel excessive.

You may have inadvertently turned on the Narrator feature, which is used by visually impaired users to better navigate the system without having to type.

To turn the Narrator off, you can either repeat the keyboard combination, CTRL + Windows Key + Enter or go to the Narrator settings app and tap Exit. To keep the Narrator from accidentally coming on again, go back to the Settings > General and uncheck the Enable shortcut to launch Narrator box. Problem solved.

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Learn about all the latest technology 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.