Windows 10 tricks

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Windows 10 is essentially malware.

Windows 10 is the worst version of Windows Microsoft has made. Below I catalog various problems with Windows 10, and, in some cases, how to bypass them and make the OS at least partially usable again.

Bad UI

The user interface of Windows 10 is the worst Microsoft has ever made, for several reasons:

  • Title bars are no longer standard across forms and many programs abandon the default layout. For example, in an attempt to look "clean," the designers removed the visual cues on the title bar section from many of their forms (like PC Settings, Calculator). They are now the same color as the background of the form making it much harder to know when you're clicking on the form or the title bar. This causes the user to frequently miss when trying to drag a form by its title bar or double-click it to min/max it. Also, by not having a visible title bar, it's impossible to know at a glance which form has focus.
  • All of the default form controls, which previously used a visually functional 3D style, have been replaced with flat controls like way back on Windows 3. Also, nearly every control is now the same color as the form, including toolbars, side bars, scroll bars, status bars, text boxes, lists, grids, grid headers, etc. Some of them at least have a bounding box, but many of them are now impossible to visually demarcate. This causes a lot of missed-clicks because you can't know which control you're hovering over. This is especially bad when multiple controls that can accept clicks are right next to each other. For example, if you intend to click the first record in a grid, but accidentally click the header by mistake because it's so hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, not only will you not highlight the record you want, but, by clicking the header, you will completely resort the grid, pushing the record you wanted off the display.
  • Several forms now hide the scrollbar almost entirely (it's only two pixels wide and right near the border). To make it visible, you have hover your mouse over a narrow range on the right edge of the form for about a second to make it visible, but it will hide itself again after you move your cursor away from it. This makes it easy to miss any data beyond what is currently visible because, without a scrollbar, it appears as though there is nothing left to see.
  • The border around forms has been decreased to a single pixel. This makes reading text near the edges of overlapping forms more difficult. Overlap a couple Command Windows or File Explorers and you'll see just how terrible it is. In every prior version of Windows this was not only thicker, but you could customize it to whatever size you preferred, now it's forced to 1 pixel. Also, the narrow border messes up resizing. In previous versions of Windows, you would see the visual area where you would need you place your mouse to get the resize cursor, but, because a single pixel isn't wide enough for users, Microsoft now uses the shadowy area around forms as the resizable area. Of course, it doesn't have an obvious edge, so you're again expected to just guess where you need your mouse cursor to be.
  • Controls like drop-down menus, radio buttons, and check boxes no longer show when they have focus, so you can't tell by looking at a form which control will accept keyboard input.

Bad USB Connection Locks Up Explorer

If something goes wrong while trying to access a USB device, Explorer, and any programs that access the device, will often lockup. I frequently connect a portable USB hard drive and my phone to my computer, and, every so often, Windows will have trouble accessing these devices. When this happens, the program that was trying to access the device locks up and can't even be killed with Task Manager. I also can't open a File Explorer to the drive, or even any other programs that access it (like Recycle Bin). Either a reboot or simply unplugging the device will get things working again, although, this usually leaves the device in a corrupt state, and Check Disk will have to be run to fix it and recover any lost files.

Can't Customize Colors

Windows 10 removes the majority of color customizations. In most previous versions of Windows, you could set a custom color for pretty much every aspect of the interface including the forms, controls, even to the point of being able to change the highlight and shadow colors of 3D elements. Unfortunately, in Windows 10, they removed this entirely from the theme engine. Now, you can choose only between a bright white form or a total black form (both of which are harsh on the eyes). Your only other option of customization is the screen's background color and a form highlight color (which is not used on several forms), everything else is mandated by the theme with no way to customize it.

Can't Pin Folders to Start Bar

Windows 10 doesn't let you pin individual folders to the start bar. If you try to pin a folder to the start bar, it will instead pin a generic link to the File Explorer which opens to Quick Access. To work around this failing, you can setup a Quick Launch toolbar.

Can't Uninstall Programs

Windows no longer lets you uninstall programs that it deems essential, however, Microsoft has a very broad definition of "essential." For example, the following programs are deemed so mission critical that they cannot be removed: Alarms & Clock, Camera, Cortana, Get Help, Edge, Microsoft Photos, Microsoft Store, and People. Several other programs can be uninstalled, but will be automatically reinstalled at the next Windows update without your permission.

Case Change File Refresh Bug

If you rename a file but only change the case of some letters (for example, rename "test" to "Test"), Windows 10 will not refresh the file name. You must manually refresh the file explorer in order to see your changes. This bug has existed since at least Windows 7.

Clear Icon Cache

Nearly every version of Windows stupidly doesn't update the icon cache when an icon file has been altered. It also has a tendency to overflow the cache and display the wrong icons for various files. Both are common problems for icon designers. To force windows to purge its existing icon cache, do the following:

  1. Click Start.
  2. In the Search box, type ie4uinit.exe -ClearIconCache.
  3. Press Enter or click the program in the list.
  4. Windows will clear the icon cache and draw the modified icon.

Control Panel vs. PC Settings

Ever since Windows 3, Microsoft has placed the configuration programs for Windows in a section called Control Panel. In Windows 10, Microsoft moved some of the functions out of Control Panel and put them in a new section called Windows Settings. So, instead of there being a single place for all of settings, there are now two, and a Windows user just has to know which one has the setting they're looking for. The new Windows Settings has a weaker UI, and, for some strange reason, doesn't support alphabetical sorting or icon listing. Thankfully, a lot of the functions were merely duplicated and still exist in Control Panel, but this means you now have semi-duplicated programs on your computer wasting space and confusing users.

An example of a setting that has been duplicated is the setting for changing the system clock. In Control Panel it's called "Date and Time," and in Windows Settings, it's called "Time & Language" (as if the two have anything to do with each other). An example of a setting that has been eliminated from Control Panel and moved to Windows Settings is "Display" which is now confusingly called "System." Several settings were removed from Control Panel and not added to Windows Settings at all, eliminating them entirely, including "Desktop Gadgets," "Getting Started," "HomeGroups," "Performance Information and Tools," and "Windows CardSpace."

Default Applications Can No Longer Be Changed Easily

Even when running with administrator privileges, a program can no longer automatically change which application should open a file extension by default. For example, if you install a PDF viewer, it cannot replace Edge as the default viewer. Instead, you have to manually set this, either by right-clicking on the file and changing the default viewer (it doesn't always allow this), or by using the hugely bloated Default Apps form which has hundreds of extensions for files you don't even have installed and requires a lot of manual filtering or multiple clicks for each extension. This is especially obnoxious for programs which have a lot of file extension support like foobar2000 and 7-Zip, which now require the user to do a lot of manual selection.

Disable Quick Access

Quick Access is a "feature" of Windows which allows anyone snooping on your computer to know which folders you were most recently viewing. This security flaw is turned on by default, so, if you care about your privacy, you'll want to turn off. To do so, do the following:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. In the menu, click View.
  3. Click the Options button.
  4. In the General Tab, in the Privacy section, uncheck Show recently used files in Quick access, and Show frequently used folders in Quick access.
  5. Click Clear to delete the history of File Explorer.
  6. Click OK to save your changes.

Disable/Enabled Visual Effects

Windows 10 slows down your ability to use it with a lot of stupid animations. Some of these are a little helpful at letting you keep track of what is going on with their terrible UI, but others are very slow and/or obtrusive. To toggle various animations off or on, do the following:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Open System.
  3. In the left menu, click Advanced system settings.
  4. In the System Properties dialog, select the Advanced tab.
  5. Under Performance, click Settings.
  6. In the Visual Effects tab, check or uncheck the visual effects you desire.

Drag and Drop Error

Windows 10 has several ways where it can lose the ability to drag and drop with a mouse. Fixing it depends on what is causing it. This site includes several potential fixes.

Dragging Programs Out of the Search Results

In Windows 7, when you searched for files, you could drag a file from the results list and copy, move, or create a short-cut directly from the list. Windows 10 eliminated this feature. Thankfully, in a later version, they added it back.

File Explorer Has Confusing Whitespace Interaction

In Windows 10 File Explorer, when using the List or Small Icons views, you now interact with files and folders based on the whitespace after their names. Windows 10 functions the same as Windows 7 when interacting with the icon and name portions of files and folders, but whitespace interaction is different and unpredictable depending on what you're doing. Below I describe how whitespace interaction works:

  • Left-click: Left-clicking the whitespace of a file selects it.
  • Right-click: Right-clicking the whitespace of a file that is selected opens its context menu, but right-clicking the whitespace of a file that is highlighted confusingly opens the context menu of File Explorer.
  • Double-click: Double-clicking the whitespace of a file opens it.
  • Second click: You might think that performing a second click on the whitespace of a selected file would activate the file rename function, but it does nothing.
  • Left-click, hold, and move: Even though it looks like you're going to interact with it because of the highlighting, if you left-click, hold, and move the cursor in the whitespace of a file, you will not begin dragging it. Instead create a selection box as though you were in the whitespace of File Explorer. The selection box now selects all files it touches by their whitespace, so you can no longer select files based on their file length like in Windows 7.
  • Drag-and-drop transfers: Drag-and-dropping onto the whitespace of folders transfers into them and drag-and-dropping onto the whitespace of executables launches them, so be very careful when drag-and-dropping files into a File Explorer that has a lot of folders or executables because it is easy to inadvertently transfer or activate your files. You either have to carefully position your cursor in the narrow strips between the columns or scroll to the end of the file list where there is true File Explorer whitespace each time you transfer a file.

This unwanted behavior appears to have been added in the Creator's Update, and, according to a Microsoft forum, it's impossible to revert back to the far more intuitive Windows 7 functionality.

Because consistency is too hard, whitespace highlighting was not added to Medium, Large, and Extra Large Icons views.

Fixing the Start Menu

The start menu in Windows 10 is an absolute mess:

  • Even if you paid for Windows 10, it's full of advertisements for garbage Microsoft products, which means you paid Microsoft to show you ads!
  • Rather than group programs intelligently, it lists every single program on your computer (including dozens that you don't even have, see above!). To find the program you want, you now have to scroll down a huge list.
  • You can't uninstall Windows Apps. If you right-click on a Windows App like Skype or One Drive and click uninstall, it will disappear from the menu, but it will come right back after the next Windows Update.
  • Most of the customization abilities seen in previous versions of Windows have been removed so you can't make it look the way you want.
  • It takes up the entire screen, obfuscating any open windows you might want to see.

Later versions of Windows 10 made it slightly less hideous, but it's still pretty much impossible to make it function in a useful manner. Most people get around this by using the keyboard to type in what they want to find in the search bar, which defeats the entire point of a mouse-drive graphical user interface. Since it can't be configured, you'll have to resort to a third-party solution. Classic Shell will give you a much higher level of control over your start menu and File Explorer menus.

Hide News and Interests

The News and Interests toolbar takes up space on your taskbar and wastes bandwidth and memory to show you click-bait stories, ads, and the rare news-worthy article. Microsoft controls which stories you see, collects money on the ads, and tracks what you read to sell your usage statistics to advertisers. To hide this adware, to the following:

  1. Right-click on the taskbar.
  2. Expand News and interests.
  3. Click Turn off.

While this hides the button, and stops meaningful tracking, the program will continues to run in the background eating up memory and probably still uses bandwidth. As far as I know, it's impossible to actually remove the program, as appears to be entwined into necessary OS functions.

Hide Windows Notifications

In previous versions of Windows, you could move the notifications icon into the hidden fold in the system tray, Windows 10 has removed this ability. Notifications are now also populated with desperate attempts at getting you to buy shitty Microsoft products. If anyone figures out a way to hide this, let me know.

Installation Requires Microsoft Account

Microsoft now requires you to setup a Microsoft just to install Windows 10. There is no button to skip it, and leaving the entry blank won't work either. Thankfully, in order to accommodate stand-alone computers, Microsoft will not pop this dialog if you're not connected to the Internet. So, to bypass this obnoxious demand, you can unplug your Ethernet cable, or, if you have wireless, use a hardware disable switch. This will allow you to create a local account for your computer instead. The next time you boot your computer with Internet access, i will try again to make you create a Microsoft account, but now you can close the dialog.

Missing Icons

Windows 10 sometimes loses shortcut icons, even on important system shortcuts like the Recycling Bin. This frequently happens to shortcuts made from programs that are now called Windows "Apps" like Calculator, Photos, and the like. To get the icon back, just recreate the shortcut. However, for system shortcuts like Recycling Bin or Control Panel, do the following:

  1. Right-click on your desktop.
  2. In the menu, click Personalize.
  3. On the right column, click on Showing desktop icons.
  4. Uncheck the shortcut with the missing icon, the check it back. It should be recreated with a proper icon.

Open With No Longer Allows Default Changes

In Windows 7 and prior, you could right-click on a file, choose "Open with" from the menu, choose the program you want to open file with, and click a checkbox to make the program the new default program with which to open all files with that extension. Windows 10 has removed this functionality for various formats. For example, if you use the Photos app to open images, you will no longer be able to set a new default program for any of the image formats read by Photos. Fixing this must be done on a case by case basis, but usually involves going into Control Panel and Default Apps. However, this doesn't let you customize which programs are used to open specific extensions, it only lets you modify a block of extensions.

Photos Hangs on USB Devices

The Photos app in Windows 10 has a lot of problems, but the most annoying for me is that it very frequently hangs and soft-locks when trying to open images from USB devices. This includes phones which use MTP, but even on portable hard drives that use mass storage protocol. There doesn't appear any way to fix this, you just have to replace the program with something that works properly like IrfanView.

Programs Switch Monitors When Monitors Are Turned Off

In Windows 7 and above, if you're running multiple monitors and one or more are connected through Display Port, and you turn off a DP monitor, Microsoft will move any open programs that were displayed on that monitor to another monitor. This occurs because, Microsoft doesn't properly distinguish between a monitor that has been turned off versus unplugged. If a monitor is unplugged, the user would want any programs displayed on it to move to an active monitor since the unplugged monitor can no longer be used. However, if a monitor is merely turned off, the user will want those programs running on it to remain running on the turned off monitor. You can see this happen by opening Display Settings and leaving it open on a running monitor, then turning off a different monitor. Windows will remove the monitor entirely from your display options as though it were unplugged.

Searching on Microsoft's forums for an answer, it turns out this bug has existed since around 2010 and Microsoft refuses to address it. Rather than admit this problem exists by design, their support technicians always blame the display drivers (even before knowing which drivers a person is using). As far as I can tell, there isn't a way to fix this. A workaround is to use HDMI cables which don't seem to have this problem.

Quick Launch Toolbar

The Quick Launch Toolbar was a nice feature of Windows XP that was removed in Windows Vista which used the less-intuitive and more cluttered Pin system. To re-enable the quick launch, do the following:

  1. Right-click on the taskbar.
  2. Select the Toolbars menu.
  3. Click on New Toolbar...
  4. Navigate to .\Users\Your User\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch.
  5. Highlight the Quick Launch folder, and click "Select Folder".
  6. Right-click on the new Quick Launch toolbar in the taskbar.
  7. In the menu, uncheck "Show Title" and "Show Text".
  8. Use the toolbar's handle to drag it fully to left to position it like XP.

Open Command Window Here Removed From Shift-Click Menu

In Windows 7 and prior, you could shift-click in a File Explorer to add the item "Open command window here" into the context menu. This was very useful to users who needed to run command line programs, but few people knew about it because Microsoft stupidly hid the feature. Unfortunately, Windows 10 replaced it with "Open PowerShell window here," which often requires more effort to perform the same basic features as Command Window and lacks some of the features all together.

Re-Enable Volume Mixer

Being able to easily adjust volume per application was one of the few decent Windows Vista improvements, so, naturally, Windows 10 removed it and returned to the less-functional single master volume slider like Windows 95. The Volume Mixer has a master volume control, but also includes application-specific volume sliders. To set the taskbar volume icon back to opening the more useful Volume Mixer, do the following:

  1. Open RegEdit.
  2. Navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion
  3. If there isn't a key named MTCUVC, create one.
  4. Inside of the MTCUCV key, if there isn't a D-Word (32-bit) Value named EnableMtcUvc, create one (it's case-sensitive).
  5. Double-click the EnableMtcUvc value, set its Value Data to 0, and click OK.
  6. The taskbar volume icon will now open to the Volume Mixer by default once more.

Search Inside Zip Files

By default, Windows 10 will not search in compressed zip files. To force it to do so, do the following:

  1. Open a file explorer window.
  2. Click in the Search box at the top right, a Search menu item will appear.
  3. Click the Search menu item.
  4. Click the Advanced options drop down.
  5. Click Zipped (compressed) folders to enable it.

Note, Windows will still fail to search in most other compressed formats like RAR, 7Z, etc.

Set a Default Folder Style

In File Explorer -> View -> Options -> View -> Apply to Folders, Windows claims to allow you to set a default icon view (details, list, large icons, etc.) for all folders. As far as I can tell, the Apply to Folders and Reset Folders buttons has not worked since Windows XP, and every version of Windows since only partially processes these buttons for a few folders or just the folder you're in. Instead, Windows attempts to guess at how the files should be viewed based on their extensions. If there are a lot of media files in a folder, it will switch to large icon view, even if you set the default to list view. If you want to change the icon view and have Windows remember it, you have to manually set the icon view to your favorite, usually twice, and Windows will then honor the new view for awhile. This won't change the view for file open and save dialogs, you will have to manually set those as well, usually twice. If you ever change the drive's letter, you will have to do this all over again for every folder, twice. If anyone can find a way to get this to work properly, please let me know.

Setting a Custom Background Color

The latest version of Windows 10 finally reverted back the ability to set the background to a custom color and added decent colors to choose from, but the earlier versions were garbage and required to to have to use run an older program to get access:

control /name Microsoft.Personalization /page pageWallpaper

Slow File Operations

File operations like copying, moving, and deleting files seems to be much slower on Windows 10 than Windows 7. I'm not sure if this is just because Windows 10 truly is slower, or if it's because the OS pops a dialog for all slow actions sooner than Windows 7. I've just noticed that you can frequently see the progress bar moving during a file action that should take only a few microseconds to perform.

Stop Gaming Overlay Error

The error dialog.

If you see this error message when you launch certain games, it means Windows is trying to launch the Xbox Game Bar, but it has been uninstalled. Because Windows doesn't properly turn off this setting after you uninstall the Xbox Game Bar, you'll have to do it manually:

  1. Open PC Settings.
  2. Click the Gaming category.
  3. Uncheck the Enable Xbox Game Bar setting.

Turn Off Admin Nag Message For File Access

Even with UAC entirely off, Windows 10 feels it necessary to require a nag message every time you modify files anywhere on your boot drive outside of your User folder. To turn this off entirely, do the following:

  1. Open RegEdit.
  2. Drill down to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System
  3. In the right pane look for EnableLUA and modify its value to 0.
  4. Close RegEdit, reboot.

Turn Off Jump Lists

By default, Windows 10 keeps a record of every file you open with every program that supports Jump Lists including programs like LibreOffice, Notepad++, VLC Media Player, and countless others. These files will be logged and added to Quick Access and on the right-click of the tasks in the Star menu. This is both a security and privacy flaw because it allows anyone using your computer to easily gain access to all of the documents you've ever opened. To turn off Jump Lists, do the following:

  1. Open PC Settings.
  2. Click Personalization.
  3. In the left side bar, click Start.
  4. Turn off the item labeled "Show recently opened items in Jump Lists on Start or the taskbar and in File Explorer Quick Access."

Turn Off User Account Control

Microsoft assumes that the default Windows user is incompetent (probably a safe bet) and pops an annoying nag message every time you try to do anything of substance on your computer. This was added to prevent users from granting admin rights to dangerous programs, but, if the user is stupid enough to install a virus, does Microsoft really think a confirmation dialog is going to solve the problem? To turn this waste of time off:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Select Security and Maintenance.
  3. On the left side, click Change User Account Control settings.
  4. Drop the slider all the way to the bottom.
  5. Give a middle finger to Microsoft's "Not recommended" warning.

Turn Off Updates

When Windows 10 first came out, you couldn't stop or even pause updates, so the OS would reboot your system without your permission, destroying all unsaved data in the process. The latest version allows you to temporarily pause updates for a short period of time, provided you notice the mostly hidden reboot notification in the system tray. Many people prefer to disable updates because Microsoft has a long history of creating updates that damage or corrupt systems under certain circumstances and they frequently sneak hidden spyware into their updates.

I haven't looked too deep into how to permanently turn these off, but here is a guide which claims to be able to do it.

Uninstall Photos

Although Microsoft won't let you uninstall their awful photo viewer (how could an OS run without the ability to look at pretty pictures?), you can at least uninstall the facial recognition engine which identifies every face that it sees and uploads the data back to Microsoft. To do this, do the following:

  1. Open PC Settings.
  2. Click Apps & features.
  3. In the list, click on Microsoft Photos to expand it.
  4. Click Advanced options.
  5. Disable all permissions.
  6. In the App add-ons & downloadable section, click Photos.DLC.MediaEngine to highlight it, then click Uninstall to remove it.

Wakes From Sleep Mode

Sleep mode is a useful feature that allows Windows to be put into and woken up from a suspended state without needing to close any programs. Unfortunately, versions 7-10 don't always stay asleep and will often wake the PC up without warning. If your monitors are set to automatically turn off and on based on a signal, this means your monitors will also turn on when Windows wakes up your PC. If this happens at night, your monitors will be on for hours with the same log-in screen, damaging your monitors with burn in. Because there are about a dozen things which can cause this problem, there is no clear solution for fixing it, and I still haven't been able to keep my computer from waking from sleep mode when I'm not home, but here are some of them:

To disable wake up timers, do the following:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click Power Options.
  3. On the left side bar, click Change when the computer sleeps.
  4. Click Change advanced power settings.
  5. In the "Power Options" dialog, expand the Sleep tree.
  6. Expand the Allow wake timers tree.
  7. Set both "On battery" and "Plugged in" to Disable.

To disabled automatic maintenance for waking up your PC, do the following:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click Security and Maintenance.
  3. Expand Maintenance.
  4. Click Change maintenance settings.
  5. Uncheck Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer at scheduled time.

There are many other possible things that can cause this problem, this page describes several: [1]