10 Windows 10 problems and how you can solve them

Updating to the April Windows 10 update came with its problems – so much so that Microsoft initially pulled the October 10 version due to terrible bugs. It was a real shame, because Windows 10 is probably Microsoft’s finest operating system to date. The October update has since been released, and brought with it a bunch of fixes for a lot of issues. But of course, as with every operating system, things are still unfortunately bound to go wrong at some point or another.

Whether you’ve got the October update or the messy April version, you could easily be the victim of bugs and problems. They affect users who updated from previous versions of Windows or bought devices with the operating system pre-installed alike, and can range from small annoyances to massive errors that ruin your experience.

Thankfully, most of the really irritating issues have been fixed with the October update. But that doesn’t mean these others won’t affect you.

Here are 10 of the most common problems with Windows 10 and how you can fix them forever, leaving you with a PC that has all of Windows 10’s new features and fewer of its frustrations.

10 Windows 10 problems and how to fix them:

1. How do I stop Windows 10’s automatic updates?

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Automatic updates have been a thorn in the side of Windows users for years. Unprompted, unexpected restarts to install important updates can take users by surprise, leading to wasted time. Things are just as problematic in Windows 10, not least because the first round of updates was riddled with errors: users complained about updates partially installing then stalling. Updates were then rolled back, users’ systems rebooted, and the whole process started again.

Some users claim success following simple perseverance, while others swear by manually installing updates individually. To do this, go to catalog.update.microsoft.com (this only works in Internet Explorer, not Edge) and enter “Windows 10” in the search box to see a list of compatible updates.

You could be forgiven for taking your PC’s health into your own hands. Choose Settings in the Start screen, then “Update & security”. Choose Advanced Options, then “Notify to schedule restart”. This won’t stop updates from downloading, but will at least prevent Windows acting on its own initiative when you pop downstairs for a cup of tea. Moreover, true control freaks can opt to defer upgrades. This doesn’t stop security updates downloading and installing, but does put the brakes on everything else.

2. Do I need antivirus software with Windows 10?

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As with Windows 8, Windows 10 comes with antivirus software in the form of Windows Defender. Tightly woven into its host operating system, it’s updated regularly and monitors your PC in real-time, as well as giving you the option to run manual scans if you suspect something’s amiss. As out-of-the-box software goes, it’s usable, easy to navigate and stops a reasonable proportion of threats. However, our independent testing revealed that it allowed 32% of threats through the net, prompting us to discourage users from relying on it.

Fortunately, there’s still a sizeable market of third-party antivirus software, not least our favoured free choice, Avast Free Antivirus. It performed well in our tests, and gamers will appreciate its silent mode, which prevents pop-ups. It’s also forgiving when it comes to installing new apps – you won’t find it stirring into life every time you add new software to your PC. For those who can’t tolerate the adverts in the free version, Avast Internet Security will set you back £40 per year (although Amazon has it for less), and is advert-free. It also adds useful features such as a firewall and anti-hijack protection, designed to protect you from phishing sites.

With Microsoft aiming for Windows 10 to be installed on a billion PCs worldwide by 2017, the tempting target presented by the world’s most installed operating system isn’t getting any smaller – you’d be advised to take precautions beyond Microsoft’s own, flawed antivirus software.

3. How do I stop Windows 10 installing updates when I shut down?

Often when you go to shut down your PC, you see a yellow exclamation mark icon on the ‘Shut down’ button. This basically means that Microsoft has downloaded Windows updates in the background and will apply them to your PC as soon as you click the ‘Shut down’ button. Depending on your Windows version and the size of the downloaded files, the time required for your PC to update and shut down can vary from a few seconds to several minutes.

There’s a simple way to bypass installing these updates and shut down your PC immediately. This method can be a life­saver if your laptop battery is low or if you’re in a hurry to shut down. The updates will then get deferred to the next time you switch on your PC.

First, save any files you’re working on and close all the programs on your PC. Now press the Windows key+R to open your Run dialogue box, type cmd into it, then press Enter to open your Command Prompt. Type the following into it: shutdown –s –f –t 00 (see screenshot below). Here, ‘­s’ means shutdown, ‘­f’ is the command to force­close any open programs (including ones in the background) and ‘00’ refers to the time­delay after which the command should be executed (instantly). Press Enter and your PC will shut down.

4. How do I stop Windows 10 using my 4G data?

One of Windows 10’s biggest problems has been invisible internet use. Even before it was released, users spotted that Windows 7/8 PCs were automatically downloading Windows 10 in the background, to the chagrin of users with metered connections. This continues after Windows 10 is installed: background updates often weigh in at several hundred megabytes. That’s inconvenient on forgiving home broadband connections, but a potential disaster on mobile internet accounts. To stop Windows 10 sucking down data in the background, go to Settings, then Network & Internet. Choose Wi-Fi and then Advanced Options. Toggle “Set as metered connection” to on, and Windows will stop getting non-essential updates, as well as turning off some app updates and Start screen tiles.

Puzzlingly, this doesn’t work on PCs that connect to the internet via an Ethernet port, which is worth remembering if you’ve got several PCs wired to your internet router. One decent-sized update and you could find yourself over your data limit.

5. How do I stop Microsoft getting all my personal info?

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A tricky one, as Windows 10 handles more personal information than ever. Its ability to sync your browser history across devices will be valued by anyone with a desktop PC, a laptop and a Surface device, while Cortana’s uncannily accurate speech recognition is a useful, futuristic touch. Meanwhile, OneDrive, Microsoft’s Dropbox-beating cloud storage and document service, weaves pervasive online storage throughout the OS.

The bad news is that all this involves sending data to Microsoft. Syncing browsers across different devices involves transmitting your browsing history, bookmarks, favourites, saved website passwords and your wireless networks’ names and passwords to Microsoft. Cortana collects data from your calendar and email, as well as your Bing search history.

There are deeper problems if you’ve taken the time to read Microsoft’s user agreement. It’s firm about its right to “access, disclose and preserve personal data” in order to “protect [our] customers”, and the eagle-eyed will have spotted that Windows 10’s advertising engine is based on “your likely interests or other information that we learn about you over time using demographic data, search queries, interests and favourites, usage data, and location data”.

If that’s made you nervous, head to Settings, then Privacy. Feel free to uncheck as many of the boxes as you like. Cortana can be put out to pasture by clicking the search box in the taskbar and then choosing the Settings icon (the cog).

Slide Cortana to off. Finally, sync settings can be found in the Accounts section of the Settings panel, and can be turned off completely or individually.

6. Why doesn’t Cortana work?

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Cortana, Microsoft’s much-vaunted Siri competitor, might not work out of the box due to a strange localisation bug. Click the search box on the taskbar and click the settings cog.

If you see a message saying Cortana isn’t available in your language or region when you know it is (the UK definitely qualifies), here’s what you need to do.

First, go to Settings, then “Time & language”. Choose “Region & language” on the left-hand side and click where it says “English (United Kingdom)”, and choose Options. Click Download under Speech, and do the same under Language Pack, if it’s available. Wait for both to download, then restart. When your PC has booted, click the search bar, then the Settings cog, and you should be able to activate Cortana.

If you can’t, go back to “Region & language” and change your country or region to the United States, and click “Add a language” under Languages. Find the English (United States) language pack and install it. Under Speech, choose English (United States), then reboot your machine. Activate Cortana, then change all your settings back to UK English. Reboot a final time and things should – fingers crossed – work.

7. How do I log in automatically in Windows 10?

As Windows and Microsoft’s personal accounts – whether you came to yours via Hotmail, Live, Outlook.com or Xbox – do more and more, security becomes more important. If, when you installed Windows 10, you gave it your Microsoft account details, your PC will already hold plenty of data. That’s why, when you come to log in, you’re asked for your password each time.

In practice, this can be a bit irritating. There’s nothing like turning on your PC and going to boil a kettle, only to find you still need to log in and wait for your computer to load your startup applications. The medium-security solution is to go to Accounts in the Settings menu and choose Sign-in Options, then add a PIN number. These need to be at least four characters long. The lowest security option is to have your Windows 10 PC start without a password. Microsoft has buried the option to do this, but it is there.

Click the search bar and type CMD to load a prompt. Type “control userpasswords2”, and uncheck “Users must enter a username and password to use this computer” in the resulting dialog box. Click OK and a new window will appear, into which you’ll enter your existing password twice. Click OK and your computer will start up and log in automatically in the future. We’ll leave it to your better judgement to decide whether this a wise move or not.

8. How can I tell which is the active window?

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Not all of Windows 10’s aesthetic changes have proved popular, and the way every single window – active or not – has a plain white title bar with black text can make it very difficult to tell which is live. This poses problems for those with multiple monitors, or high-DPI displays that can accommodate lots of windows at once. The change has made at least one member of the Alphr team pine for the days of title bars with customisable gradients.

The best workaround is to right-click the desktop and choose Personalise | Colours, then uncheck the automatic slider and pick a new accent colour. The difference is very subtle, but your chosen accent colour will surround the “live” window in a one-pixel-wide border.

Otherwise, choosing one of Windows’ high-contrast themes gives you four options that colour the title bar, at the expense of Windows’ aesthetic appeal.

9. What’s this about my WiFi password being shared in Windows 10?

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If you’ve skimmed the Windows 10 headlines, you might have caught wind of how Windows 10 automatically shares your Wi-Fi password with all your contacts. The feature in question is called Wi-Fi Sense and will be familiar to anyone with a Windows Phone device. Every time you connect to a wireless network, the password you use is encrypted and stored on a Microsoft server. It’s then shared, either with your contacts on Outlook.com, your Skype contacts, your Facebook friends, or all three groups simultaneously. The idea is that, if a friend from your contact list pops round, their Windows device will automatically connect to your wireless network without you needing to dictate an unwieldy password.

Network administrators will be hyperventilating at this point, and with good reason. For one thing, the average contact list in the Alphr office is stuffed not only with trusted friends and colleagues, but PR contacts, business associates, plumbers, local restaurants and so on, and Microsoft admits you can’t choose which contacts do and don’t get to access your wireless networks. Microsoft protests that the shared Wi-Fi passwords, apart from being encrypted, will only allow guests access to the internet, rather than your shared folders and networked devices, but the cautious will still recoil in horror, as will those on internet connections with a bandwidth cap.

You can opt out of Wi-Fi Sense by unchecking “Share network with my contacts” when you first connect to a wireless network, but unless you lean over the shoulder of every Windows 10-using visitor to your home to make sure they do the same, permanently opting out is the only option. This is achieved via the horrendous fudge of changing your Wi-Fi network’s SSID to include “_optout” at the end, which achieves the twin effect of stopping your Wi-Fi password being shared, and forcing you to reconfigure every device in your house so it automatically connects to your newly christened network.

10. Where has all my Windows 10 disk space gone?

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If you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 from a previous version of Windows, a handy thing has happened in the background. In the event you decide that Windows 10 isn’t for you – or you find that a critical piece of hardware is no longer supported – you can roll your PC back to its previous state thanks to a folder called Windows.old, which contains your old Windows installation. The bad news is that this folder can be enormous – over 15GB is common – which can impinge on other things you want to do with your PC.

Further bad news is that Windows considers Windows.old a system folder, and therefore prevents you from simply dragging it to the Recycle Bin. To clear it, type “clean up” into the search bar and choose the top option. Click on “Clean up system files” and, after a wait while Windows searches through the system drive, you may see a “Previous Windows installation(s) option. Select it, press OK, and space is your new friend.

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