7 Lost Windows Features You Can Bring Back
As Windows grows, Microsoft prunes its list of features. Whenever a major version releases, some old features get replaced by new tools while others simply disappear.
If your favorite Windows feature dropped off recently, don’t fear — we’ll show you how to get it back. Here are seven recently-deprecated features you can re-enable or simulate in Windows 10.
1. Windows Media Center
You probably know that Windows Media Player is Microsoft’s basic audio and video player. Despite not seeing an update since Windows 7, it’s still included with Windows 10 . However, the more powerful Windows Media Center — which came at a cost for Windows 8 users — was dropped for Windows 10.
Windows Media Center was useful for playing media from network locations, as well as streaming and recording live TV. Thus, many mourned its loss when Windows 10 launched.
The good news is that you can bring back an unofficial copy of Windows Media Center in Windows 10 . If you’d rather not use unsupported software, replace it with an alternative that’s built for the modern entertainment scene.
2. Desktop Gadgets
Remember the old gadgets you could place on your desktop in Windows 7? They provided quick utilities and information like a calculator or weather report. While many users enjoyed these, Microsoft retired them after a few years because they contained security vulnerabilities. Plus, with the launch of Windows 8 and its Modern apps, the live tiles feature all but replaced desktop gadgets.
Now, you can restore the classic desktop gadgets in Windows 10 . However, we don’t recommend you do so due to the security risks. Microsoft found that these widgets could easily be exploited by a nefarious party and weren’t easy to patch, thus they dropped support for them.
Instead, you should try the safe and much more powerful Rainmeter. This free tool provides you with dozens of ways to customize your Windows desktop, including icon packs, live wallpapers, and yes, gadgets.
We’ve written a beginner’s guide to Rainmeter , plus we’ve shown you how to create custom desktop icons and even make your own theme . If you put in some time, you can make your desktop look and function however you want with Rainmeter.
3. File Explorer Libraries
Libraries, introduced in Windows 7, provided a new way to manage your files . While they were actually pretty useful if you took the time to set them up properly, they confused a lot of people. Thus, Microsoft hid them in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. They’re still available to use, though, and you can enable them in just a moment.
Open a File Explorer window, then right-click any empty space in the left shortcut pane. Click the Show libraries option and you’ll see a new Libraries header in the left sidebar. Double-click this, and you’ll see the default Documents, Pictures, and the like. To access them in their own pane, you can also type shell:Libraries into the navigation bar of any File Explorer window.
Libraries allow you to group many folders that contain similar files in the same place for easy access — check out our guide to mastering libraries for more.
4. Classic Windows 95/98 Theme and Start Menu
It’s ancient by today’s standards, but a lot of people still have nostalgia for Windows 95 . In past versions of Windows, you could activate a classic theme that looked a lot like the Windows 9x days. Whether you did this because you like the look or to stop wasting system resources on all the fancy eye candy , it’s no longer possible in Windows 10. Turning off all the special effects doesn’t add the retro theme.
Thus, you can resort to installing a theme pack to partially restore the retro look. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect copy of the original theme, as it relies on the High Contrast normally used for accessibility purposes. First, visit kizo2703’s DeviantArt page and click the Download link on the right side to grab the classic theme ZIP. Save it somewhere on your computer, then extract the contents to this folder:
C:\Windows\Resources\Ease of Access Themes
Next, open the Settings app and go to Ease of Access > High contrast. This is where Windows collects the accessibility themes. When you click in the drop-down menu, you should see the Classic entry you’ve extracted. Select it and hit Apply to coat Windows 10 in Windows 98 paint. Note that this ends up making Windows look pretty ugly.
The other piece of the puzzle is getting the classic Windows 9x Start Menu back. For this, you can use the versatile Classic Shell. Install it and you can restore the old single-column Classic style Start Menu right from its settings. You can also apply the Classic Start Button to complete the look.
If you’d rather, you can make Windows 10 look like Windows XP, 7, or 8.1 .
5. Ad-Free Games
Do you remember whittling away the hours playing Windows’ built-in games? Whether you learned to use a mouse with Solitaire or racked up a high score in Windows XP Pinball, you were probably sad when you realized those games aren’t around in Windows 10. Microsoft does include Solitaire with Windows 10 and offers Minesweeper on the Windows Store, but they’re crammed full of ads , unless you pay a ridiculous $15/year (Solitaire) or $10/year (Minesweeper) to get rid of the ads.
You don’t have to pay money to play stinking Solitaire. Unfortunately, you can’t just copy these games from a Windows 7 installation. But we’ve shown you how to restore classic Windows games on Windows 10 , which is pretty simple.
For Minesweeper, try the MinesweeperForFree website to play without ads.
6. Aero Glass Theme
After the solid colors of Windows XP, Microsoft introduced a translucent look for Windows Vista and Windows 7’s Taskbar and title bars. This was called Aero, and it was popular thanks to the clean aesthetic. Since Windows 8, however, Aero is gone and its replacement is plain-colored bars once more.
Thankfully, with a few tweaks, it’s not hard to get the Aero glass theme back in Windows 10 . For a complete transformation, try making Windows 10 look more like Windows 7 overall .
In the future, we might see a new theme known as NEON .
7. Group Policy Editor in Windows Home
This isn’t so much a recently released feature as one that’s flat-out missing for many users of Windows. Group Policy, if you weren’t aware, is a feature of Windows Professional and above editions that lets system administrators restrict certain features and change settings for many machines at once. That’s why the Group Policy Editor isn’t included in Home editions of Windows 10 — most regular users don’t have a need for it.
However, Group Policy has a ton of benefits , even for home users. You can use it to lock down Windows for a child’s account , for example.We share tips all the time that are much easier to adjust via Group Policy than by editing the Registry.
We share tips all the time that are much easier to adjust via Group Policy than by editing the Registry.
New Group Policy to send all sites opened in Internet Explorer automatically to Microsoft Edge. Very useful. pic.twitter.com/asf1eOzSgT
— SwiftOnSecurity v7 (@SwiftOnSecurity) August 22, 2016
Thankfully, if you’re on Windows 10 Home, you don’t have to pay $99 for an upgrade to Pro. Just follow our steps for bringing the Group Policy Editor to your edition and you’re ready for a world of neat customizations. If you’re not sure which version of Windows 10 you have, just type About into the Start Menu and click About your PC to check.
Bonus: Microsoft Paint!
Recently, Microsoft released a list of features that it will deprecate in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, coming this autumn. The classic Microsoft Paint is on that list, leading many outlets to incorrectly state that MS Paint is “dying.” Instead, Paint will no longer receive updates and will likely die off after several iterations of Windows into the future.
Microsoft Paint is dead, RIP.
MS Paint is survived by Minesweeper and Solitaire.
In lieu of flowers please send crudely drawn stick figures pic.twitter.com/ajUlocEcRF
— theCHIVE (@theCHIVE) July 24, 2017
Thus, for some time, you’ll still be able to type mspaint into the Start Menu to open everyone’s favorite drawing app for low-quality memes. Barring this, Microsoft will also release a Paint app to the Windows Store , ensuring that it’s available for years to come.
What Windows Features Do You Miss?
We’ve shared seven beloved features that Microsoft killed off for one reason or another. Thanks to tweaks and replacements, you can get back or emulate all these without much trouble. After some time, certain features must die to make way for new ones — which is a good thing! We just wish we could get rid of the annoying features nobody needs .
After restoring these, take time to explore the best under-appreciated features of Windows before they die off due to lack of use!
Did you miss any of the features discussed here? What old Windows feature do you wish you could bring back? Tell us down in the comments!
Image Credits: Sabelskaya/Shutterstock