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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the huge number of Windows 10 features? For starters, you’ve got the new features added with every major update, plus the hidden Windows 10 features that not many people know about. That’s a lot to keep track of.
Today, we want to highlight some Windows 10 features that not enough people use. Whether they’re brand new, old but forgotten, or just plain underutilized, here are 10 features that deserve another look.
1. Windows Sonic Surround Sound
Chances are that if you have basic headphones for your PC, they output stereo sound. While this is perfectly functional for listening to music and videos, upgrading to surround sound gives a better experience for gaming.
With the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft added an option to enable virtual surround sound for your headphones. It’s called Windows Sonic, and it’s one of the coolest new things in Windows 10.
Right-click the Sound icon in your System Tray, then click Playback devices. Double-click your speakers in the resulting list, then switch to the Spatial sound tab. Here, change the dropdown box from Off to Windows Sonic for Headphones and check the Turn on 7.1 virtual surround sound box.
This isn’t a substitute for proper surround sound, but you should notice a difference. Not bad for free!
2. Virtual Desktops
Virtual desktop support was one of the most requested features for Windows 10, but somehow it’s still ended up as one of the most underrated. If you aren’t using them to increase your productivity, you really should!
Press Windows Key + Tab to open the Task View. This lets you browse your open windows, but you can click New desktop in the bottom-right to make a new virtual desktop. This lets you open up a new set of windows, independent of what you’re working on.
If you don’t use multiple monitors, this is a great way to add additional working space. But even with multiple monitors, you can use extra desktops for your various browser profiles, to separate work and leisure apps, or any other use you can think of.
Don’t let cluttered windows get in your way. Take time to separate them into virtual desktops and you’ll be better off.
3. Storage Sense
Of all the tasks you could spend time doing on your computer, deleting old files likely doesn’t top your list. Thus, manual solutions like the Disk Cleanup tool and even the great CCleaner aren’t everybody’s favorite apps to use.
But one of Windows 10’s hidden features makes cleaning out old files easy — and does it automatically. Thanks to Storage Sense, you don’t have to set reminders to run disk cleanups anymore. Navigate to Settings > System > Storage and set Storage sense to On. You can then click Change how we free up space to decide what Windows deletes when it cleans.
You may still need to perform a full cleaning of Windows occasionally. But Storage Sense handles the short-term cruft for you.
4. File History Backup
Speaking of your files, you’re backing them up, right? Not backing up is a terrible idea, as it means you’re just one hardware failure, virus, or natural disaster away from losing everything.
Thankfully, Windows 10 has File History, a solid tool for backing up, built right in. Navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Backup and make sure to turn on Back up using File History. This will back up your most important files to another drive, so you’ll need an external hard drive or second internal drive to use it. You can click More options to customize what folders get backed up, if you like.
5. Windows Update Controls
Everyone likes to complain about Windows Update, especially since it’s infamous for forcing you to restart in the middle of working. But most people haven’t taken a moment to configure the controls that make it less annoying.
Visit Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Change active hours. Here you can set a range of time (up to 18 hours) when you typically use your PC. During these hours, Windows won’t automatically restart to apply updates. But you have even more options than this for controlling when updates happen.
Click Restart options and you can pick a specific time for Windows to install pending updates. Doing so will keep Windows from nagging you, plus you’re free to choose a time when you know you won’t be working on your PC. You can also enable Show more notifications and Windows will give you more warnings when it’s about to reboot.
If you’re working on something critical, you can also click Advanced options and turn on the Pause Updates function. This will block all updates for up to 35 days. Remember that you should turn this off once you no longer need it so you stay updated with security patches.
6. Linking Your Phone
Third-party apps like Pushbullet make it easy to connect your phone and PC, but did you know that Windows 10 has some of this functionality built-in now? In the Fall Creators Update, a new Phone entry in the Settings menu lets you pair your Android or iOS device.
At the moment, this lets you send website links from your phone right to your PC. In future Windows versions, Microsoft will surely build on this.
If you have an Android device, you can also sync your phone’s notifications to your PC with Cortana.
7. Dynamic Lock
Using your phone, Windows also provides a handy way to automatically lock your PC when you step away. To set it up, you’ll first need to connect your phone to Windows via Bluetooth. If your computer doesn’t have Bluetooth built-in, you can purchase an adapter to add it for a few dollars.
Once you pair your phone, head to Settings > Account > Sign-in options. Scroll down to the Dynamic lock section, and check the Allow Windows to detect . . . box. That’s all you have to do — Windows will only use relevant devices, such as your phone, for this function.
Note that this method doesn’t lock your computer instantly, so you should still keep other ways to lock your PC in mind.
8. Alternate Sign-In Options
Hopefully, you use a password to protect your account. But as we all know, passwords can get annoying. If you lock and unlock your computer a dozen times a day, typing a secure password becomes repetitive. That’s why you should look into an alternate sign-in method. Windows 10 lets you use a PIN, picture password, and even your fingerprint on supported devices.
Visit Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options to review the available options and set one up.
These give you another way to sign in while still preserving (and thus obscuring) your password. This is especially important if you use a Microsoft account to sign into Windows because that password also protects your Outlook email. We recommend a PIN for the best mix of convenience and security.
9. Gaming Tools
Several Windows 10 features make it great for gamers.
The Xbox integration makes it easy to manage your Xbox Live account if you have one, and Windows includes lots of new tools in the Gaming category of the Settings app.
These let you record game clips, control broadcast settings, and use the new Game Mode. We’ve put Game Mode to the test if you’re curious about its performance. Overall, gaming is a lot smoother of an experience in Windows 10 than ever before, so you should take advantage of these tools.
Cortana is another headline Windows 10 feature that Microsoft keeps pushing and adding features to. But have you taken full advantage of what she can do?
You can look up information, change PC settings, set reminders, and do a lot more with Cortana — all without touching your mouse or keyboard. Cortana can organize your life, and you can even integrate Cortana with other apps.
It’s easy to blow off Cortana as a gimmick. But if you’ve never really tried out what she can do, you should enable Cortana again and try using her for a few days. You might be surprised how much more efficiently she helps you work.
What Windows 10 Features Will You Rediscover?
We’ve shared ten features of Windows 10 that don’t get enough use. Whether you didn’t know about, purposefully ignored, or just forgot about them, now’s the time to check out some of these again. Who knows — maybe you’ll find a feature that does exactly what you needed!
If these aren’t enough, check out some lost Windows features you can bring back.
Are you a fan of any of these features? What other little-known features do you think are underrated? Share your picks with us in the comments!