Eight Lesser-Known Windows 10 Features and Settings Worth Exploring


There are many new features and settings in Windows 10 and much has been written about the major ones. However, there are also quite a few lesser-known additions and here are some that I think are worth pointing out. You will generally need administrator privileges to make system changes.

1. Scroll windows that aren’t active

In past versions of the Microsoft operating system, only the active window could be scrolled with the mouse. There were some free utilities that enabled the scrolling of background windows but in Windows 10 this function is now native and enabled by default. If you want to turn it off, go to Settings > Devices > Mouse & touchpad.

2. Command prompt updated with new functions

The command prompt is very useful and has been around a long time but its interface hasn’t changed much over the years. Now in Windows 10, there are finally some long-desired updates. The most noticeable make copying and pasting easier. Now when you have a long command you want to enter into the command line, you can use the standard keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Also, text can be made to wrap when resizing the command prompt window. Use the Properties sheet to make various settings (example shown below). Details of the new command prompt window can be found here.

Properties sheet for Windows 10 console

3. New (but obscure) video recorder

Windows has long had a way to make and save screenshot captures but has had no built-in way to make videos of the screen. Windows 10 now has a tool that will let you make videos of an open program or app. However, you might not notice it since it is a feature aimed at Xbox gamers. It is called the "Game bar". Although it is part of the Windows 10 Xbox app, the Game bar can be opened for most open apps with the keyboard shortcut Winkey+G. (The shortcut does not work for a desktop with nothing open.) The bar initially opens as shown in the first graphic below. You have to indicate that the open app is a game (even if it isn't). Then you will get the Game bar (second graphic below) with various options. Details of how to use this feature can be found at this link.

Opening the Windows 10 Game bar


Windows 10 Game bar

4. Print to PDF

Windows has added the ability to create a PDF from many types of files with a native printer driver. The print function of many (but not all) applications will now include the option to create a PDF. However, the PDF printer is not enabled by default. To make the feature available, open the Settings dialog from the Start menu and select “Devices”.  In the left pane of the Devices window, select “Printers & scanners”. The image below shows a partial view of the window that opens. To enable the PDF function, click “Microsoft Print to PDF”.

Enabling Windows 10 PDF printer

5. Sideloading Windows apps

Apple has its own store for providing apps. For security (not to mention profits) Apple forces its store as the sole provider for Apple platforms. When Microsoft started its own store with Windows 8, it copied this tactic and made you get any new apps from the Windows store. Getting apps from other sources (called “sideloading”) was not allowed except for Enterprise editions of Windows. However, in Windows 10, Microsoft has loosened the restraints and there is now a setting that allows the sideloading of apps from non-Microsoft sources. 

 To enable the ability, go to Settings > Update & security > For developers.  Click the button by “Sideload apps” as illustrated in the graphic below.   A warning will appear about security. Click “Yes” to turn on app sideloading. You can always disable this option by clicking “Don’t use developer features”.

Enabling Windows 10 sideloading of apps

6. Find out which apps and files are using the most disk space

If you have a SSD or a small C: partition that is getting cramped for space, you might want to know which apps or files are using the most space. Windows 10 has a listing that makes it easy to see what the space hogs are. To manage your space, go to Settings > System > Storage.  A list of the drives on your PC will be shown as well as settings to change where things are saved. The graphic below shows an example. Click a drive and you'll be shown a breakdown of how much space apps and personal files like photos are taking up on that particular drive.

Managing Windows 10 disk space

7. Background app manager

By default, all the apps in Windows 10 will run in the background. If you don’t want apps connecting to the Internet while you are not using them, here is how to keep them from running in the background. Go to Settings > Privacy > Background apps, where you can change the setting for each app individually. The graphic below shows an example of the interface.

Configuring background apps in Windows 10

8. Easy way to sign out of a user account

The Power settings in the Start Menu include Sleep, Shutdown, and Restart but nothing for just signing out of a user account. If you just want to sign out of a user account, use the Power Users Task Menu obtained by right-clicking the Start button or with the keyboard shortcut Winkey+X. This menu has a “Shut down or sign out” entry that includes the option “Sign out”.

And there you have it - eight sometimes overlooked but useful things to know about Windows 10.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Will MS ever learn to just keep things simple, again?!

Oh Lord, no. That's Apple's territory.
MS & PC have always been about choice and value.

While I find the Win+X menu very handy there is actually a way to sign out from the Start Menu too. Click your name or picture at the top of the Start Menu and a drop down menu will appear. From the menu you can sign out, switch to another account, or jump to Settings to make changes to account settings.