A few weeks ago, I shared my list of seven Windows 10 problems (and how to fix them). It was one of my favorite posts of the year, so I decided to do a sequel, offer the downside, and list my seven favorite features of.
As I compiled this list, it occurred to me how many of these features were either missing or poorly implemented when Windows 10 debuted in 2015. But all of the features I’ve chosen here are well tested, well implemented. and guaranteed to make you more productive.
1. Windows Hello
When I buy a new PC, one feature is on the must-have list. It has to support biometric authentication, otherwise I’m not interested.
My main laptop, a Dell Latitude 7400, has a built-in infrared camera that supports Windows Hello facial recognition, as does my Surface Book 2. Both devices can recognize me and log me into Windows in two seconds or less. My Lenovo Yoga C630 running Windows 10 on Arm has a fingerprint sensor that you no longer need to sign in with. It’s not quite as convenient as facial recognition, but I suppose it is.
I notice the difference every time I use my 2017 MacBook Pro that doesn’t have a Touch Bar or Touch ID and is determined to take two tries before it accepts my password, no matter how carefully I type. By the time I’m ready to replace it, I hope Apple has built its facial recognition into the Mac.
2. The taskbar search box
Microsoft made a huge mistake in the early days of Windows 10 by combining the functionality of its built-in search box with the tricky Cortana feature. Now that Cortana is moved from Windows to Microsoft 365, the search box can do its job without having to display a cheeky personality.
I literally use this search box dozens of times a day when I have a question that has a simple no-nonsense answer. There’s no need to open a browser tab and do a full search if you’re just looking for a quick answer. Instead, tap the Windows key and start typing. The answer will appear almost immediately in the results area above the search box.
It is also very good at finding dictionary definitions, translating words and phrases, and performing calculations and conversions. For example, the other day I was looking for new cars and found an interesting article that contains fuel consumption values in km / l. How much does that cost in MPG? Easy.
It really changed the way I work.
I’ve always been a big proponent of multi-monitor setups for desktop productivity. Years ago this meant two 24-inch LCD displays arranged side by side. Today, however, I have a different setup that works even better for me: a 38-inch Dell UltraSharp Curved Monitor powered by a powerful laptop on the side, the second display of which is the laptop display.
This ultrawide monitor is perfect for snapping two windows side by side for research and writing. In the meantime, I keep secondary apps on the laptop display: Slack and Teams windows so I can follow conversations with colleagues out of the corner of my eye.
Five years ago, Windows was very cumbersome when it came to managing transitions between displays with different scaling factors. However, in the past few years, practically all of these issues have gone away in Windows 10, and I almost never see weird scaling issues when dragging windows between two displays with different resolutions.
4. Wireless projection
Miracast technology has been around since 2014 when it was a signature feature of Windows 8.1. Back then, getting a Windows PC to connect wirelessly to a big screen TV was a breeze, as it usually required an external adapter and some mantra.
A lot has happened in the six years since then. Both large-screen televisions in our household support Miracast by default, as do our two Roku devices. Connecting a Windows 10 PC to any of these devices is as simple as clicking the Connect button in Action Center and selecting a device from the list.
This function is not required for YouTube as a separate app is integrated on all connected devices. But it’s great for watching live-stream concerts and pay-per-view events that can’t be accessed through an app.
5. OneDrive files if necessary
There are many cloud-based storage services to choose from. I use OneDrive because it’s included in my Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) subscriptions, one for business and one for personal use. Each subscription includes one terabyte of storage (and with the Microsoft 365 Family account for $ 100 per year, five additional family members each get their own terabyte of storage).
The real upside, however, is its integration with Windows 10, where you’ll find a top-level node for OneDrive in the navigation pane, and most importantly, support a feature called Files On-Demand that lets you browse that terabyte of cloud-based storage without losing it all these files need to be downloaded. Double-clicking a file will download it and open it for editing, as the name of the function suggests.
My personal OneDrive has almost 900GB of files in it, but I’ve chosen to keep those less than 50GB worth of files offline as you can see.
This feature works so well and integrates so smoothly that it’s almost impossible to forget that it was missing from action in the first two years of Windows 10’s existence and didn’t return until 2017.
6. Hyper-V and Windows sandbox
The best reason to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is to have access to the built-in Hyper-V virtualization software that lets you run Windows or Linux in a virtual machine that is isolated from your physical PC.
I’ve written several guides on how to enable Hyper-V and create virtual machines, as well as a lengthy article on installing a virtual copy of Ubuntu Linux using Hyper-V’s Quick Create Gallery.
These features are great for developers, but the latest addition to Hyper-V’s feature set comes in handy for just about everyone. Windows Sandbox is an easy way to instantly create a clean virtual machine that you can test a program or visit a suspicious website without risk. When you close the sandbox, any trace disappears immediately.
7. Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a great way to turn a large website (like Twitter, Spotify, or Gmail) into an app that runs alongside your traditional apps in its own window with its own notifications and data storage. PWAs are displayed in the Windows 10 start menu and can be pinned to the start or to the taskbar. You can even manage them from the Apps page in Settings.
Every modern browser supports PWAs. If you’re using the new Chromium-based Edge, you’ll get an “App available” notification in the address bar when a website supports this feature.
In Google Chrome, you can install a PWA from a similar icon in the address bar, but it’s not as tightly integrated with Windows 10.
Either way, it’s a great way to give important websites their own space instead of moving them to another browser tab.