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17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

Tips and tricks to help you solve Windows 10 upgrade problems, for everything from freeing up storage, to solving privacy errors and using safe mode

Encountering IT issues is never a fun experience and being presented with the telltale Windows error screen, colloquially referred to as the blue screen of death (BSOD) is often the pinnacle of anxiety a typical PC user can face.

Windows 11 has been released for some time now but the majority of PC users have still yet to make the upgrade to Microsoft’s latest operation system (OS). This means that users running into Windows 10 problems is still a common occurrence and thanks to the age of the OS, there are tried and tested solutions to many of the most common ones.

Windows 10 is safe and familiar for most PC users. Succeeding the problematic and oftentimes unintuitive Windows 8 on its 2015 release, the OS is a firm favourite of many people thanks to its modern look and user interface that closely resembles that of earlier Windows versions - the ones used to teach most of today’s professional workforce how to use a PC. According to figures as recent as April 2022, Windows 10 still dominates the OS market with more than 80% of users preferring the OS to any other.

Although Windows 10 is now in its seventh year and an OS that’s likely to feel familiar to most people in your organisation, troubleshooting the issues that arise in it is sometimes still a daunting task. Problems relating to tasks such as booting, upgrading, privacy protection, storage management, and updating the system - be it for security or functionality reasons - are all common and relatively easy to fix.

1. Can't upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8

A frequent issue many users have with Windows 10 appears right at the start when they upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8. This tends to be a warning which notifies a user that the “Get Windows 10” (also known as GWX) app is not compatible. Alternatively, users could find that the application isn’t showing up at all. Rather annoyingly, this will cause the update to fail, but there’s no need to worry as there are a couple of ways to solve this problem:

  • Open Control Panel and then run Windows Update and ensure that the PC is fully up to date. If updates fail, run the Windows Update Troubleshooter (see below, number 3)
  • Use the Media Creation Tool. Don't rely on GWX: visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10, click Download tool now, save the tool, and run it on the PC you want to upgrade. If this didn't work for you back when Windows 10 launched, try it again now - the tool has received a number of updates since.
  • Make sure that hardware Disable Execution Prevention (DEP) is switched on in the BIOS, referring to your motherboard manual for help if you need it. If you still have problems, use the Start Menu to search for 'performance', run Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows, click the Data Execution Prevention tab and turn DEP on for all programs and services, then reboot and try again.

2. Can't upgrade to the latest Windows 10 version

Every now and then, Microsoft releases a new update for Windows 10. Updates tend to provide various bug fixes to help the operating system run smoother but can also introduce new and exciting features to Windows 10.

Even though Windows 10 is known as one of Microsoft’s more stable releases, sometimes users of the operating system find it troublesome to update to the latest Windows 10 update available.

Unfortunately, not all users will be able to see if this update is ready, meaning that you’ll have to investigate how the OS update can be installed via a more manual method.

Ahead of carrying out the upgrade, you should see which version of the operating system you’re currently using. This is an easy piece of information to find out, simply head to the “About Windows” screen where it should tell you the necessary information.

Windows 10 "About Windows" screen

Once ready to upgrade to the latest Windows 10 version, you’re able to use the Windows Update Tool. Despite this, it’s worth pointing out that some users see the Media Creation Tool alternative as a better and more reliable option. To access it, simply download and install it before using it to upgrade your device to the latest version.

Upgrading to Windows 10 Home

One thing to bear in mind is that if you run the Media Creation Tool, it may not immediately display any kind of reference of upgrading to the most recent version of Windows 10. Additionally, it might not tell you which version of the upgrade it will install in your system. The tool asks you if you want the Home or Business version of Windows 10 and, if you have one of these installed on your device, the newest build should hopefully be installed.

Also, make sure you've opted to keep the personal files and apps and click 'Install' to keep your data, apps, and most of your settings untouched. Now, when you hit 'Install', it should start installing the most up-to-date version of the operating system.

Windows Media creation tool

3. You have a lot less free storage after upgrading

After installing Windows 10, you'll notice files for the previous OS version will still be hanging around in your folders, taking up valuable disk space.

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You may be wondering why this happened, and the answer is that Microsoft isn't quite as controlling as some other big tech companies. Instead of forcing users to update their hardware and never look back, Microsoft keeps a hold of the important files that made up your previous OS in the C:/ drive. This is in case you don't like the new Windows 10 and decide to change back to the previous operating system that you might be more used to.

If you like the new OS and want to delete the old one for good, then click on the Windows Start button and type "cleanup" to automatically search the system. A "Disk Cleanup" app should appear before you in the search criteria field. Click on it to open the application.

A drive selection box should appear. Simply select the drive your OS is installed on. The default drive should appear first which is usually the C:/ drive. If you're confident that this is the main drive where your OS is installed, hit OK. Windows should scan your system for a while and then a box will pop up.

Now, two things could happen at this point. You could be presented with a list of files to delete right away, one of which is "Previous Windows Installation(s)", or if that option is not visible, you will need to select the "Clean up system files" option on the bottom left.

Windows will do some more calculations and give you another a remarkably similar looking box, this time with the option to delete previous windows installation(s). You might have to scroll down to find it, but it should be taking up a sizeable bit of drive space, in our case, 5GB. Tick this option and click OK. In the separate message box that appears asking if you're certain you want to send this, click Delete Files, and you're done.

4. Windows Update isn't working

Many people have reported issues with Windows Update in Windows 10. Check first that you've upgraded to the Windows 10 Fall update (see above, number 2). If you're still getting problems, download and run the Windows Update Troubleshooter, then reboot and try to update again.

A screenshot of the Windows Update Troubleshooter

If the problems remain, you might need to get a bit more stuck in. First, check that System Restore is configured (see below, number 7) and create a restore point. With this done, use Win+X and select Command Prompt (Admin), then type 'net stop wuauserv' (without the quotes) and hit Enter, followed by 'net stop bits' and Enter. You should see confirmations that each service was either stopped or wasn't running. Next, open Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Delete its contents including any sub-folders. Now reboot, open Windows Update, and click Check for updates.

5. Windows updates when I don't want it to

If you're anything like us, you set up previous Windows releases so that they wouldn't install updates automatically - one forced reboot is one too many.

There is a workaround for users running Windows 10 Pro: from the Start Menu, search for 'gpedit' and run the Group Policy Editor. Expand Computer Configuration in the left-hand pane and navigate to Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update. Double-click Configure Automatic Updates in the list, select the Enabled radio button, and in the left-hand box select 2 - Notify for download and notify for install. Now click OK, and you'll be notified whenever there are updates - unfortunately, they'll be a daily irritation if you're using Windows Defender.

Screenshot guise on how to turn off forced updates

The Group Policy Editor isn't available on Windows 10 Home, but we'd recommend you at least open Windows Update, click Advanced options, and select Notify to schedule restart from the Choose how updates are installed list. While you're here, all Windows 10 users might want to click Choose how updates are delivered and ensure that Updates from more than one place is either off or set to PCs on my local network.

Screenshot on how to notify to reschedule

6. Too many unnecessary notifications in Windows 10

Windows 10 introduced Action Centre, a panel positioned to the side of the display which aggregates all the notifications your system makes so you can deal with them all at once. It's a handy feature but it can also become clogged with notifications quickly if they're not frequently addressed.

Notifications can vary from the incredibly important systems messages to miscellaneous social media of software updates. There is, however, a way to filter out the messages you have no interest in.

You can open Settings, head to notifications & actions, and you'll be greeted with several toggle buttons which you can customise on an app-by-app basis. You can also just head straight to the settings screen by searching 'notification and actions' in the search bar.

7. Windows 10 shares too much data

We're not a fan of some of the data-sharing defaults in Windows 10, and we'd recommend all users review them periodically. Use the Start Menu to search for and run the Settings app, then click Privacy. In the left-hand pane, you'll see many areas where your computer might be sharing data. It's worth spending time checking that you're comfortable with allowing apps to use your computer's camera, microphone, account information and so on, and where you are, checking that no surprise apps appear in the lists. Note, too, that the default Feedback & diagnostics setting is to send enhanced data to Microsoft.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 privacy settings

If you use Windows Defender, click the back arrow, and select Update & Security, then Windows Defender. Check that you're happy with the default behaviour, which is to enable Cloud-based detection and Automatic sample submission.

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of Wi-Fi Sense, which is designed to get you onto wireless networks more quickly. On a device with Wi-Fi, click the back arrow, select Network & Internet, click Wi-Fi, and select Manage Wi-Fi Settings. We'd strongly recommend turning off Connect to suggested open hotspots, connect to networks shared by my contacts, and disabling the button under Paid Wi-Fi services if it's present.

Windows 10 WiFi Sense screenshot

Additionally, Wi-Fi Sense might result in the sharing of your network's wireless credentials among devices you don't control and allow a guest to log in and their contacts - and potentially theirs in turn - may also be able to. Ridiculously, the only fix is to rename your network's SSID so that it ends with "_optout". We'd recommend confining guests to a guest wireless network, configuring your own devices not to use Wi-Fi Sense, and asking staff to do the same before allowing their Windows 10 devices onto the main wireless network.

8. Can't access safe mode using keyboard function keys

Safe Mode can be a life-saver in many system-critical problem situations, especially when your device is finding it difficult to start correctly. However, what if one day, you find out that you can no longer activate Safe Mode by pressing the F8 or Shift+F8 keys at boot? Although unnerving, it’s important to remain calm. What you can try is to boot into Windows first, and then restart the device by pressing the left Shift key. As an alternative, you can also do it by going into Update & Security in Settings. However, bear in mind that neither of these options will be of any help if your PC isn’t capable of booting into Windows at all.

This is why you should consider setting up a boot time Safe Mode option as a precaution – this can be done by pressing Win+X, selecting Command Prompt (Admin), and then typing in bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Windows 10 Safe Mode” and confirming it by pressing the Enter key. Next, type ‘msconfig’ into the Start Menu, run System Configuration in the results, and navigate to the Boot tab. Once you find your newly-created Windows 10 Safe Mode option, highlight it and tick the Safe Boot option, while also choosing the ‘Minimal’ under Boot type choices. You can also choose whether you’d want to decrease the Timeout value to as little as three seconds, depending on what will be most convenient for you. Lastly, tick the ‘Make all boot settings permanent’ option and confirm with OK. If you ever want to get rid of the Safe Mode entry, you can do it easily by returning here and deleting it.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 boot options

You can repeat these steps, substituting suitable names in quotes at the Command Prompt, to create shortcuts for Safe Mode with Networking (tick Network rather than Minimal in System Configuration) and Safe Mode with Command Prompt (Alternate shell).

A screenshot of the Windows 10 boot options

9. System Restore isn't turned on

By default, System Restore isn’t enabled in Windows 10, we can’t think why that is, it is such a useful and essential feature everyone should have.

To turn this on, it must be enabled manually using Control Panel. Search for Create a restore point and click on the first result to open the System Properties page. Under the "Protection Settings" section, select the main "System" drive, then click “Configure”. Then Select the “Turn on system protection” option. Click the Apply button and then the OK button.

Once this is done, Windows 10 will always create a restore point when applying a new update or when particular system changes are carried out.

Configure system screenshot

 10. Files open with the wrong default apps

Have you ever updated your PC just to find that all of your files, which you had personally set to open alongside specific apps, had been reverted to Windows default settings, making you use a Windows-native app instead of your preferred third-party alternative? Windows 10’s insistence on erasing all file associations after an update is arguably one of its most annoying features. However, instead of attempting to set up all your file associations from scratch, you can restore your settings with this easy solution:

Firstly, open Windows 10's Settings app, so that you can try this fix on an example of a music-streaming application. Once opened, search for the ‘default apps’ category, which can be found under the System tab. Next, you’ll be able to select which app should be used depending on the type of media you would like to open. For example, when it comes to music, or MP3 files, you can adjust it so that your device automatically plays it in Windows Media Player, as opposed to Groove Music, which is the default audio player software application included in Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.

What is more, this capability makes it possible to tailor your choice of app to the type of file extension you want it to open. For instance, you can specifically set MP4 files to be opened in VLC, while leaving all other film file formats, such as MOV or AVI, to be handled by Windows’ default Media Player. This helps to improve your Windows experience as well as make it customised to your unique needs.

 11. Windows 10 is using 4G data

Windows 10 can use mobile internet when it can’t connect to a Wi-Fi connection, but only on Windows tablets and laptops with SIM card connectivity. This can be a problem for your data allowance, especially if using a portable hotspot, since if it isn’t set up correctly it might do this without you realising.

To prevent the operating system from sucking up all your cellular data allowance, go to Settings, then Network & Internet. Select Wi-Fi and then Advanced Options. Click "Set as metered connection" to on, and Windows will stop fetching non-essential data in the background, such as app updates and Start screen tile updates.

4g Data Metered Connections Setting

12. Bad localisation, Cortana 'not available'

When it comes to localisation, Windows 10’s options seem to be unnecessarily confusing. We’ve seen a number of reports of localisation that was wrong, even on machines running localised Windows 7 or Windows 8 installations that were upgraded in the right way. Windows can also report that Cortana isn’t available, even in global regions where it is, and it seems the most common problem is around system dates set in MM/DD/YY, the format used in the US.

First, head over to the Start Menu and search for “region”, before locating the Region & Language settings. Then look for Country or region and make sure that it displays United Kingdom, before checking that the correct language is selected in Languages. Choose your primary language, select options, and hit Download under the language pack and speech options if they’re present. On this page, double check that the keyboard is also correct, and if it is wrong then choose the correct one - but also make sure you get rid of the wrong one.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 region settings

Following this, hit the back arrow and choose Additional date, time & regional settings. In Language, select Change input methods, select your chosen language, move it right up to the top of the list if it isn’t displayed there already, before clicking on Options. In the Windows display language, it might show as Enabled or Available. If it shows as Available then select Make this the primary language. However, if neither appears then you’ll have to download and install the language pack before making it the primary language.

Once again, hit the back arrow to go back to language preferences. From here, you can click in the left-hand pane Change date, time, or number formats, and make sure the format is set to the correct language. On the Location tab, take a look at Home location, and then utilise the Administrative tab to check the System locale. Here, hit Copy settings to apply the setting to the new user accounts and Welcome screen.

13. I can't save a webpage as an HTML file in Microsoft Edge

For some reason, you’re not able to save web pages as a HTML file on Microsoft’s Windows 10 web browser. The only way to get around this is to open up Internet Explorer 11, which you will find is still included in Windows 10, and save from there once the web page has opened.

To do this, navigate to the menu on the far right-hand side of the Edge window. Select the open with Internet Explorer option. This will open your current web page in a new tab in IE. In IE 11, press Control-S on your keyboard to access the Save as dialogue box.

A screenshot of the Edge open with Internet Explorer dialogue

14. The lock screen gets in the way

When you’ve left your Windows 10 device alone for some time, you might return to see a beautiful image on the lock screen. While this is aesthetically pleasing, it can sometimes be an extra hurdle to accessing your device and logging in. It’s easy to disable the lock screen by searching Start Menu for regedit, and running the Registry editor, and could come in handy for users who are as impatient as we are.

Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. If you don't already see a key named 'Personalisation', select the Windows key, right-click it, choose New>Key and rename this new key to Personalization (sic). Right-click the Personalisation key choose New again then select DWORD (32-bit) Value. Select New Value #1 in the right-hand pane and use F2 to rename it NoLockScreen, then double-click it, change the value data to 1 and click OK. After a reboot, the lock screen will be gone.

15. Can't find the Pop-Up Blocker in Edge

If you’re a Microsoft Edge enthusiast, you might have found that sometimes pop-up ads will ruin your browser experience. Thankfully, you can disable pop-ups by selecting the icon with three dots on the right-hand side of the address bar before hitting “Settings”, then "View advanced settings". Under "Block pop-ups" make sure this is set to "On".

A screenshot of the Edge pop-up blocker

 16. Boot times are too slow

Windows 10 makes use of a hybrid boot to help speed up boot times, just like Windows 8 before it. Usually when you shut a system down, the apps and their processes are shut down too. The Windows kernel, however, becomes hibernated to help the machine restart faster. In theory, this is great but is still very slow for some Windows 10 users.

To disable this, head over to the Start Menu and locate Power Options. Run the matching Control Panel applet and in the left-hand pane you can select Choose what the power buttons do. From here, select Change settings that are currently unavailable, scroll down, and deselect Turn on fast start-up, and finally click Save Changes. This should, hopefully, have solved the problem and prevent affected PCs from booting up so slowly. Additionally, some users have reported that if after following these steps they reboot, retrace their steps, and re-enable fast start-up it seems to miraculously cure the problem.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 fast startup settings

If you find yourself dual booting between Windows 7 and Windows 10, turning fast startup off will also help to solve the problem where Windows 7 checks the disk each time you switch it on. When fast start-up is turned on, Windows 7 doesn’t seem to recognise that the disks have been fully shut down by Windows 10.

17. I can't play a DVD

If you love to watch films on your PC or laptop, it was probably frustrating to realise that Windows 10 was released without a specific app to play DVDs on. 

Fortunately, Microsoft finally released an app that users can download. The bad news is that it costs £11.59. On the other hand, you can just download VLC - which should save you some cash and works just as well, if not better.

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