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17 most common 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.

Despite being an incredibly popular operating system, there are plenty of Windows 10 bugs. Whether that's issues with booting, upgrading, privacy protection, storage management, or Windows 10 update problems the system, be it for cyber security or functionality reasons, you will still find yourself running into problems that seem insurmountable.

We've pulled together some of the most common Windows 10 problems, and steps you can take to fix them.

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)
  • Head to Microsoft's Media Creation Tool. Click 'Download 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 using 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

This is because, following a successful Windows 10 installation, the previous OS may still be lingering in your system and consuming hard disk space.

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Unlike many other tech companies, Microsoft lets users upgrade their devices and keep a backup of the important files that comprised the previous OS version. This is embedded deep in the C:/ drive. If, for instance, you had upgraded to Windows 10 but wanted to roll back for any reason, the system allowed you to do that using this backup. If, however, the new OS takes your fancy and you're happy to wave goodbye to its previous iteration, there's a way to clear that backup. Click the Windows Start button and type "cleanup" to search the system for the right up. Disk Cleanup should appear. Click on the search result to open the app.

Next, a drive selection option should appear, and all you need to do is select the drive your OS is installed on. The C:/ drive should appear first, as it's more often than not the default drive. Hit OK if you're sure this is the drive your OS was installed into. Windows 10 should then scan your system for a short period before another prompt appears.

You will now be faced with two choices, which look like a list of files to delete immediately. One option is "Previous Windows Installation(s)" and the other will be "Clean up system files" option on the bottom left if this first choice isn't available.

The OS performs some more calculations, at this stage, and offers a similar-looking prompt window, but this time presents 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

The Action Centre panel, which debuted in Windows 10, is located in the right-hand side of the taskbar. This collects the many and various notifications you might amass so you can handle them in one location and through one interface. While it sounds useful in principle, this can become overloaded with pings and notifications if you neglect to handle these.

You shouldn't ignore these, as they tend to include a handful of very important messages, but can also include inane social media updates. You can, thankfully, separate the wheat from the chaff and configure the Action Centre to only bother you with the most significant messages. 

Open Settings and head to notifications & actions. From there, you can access toggle buttons that allow you to tweak each and every app and the information it presents you with.

7. Windows 10 shares too much data

​The data-sharing settings in Windows 10 enabled by default aren’t ideal, and all users should review these occasionally, making tweaks where appropriate. Users can access the Start Menu to search for the Settings app. Navigate to Privacy and, in the left-hand side of the pane, you’ll find a number of ways your device is sharing data. Make sure to review all these areas and ascertain whether you’re open to letting your apps use services like the camera, microphone and account information, where applicable. This is useful for making sure there are no apps that are able to access data that you’re not aware of. By default, incidentally, the Feedback & diagnostics setting beams ‘enhanced data’ to Microsoft – so turn this off if you’d rather not.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 privacy settings

Widows Defender users should also click the back arrow and choose Update & Security, before navigating to Windows Defender. Make sure the default settings of enabling cloud-based detection and automatic sample submission are suitable for your preferences and change if necessary.

Wi-Fi Sense, which is designed to connect your Windows 10 device to networks much more quickly, is also something which raises red flags for some. If your device has Wi-Fi enabled, click the back arrow to enter the Settings menu, choose Network & Internet, then Wi-Fi, and choose Manage Wi-Fi Settings. Connect to suggested open hotspots is one setting we’d recommend turning off, alongside connect to networks shared by my contacts. It’s also worth disabling the button under Paid Wi-Fi services.

Windows 10 WiFi Sense screenshot

Wi-Fi Sense might also lead to you sharing your network’s wireless credentials between all the devices nearby, including those you don’t control. It could, for example, allow a guest to log in quickly, but poses a privacy risk. The only fix is to rename your network's SSID so it ends with “_output”.

The recommended networking hygiene is to allow guests to connect to a guest wireless network separate from the main one. It's also important to configure all devices not to use Wi-Fi Sense, and asking staff to do the same before they bring their Windows 10 hardware onto the primary 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.

You should also consider setting a Safe Mode as an option in the boot menu, although your system will first need to be configured to support it. To set this up, press Win+X, selecting Command Prompt (Admin), and then typing in bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Windows 10 Safe Mode” and confirm 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

Every now and then you may have noticed that all of the settings mapping your files to open with specific third-party apps have been wiped, and instead reverted to Windows 10’s default settings. This normally happens following a major OS update.

This is one of the most irritating features on Windows 10 and may trigger you into attempting to remap all of your file types to your third-party apps, but there’s an easier way. It’s actually possible to restore the setting. 

To do so, you’ll need top open Windows 10’s Settings app. Then access the Systems tab and search for the ‘default apps’ category. From there, you can select which app can be used depending on the type of file you’re hoping to open. With music files, for example, you can choose that it opens to Windows Media Player rather than Groove Music, which is used by the default app across Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.

You can also tailor the choice of app to the specific file extension – so MP3 and M4A can be opened using different systems. Why not, for example, set MP4 files to be opened in VLC, while all other video formats can be opened by the Media Player. Making these changes will drastically improve the user experience, and help to tweak Windows 10 to suit your specific 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 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

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Microsoft has used hybrid boot in Windows 10 to cut down start-up times, as it did in its predecessor, Windows 8. All processes are normally closed when you shut down your machine but the Windows kernel hibernates so your machine can restart much quicker. This might sound useful but can still be too slow for many IT professionals.

It's possible to disable hybrid boot by going to the Start Menu and finding Power Options. Next, run the Control Panel applet in the left-hand window pane and find Choose what power buttons do. You should choose Change settings that are currently unavailable, before scrolling down and deselecting Turn on fast start-up. Finally, save your changes. This should prevent PCs from booting up so slowly. Some report that they can completely fix the problem by re-enabling fast-startup. After making these changes and disabling the feature,  reboot the system and repeat the process. This time make sure the setting is ticked.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 fast startup settings

For those booting between both Windows 7 and Windows 10, disabling fast start-up might also resolve the issue of Windows 7 scanning the disk each time you turn on your machine. With fast start-up enabled, the legacy OS cannot seem capable of recognising the disks have been fully shut down in 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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