17 common Windows 10 problems and how to fix them

A Windows 10 blue screen error message displayed on a monitor
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Encountering Windows 10 problems can be a highly frustrating experience. From basic error alerts to the dreaded ‘blue screen of death’, these situations can prove detrimental to your productivity and cause serious issues for businesses and users alike.

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 fixing a stuck Windows 10 update, 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. It's worth noting that if a system has become sluggish, it's worth consulting our list of ways to speed up Windows 10, as that may solve many issues not listed here.

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.

A screenshot of the upgrade menu on 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.

A screenshot showing the 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.

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.

A screenshot showing the Disk Cleanup tool on Windows 10


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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 filesæ 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, whether that's the update getting stuck or simply failing. 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 of a Windows 10 menu allowing users 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 of a Windows 10 menu showing how to notify to reschedule updates

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 menu

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.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense setup menu

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?


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Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to boot into Safe Mode. We've put together a guide on how to boot Windows 10 Safe Mode, which provides alternatives to using the F8 shortcut, or bypassing shortcuts entirely. These include access a boot option inside the Update & Security settings, or using the Left Shift button as part of a restart.

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, you can do the following:

Setting Safe Mode as a boot option

  • Press the Windows button + X
  • Select Command Prompt (Admin) - (may be shown as Terminal (Admin)
  • type bcdedit /copy {current} /d 'Windows 10 Safe Mode'
  • Press Enter
  • Next, click the Windows button
  • Type msconfig, and then click on the System Configuration app in the results window
  • Navigate to the Boot tab
  • Find your newly created Windows 10 Safe Mode option
  • Highlight it and select 'Safe Boot' option below
  • Select 'Minimal' under Boot type choices
  • Select 'Make all boot settings permanent'
  • Click 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 showing the various 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 recovery screen and 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.

A screenshot showing a menu allowing users to turn on System Restore

10. Files open with the wrong default apps

Sometimes when there’s a major operating system update, it can affect your settings. This includes settings which determine which third-party apps should be used to open certain files. Instead, the software update reverts the settings to Window 10’s default settings.

This change can be particularly annoying and may frustrate users. The good news is that there’s an easy way to restore the setting to what it was previously instead of remapping all file types to your third-party apps.

To accomplish this, head to Windows 10’s settings app and select the ‘Systems’ tab. Search for ‘default apps’ and choose which app you want the system to use depending on its file type. You might choose Groove Music for music files instead of Windows Media Player, for example.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 desktop showing a menu allowing users to set default apps

In this section of the settings app, you’re also able to customise which apps open specific file extensions. For example, you can open MP3 files using a piece of software like VLC, but choose to continue using Windows Media Player for M4A or other formats. These little adjustments help to improve your overall user experience so are worth taking the time to do.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 desktop showing a menu allowing users to set default applications based on file type

11. Windows 10 is using 4G data

If you have a Windows tablet or laptop that can use a SIM card, you’re able to use mobile internet on Windows 10 if Wi-Fi isn’t available. Be aware, however, that this may cause you problems when it comes to how much data you use, as if it isn’t set up in the right way you might be using it without realising, especially if you're using a portable hotspot.

To stop this from happening, and protect your monthly data allowance, head to ‘Settings’, and find ‘Network & Internet’. From here, choose ‘Wi-Fi’, followed by ‘Advanced Options’, and click the ‘Set as metered connection’ option. This will prevent the operating system from downloading non-essential data in the background, which includes Start screen tile updates and app updates.

4g Data Metered Connections Setting

12. Bad localisation, Cortana 'not available'

Windows 10’s localisation options can be a little confusing. There are reports where localisation has been wrong, including those from machines where localised Windows 7 or Windows 8 installations were upgraded correctly. Sometimes Windows can report that Cortana isn’t available, including in geographical regions where it is available. The most common problem around this seems to be that it’s down to the system date set in the US format of MM/DD/YY.

To fix this, make your way to the Start Menu and search for ‘region’ and find the ‘Region & Language’ settings. From here, locate ‘Country or region’ and it should say 'United Kingdom'. Then, make sure that the language setting lists the right language. Select your primary language, click on options, and choose ‘Download’ below the language pack and speech options if they appear. You can also check if the keyboard option is correct in this area of settings, if it’s wrong then select the right one and delete the incorrect one.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 region settings

After, navigate to ‘Additional data, time & regional settings’ by clicking on the back arrow. Choose the ‘Change input methods’ under ‘Language’ and choose your language. Make sure you put it at the top of the list if it doesn’t appear there straight away, and then select ‘Options’. For the Windows display language setting, it might show as ‘Enabled’ or ‘Available’. If it’s ‘Available’, then hit ‘Make this the primary language’. If neither option appears, then download and install the language pack first, and then select your primary language.

From here, you can head back to language preferences by clicking on the back arrow as before. Then, click on ‘Change date, time, or number formats’ in the left-hand pane and ensure the format displays the correct language. Once you’ve done this, find the ‘Location’ tab, or view ‘Home location’, and choose the ‘Administrative’ tab to check your ‘System locale’. In this section, you’re able to click on ‘Copy settings’ to apply the setting to any new user accounts and Welcome screen.

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

Unfortunately, you’re not able to save web pages as a HTML file on Microsoft’s Windows 10 web browser. Previously, you were able to get around this by using Internet Explorer 11, but this has now been forcibly removed from most Window 10 PCs.

Instead, you’ll have to use a different web browser which has this functionality, like Chrome for example. In Chrome, locate the three dots in the top right corner of the browser, find ‘More tools’ in the menu, and then hit ‘Save page as’.

A Windows popup box will appear and you can rename the file and choose to save it as a HTML file. Finally, press the save button and it will be downloaded to your computer.

The location of the 'Save page' button in Chrome

(Image credit: IT Pro)

14. The lock screen gets in the way

If you find the Windows lock screen annoying or getting in the way, you will be pleased to know that it can be disabled. Search your ‘Start Menu’ for ‘regedit’, which leads you to the Registry editor, and can quickly help you solve this problem.

Find HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. You should see a key named ‘Personalisation’. If you don’t, right-click the Windows key and choose New>Key which will create a new key. Now you can rename it to Personalization (sic). Once again, right-click this key, select New and choose DWORD (32-bit) Value. In the pane on the right-hand side click on New Value #1. Now you can use the F2 button on your keyboard to rename it to NoLockScreen. From here, double-click it and you should be able to change the value data to 1, then select OK. Once you’ve rebooted your system, your lock screen should have gone.

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

Are you a fan of Microsoft Edge? Sometimes, you might find that pop-up ads interfere with your experience of using the web browser. The good news is that you’re able to disable these distracting ads by heading to the three-dot icon on the right of the address bar. From here you can choose ‘Settings’ followed by ‘View advanced settings’. There should be a setting called ‘Block pop-ups’ which you can set to ‘On’.

A screenshot of the Edge pop-up blocker

16. Boot times are too slow

In Windows 8, Microsoft made use of hybrid boot to shorten its start-up times. Thankfully, it did the same for Windows 10. Usually, your processes are terminated once your machine turns off, but the Windows kernel hibernates to help Windows restart quicker when you turn it on again. This can be too slow for many IT professionals, even though it sounds useful.

You can disable the hybrid boot function by finding ‘Power Option’ through the ‘Start Menu’. Then run the Control Panel applet, which is located in the window pane on the left side, and locate ‘Choose what power buttons do’. Select ‘Change settings that are currently available’, and then find ‘Turn on fast start-up’ and make sure it is deselected.

Don’t forget to save your changes, and now your PC should turn on a little faster. A number of users have reported that the problem can be solved by re-enabling fast-startup. After following the instruction and deselecting the function, simply restart your system and repeat the process, but this time select the setting.

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.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.