17 common Windows 10 problems and how to fix them

A Windows 10 blue screen error message displayed on a monitor
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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 its popularity, Windows 10 is not immune to bugs and issues. Problems with booting, upgrading, privacy protection, storage management, or a stuck Windows 10 update can disrupt your workflow.

Regularly updating your system, maintaining good cybersecurity practices, and keeping an eye on system performance can prevent many common problems. However, when issues do arise, having a reliable resource to turn to for troubleshooting can make all the difference.

To help you navigate these challenges, we've compiled a list of common Windows 10 problems and steps you can take to fix them. 

Whether it's a performance issue, a software glitch, or a security concern, our guide offers practical solutions to keep your operating system running smoothly. 

Additionally, if your system has become sluggish, you might find solutions in our guide on ways to speed up Windows 10, which can address many issues not listed here.

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

A frequent issue many users have with Windows 10 occurs 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 the 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 operating system update can be installed manually. 

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, Indeed you simply head to the 'About Windows' screen where it should tell you the necessary information.

Windows 10 "About Windows" screen

Once you're ready to upgrade to the latest Windows 10 version, you’re can use the Windows Update Tool. 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. 

What's more, it might not tell you which version of the upgrade it will install. The tool asks you if you want the Home or Business version of Windows 10 and, if you have one of these already 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

Following a successful Windows 10 installation, the previous operating system may still be lingering 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 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 operating system takes your fancy and you're happy to wave goodbye to the 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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A drive selection option should appear next. All you need to do is select the drive your operating system 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 operating system was installed on. 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 operating system will then perform some more calculations and offers a similar-looking prompt window. This time, though, it will give you 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

Encountering too many notifications in Windows 10 can be overwhelming. The Action Center, located on the right-hand side of the taskbar, consolidates various notifications for easy management. 

While this feature is helpful in principle, neglecting to manage it can lead to an overload of both important and trivial notifications. To handle this, open 'Settings' and navigate to 'Notifications & Actions' where you can customize which apps are allowed to send you alerts.

Additionally, Windows 10's default data-sharing settings are not ideal for privacy, so reviewing and adjusting these is crucial. 

Access the Settings app via the Start Menu, then go to Privacy. Here, you’ll find multiple options to control which apps can access your camera, microphone, and other sensitive data. This ensures that no apps have access to information you aren’t aware of.

Windows Defender settings should also be checked. Navigate to Update & Security in Settings, then to Windows Defender. Review and adjust settings for cloud-based detection and automatic sample submission according to your preferences.

Wi-Fi Sense, a feature designed to connect your device to networks quickly, raises privacy concerns. To manage this, go to Network & Internet in the Settings menu, select Wi-Fi, then Manage Wi-Fi Settings. Turn off options like Connect to suggested open hotspots and Connect to networks shared by my contacts. This prevents your device from automatically connecting to potentially insecure networks.

Wi-Fi Sense might inadvertently share your network’s credentials with nearby devices, including those not under your control. To prevent this, rename your network’s SSID to end with "_optout." For better network hygiene, allow guests to use a separate guest network and configure all devices to avoid using Wi-Fi Sense. This practice helps maintain a secure and private network environment.

7. Windows 10 shares too much data

Windows 10's default data-sharing settings are often too permissive, so it's important for users to review and adjust them to protect their privacy periodically. 

To begin, open the Start Menu and search for the Settings app. Navigate to the Privacy section, where on the left-hand pane, you’ll find various options regarding how your device shares data.

Carefully examine all the categories to determine if you’re comfortable with your apps using services like the camera, microphone, and accessing your account information. This step is crucial to ensure you know which apps have access to your data.

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

Next, go back to the main settings menu and select Update & Security, then navigate to Windows Defender. Review the default settings for cloud-based detection and automatic sample submission, and adjust them according to your preferences to ensure they align with your privacy needs.

Wi-Fi Sense, a feature designed to connect your Windows 10 device to networks more quickly, can raise privacy concerns. To manage this, enter the Settings menu, choose Network & Internet, then Wi-Fi, and select Manage Wi-Fi Settings. It is recommended to turn off "Connect to suggested open hotspots" and "Connect to networks shared by my contacts." Additionally, disable the option under Paid Wi-Fi services.

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

Wi-Fi Sense can also share your network’s credentials with nearby devices, including those not under your control, which poses a privacy risk. To mitigate this, rename your network's SSID to end with '_optout'. Providing guests with access to a separate guest network instead of the main one is a good practice. Ensure that all devices and staff disable Wi-Fi Sense before connecting to your primary network.

By regularly checking and adjusting these settings, you can maintain better control over your data and enhance your privacy on Windows 10.

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

In Windows 10, System Restore isn't activated by default, which is puzzling given its importance for system recovery. To enable it, you need to do it manually through the Control Panel. 

Start by searching for "Create a restore point" and open the System Properties page from the first result. In the 'Protection Settings' section, select your main 'System' drive and click 'Configure.' Then, choose the 'Turn on system protection' option and apply the changes. 

Once enabled, Windows 10 will create restore points automatically during updates or significant system changes, providing a valuable safety net for your system.

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 can access mobile internet on Windows 10 when Wi-Fi isn't available. However, this can lead to unexpected data usage if not properly configured, especially when using a portable hotspot.

To prevent this, go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Network & Internet’. Select ‘Wi-Fi’, followed by ‘Advanced Options’, and enable the ‘Set as metered connection’ option. This setting ensures the operating system minimizes background data usage, such as non-essential updates, protecting your monthly data allowance.

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

In Microsoft Edge, you currently cannot save web pages as HTML files. Previously, Internet Explorer 11 provided a workaround for this feature, but it has since been removed from most Windows 10 PCs. Instead, you'll need to use a browser like Chrome that supports this functionality.

To save a web page as an HTML file in Chrome, click the three dots in the top-right corner of the browser, navigate to ‘More tools’, and select ‘Save page as’. A Windows popup box will appear, allowing you to rename the file and choose to save it as an HTML file. Finally, press the save button to download the page to your computer. This method ensures you can keep a local copy of web pages for offline access or archival purposes.

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 obstructive, you can disable it through the Registry Editor. Start by searching for 'regedit' in the Start Menu to open the Registry Editor. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. 

Look for a key named 'Personalisation'. If it doesn't exist, right-click the Windows key, select New > Key, and rename it to 'Personalization'. Right-click this new key, choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, and name it 'NoLockScreen'. Double-click this value, set the data to 1, and click OK. After rebooting your system, the lock screen should be disabled.

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 introduced hybrid boot to shorten start-up times, and this feature was carried over to Windows 10. Normally, when you shut down your PC, all processes are terminated. However, with hybrid boot, the Windows kernel goes into hibernation to speed up the next start-up. While this is useful, it can sometimes be too slow for IT professionals.

To disable hybrid boot, search for ‘Power Options’ in the Start Menu. Open the Control Panel applet from the left pane, and click on ‘Choose what the power buttons do.’ Select ‘Change settings that are currently unavailable,’ then find and deselect ‘Turn on fast start-up.’ Save your changes, and your PC should turn on faster.

Interestingly, some users have found that toggling fast start-up off and then back on can resolve related issues. To do this, follow the previous steps to deselect the function, restart your system, and then re-enable it.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 fast startup settings

Additionally, if you dual-boot between Windows 7 and Windows 10, disabling fast start-up in Windows 10 can prevent Windows 7 from performing a disk check every time you boot. This happens because with fast start-up enabled, Windows 7 may not recognize that the disks were properly shut down in Windows 10. Disabling this feature ensures smoother transitions between the two operating systems.

17. I can't play a DVD

If you love watching films on your PC or laptop, you might have been frustrated to discover that Windows 10 was released without a built-in app to play DVDs. Fortunately, Microsoft released an app called Windows DVD Player, but it costs £11.59. 

For a cost-effective alternative, you can download VLC Media Player. VLC is a free, open-source media player that supports DVD playback along with a wide range of other formats. It’s user-friendly, highly versatile, and often preferred for its robust performance and flexibility.

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.