The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is the next major update that Microsoft is making available for PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox, and pretty much anything that runs on Windows 10. The new update of the popular operating system ships with a slew of improvements and features, which doesn’t redefine the way we use computers, but they make the experience more complete, secure, and enjoyable.
If you’re part of the Windows Insider Program, or if you have followed the development of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you probably know many of the new changes that you are getting. However, the update also packs a number of small hidden features that you probably have yet to discover.
In this guide, you’ll learn the best hidden features on the Anniversary Update that can help you to make the most out of your Windows 10 experience.
Note that if you find a feature you already know, probably it’s not a hidden feature for you. However, you can keep reading, you may just find one feature that you may not know of.
1. Windows 10 refresh tool
Even before the Anniversary Update, you could easily download the Windows 10 ISO to do a clean install. The problem was the tedious process of having to download the ISO, create the bootable media, configure your computer’s BIOS, and then reinstall Windows 10.
In the new version there is a hidden feature called “Refresh Windows”, which enables you to quickly do a clean install of Windows 10 with the latest update. It only involves a few clicks, and you don’t need a bootable media.
The tool is available from Microsoft forum, but you can use this direct download link. Then double-click the RefreshWindowsTool.exe, follow the on-screen directions, and click the Install button to complete the process.
Refresh Windows is a great tool to fix a computer when isn’t working correctly, set up a new device free of bloatware, or when a clean install of Windows 10 is necessary.
2. Reactivating Windows 10 after hardware change
While most regular people don’t often replace hardware components on their computers. There are many others users, such as advanced users and gamers that every once in a while need to upgrade their motherboard, hard drive, and other components.
In previous versions, if you made significant changes to the hardware on your computer Windows 10 will deactivate. In which case, you needed to call Microsoft to reactivate, which is a solution less than ideal.
On the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft is adding one best features to the operating system that let you link your Windows 10 digital license with your Microsoft Account. This new automated process allows you to use the new troubleshooter to reactivate your copy of Windows 10.
Using the Activation Troubleshooter to reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware change is very easy. The option is available on Settings > Update & security > Activation. If you see the “Windows is not activated”, you’ll then see the Troubleshoot option, otherwise you won’t see it.
Click the Troubleshoot button, and click the “I changed hardware on this device recently” link. Then sign in with your Microsoft account. Under Reactivate Windows 10, check the “This is the device I’m using right now”, and click the Activate button.
3. Reclaim hard drive space using the Settings app
Previously, you needed to use the old Disk Cleanup tool to delete the “Previous Windows Installation”, “Temporary Windows Installation files”, and other temporary files wasting gigabytes of space on your hard drive.
On the new version of Windows 10, Microsoft is redesigning the Temporary files page on the Settings app to let you delete unnecessary files from your computer.
Simply go to Settings > System > Storage, choose the drive you want to reclaim space, click Temporary files, select the files you want to delete, and click Remove files.
Remember after deleting these you won’t be able to uninstall or rollback to a previous version. However, the system will eventually delete these files anyway.
4. Windows Defender Periodic Scanning
Windows Defender is the free antivirus that Microsoft ships with every copy of Windows 10. However, many people opt to install third-party solutions, such as Symantec’s Norton Antivirus, AVG, McAfee, and others.
The problem is that no matter the money you pay, there isn’t an antivirus that can guarantee full protection from malware and other malicious software. For this reason, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is introducing a new feature called “Limited Periodic Scanning”.
Limited Periodic Scanning is only available for devices running a third-party antivirus. When enabled let Windows 10 use Windows Defender to periodically scan your computer and remove threats that your full-featured antivirus might have missed.
The new feature is available on Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender, and under Limited Periodic Scanning make sure to enable the option.
5. Windows Defender offline without bootable media
In previous versions, if your computer got infected with malware or a tough virus, you could download the Windows Defender offline utility to remove the threat. The Anniversary Update is removing the extra steps of downloading and creating a bootable media by adding a new Windows Defender Offline option in the Settings app.
The new feature is available on Settings > Update & security > Windows Defender, and under Windows Defender Offline simply click the Scan Offline button. Then your computer will restart into Windows Defender, the scan will start automatically, and remove any malware or tough virus.
6. Network reset to fix any Wi-Fi or Ethernet issue
One of the most common problems on devices is network connectivity. In the new version, you’ll find one best hidden features the Anniversary Update has to offer that quickly reset your network adapters to fix the most common Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity problems.
The new option is available on Settings > Network & internet > Status, scroll down and click Network Reset. Then click Network Reset and click Yes to confirm.
Finally, restart your computer and make sure to reconnect to your Wi-Fi network.
7. Windows 10 Mobile Hotspot
Mobile Hotspot has been a feature on Windows for a long time. The only problem was that you needed to set it up using the NETSH command-line utility, which isn’t ideal for regular users.
On the Windows 10 Anniversary Update anyone can quickly share an internet connection using the new “Mobile Hotspot” feature.
The feature is located on Settings > Network & security > Mobile Hotspot, simply enable the feature, and you’re good to go. Remember to choose from the drop-down list which connection you want to share, and make note of the network name and password to let others connect.
8. Reset Windows 10 apps
In the past, when you came across an issue with a Windows Store app, you didn’t have a way to troubleshoot and fix the problem. Sometimes uninstalling and reinstalling the app may fix the issue, but it was never certain.
However, in the new version of the operating system, there is a hidden feature to quickly reset an app when is not working properly.
The new feature is available on Settings > Apps & features, select an app, click Advanced options, and click the Reset button to permanently delete the app’s data on your device and start fresh again as if you were installing the app for the first time.
9. Control apps battery usage
Microsoft is also adding new settings to help you manage per-app battery usage on your device when in battery saver mode.
You can now go to Settings > System > Battery, and clicking the Battery usage by app link will take you to the new settings page. You can then select an app and choose whether to allow an app to run in the background during battery saver mode, or you can let the operating system control the battery usage automatically.
When the app is set to “Managed by Windows”, the operating system will stop apps from running in the background in Battery Saver mode. It’ll also turn off apps you’re not using when it detects high battery drain without losing your data.
10. Windows Update Active Hours
Windows has a bad reputation installing updates in least convenient times. However, this is changing with the Anniversary Update, as you can now adjust the time you’re actively using your device to prevent sudden restarts.
The new feature is called Active Hours, and it’s located on Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, then click the Change active hours link to access the settings. Adjust the time you’re likely be using your computer, and click Save.
11. Hide Taskbar on tablet mode
While it’s been always possible to hide the Taskbar in the operating system, it wasn’t an option for tablet mode. In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you can now go Settings > System > Tablet mode, and turn on the “Automatically hide the taskbar in tablet mode” option to let apps take advantage of the entire screen.
However, it’s important to note that you can always bring the taskbar back by swiping from the bottom up. Also the taskbar won’t hide while you’re in the Start screen to allow access to the Start button, Cortana, and the back button.
Interesting enough the same option can also be found in Settings > Personalization > Taskbar.
12. Windows 10 Dark mode
When everything seems too bright and too light, you can now change the color scheme of apps to a dark mode.
The new option is available on Settings > Personalization > Colors, and under “Choose your app mode”, you can pick between Light or Dark theme for your apps.
Additionally, you can also use the new “Show color on title bar” to allow the title bar to take the color from your current color scheme.
13. Remove Quick Actions buttons
Action Center is getting a lot of improvements, including an updated user-interface, mirror notifications, new types of notifications and more. In addition to these changes, the Anniversary Update is also adding a few improvements to Quick actions, such as the ability to press and hold a button and rearrange it any way you like.
Another new feature that you probably didn’t notice is the ability to add and remove Quick actions buttons. The new feature is located on Settings > System > Notifications & actions, then click the “Add or remove quick actions” link and enable or disable the buttons you want see on Action center. And yes you can disable all the Quick actions buttons if you want.
14. Sync phone notification to your PC
On the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Cortana is getting a lot of new improvements, including the ability to push notifications from your phone to your PC.
If you have an Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone, and you’re using Cortana, you’ll now see a lot more notifications coming through Action Center. However, there is a hidden feature to control exactly the notifications you can see in your PC from your phone.
The new option is located on Cortana Settings > Send notifications between devices, click the Edit sync settings button, select your phone, turn off the notifications you don’t want to see. Alternatively, you can turn off the first option, which will disable all notifications from that specific device.
Another hidden feature on Cortana for Windows 10 Anniversary Update is the “Upload notifications from this PC to the cloud” option on My devices while editing the sync settings to prevent getting the same notification twice.
15. Sticky Notes integration with Cortana
In the new Windows Ink experience, you’ll also find a new version of Sticky Notes, which also includes integration with Cortana to create reminders from notes.
However, if you want Cortana to scan your notes and help you to create reminders, you need to enable the feature. Create a new Sticky Note, then click the menu button (…), click the Settings button (gear icon), and turn on Enable insights.
Once your turn on insights, you’ll be able to create a note, and you’ll notice that important data like dates and phone numbers will turn blue. Tapping the blue content will let you create actions, such as add a new reminder using Cortana.
16. Cortana listens to music to identify song information
Among all the new improvements, such as Cortana above the Lock screen and notification features, Microsoft’s digital assistant is getting the ability to identify what song is playing on the radio, similar to Shazam, Siri, and Google Now.
Just ask Cortana: “What song is playing?” or click the music icon when you open Cortana in the top-right corner. Cortana will listen to the music and identify the song with a list of matches, which you can use to get access to the song or buy from the Windows Store.
17. Start with Chaseable Live Tiles
Chaseable Live Tiles is a subtle but useful hidden feature. In previous versions, when you clicked a headline or picture on a Live Tile would simply open the app instead of the content you were intending to see.
On the new Anniversary Update, Microsoft is adding the ability for developers to implement deep linking to their apps. This means that soon as apps get updated, you would be able to click a headline on a Live Tile open the story instead of just opening the app on the main page.
18. Customize apps notifications priority
Windows 10 always offered various options to control the amount of notifications you get on the desktop. However, the Anniversary Update brings additional options to customize the amount and priority of notifications you receive per app in Action Center.
Changing the notification priority in Action Center is a straightforward process. Go to Settings > System > Notifications & actions, select the app you want to customize, and change the number of notifications visible in Action Center, which could be 1, 3 (default), 5, 10, or 20. Then change the priority to Top, High, or Normal (default).
19. Disable badge notifications for taskbar buttons
Badges on Windows 10 are a new kind of lightweight notifications that show up on apps on the taskbar without having to open Action Center, the Start menu, or the actual app to see new updates.
Badges notifications comes enabled by default on the Anniversary Update, but what you may not know is that you can easily disable the feature. If badges notifications aren’t your thing, you can go to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar and turn off “Show badges on taskbar buttons”.
20. Microsoft Edge extensions on the address bar
One of the best features on the new version of the operating system is the arrival of extension support — just like Chrome and Firefox.
You can get these little apps to enhance the functionality of Microsoft Edge from Store. However, after the installation, extensions won’t appear next to the address bar like is the case in other web browsers. The default behavior is for extensions to appear in the main menu of Microsoft Edge.
If you want them to appear next to the address bar for quicker access, you’ll need to open Edge’s main menu (…) and select Extensions. Then click an extension, and turn on the “Show button next to the address bar”.
21. Load web pages even faster on Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge receives a lot of new improvements on the Anniversary Update, and one of them is a new experimental feature called TCP Fast Open. The new feature in theory increases page loading time between 10 to 40 percent.
The TCP Fast Open is an extension of the good old Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). You can read all the technical details on how it works on WikiPedia.
If you want to enable this hidden feature on Microsoft Edge, go to about:flags on the browser, which will open the developer settings page, scroll down and under Networking, check the option Enable TCP Fast Open.
22. Windows Ink for devices without touch
The Anniversary Update expands Microsoft support for pen with the new Windows Ink experience. The new experience allows you to use an active pen more efficiently in the new version of Windows 10. It also brings new features, such as the Windows Ink Workspace, a central hub to get access to the new Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen Sketch.
Although Windows Ink comes enabled by default on touch enabled devices, it’s also a feature that you can enable using the keyboard and mouse.
If you’re using a device without support for touch, you can simply right-click the Taskbar, and select “Show Windows Ink Workspace button”. This action will add new pen icon to the notification area to open the new Windows Ink apps.
23. Disable the pen cursor on Windows Ink
If you ever used active pen on Windows, you probably noticed that as the pen approaches the display the pen cursor appears. This visual element can add distraction and a delay effect, as the cursor not always moves at the same speed of the pen.
Thankfully, this time around, Windows 10 has the best hidden feature to disable the pen cursor. Simply go to Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink and turn off the “Show cursor” option.
24. Enable Windows Ink above the Lock screen
Windows Ink comes enabled by default on touch-enabled devices, but what you probably didn’t know is that you can also enable the feature even when your device is locked.
If you want to use Windows Ink Workspace above the Lock screen go to Settings > Devices > Pen & Windows Ink, under Pen shortcuts configure the “Click once” option to Windows Ink Workspace, and turn on the “Click once to open my Windows Ink Workspace notes even when the device is locked” option.
25. Bash on Ubuntu on Windows 10
Microsoft is making Windows 10 a Linux friendly operating system, and if you’re a developer this is a big deal. Starting with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you can use Bash, a popular command line utility for Linux, natively on Windows 10. However, this tool doesn’t come installed by default, you have to manually add it to the operating system.
The process involves enabling the developer mode in the Settings app, and adding the new Windows Subsystem for Linux tool found in Windows Features.
Wrapping things up
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is one of the biggest releases for the operating system, and even though there are many big improvements, there are also a slew of small changes that can also make a difference to make the most out of Windows 10, like the best hidden features you learned in this article.
What’s the best hidden feature you like on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update? Tell us in the comments below.