Inside the Windows 10 Action Center

Learn more about the notifications panel.

The Windows 10 Action Center

Action Center.
The Windows 10 Action Center.

 One of Windows 10's best features is its organization. For instance, the Start menu is well laid out. Things aren't scattered here and there with no logic behind them. Another strong example of this organization is the Action Center. Let's find out what it can do. (In future articles, I'll show you how to add and delete notifications from this area; for now, let's just do a little exploring and get comfortable with it.)

Finding the Action Center

The Action Center Icon
The Action Center Icon.

The Action Center is a one-stop shop for various notifications that Windows 10 thinks will be important to you. The first step in this is knowing how to get to it. The Action Center icon is in the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. It's in the right grouping of icons. As you can see in the figure above, it looks like a little square "thought bubble" from a comic book (I've highlighted it in yellow.)

If the icon isn't white, it means there are no new notifications for you. If it is white, you have new notifications and should open up the Action Center by clicking it with a mouse or pressing it. 

Understand the Layout

The Action Center main interface.
The Action Center main interface. (Identifying information has been blurred out).

That will bring up the Action Center's main menu, with a whole lot of interesting stuff in it. At the top it says "ACTION CENTER," and underneath will be any notifications. At the bottom is a number of tiles that offer various functions for your computer. In the example at left, you can see that I have two notifications: a new email, and a notice that Windows Defender needs to scan my computer for viruses.  

The Windows Defender notification has a yellow exclamation point, so that I'll be sure to notice it. These are things Microsoft feels you should take immediate action on. To the right of the notices, there may also be a little down arrow. If there is, press or click it to get more information.

At the top right of the Action Center it says "Clear all." Click it to delete the notifications.

Action Center Tiles

Action Center tiles.
Action Center tiles.

At the bottom of the Action Center is a group of boxes that let you customize or control Windows 10. They can tell you things like how much battery power you have left, what wireless networks you're connected to, and a way to manage your settings. At the top of the list on the right, it says "Collapse." Click that to reduce those boxes to just the top row. When it's minimized like that, it will say "Expand" instead. This is helpful if you get lots of notifications, giving you more room to see them, or saves space if you're on a small display.

The 'All settings' Screen

The 'All settings' screen.
The 'All settings' screen.

Clicking on these boxes may do nothing, or it may enable a function or open up another menu of options. For instance, clicking on the little sun icon in my Action Center changes the display's brightness, in incremental steps of 25 percent. Clicking on "All settings" brings up the Settings window (shown at left), which allows control over many aspects of Windows 10. 

Quick Actions

Quick Actions.
Quick Actions.

The top four tiles in that area are also called Quick Actions, and they're configurable. If you're in the Settings window, click on the "System" icon at the top left. Then click the "Notifications & actions." You'll see the "Quick actions" header, and "Choose your quick actions" underneath that, with the four boxes under that. If you go back out to the Action Center, you'll notice that those boxes correspond with the top four boxes here. 

Changing Quick Actions

Changing the 'Bluetooth' Quick Action.
Changing the 'Bluetooth' Quick Action.

To change a Quick Action, click on one of the four boxes, which will bring up a list of possible actions you can change it to. In the example at left, I can change from a Bluetooth Quick Action to another in the list. When I click the new action, that one will replace the Bluetooth box in the top row of tiles in the Action Center.  

Try It For Yourself

Now that you know what the Action Center can do, spend some time trying out the different boxes, and see what they do. Customize it to fit your needs -- choose the most useful actions and make those Quick Actions, and make your time more efficient.