Six Easy Power User Tips for Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows 10

Want to be a Windows power user? Here are six tips to get you started

Windows has an endless supply of tips and tricks that can help make your use of the system more efficient. The more you learn, the closer you set yourself on the path to becoming a power user.

A power user is just someone who's used Windows long enough and with enough interest to accumulate a mental library of tips, tricks, and problem-solving steps (such as knowing how to fix a sideways screen).

If you've always wanted to be a power user but weren't sure where to start, here are six tips to get you started.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

As of January 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Happy man working on desktop computer
Bruce Mars / pexels

Use the Start Menu

With all versions of Windows (except Windows 8), the Start menu is your go-to location for opening apps and accessing system utilities. Did you know that you can access many of the important system utilities without opening the Start menu?

Right-click the Start button to bring up a right-click context menu. From here you can quickly open the task manager, control panel, the run dialog, device manager, a command prompt, and other important functions. There's even a quick option to shut down or reboot your PC.

If you'd rather use a keyboard shortcut to open the hidden menu press the Windows logo key+x, which is where the 'Start-x' name comes from.

Start button context menu

A Massive “Send to” Menu

Do you ever use the Send to right-click menu option for files and folders? As its name suggests, it's a quick and easy way to move files around your system to specific folders or apps.

The selection of options for the Send to menu is limited — unless you know how to get Windows to show you more options, that is. Before you right-click on a file or folder hold down the Shift button on your keyboard.

Now, right-click and hover over the Send to option in the context menu. A massive list will show up with pretty much every major folder on your PC. You won't find sub-folders such as Documents > My Great Folder, but if you need to quickly send a movie to your videos folder or OneDrive, the Send to option plus Shift can get it done.

Extended Send To list

Add More Clocks

By default, Windows shows you the current time on the far right of the taskbar. That's great for keeping track of the local time, but sometimes you need to keep track of several time zones at once for business or keeping in touch with family.

Adding multiple clocks to the taskbar is simple. The instructions here are for Windows 10, but the process is similar for other versions of Windows.

  1. Type "Control Panel" in the Windows search box or in the Start menu search and select Control Panel in the results.

    Control Panel in search results
  2. Once the Control Panel opens, make sure the View by option in the upper right corner is set to the Category option.

    Category in Control Panel
  3. Now select Clock, Language, and Region > Add clocks for different time zones.

    Control Panel > Clock and Region
  4. In the new window that opens, select the Additional Clocks tab.

    Additional Clocks tab in Date and Time window
  5. Now click the checkbox next to one of the Show this clock options.

    Show this clock option in Date and Time
  6. Next, select your time zone from the drop-down menu, and give the clock a name in the text entry box labeled Enter display name.​

    Example in Enter Display Name in Date and Time window
  7. Once that's done select Apply, then OK.

To see if the new clock is appearing, either hover over the time on your taskbar to get a pop-up with multiple clocks, or click on the time to see the full version.

Use the Volume Mixer (Windows 7 and Up)

Most of the time, when you want to reduce the volume, you just click on the volume icon in your system tray (far right of the taskbar) or hit a special key on the keyboard. But if you open the Volume Mixer, you get far more control over your system's sound levels, including a special setting for system alerts.

If you're tired of all those ding and pings smacking you in the eardrum, here's how you fix it.

  1. For Windows 8.1 and 10, right-click the volume icon and select Open Volume Mixer. On Windows 7, click the volume icon and then click on Mixer right below the general volume control.

    Open Volume Mixer
  2. On Windows 8.1 and 10, lower the setting called System Sounds to a more comfortable level — on Windows 7, the setting may also be called Windows Sounds.

    Volume Mixer window

Pin Your Favorite Folders to File Explorer (Windows 7 and Up)

Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 all have a way to put the folders you use most often in a special spot in File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7). In Windows 8.1 and 10, that location is called Quick Access, while Windows 7 calls it favorites. Regardless, both sections are in the same spot at the very top of the navigation pane in the File Explorer/Windows Explorer window.

To add a folder to this location, you can either drag-and-drop it right onto the section, or right-click the folder you want to add, and select Pin to Quick Access/Add current location to Favorites.

Change the Lock Screen Image (Windows 10)

Windows 10 lets you personalize the lock screen image on your PC instead of using the generic pictures Microsoft supplies by default.

  1. Get started by going to Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock screen.

    Lock Screen window
  2. Now click the drop-down menu under Background and select Picture.

    Picture in Background menu in Lock Screen settings
  3. Next, under Choose your picture, click the Browse button to find the image on your system that you want to use.

    Browse button in Lock Screen settings
  4. Once you've selected the picture, it may take a few seconds to show up at the top of the Settings window under Preview. Once it's there, you can close the Settings app.

To test if you've got the right picture, tap the Windows logo key+L to view the lock screen.

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