Over many years of being immersed in Microsoft Windows, I’ve come across a few tidbits I think are worthy of sharing. Some of these you may know about, but I hope you find something new here.
1. Opening a command prompt in File Explorer
So, you’re in File Explorer and you want to open a command prompt in the current location. The easiest way is to simply type “cmd” (without the quotes) in the address bar, and there you go: a command window opens to that location. You can also run other commands the same way. Go ahead: type “notepad” into the address bar of File Explorer for yourself. Conversely, you can use a command prompt to open File Explorer in the current location. To do so, issue either of the following commands in the command prompt: “start.” or “explorer .”.
2. Auto inserting the date and time in Notepad
I use Notepad all the time for taking quick notes. Try pressing F5 when you’re in Notepad. This will enter the time and date, which is useful for marking when an entry was made.
3. Changing configuration settings with MSConfig
Many already know about this utility, but it’s worth mentioning for those who don’t. MSConfig.exe is a built-in Windows tool for controlling such things as the manner the next startup boot will occur (normal, diagnostic, or selective), which services will run, and a list of other built-in tools. It’s very powerful, so use it with care. You can find more information here.
4. Understanding system errors
A quick way (yes, quicker than Googling) to look up a Windows system error is to use the command “net helpmsg errornumber”. For example, if you want to know what system error 5 means, enter this at a command prompt:
C:\>net helpmsg 5
Access is denied.
5. Activating speech recognition
Tired of typing? No problem: Windows has a built-in solution that allows you to talk to your computer and give your hands a break. To enable this tool, start by pressing the Windows key +H. This will prompt you with a link to Settings to enable speech recognition. Toggle it on, and the next time a text field is in focus, you can turn listening mode on with Windows key + H. When you start talking, your computer will start typing for you. You’ll find handy documentation on how to use this feature at Windows Speech Recognition commands.
6. Organizing windows
Say you want to re-arrange the windows on your screen. Pressing the Windows key and the right or left arrow will snap a window to either the right or left side of the screen. But what if you have four windows and you want one in each corner of the screen? Well, that’s easy: just grab a window, drag it to the corner of the screen until you see the outline of the window, and then release it. Repeat this for each corner.
7. Accessing control settings with Windows Master Control Panel
There is something called Windows Master Control Panel, aka the God Mode folder. (Don’t blame me; I didn’t name it.) It’s a folder with shortcuts to many different Windows administrative/management settings and Control Panel tools in a single location. To create it, one must be logged in as Administrator (of course), and then simply create a new folder and give it the name
8. Deleting files
It is well known that when a file is deleted it is not truly deleted, but the space the file consumed is now marked as available. However, if you want to make sure a deleted file is actually deleted and not recoverable (by freely available tools), then the space the file consumed needs to be overwritten. There are plenty of third-party tools that will do this, but why bother getting one when Windows has a built-in tool? To overwrite free space in a particular directory or even a drive so the deleted files are not recoverable, use the cipher command. For example, to overwrite free space in the folder C:\Temp, issue the command
To overwrite all the free space on the D: drive, issue the command
And of course, a tool named “cipher” can also encrypt files or directories.
9. Checking battery status
Want to know the state of your laptop’s battery? No problem. Use the powercfg command to learn everything about your battery’s current state. Note: Powercfg must be run in an Administrator command window. While powercfg has many options, the two I find most informative are /batteryreport and /energy. When powercfg is run with /batteryreport, it will create an HTML file named battery-report.html with pretty much all there is to know about your battery’s usage and history statistics. When run with /energy, powercfg will create an HTML file named energy-report.html with a “Power Efficiency Diagnostics Report” that contains all kinds of information on the battery’s current status. For more information about powercfg, visit Powercfg command-line options.
This is only a drop in the (bit) bucket of Windows tips and tricks, so please share the ones you’ve discovered.