Windows 11 might have arrived on the scene, but Windows 10 is still very much alive and well. It’s still far and away the most popular iteration of Windows, with most people still not having upgraded to 11, and for good reason; it was a safe move for Microsoft after the controversial reception “enjoyed” by Windows 8. Just like all of the other versions of Windows, there are still plenty of things that aren’t common knowledge about Windows 10. Here are 17 things you might not have known about Microsoft’s most recent operating system (besides 11, of course).
1. Cortana has probably told millions of jokes since launch
As of 2015, near the time of Windows 11’s launch, Cortana had told more than 500,000 jokes to those who asked her to tell them a joke. That number is likely to be much, much higher now; it’s likely Cortana has told millions upon millions of jokes to willing recipients. Other assistants can, of course, tell jokes as well, but we have a feeling none of them have the sassy talent for humour Cortana has.
2. Windows 10 was supposed to be the last iteration
Back in 2015, Windows dev evangelist Jerry Nixon said Windows 10 was the “last version” of the operating system. The idea was that instead of constantly releasing new versions of Windows, Microsoft would instead iterate on Windows 10, constantly creating new incremental updates and additions. Of course, that didn’t turn out to be the case, as we’re now on Windows 11.
3. Windows 10 restored the Start bar
Windows 8 was supposed to be a revision of the classic Windows look, which is why it ditched the iconic Start bar. This element of Windows goes all the way back to 1995’s aptly-named Windows 95, so removing it might have felt a little jarring to many users. That could explain why Microsoft felt the need to put it back in for Windows 10, thus restoring the classic Windows experience with which many users were familiar. It’s more customisable than previous variants, too.
4. Windows 10 is the dominant Windows OS
Windows 10 is by far the most-used Windows version. It currently enjoys around 82.5% of the market share, compared to Windows 7’s 12.88% and Windows 8’s combined 3.9% across both versions. This also makes Windows 10 the most popular OS in the world; while there are certainly a lot of Mac users out there, Windows users outnumber them pretty significantly. It looks like the user experience experiment paid off, eh, Microsoft?
5. A new internet browser came with Windows 10
In order to make its new OS more appealing for users, Microsoft also released a brand new web browser alongside Windows 10. The first version of Microsoft Edge was built on a proprietary EdgeHTML engine, and it chugged along for a little while until Microsoft decided to rebuild the browser in 2018. The modern version of Edge is based on the same Chromium engine as Google Chrome, and it shows; Edge is compatible with pretty much all Chrome extensions now, and runs much the same as Google’s browser does.
6. Cortana made the jump from Halo in Windows 10
Named for Master Chief’s AI assistant in the Halo video game series, the Cortana digital assistant made its debut in the Windows Phone ecosystem. Windows 10 was the first Microsoft operating system to introduce Cortana, who assists Master Chief with strategic decision-making and battlefield readouts in Halo. In a similar fashion, Cortana will provide information to you when you ask for it, and she’ll also help to streamline your Windows experience.
7. Windows 10 revamped notifications
In order to make it more useful, Microsoft revamped the notification system in Windows 10. The new “Action Centre” feature showed you all of your notifications in one handy place, as well as important information about your PC like what Wi-Fi network you’re connected to and whether your battery is low (if applicable). It’s fair to say the Windows 10 notification system was far more useful than any of its previous iterations were.
8. The Unified Store brought mobile and desktop together
With Windows 10, Microsoft declared an ambition to achieve parity between the mobile and desktop versions of its operating system. To that end, the Unified Store introduced apps that would work on both types of device without any need for downloading separate versions. This was mostly to ensure that devices like the Microsoft Surface hybrid laptop-tablet would work just as well as desktop PCs and laptops with Windows 10, and it paid off.
9. Windows 10 was free for many users
Much like Windows 11, Microsoft offered Windows 10 as a free upgrade for many users. If you were running previous versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8, you’d be able to upgrade to the new Windows 10 operating system entirely without paying a penny. Different versions were eligible for different upgrades; the Pro version of Windows 10 was only available as a free upgrade for those who were already running Windows 7 or 8 Pro.
10. Continuum made tablet/desktop switching easy
Since Microsoft was already designing Windows 10 for parity between mobile and desktop, it made sense to introduce a feature like Continuum. This feature made it simple to swap between your keyboard-mouse configuration and a touch interface; Windows 10 automatically detected when you wanted to swap between these two modes and made changes without needing to be told twice, which was hugely useful if you were a Surface user.
11. Windows 10 added new security features
If you’ve ever fired up a Windows 10 machine and been greeted by the Windows Hello screen, then you’ll know that Windows 10 added some new security features. Windows Hello made it possible for users to authenticate themselves with biometrics; you could use your fingerprint to sign into Windows, and if your device supported it, you could also use face scanning or iris recognition. Sometimes, Windows Hello experienced some issues, but for the most part, it was a pretty snazzy system. It’s still built into Windows 11, too.
12. Some under-the-hood Windows Defender improvements were made
Windows 10 made some under-the-hood improvements to the Windows Defender virus protection system. While past versions of Windows pretty much required external antivirus software, changes to the way Windows Defender worked ensured that most users wouldn’t need any extra protection other than Defender. No more bloat from memory-hogging antivirus applications!
13. Windows 10 came with Wi-Fi Sense
Much like the way mobile devices work, Windows 10 had a feature that would automatically remember and sign you into Wi-Fi networks you’d visited previously. Naturally, this wasn’t much use for static desktop users, but it was a godsend for laptop users who found themselves migrating between locations frequently. After this change, you didn’t have to constantly scan for Wi-Fi networks on your laptop anymore.
14. Windows 10 introduced virtual desktops to Windows
Virtual desktops weren’t really “a thing” in Windows prior to Windows 10. The operating system introduced this concept to Windows users, allowing them to use a feature that had been standard on Mac and Linux machines for a long time. Essentially, you could group different windows and apps into virtual desktop environments, allowing you to create different desktops for different purposes. It’s a feature that still exists in Windows 11 today!
15. File Explorer got an overhaul
One of the major problems many people had with Windows was its poor, inefficient file searching system. In Windows 10, Microsoft introduced File Explorer, which overhauled the way you looked for files and searched your system. It made finding files and organising your storage drives much easier, and although there were still kinks to iron out – some of which were fixed in Windows 11 – it was almost inarguably a better system than the ones present in Windows 8 or Windows 7.
16. Windows 10 will be supported until 2025
Don’t worry if you don’t feel like upgrading to Windows 11 just yet. Microsoft has confirmed that, like many of its other operating systems, Windows 10 will have a ten-year support cycle. The company will end support for Windows 10 in 2025, which gives you a few more years to decide whether you want to upgrade or not. Eventually, you’ll need to, but for now, you’re safe using the system you’re familiar with.
17. Microsoft skipped Windows 9
You’ll notice that between Windows 8 and Windows 10, there is no Windows 9. That’s a deliberate choice on the part of Microsoft, who made the decision to skip Windows 9 (much like Apple did with the iPhone X). Several Microsoft staffers were spotted at the 2015 Build conference wearing shirts with binary messages reading “Windows 10, because 7 8 9 (seven ate nine)”, which is a cute little joke. However, we’re pretty sure the reason for the skip is just so Microsoft can show that Windows 10 is a huge leap forward from 8.
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