Windows 10 troubleshooting: How to fix common problems before Windows 11 arrives
Running into a problem on your Windows 10 machine? You're not alone. Though Microsoft releases monthly security patches and larger feature updates twice a year for more than 1.3 billion devices worldwide on the OS, people still run into common problems that can be annoying. (Here's hoping that changes with the unveiling of the rumored Windows 11 this Thursday -- here are some of the changes we hope to see in Windows 11.)
But don't worry -- we've got you covered. Here are instructions for how to troubleshoot 10 common Windows 10 problems, collected from CNET's forums and other sites and message boards. One thing to note: There are often multiple ways to fix a Windows 10 issue, and what works for you may depend on your device's make and model and several other factors. (If you haven't upgraded yet, you can still download Windows 10 for free with this trick. Just make sure you check out our guide for everything to know before moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10.)
Read more: Windows 10 tips: Secret Start menu, taking screenshots and more
Issues updating to the latest version of Windows 10
Microsoft's major feature updates arrive twice a year, the most recent being the May 2021 update, which included changes like multicamera support for Windows Hello and improvements to Windows Defender Application Guard. When an update rolls out to your device, you should get a notification. Or you can go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If available, you'll see Feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1. Click Download and install.
If you're running into a problem or error updating, you can try the following, according to Microsoft:
If the Troubleshooter doesn't fix the problem, check out Microsoft's guide for dealing with update issues.
Not enough storage space to complete an update
Windows 10 updates can require a good amount of drive space. If you run into an error due to a lack of drive space, here's what Microsoft suggests you do:
Read more: The best antivirus protection for Windows 10
Mouse cursor starts moving on its own
Sometimes your Windows 10 laptop or desktop cursor will start moving on its own, disrupting your work or browsing. Here are a couple potential ways to fix it from Microsoft.
Run hardware troubleshooter. Press Windows + X, and select Control Panel. Go to Troubleshooting, and on the left panel click View all items. Select Hardware and devices troubleshooter and follow the instructions.
Update the mouse and other pointing device drivers. Press Windows + R, type devmgmt.msc and hit Enter. Expand Mice and other pointing device drivers. Right click on the driver of your mouse, and click update.
Uncontrollable scrolling... and scrolling...
Your device keeps scrolling to the bottom of every menu and page even when you aren't moving the mouse. There are a few different ways to troubleshoot this. First, try unplugging the mouse or turning off its Bluetooth connection, and plugging it back in.
You can also see if it's an issue with your browser. For example, in Chrome, you can try going to Preferences > Advanced > Accessibility, and turn on Navigate pages with text cursor.
You may also need to update your mouse or touchpad driver. Go to Device Manager, and see if there are any warnings next to the names of your mice. If so, you'll be able to repair them there.
Another potential fix: Try creating a new local user. This comes up often on message boards as a fix for a number of problems. You don't have to move all of your items over to a new account, but the act of creating a new user (or logging into another local account that already exists), logging into that account and then logging back into your account seems to help. To create a new user, go to Settings > Accounts > Family & other users. Click Add someone else to this PC, and click the "I don't have this person's sign-in information" link. Click Add user without a Microsoft account, and enter a new username.
Files opening in the wrong apps
Sometimes when you update Windows 10, your apps and files might go back to their default settings or switch settings. One way to change this is to go to Start > Settings > Apps > Default apps. Select which default you want to set, and then choose the app.
When you go to open a file, you can also right click it to see your options. You can choose Open with and then Choose another app, and find which one you want. You'll see an option asking if you always want to use that app when opening files like that.
Setting up three monitors
After upgrading from Windows 7 or 8, many users have reported that they are no longer able to connect three monitors on Windows 10. A user on CNET's forums recommended this fix: Plug in all monitors, and go to Control panel > Display > Change display settings. You should see all three screens displayed there. If one shows as disconnected (the screen is a darker color than the others), click that screen and choose Extend desktop to this display. (You might need to restart your machine once you plug all three monitors in, and then try this.)
Bluetooth not working
If you suddenly can't connect your Bluetooth headphones, mouse or keyboard, there are a few things you can try:
Make sure Bluetooth is turned on. You can do this by either going to the taskbar, and select Action Center (it looks like a message square). If you don't see Bluetooth, select Expand. You should then see Bluetooth, and be able to select it to turn it on. If your device isn't paired with any Bluetooth accessories, it will say Not connected. Your other option is to go to Start > Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and turn it on there.
Check your Bluetooth device. Make sure your accessory is turned on, is charged or has fresh batteries, and is close to your Windows 10 device. You can then try turning off the Bluetooth device and turning it back on after a few seconds. If it's still not working, make sure it's not too close to any other USB device plugged into a USB 3.0 port, since those can interfere.
Check your Windows 10 device. Make sure airplane mode is turned off (Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Airplane mode). Try turning Bluetooth on and off (see above). Finally, try removing the device and adding it again (Start > Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices. Select the device you're having trouble connecting, and choose Remove device > Yes).
If none of this works, Microsoft has some other tips for troubleshooting Bluetooth problems.
Read more: How to pair Apple AirPods with your Windows 10 PC in less than a minute
Printer connection issues
Windows 10 supports most printers, but connection issues happen. To install or add a printer (whether it's networked, wireless or Bluetooth), go to Start > Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners. Select Add a printer or scanner. Your device should find the printer (assuming it's on and connected to Wi-Fi or the network), and let you select Add device.
If your printer isn't in the list, select The printer that I want isn't listed, and then follow the instructions to add it manually using one of the options.
If you're trying to install a local printer, you can typically just plug it in to your USB port and follow the same instructions. If your printer stops working, you can try doing the process again.
Too many notifications
Windows 10 can be a little notification-heavy at times. If you're finding these pop-ups are interrupting your workflow, you can adjust them by going to Start > Settings > System > Notifications & actions. There, you can decide which notifications you want on or off.
Cortana stops working
Is Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana not assisting you? A bunch of different things could be going wrong. Start by turning it on and off, by going to Start > Cortana > Settings. Then, check your microphone under Settings > Sound -- if you aren't using the default computer one, it may have been disconnected.
You can also try restarting your device and checking for updates that may be in place to fix the issue.
For more, check out the best three new features in the Windows 10 October 2020 update, and six simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make.