Getting Started with Windows 10

If you're new to Windows 10 getting started can seem daunting. This free lesson offers helpful insight.

Getting started with Windows 10

Whether you're using a new computer with Windows 10 or an older machine that was recently upgraded, this lesson will show you the basics of using this version of Windows.

Watch the video below to learn how to get started with Windows 10:

Note: This lesson will focus on using Windows 10 with a desktop or laptop computer. If you're using a tablet computer with a touchscreen, some of the instructions below will work a bit differently; check out our lesson on Using Windows 10 on a Tablet to learn more.

Signing in to Windows 10

You'll probably be asked to create a Microsoft account the very time you use Windows 10 (if you don't have one already). From this point on, whenever you turn on the computer you'll need to sign in to that account. To do this, type your password into the box and press Enter.

signing in to Windows 10

To learn more, you can review our lessons on Creating a Microsoft Account and Managing User Accounts and Parental Controls.

Navigating the desktop

Once you've signed in, the first thing you'll see is the desktop. You can think of the desktop as the main workspace for your computer. From here, you can view and manage your files, open applications, access the Internet, and much more.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to become more familiar with the Windows 10 desktop:

labeled graphic

Shortcuts on the taskbar

Some programs will have shortcuts on the taskbar for easy access. In this example, there are shortcuts to Microsoft Edge, File Explorer, and the Windows Store.

Taskbar

The taskbar contains shortcuts to applications, the date and time, and more. When you open a program or file, it will appear on the taskbar, and you can easily switch between different programs by selecting them on the taskbar.

Date and Time Settings

On the right side of the taskbar, you will see the date and time. There will also be shortcuts to various settings, like Internet settings and sound volume.

Open Folders

When you double-click a folder, it will open in a specialized program called File Explorer (also known as Windows Explorer). This allows you to navigate to the specific folder or file you want.

Recycle Bin

When you delete a file, it is moved to the Recycle Bin. This allows you to recover the file if you change your mind.

To permanently delete the file, you will need to empty the Recycle Bin.

Folders on the desktop

You can keep folders, files, and shortcuts on the desktop so they'll be easily accessible.

Start Button

In most versions of Windows, you'll click the Start button to open the Start menu.

The main exception to this is Windows 8. If you're using Windows 8, you'll click the Start button to return to the Start screen.

Desktop background

The desktop background, or wallpaper, allows you to personalize your computer. You can choose a built-in background or use one of your own images.

Opening applications

You'll use the Start menu to open programs on your computer, just like with previous versions of Windows. To do this, click the Start button in the bottom-left corner, then choose the desired application. If you don't see the one you want, select All apps to see a full list of applications. In the example below, we're opening OneNote.

opening an application on Windows 10

Working with files

You'll use the File Explorer to manage your files and folders. To open File Explorer, click the File Explorer icon on the taskbar or double-click any folder on your desktop.

opening the File Explorer

If you're new to Windows, check out this lesson on Working with Files from our Windows Basics tutorial to learn more about file management.

Searching for files and apps

To search for something on your computer—like a specific file or application—click the Start button, then start typing. Alternatively, you can press the Windows key on the keyboard to begin a search. In the example below, we're searching for a presentation file.

searching for a presentation

Adjusting your settings

You'll use the Settings app to change the most important settings on your computer, like your network and display options. To open the app, click the Start menu, then select Settings.

opening the Settings app

You can also use the Control Panel to adjust your settings, just like in earlier versions of Windows. However, there are some options that can only be accessed from the Settings app, like adding a new user. Because of this, you'll probably use the Settings app more often.

opening the Control Panel

Shutting down your computer

When you're done using your computer, it's important to shut it down properly. To do this, click the Start button, then choose Power > Shut Down.

shutting down a Windows 10 computer