New Windows, New Rules
There's no killer app, no killer service, and certain drawbacks (forced updates, snooping). Windows 10 is good and steadily improving, but not yet compelling. — InfoWorld
In short, Windows 10 is good, but it isn't a slam dunk -- and it comes with considerable baggage.
On the other hand, if your machine, drivers, and apps are compatible (most likely they are), you want to ride the wave of the latest and greatest, and you're willing to accept the new Windows-as-a-service world of forced updates and Google-like data collection, you will probably be happy with Windows 10.But be sure you understand the new rules. —InfoWorld
Don't believe what Microsoft tells you -- Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements. — BetaNews
Supported Lifetime Redefined
Windows 10, released on July 29, 2015 with support ending October 14, 2025.
Microsoft added a wrinkle: support is only valid for the supported lifetime of the device which is undefined by Microsoft.
Prior versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, have limited support when running on new processors and chipsets from manufacturers like Intel, AMD, NVidia, and Qualcomm. — Microsoft
Windows 10 is a “mobile-first, cloud-first” hybrid of Windows 7 and 8 as well as mobile and desktop. It is a single operating system capable of running on every device from Windows Phone to Xbox to the 84-inch Microsoft Surface Hub conferencing system.
Windows 10 is a mobile operating system designed to work with a Microsoft account, which provides access to OneDrive cloud storage and a growing number of online applications, such as Calendar, People, Tasks, Office, Sway, etc. It allows you to save files from your PC to OneDrive (eg from WordPad), as well as to create files online. — The Guardian
It's almost impossible to avoid the cloud now, because of the movement of commercial and government services to the web, the multiplication of computing devices and the rapid growth in smartphones. These different trends reinforce one another. — The Guardian
Start Menu “Restored”
The Start menu has been restored — sort of. It is an improvement for Windows 8 users but not as flexible as the Windows 7 Start menu. Windows 10 pins large icons onto the right of the new Start menu:
The open Start menu in desktop mode.
Many non-touch users have opted to ignore these pinned apps (even removing the default pinned icons) and pinning their program icons onto the desktop.
Windows as a Service
Windows 10 is Software as a Service (SaaS) — software running on the Internet.
We think of Windows as a Service — in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet. — Microsoft Blog
For almost as long as Microsoft has offered Windows 10 as a free upgrade, consumers have wondered two things: What would Microsoft charge for a full license to Windows 10, and what does the phrase “Windows as a service” actually mean? We now know: subscriptions. But we still don't know how (or if) this model will apply to consumers. — PCWorld
Service Packs No Longer
Service Packs are a thing of the past, replaced by an “all or nothing” approach to updates. Windows is a continually evolving project with a cycle that changes every 18 months rather than every decade.
For the past year, I've been hearing a steady stream of complaints from longtime Windows admins and users. Consistently, those grumbles all boil down to a single objection: Because of "Windows as a service," we're losing control of our desktop PCs. — ZNet
Designed for Mobile Access
The world is changing rapidly. The proprietary desktop scenario of Windows XP, Vista and 7 has been replaced with “bring your own device” in many workplaces.
People are more mobile and many want to access all their information on the go. Windows 10 was designed to meet the needs of the mobile user.
You Sacrifice Privacy for Convenience
Windows 10 does allow you to move quickly between devices, but you sacrifice your privacy for this ability.
In the Cloud
In the past, Windows could be thought of as software that only exists on your device. Now, with Windows 10, important parts of Windows are based in the cloud, interacting with online services. — Microsoft
Placing your data “in the cloud” provides the ability to stop working on one devices and resume on another. Users can move between desktop and mobile devices as needed without losing productivity.
You No Longer Control Your Data
Of course, this also means that you no longer have direct control of your data and it is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world if your password is compromised (and probably to the cloud storage facility staff).
Local Searches Sent to Cloud
For example, when you do a search for a local document or file on your Windows 10 computer, Microsoft sends the information about your system files up to their servers and does the search there. Hmmm. That's what it means to be a cloud-based Windows system.
New Windows 10 Features
Windows 10 is designed to take advantage of newer hardware and enables futuristic technologies like holographic computing, biometric login and 3D printing.
PC World's Windows 10 review provides a decent overview of the new features when Windows 10 was initially released including some useful hints on getting the most out of the new OS.
Cortana (a digital assistant) and Microsoft Edge (the replacement browser for Internet Explorer) are the most notable new items. Several of these new features will require you to sacrifice at least some of your privacy to benefit from them.
The Anniversary Update was released a year after Windows 10 launch (and just after Microsoft closed the free upgrade option for Windows 7 and 8.1 users).
Here's what’s in the box: Cortana, which is now accessible from the lock screen, is more ubiquitous than ever. Extensions finally make Microsoft Edge usable. Windows Hello improves, Skype’s reboot seems to be on the right track, and underneath it all are even more thoughtful tweaks that improve Windows 10's overall experience. The new Windows Ink is intriguing, if only partially baked. One or two features you may have expected aren't quite ready. — PCWorld
The Creators Update (April 11, 2017) is the second major update to Windows 10.
The Creators Update is designed to spark and unleash creativity, bringing 3D and mixed reality to everyone and enabling every gamer to be a broadcaster. Beyond creativity, it brings new features to Microsoft Edge, additional security capabilities and privacy tools, and so much more. — Microsoft
The Creators Update makes it easier to understand what data Microsoft is collecting and why by integrating the Windows 10 privacy dashboard.
Internet Explorer Replaced but Not Gone
Support for third-party browser addins such as ActiveX, Java, etc. are not available in Edge because of the vulnerabilities they introduce. Flash (a vulnerable and dying technology) can be disabled in Edge's settings.
Some reviewers were disappointed in what they see in Edge but it is a definite improvement over Internet Explorer. Performance has improved over time with updates to Windows 10. Promised browser extensions have been slow in coming (there were 21 last time I checked and you had to be running the most recent version of Windows 10).
With the Creators Update, Edge will become the only browser capable of downloading Netflix at 4K resolution although I expect the others to do the same shortly afterwards.
If Continuum recognizes that a keyboard is installed Windows 10 automatically switches to the desktop mode. In Windows 10 desktop mode, apps can be windowed and resized (unlike Windows 8 which ran everything full screen).
The integration of Xbox with Windows 10 will allow gamers to play their Xbox games on their PC. It cannot be uninstalled.
Xbox is the portal to all of Microsoft's entertainment offerings: the movies you can rent or buy and the Groove music services they hope you'll subscribe to.
Like Windows 10, Xbox is tied to an online account using your Microsoft ID and provides the ability to play online with friends. Playing “as a guest” serves video ads lasting up to 60 seconds between games (you can pay to disable them).
- Microsoft's Windows 10 specifications are similar to those for Windows 7. Some features require additional or newer hardware.
- Microsoft's list of Windows 10 features.
- Compare Windows 10 features with Windows 7 and 8.1.
It is hard to justify these prices when providing what Google does for free and exacting the same costs in terms of advertising and privacy.
- Windows 10 Home: $149 (US$119)
- Windows 10 Pro: $249 (US$199)
- See which features come with each Windows 10 Edition.
Additional features available in Pro include BitLocker encryption (see Encryption: Protecting Your Data), Remote Access, and the ability to run Hyper-V virtualization on your PC. Some features require special hardware.
Getting Started Guides
- Windows 10 help topics.
- Shortcut keys for Windows 10 (MS Word document).
- Tips, tricks and shortcuts: Ed Bott makes Windows 10 work for you.
Personalizing Windows 10
Personalizing Windows involves changing the way Windows 10 does certain tasks or displays its content. You'll want to make Windows 10 your own.
Click on the Start button then Settings then Personalization (or right-click the desktop and choose Personalize.
Personalization has options to change your desktop and lock screen background (shown above), how the Start menu is configured and more.
I recommend pinning only the most frequently used apps on the taskbar. Unpin the Microsoft defaults you don't want then choose what works for you.
There are several new icons on the right side of the taskbar including Task View (next to Search), Notifications and a new way of displaying the language bar (ENG).
Windows 10 uses Settings to manage much of what was contained in the Control Panel in earlier versions of Windows, including Personalization.
The Settings panel includes System, Devices, Network & Internet, Personalization, Accounts, Time & Language, Ease of Access, Privacy and Update & Security categories.
The majority of settings are found under the Settings (listed in the Start menu).
Searching for Advanced Options
If you don't find the setting you're looking for, try searching using the “Find a setting” search box.
For example, I found that I needed to search for “advanced printer setup” when installing a networked printer when the default Devices settings couldn't locate it.
Legacy Configuration Tools
Right-clicking the Start icon allows you to see a list of useful configuration options like Programs and Options, Device Manager, System, Disk Management and Control Panel without resorting to searching.
In Windows 10 you have much more control over how your computer starts and the transition is much smoother. You can switch between tablet mode and desktop mode.
- In tablet mode the appearance and function is much like Windows 8.1 with the large “Modern” touch interface dominating the look and feel.
- In desktop mode the Start menu uses a combination of some Windows 7 features but pinned apps are displayed on the right as smaller (and configurable) “Modern” style tiles.
I'm a keyboard and mouse user and don't run Windows on a touch-enabled device. I neither like the “Modern” interface nor find is useful. I've noticed many that do are more likely to search for programs and settings than to look for them in a menu. You'll need to customize your experience for what works best for you and your hardware.
The notifications includes a series of options for autoplay and program alerts as well as several settings. It is the highlighted taskbar icon located beneath Flight mode:
Wireless and Location are selected. I have set my older laptop for maximum performance, which would explain the grayed out Battery Saver button.
The Flight and Tablet modes (normal on smart phones but unusual on computers) demonstrate the cross-platform nature of Windows 10.
The Start menu can be customized to remove Most Used and Recently Added apps. I found these worked poorly in recording frequent use of non-Microsoft apps, but hopefully that will change.
Start menu tiles (pinned apps) can be resized and live tiles turned off. There is a setting to extend the Start menu to show more apps in Settings.
Pinned third-party apps are not handled as well as Microsoft apps, particularly when displayed in the smallest size. This may improve for currently-supported apps as developers tweak for Windows 10 requirements but Microsoft benefits if you relent and use their new monetized apps.
Start Menu Alternatives
If you don't like the default Start menu, third-party options are available:
- Start10 from Stardock ($4.99 — included with Stardock's Object Desktop) recreates the Windows 7 style menu in Windows 10.
- Classic Shell (free) now supports Windows 10 with a Start button plus other enhancements.
- 6 ways to hack & customize the Windows 10 Start Menu.
The task bar can be customized to show or hide certain icons and you can pin applications to it.
One of the first changes I made was to remove the huge search box next to the Start button. Right-clicking on the taskbar brought up a menu. Click on Search and you see three options: Hidden, Show search icon and Show search box (the default). I elected to use the search icon option.
If you install Cortana, it replaces these search options.
These resources offer more help in personalizing various aspects of Windows 10:
- Windows 10 Settings menu: The Personalization tab.
- How to master the all-new Windows 10 Start Menu.
- Get to the task at hand with these Windows 10 taskbar tips.
Your Microsoft Account Tracks You
Microsoft requires a Microsoft account for access to the Microsoft Store and for other services like playing games in Xbox.
This requires that you accept the Microsoft Services Agreement, a 12,000-word document where you essentially agree to give up your privacy.
Even the “free” Microsoft Solitaire Collection entices you with the following if don't sign in (play as a guest):
By signing in with a Microsoft Account, you earn Xbox Live Achievements, view Leaderboards, and save your game data in the cloud. Are you sure?
You can allow a family member or other user to use your computer with assigned access. They need to sign in with their Microsoft Account which provides access to their own data (assuming the user's data is in the cloud or on a removable device).
Remember, even if this isn't a big deal to you, Microsoft is still using your bandwidth to upload all this telemetry data.
Continuing cash flow for Microsoft is an obvious plus and consumers will always get the latest and greatest without making a major purchase.
Like mobile phone contracts, it assumes that you'll gladly trade in your computer every two or three years and that you're willing to sacrifice your privacy for very little in return.
Free Apps Now “Freemium”
Many of the Microsoft Windows 10 apps could more accurately be called “freemium” rather than free. Advertising is built into the Microsoft Solitaire, News, Money and Weather and other apps.
Cortana ramps up Bing's market share with every search you make. OneDrive backs up everything to the cloud, and of course you can buy more storage space if you need it.
The Video, Groove Music, and Xbox apps encourage entertainment purchases through Microsoft.
The new Edge browser and the very operating system itself track you to serve targeted ads. The free Office apps encourage paid Office 365 subscriptions to unlock full functionality.
Underneath it all, the Windows Store is the repository for all of Microsoft's vaunted universal apps (and plenty of other things to buy).
— PC World
Significant Privacy Issues
The fact that Windows 10 collects a lot of personal information has significant privacy issues, particularly in how your private information is used.
Privacy is a basic human need and has nothing to do with having something to hide.
Microsoft has been reluctant to get too specific about the sorts of data it collects and the mechanisms used. Maybe they have something to hide.
Default Settings Turn Everything On
If you purchased a computer with Windows 10 pre-installed or chose the default options when installing Windows 10 then chances are every privacy option is enabled by default.
The alternatives are displayed in much smaller fonts and often are not clearly labelled to enable you to make an informed decision even if you do notice them.
Remember, Microsoft is planning on making money the same way Gmail and other free Webmail vendors do — by culling and marketing your profile to advertisers.
Details are Sketchy
Because the details of what is collected and under which conditions it is used, there has been a lot of speculation running from “its what everyone else is doing” to “they vacuum up every detail about you.”
Whether or not you might be considered a “privacy nut,” this should alarm you at least a little. Windows 10 opts you into a number of iffy tracking features by default, and it's up to you to go in and opt out. — BGR
With Windows 10, Microsoft has failed to be completely transparent with users about just what is going on in the background. Sure, the information is out there, but it is hidden away, difficult to interpret, and — let's face it — not something that the vast majority of people are going to spend the time to hunt down and digest. — BetaNews
[Windows 10] is fundamentally insecure and scoffs at privacy, Windows is an open window onto you. — The Free Software Foundation
Here's a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long. — EFF
But Perhaps Improving
More recently, Microsoft has tried to be more forthcoming with Privacy at Microsoft and Windows 10 and Your Online Services. These pages indicate how Windows 10 collects information and what it is used for.
But European Union privacy watchdogs say Windows 10 settings still raise concerns:
Microsoft should clearly explain what kinds of personal data are processed for what purposes. Without such information, consent cannot be informed, and therefore, not valid. — European Union privacy watchdogs
I suspect that the data you share online and keep in your OneDrive is more vulnerable to this, but Windows 10 is a “mobile-first, cloud-first” operating system and will try to store information there first.
By default, Microsoft sets all the privacy settings to ON, collecting everything and allowing apps to have access to your contacts, mail and more.
Microsoft doesn't necessarily retain your privacy choices when installing the now non-optional updates.
Spybot Anti-Beacon allows you to make significant choices about your Windows 10 privacy settings including many that are hidden or not easily altered. It immunizes your computer so you can check then reset your privacy settings after rebooting your computer (particularly after a Windows Update).
Microsoft has begun to respond to these issues. On January 10, 2017 a new web-based privacy dashboard was released where you could manage your browse data, clear your search history on Bing, review and clear your location data and edit Cortana knows about you.
We want you to be informed about and in control of your data, which is why we're working hard on these settings and controls. And regardless of your data collection choices, we will not use the contents of your email, chat, files, or pictures to target ads to you. — Microsoft Blog
The following articles shed more light on Microsoft's data collection:
- With Windows 10, Microsoft blatantly disregards user choice and privacy — EFF.
- Windows 10 personal data collection is excessive, French privacy watchdog warns.
- 30 ways your Windows 10 computer phones home to Microsoft.
- Microsoft's Windows 10 and privacy.
- Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can't stop talking to Microsoft.
- Microsoft admits Windows 10 automatic spying cannot be stopped.
- The real price of Windows 10 is your privacy.
- Windows 10: How much of my personal information can Microsoft access?
Microsoft Not Alone
It is likely that much of this information is already collected on your mobile device under your current terms of service.
Corporations have taken advantage of our ignorance to gather our personal information for profit. Many ask for access to your contacts, even if there is no functional reason to do so (flashlight apps in Apple's iOS are an example).
We Didn't Complain
It is partly our own fault for blindly accepting the sorts of privacy invasions that Facebook, Gmail and other services extort as the price for their “free” products.
Information on PCs More Sensitive
However, many of us keep much more critical and private information on our PCs than on our mobile devices. As such, leaks can have much more serious repercussions.
Governments Also to Blame
To their credit, Microsoft successfully fought the U.S. government's attempts to obtain non-U.S. customer data stored off-shore in Ireland. However, that seems to indicate that whatever you allow Microsoft to store or process for you may be provided to the government and the vetting process (i.e. court order requirements) are often circumvented or simply a rubber stamp.
Cortana: Your Personal Assistant
Cortana, like Siri and Google Now, is a surprisingly effective virtual assistant.
However, accuracy comes at a price: your privacy.
Accuracy requires a lot of very personal information about your calendar, contacts, habits, relationships, current location, likes, dislikes, etc. Because you're signed into your Microsoft Account, nothing is anonymous.
Cortana's built from the ground up to get you using Bing — even if you aren't aware you're doing so — and to create a remarkably detailed profile about you for Microsoft. — PC World
Changing Privacy Settings
So how do you protect your privacy in Windows 10?
One of the first things you'll want to do is to make changes to the default settings. Some of these settings are chosen during the installation process. The others can be modified.
You might not be able to control all the privacy settings but you should reset the ones that you can.
As with Facebook, updates to Windows 10 may change the way you control privacy or even undo privacy choices you've made in the past.
Open Settings (look under Start) and click on Privacy. You'll want to turn off at least these two privacy settings (click on Privacy in Settings):
- The advertising ID is a unique identifier that helps to provide “personalized” ads (i.e. ads that are based upon sites you've visited, etc.).
- The “about how I write” allows Microsoft to track your keystrokes.
You'll also want to click on the “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info” link or go here with each of the browsers installed on your Windows 10 computer to change those privacy settings.
By default, Microsoft will obtain updates not just from their servers but can also share them from other computers on your network or the Internet. The latter is not a good idea from a security point of view.
- Click on Settings then open Updates & Security.
- Click on Advanced Options then Choose How Updates are Delivered.
- Turn off Updates from more than one place.
If you're using wireless you can also limit the downloads of Updates by indicating that you're on a metered connection. This won't work for LAN connections.
Cortana requires a lot of personal information to be most effective, but it comes at a cost. The data you provide will be used to “personalize” advertising, making it more likely that you'll click on ads (and that data can be sold to others).
Change Cortana's settings to reduce what you provide or turn it off altogether.
Taming Cortana became harder after the Anniversary Update.
Other Privacy Guides
The following articles provide more information about restoring some of your privacy:
- How to disable Windows 10 data collection.
- Fixing Windows 10's privacy problems.
- How to reclaim your privacy in Windows 10, piece by piece.
- The Windows 10 privacy settings you need to change right now.
- How to stop Windows 10's prying eyes.
- How to secure Windows 10: The paranoid's guide.
- Windows 10 doesn't offer much privacy by default: Here's how to fix it.
- Digging into and understanding Windows 10's privacy settings.
- How to configure Windows 10 to protect your privacy.
- Windows 10 is spying on almost everything you do: here's how to opt out.
- Microsoft personalized ad preferences (how to opt out).
- Want Windows 10 to stop tracking you? Now there's an app for that.
These Microsoft sites offer insight into setting privacy preferences:
- Setting your preferences for Windows 10 services.
- Windows 10 and your online services.
- Configure telemetry and other settings in your organization (for IT professionals).
A Local Account Helps to Preserve Privacy
I'd recommend that you can sign in with a local account unless you need to move your work between multiple devices (and have considered the privacy implications).
See Should you use a local or a Microsoft account in Windows 10? to help evaluate your choices.
A local account doesn't provide many of the capabilities of Windows 10 (or they will be limited), including personalized searches, effective use of Cortana and the ability to continue your current work on another device even if the data is stored in the cloud.
You will probably find that you don't need all these features but you will better preserve your privacy.
Microsoft tells you how to create a secondary Local Account (one in addition to your Microsoft Account) but that still leaves you vulnerable, at least when logged into the Microsoft Account.
- Windows 10 doesn't make it easy or obvious to create a secondary local account, but all it really takes is looking for the fine print (PCWorld).
- Setting up a local user account in Windows 10 (Video from PCWorld).
- Create a local account In Windows 10.
To preserve your privacy you'll need to do a clean install with only a local account after you've obtained your Windows 10 upgrade.
- Install Windows 10 with a local account.
- How to set up a local account in Windows 10 during or after installation.
After Microsoft's “Scroogled” campaign, they proceeded to do exactly what they accused Goggle of doing.
As invasive as it is, Microsoft does allow Windows 10 users to opt out of all of the features that might be considered invasions of privacy. Of course, users are opted in by default, which is more than a little disconcerting…. — BGR
Google Also Ignores Your Privacy
If you have a Gmail account and use Google Chrome as your default browser, then you've already given up much of your privacy, particularly if you've signed into your Google Account while browsing.
Remember, unlike Gmail and similar services where you're exchanging your information for a free service, Windows 10 is NOT free, even if you took advantage of the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1.
Your Data “In the Cloud”
Apps like Mail and Calendar can access other cloud services like your iCloud or Gmail accounts.
The Nature of Mobile Access
Microsoft is responding to the demand for “anywhere, any time, any device” access but will benefit greatly by monetizing the data they'll collect as a result.
Cloud based information is accessible from anywhere with anyone having your login credentials. More significantly, once data is in the cloud you no longer completely control what happens to your personal information or how it is used.
The companies collecting your personal data are willing to spend less on securing your data than what they spend protecting their own data. This won't change until the cost of being hacked is more than the cost of the necessary security upgrades.
Windows 10 Security
Windows 10 is touted as the most secure Windows yet. More secure for who?
Better Security at What Price?
Microsoft boasts that Windows 10 is the most secure ever, but part of that may be its ability to know exactly what is running on your computer — your applications and data.
The sort of information that Microsoft collects is disturbing and can be shared with “unnamed partners” according to the Microsoft Services Agreement.
Microsoft is collecting user account information, credit card details and passwords following the installation of Windows 10, according to an updated privacy statement. — The Telegraph
Who are these unnamed “trusted partners” referred to by Microsoft?
- How Windows 10 data collection trades privacy for security.
- U.S. agencies said to swap data with thousands of firms.
- The Free Software Foundation's statement on Windows 10.
- Microsoft's new small print — how your personal data is (ab)used (June 17, 2015).
You Need a Security Suit
While improved, Windows Defender isn't enough.
One of the most common questions we get asked at Tom's Guide is "Is Windows Defender good enough to protect my PC?"
The short answer is: Nope. The longer answer is: No, but it might be someday. — Tom's Guide
Windows 10 has a significantly more secure architecture and is also better equipped than its previous versions. Nonetheless, good security software is absolutely essential.
The basic protection delivered by Microsoft through Windows Defender may be good, but it's a long way from being very good. Especially in the vital detection of malware, 17 out of 19 products were mostly far better. That is why users ought to rely on one of the tested security solutions. — AV-TEST: 20 security suites put to the test
Continual (non-optional) updates greatly improve overall security but can also force updates that are undesirable because the engineers at Microsoft count on a uniform platform in a Windows as a Service environment.
Windows 10 may even evolve to have undesirable features without your permission.
Potential Problems with This Model
Because Windows 10 Updates are an all-or-nothing deal, there are a couple of problems.
- Microsoft has released disastrous updates in the past (even on Windows 10).
- A bad update cannot be singled out for removal. You can't uninstall only one of the updates installed each month.
- Major updates like the Anniversary Update can take considerable time to download and install. If this happens in the middle of your workday or an important project that could be much more than inconvenient.
- Microsoft insists on restoring their apps as defaults after major updates. Not cool. Users wanting to use third party apps should be free to do so.
You can use System Restore to recover from a bad update, but you'll have to turn on System Restore in Windows 10 before that happens.
Ability to Delay Updates Coming?
The Creators Update may allow you to delay updates for up to a year.
Complex Passwords Necessary
Because the Microsoft ID is an online login ID, a very long, random and complex password is necessary.
This makes logging in prone to “fat finger” errors. The option to reveal what you've typed can guard against entry errors but doesn't help your memory.
The PIN Option
Thankfully, an option to use a 4-digit PIN is available. The PIN only works on the current device (it is not a universal replacement for your password).
Hello's Biometric Verification
Windows Hello provides a secure method of replacing passwords with biometric verification, provided you have the supporting hardware.
Unfortunately, that hardware is rare on consumer-class computers except for Microsoft's Surface machines.
Microsoft is requiring two-factor verification when accessing certain information from your Microsoft Account such as:
- when doing a clean install and registering it to your Microsoft ID;
- when making changes to your Microsoft ID; or
- any suspicious activity leads Microsoft to believe someone else might be using the computer or signed into your account.
The two-factor verification includes options to email or text special codes to an already-registered email address or phone number for your Microsoft Account.
Two-factor verification is only available when signed in with your Microsoft Account (but not to Local Accounts).
See About two-step verification for more information.
Protecting Your PC
Learn more about protecting your PC while running Windows 10.
Updated: April 6, 2017