Six easy power user tips for Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows 10

Want to be a Windows power user? Here are six tips to get you started.

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Windows has an endless supply of little tips and tricks that can help make your use of the system more efficient. Sure, we all know the basics to opening a program, surfing the web, sending email, and managing documents. But once you get beyond those basics you can learn about the various shortcuts and tools that unlock the power of Windows. At that point you start moving away from beginner user status, and set yourself on the path to becoming a power user.

It sounds daunting, but really a power user is just someone who's used Windows long enough and with enough interest to accumulate a mental library of tips, tricks, and problem solving steps.

If you've always wanted to be a power user but weren't sure where to start. Here are six tips to get you started.

Start-x (Windows 7, 8.1, and 10)

With all version of Windows--except Windows 8--the Start menu is your go-to location for opening apps and accessing system utilities. But did you know that you can access many of the important system utilities without opening the Start menu?

All you do is hover over the Start button and right-click to bring up a secret right-click context menu. From here you can quickly open the task manager, control panel, the run dialog, device manager, a command prompt, and other important functions. There's even a quick option to shut down or reboot your PC.

If you'd rather use a keyboard shortcut to open the hidden menu tap the Windows logo key + x, which is where the Start-x name comes from.

A massive send to menu... (Windows 7 and up)

Do you ever use the Send to right-click menu option for files and folders? As its name suggests, it's a quick and easy way to move files around your system to specific folders or apps.

However, the selection of options for the Send to menu is limited--unless you know how to get Windows to show you more options, that is.

Before you right-click on a file or folder hold down the Shift button on your keyboard.

Now right-click and hover over theĀ Send to option in the context menu. A massive list will show up with pretty much every major folder on your PC. You won't find sub-folders such as Documents > My great folder, but if you need to quickly send a movie to your videos folder or OneDrive, the Send to option plus Shift can get it done.

Add more clocks (Windows 7 and up)

By default Windows shows you the current time on the far right of the taskbar. That's great for keeping track of the local time, but sometimes you need to keep track of several time zones at once for business or keeping in touch with family.

Adding multiple clocks to the taskbar is simple. The instructions here are for Windows 10, but the process is similar for other versions of Windows. Right-click the Start button and select Control Panel from the context menu.

Once the Control Panel opens make sure the View by option in the upper right corner is set to the Category option. Now select Clock, Language, and Region > Add clocks for different time zones.

In the new window that opens select the Additional Clocks tab. Now click the check box next to one of the "Show this clock" options.

Next select your time zone from the drop down menu, and give the clock a name in the text entry box labeled "Enter display name."

Once that's done click Apply then OK. To see if the new clock is appearing either hover over the time on your taskbar to get a pop-up with multiple clocks, or click on the time to see the full version.

The volume mixer (Windows 7 and up)

Most of the time when you want to reduce the volume you just click on the volume icon in your system tray (far right of the taskbar) or hit a special key on the keyboard. But if you open the Volume Mixer you get far more control over your system's sound levels including a special setting for system alerts.

If you're tired of all those ding and pings smacking you in the eardrum here's how you fix it. For Windows 8.1 and 10, right click the volume icon and select Open Volume Mixer. On Windows 7 click the volume icon and then click on Mixer right below the general volume control.

On Windows 8.1 and 10 lower the setting called System Sounds to a more comfortable level--on Windows 7 the setting may also be called Windows Sounds.

Pin your favorite folders to File Explorer (Windows 7 and up)

Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 all have a way to put the folders you use most often in a special spot in File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7). In Windows 8.1 and 10 that location is called Quick Access, while Windows 7 calls it favorites. Regardless, both sections are in the same spot at the very top of the navigation pane in the File Explorer/Windows Explorer window.

To add a folder to this location you can either drag-and-drop it right onto the section, or right-click the folder you want to add, and select Pin to Quick Access/Add current location to Favorites.

Change the lock screen image (Windows 10)

Windows 10 lets you personalize the lock screen image on your PC instead of using the generic pictures Microsoft supplies by default. Get started by going to Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock screen.

Now click the drop down menu under Background and select Picture. Next, under "Choose your picture" click the Browse button to find the image on your system that you want to use. Once you've selected the picture it may take a few seconds to show up at the top of the Settings window under Preview. But once it's there you can close the Settings app. To test if you've got the right picture tap the Windows logo key + L to view the lock screen.

There you have it six tips (five if you're not a Windows 10 user) for improving your Windows knowledge. These are just some of the more basic tips that many users don't know about. After mastering them you might want to play around with the command prompt, try a registry hack, or even create a batch file for a scheduled task. But that's for the future. For now, give these tips a try in real life and see which ones are the most useful for you.