Get Windows 10 Pro tools for FREE!
Windows 10 Home is good enough for most things, but there are tools on the Pro version that can make life easier. You can replicate these in Home by installing free software, as Will Stapley explains
Control another PC from afar
Pro feature: Remote Desktop Free alternative: TeamViewer
Being able to remotely control a computer (or allow yours to be controlled by someone else) can be incredibly useful. Trying to talk a non-technical friend through a complex series of steps in Windows? Access their computer remotely and things get a lot easier. Browsing the web for a joint birthday present? Share
UPGRADE TO WINDOWS 10 PRO FOR FREE
Microsoft has long since ended its ‘Get Windows 10’ tool that prompted you to upgrade for free. However, if you’ve got a Pro or Ultimate product key from an old version of Windows 7 or 8, you can upgrade Windows 10 Home to Pro without paying fee. This won’t work if the product key is from a version of Windows that came pre-installed on your computer.
To upgrade, go to Settings, click ‘Update & Security’, then Activation. Click ‘Change product key’, enter your old key, click Next, then follow the prompts. We tried it with a Windows 7 Ultimate licence and the product key was accepted.
Suspiciously cheap Windows 10 Pro product keys can be found online (on eBay, for example), but you shouldn’t be tempted. Some of these will be from dubious sources and therefore will not be recognised by Microsoft.
your PC’s desktop with your fellow contributors and they’ll see exactly what you see. Windows 10 Pro includes a handy tool called Remote Desktop that lets you do all this and more.
Happily, Windows 10 Home users can use the excellent TeamViewer (www.snipca.com/26458) to access PCs remotely. Click the Windows tab at the top of the page, then the green Download button. To start a remote connection, just enter the ID of the computer you want to connect to (which the other person will need to send you), followed by the password.
Like Remote Desktop, TeamViewer allows remote connections from Windows PCs, as well your phone and tablet (Android and iOS). It’s simple to use (see screenshot below) and completely free as long as it’s only for personal use.
TeamViewer even has some advantages over Remote Desktop, such as easier drag-and-drop file sharing and the ability to connect to multiple remote computers simultaneously (Remote Desktop only allows one at a time).
Enter the ID of the remote computer you want to access in TeamViewer, then click Connect and enter your password
Select Normal in VeraCrypt to encrypt an entire hard drive
Encrypt your hard drive
Pro feature: BitLocker Free alternative: Vera Crypt
If you’re unlucky enough to have had your computer stolen, you’ll know the initial shock is soon replaced by concerns about who might now be poring over all your data, You may have a strong Windows user account password (you may even have enabled a password for your BIOS every time your computer boots), but it won’t stop a crook accessing your files.
It’s a good idea, therefore, to use drive-encryption software that makes it all but impossible for even the most technically minded thieves to break in. Microsoft provides Windows 10 Pro users with the powerful BitLocker encryption tool to handle this, but it leaves Home users to fend for themselves.
The solution is quick to install, easy to use, free and called VeraCrypt (www. snipca.com/26088 – scroll to the Latest Stable Release section and click the
PRO TOOLS YOU CAN’T MIMIC FOR FREE
There are some Pro tools you just can’t replicate in Windows Home for free. Here are three of them…
WINDOWS UPDATE FOR BUSINESS:
Probably the most useful Pro-only feature. It provides more control over Windows updates, including delaying all updates for 35 days (see screenshot) and Feature updates by up to a year.
GROUP POLICY: This tool lets you apply settings across all users of your computer. You can restrict access to certain Windows tools, disable features such as forced restarts and much more. You’ll find various instructions online detailing ways to enable Group Policy in Home, but they involved
downloading potentially dodgy software.
MAXIMUM MEMORY: Windows 10 Home limits you to 128GB of RAM, whereas Pro can handle up to 2TB. There’s no way round this limit, but unless you intend to carry out hugely resource-intensive tasks, you shouldn’t worry.
Windows link). Rising from the ashes of the once-popular TrueCrypt tool, VeraCrypt lets you encrypt individual files or entire hard drives with just a few clicks (see screenshot below left).
Because it’s built seamlessly into Windows, BitLocker is easier to use, but it doesn’t take long to master VeraCrypt. Be warned, however, VeraCrypt is incredibly powerful, which means if you forget your password, your encrypted files will be lost to you for good. We’d therefore strongly recommend you create a rescue disc when prompted during setup.
Create a virtual PC
Pro feature: Hyper-V Free alternative: VirtualBox
Virtual PC software lets you create separate operating systems and run them from your existing Windows installation – it’s like having a computer within a computer.
Windows 10 Pro comes with a decent virtual PC tool called Hyper-V (it needs to be enabled via the ‘Turn Windows features on or off ’ option in the Control Panel). Me best alternative for Home users is VirtualBox. It’s free and only takes a moment to install (www.snipca.com/27253 – in the VirtualBox platform packages section, click ‘Windows hosts’).
You can install operating systems (old and new) to a virtual PC using ISO files. Alternatively, you can allow the virtual PC to access your optical drive and load the operating system (such as Windows XP, see screenshot below) using the original installation disc. During the setup process, you can choose features such as the size of the virtual PC’s hard drive. Once up and running, any settings you change on the virtual PC won’t affect your main Windows installation. Although unlikely, it is possible for viruses to cross over, so it’s worth running antivirus software on your virtual PCs.
Set up restricted access
Pro feature: Assigned Access Free alternative: SharpKeys
Designed primarily for public computers, such as self-service booking systems, Assigned Access in Windows 10 Pro lets you create user accounts that are restricted to a specific program.
While you can’t entirely replicate this tool in Home, you can use the free SharpKeys program (www.snipca.com/ 28049) to disable certain keys on your keyboard. Ms prevents people from exiting programs running in full-screen mode, but lets them use the keyboard and mouse to navigate.
Ms should prove useful should you want to set up Windows so it will only display a chosen PDF in Adobe PDF Reader. You’ll need to disable all keys that can be used to exit Reader’s full-screen mode. Ms includes the Ctrl+L full-screen mode shortcut and others such as the
Create a PC within a PC with VirtualBox, and resurrect Windows XP
Click Type Key in SharpKeys, then tap the key you want to reassign
Windows and Alt keys.
To disable these keys, run SharpKeys, then click Add. Under ‘Map from this key’, click the Type Key button (see screenshot above), press the key you want to disable, then click OK.
Unless you’re happy forcing a reboot to exit Adobe Reader, you’ll want an escape route. By switching the Ctrl keys with the Home key, for example, you’ll have a shortcut to exit full-screen mode that only you know.
In SharpKeys, click Add and Type Key as before, then press Ctrl. Next, in the ‘To this key’ section, click Type Key, then press the Home key. Repeat the process but reverse it, so that Home is swapped with Ctrl. Do this for both your left and right Ctrl keys. If you want everything back as it was, click Delete All and reboot.
While it doesn’t work with all programs running in full-screen (particularly those that display the main toolbar, thus allowing people to click File then Exit), it’s a great way to securely display a PDF on your computer.