Windows 10 Keeps Getting Better

Yes, that’s right, Windows 10 keeps getting better! Since its initial “FREE UPGRADE” launch Windows 10 has had some, mostly, bad press. This is Microsoft after all, so in order to get a good review from John Q. Public and all those other places you go to read about technology, they’d almost literally have to reinvent the wheel. For me, when the free update was available, I jumped right in. First on my laptop, which was a Windows 7 build. Yes, it was a buggy ride for a short time. But not as bad as going the upgrade route back in the day, from say Windows XP to Windows 7, for example. That was disastrous, every time. If not right away, then you knew the blue screens were only around the corner.

I remember my Windows 10 upgrade, from Windows 7, and I remember it well. Why? Because it was, to put it simply, amazing. First off it was really easy, and secondly it stuck. I’m still using the same Windows 10 build to this day. However, it wasn’t all balloons and rainbows just yet.

For the longest time I struggled with finding Microsoft based apps that worked on my Android phone. I have an LG G2, and it still works great, so I keep upgrading it. I’ve gone off the standard rails and am running Android 6.0 with CyanogenMod. However, I was running Android 4 for a long while, and maybe that was part of my problem. But I’m not 100% sure about that. See my problem was that if I used an app on my Windows 10 laptop, how could I sync that data, with my phone? It almost sounds like a non-issue today, but it was a small trip to hell only about a year ago.

Now, however, that’s all changed. I’ve been successfully running a whole host of Windows apps with successful syncing between my Android phone and my Windows 10 laptop. These apps include the following…

  • OneNote
    • Microsoft’s Note taking app, which I have switched to using and removed all instances of EverNote from everywhere.
  • Money
    • For financial tracking, news and updates. I still use Google Finance’s web page for my portfolio tracking, however, I may move away from that as it doesn’t even have a native Android app anymore and I think Google wants to phase it out.
  • Photoshop Express
    • This app isn’t really syncing anything between my devices, but its a solid app for quick photo editing and it is represented well in Windows 10.
  • Dropbox
    • Not much of an explanation required here, we all know and love (hate?) Dropbox. Secure cloud storage at its best.
  • OneDrive
    • Microsoft’s version of Dropbox. I’ve setup my OneDrive to automatically save any photo taken on my phone. Its a great feature and it works flawlessly.

This list could go on, but I wanted to get the heavy hitters out of the way first. So why have Dropbox and OneDrive? Well there’s really no such thing as overkill when it comes to free cloud storage. I also have Mega installed on my Android phone as well. For me, Dropbox is for work related, or important files, then we have OneDrive for auto backup of my phone photos and Mega I use for sending files to friends that are too big for email. One side note about OneDrive auto photo backup. Whenever you create a new folder in your gallery on your Android phone, Mega will pop up and ask if you want to add it to your automatic backup list. That’s pretty cool and it even does it when you launch an app that edits these folders for the first time. Like Photoshop Express, for example. You could easily setup a system where you’re only saving your Photoshop Express files and not every photo, so you’re just getting the best files you decided to edit.

These are all good and all, but the real reason Windows 10 keeps getting better is the Windows integration of Android notifications. If you install Cortana on your Android device, log in to a Windows account (an Outlook email address will work perfectly) then install it on your Windows computer, you’ll start getting your Android notifications on your Windows computer. And, if that doesn’t sound like a big deal, it should. This is a great feature.

Imagine sitting at work, plugging away, then you get a phone notification, in Windows! Or lets say your at home, using your home media PC, and your charging your phone in another room. No problem, anything that Cortana can get its clutches on will be reported on your Windows PC. It should be noted, although also obvious, that for these functions to work, you need to have both your phone and Windows device connected to the Internet. This should be no big deal when home on your WiFi. So now you’re phone can be out of reach, but updates will still flow to you via Windows. A win win!

It wasn’t too long ago that none of this was possible. However, maybe it was related to my upgrade of Android from v4 to v6. Regardless, if you’re stuck without being able to integrate or share settings between Windows 10 and your Android device, think about an upgrade. Or, if its just been a while since you tried using any of these apps, try them again. Also I would suggest trying the phone companion options in Windows 10. I will admit that I’ve had more luck manually installing apps then using the phone companion, but it is always a good place to start.

A little sidebar for a moment. To make all of this work you do need to make sure a few things are running properly first.

  • Most obviously, you need a working Cortana installation on your Windows 10 machine. You’ll also need Cortana on your Android phone. I live in Croatia and in order to get these apps I had to do some digging, find a Cortana APK file for Android and also tell my Windows 10 computer that I’m in the USA and not Croatia. It is a bit of a hassle, but its honestly worth the integration benefits.
  • You will need a valid Windows account. This can be an Outlook email account, or even a gmail based account. I’ve used both successfully for this setup. If you don’t have a Windows account you can create one here.
  • You will also need to log in to Windows 10 using that same Microsoft Account. To be clear, not a local account with your own password, it should be the same username and password you use to login to Microsoft online. This is a very important step because your Windows 10 machine will integrate the Windows Store with whichever account you log in to Windows with. You need this to match the account you’re using on your phone (for Cortana) in order to have proper, live, integration.
  • Something you can try, to avoid a whole new user account on your Windows 10 machine, is to open the Microsoft Store app and attempt to connect it to your Microsoft Account. This may let you avoid creating a whole new account with new settings in Windows just to make this work. However, I have not tested this theory.

In Windows 10, to find the phone companion options, simply click Start and type “Phone” and you should see it at the top of the search results.

Windows 10 Keeps Getting Better

In the past I’ve had hit and miss luck with Phone Companion options, and I find the best way to make this all work automatically is to just log into Windows 10 using your Microsoft account and then link that account to all the Microsoft apps on your phone.

Outside of the mobile integration, another reason Windows 10 keeps getting better is that, things like Windows crashes and Blue Screen’s of Death (BSOD) are slowly becoming a thing of the past. In fact, at the time of writing this article, nearly a year after installing Windows 10, the amount of errors and crashes I’ve seen in the last 2 months are just about nil. In fact I can’t think of a specific case when an error caused me to have to reboot.

During the early days of my Windows 10 setup I definitely had BSOD’s and full computer crashes, but its a thing of the past these days. So if you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10, even from Windows 8, I’d say now’s the time to get in. You’ve missed the teething stages, just upgrade to the fully functional Windows 10 platform today, because we’re out of the wild west and powering into the Information Age now!

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