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Unearth the secrets behind three Windows 10 hidden features

The main features of Windows 10 are no surprise anymore, but there are some less heralded tools, such as Web Notes, that deserve a chance to shine.

Windows 10's main features such as Continuum, Windows Hello and Microsoft Edge are old news at this point, but there are some lesser-known features that IT and users should know about.

Web Notes, for example, is a tool that lets users write directly on webpages. Isolated User Mode is another hidden feature that boosts security. In addition Cortana is now integrated directly into the operating system, which is a change from past versions of Windows. These tools and changes might not grab the headlines but they add to Windows 10's depth and give users and IT admins some new opportunities.

Learn more about Windows 10 hidden features, including how to control Cortana's settings to reduce privacy concerns.

What is Web Notes?

One of the biggest new features in Windows 10 is Microsoft Edge, the company's new default web browser. Edge comes with a host of new features, including Web Notes, which allows users to mark up webpages with notes, drawings and more. The tool provides everything users need for drawing, typing, writing, highlighting and erasing any markings they make on a webpage. Web Notes also works with web apps so users can circle an important fact they want to remember or jot down a reminder next to something on the page.

The main issue with Web Notes is its less-than-conventional saving mechanism. When users click Save, they only have two options: save their notes to Microsoft OneNote or add to the list of favorites on their browser. There is no way to export the file anywhere else. Users can, however, share the note through email. When users click Share, the program converts the note into a .jpg image they can attach to messages.

What about Isolated User Mode?

One of the Windows 10 hidden features that improves security is Isolated User Mode. It is a form of virtualization-based security in Windows 10. If a process or a piece of information is virtualized, it is isolated from the rest of the operating system, making it harder for attackers to access or tamper with it. Isolated User Mode lets IT create secure apps and kernels.

Isolated User Mode teams up with Credential Guard, Windows 10's safe house for user credentials. The two tools work to prevent credential theft, particularly from pass-the-hash attacks, which reuse hashed user credentials to create a new authenticated user session.

Device Guard also uses Isolated User Mode to ensure that only trusted users can make changes to app control policies. This way an attacker cannot make changes to the policies that would allow users to download blacklisted apps, for example.

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What's new with Cortana?

Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant, has been around since Windows Phone 8.1, but the way it is integrated into Windows 10 is new. It's embedded in the OS, so Cortana is available on demand to desktop users and actually serves as Windows 10's search tool. It supports both text and voice inputs. Not only can Cortana perform searches on the local file level, but because it is a cloud service integrated with Bing, users can have it search the web too. Users can also work with Cortana to schedule meetings, remind them of tasks, get location-specific information and more.

Cortana at work
Cortana issues a reminder

Because Cortana is so integrated into Windows 10, it comes with some privacy concerns. To adapt to each individual user, Cortana collects data on users' interests, email and messaging, browsing history and more. All of the information goes back to Microsoft, which says it encrypts everything in transit and stores it securely. The company also says it does not read the content of anyone's messages. Despite Microsoft's assurances, companies with highly sensitive information may be hesitant to use Cortana.

How can IT control Cortana?

IT admins can use Group Policy settings to turn Cortana off completely or, at the very least, limit it in some ways. Admins can use Allow Cortana to determine whether or not Cortana can run on a user's device. If admins turn off Allow search and Cortana to use location, it will no longer keep track of the user's whereabouts. Do not allow web search determines whether or not Cortana can search the web from a desktop search box. Admins can prevent Cortana from searching the web at all by selecting Don't search the web or display web results in search. Finally, admins can limit the information Cortana shares with Bing with the Set what information is set in search policy setting.

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