My desktop looks weird

Just when you think you’re getting a handle on Windows 10, something happens and your screen looks completely different. No problem.

You’re likely just in Tablet Mode.

Why does my Windows 10 laptop look like Windows 8?

A widely hated component of Windows 8.x was its Start Screen, which was populated by tiles. Tapping on a tile (or clicking on it with your mouse) opened your program.

Even people whose Windows XP and Windows 7 Desktops were littered with shortcut icons were confused about how to open a program in Windows 8.x. And those of us who don’t put anything at all on our Desktops were horrified.

What was Microsoft thinking?

Well, they wanted to sell Surface tablets. So, they made Windows look and feel on every computer like it wanted to run on a tablet. Long story short, a bunch of people got fired and Windows 10 backed off the tiles somewhat.

But not entirely.

Because, you see, those tiles do work well on a tablet. They survive in Windows 10 Start menu as “those square things that flash at you” on the right side of the Start Menu, and in Windows 10 Tablet Mode, where they work very well, and where they are easier to use than tapping on a tiny Start button with your finger.

There is a slight problem with this. If you have a touchscreen computer running Windows 10, Windows thinks that you always want to be in Tablet Mode. And that’s fine if you do. But some people never want to use a touch screen. And some people who have a “2-in1” or “convertible” computer want to be able to switch back and forth.

How do I turn this on? How do I turn this off?

Here’s how to make Windows do (or not do) Tablet Mode the way you like it:

Click on Start | Settings | System | Tablet Mode

From here you have two sets of choices. If you never want Tablet Mode, under “When I sign in” choose Use Desktop mode. Under “When this device automatically…” choose Don’t ask me and don’t switch.

If you always want to be in Tablet Mode, your choices are Use tablet mode and Don’t ask me and don’t switch.

Now, if you have a laptop or tablet with a detachable keyboard or one that folds under, you might want to use it the regular way when the keyboard docked or in it’s regular orientation, and in Tablet Mode when the keyboard is detached or folded out of the way.

You can teach Windows 10 to make the change for you.

If you use the device most often like a standard laptop, choose Use Desktop mode. If you most often use it like a tablet, choose Use tablet mode.

No matter which you choose here, I recommend your second choice to be Always ask me before switching. That results in one extra click, but allows you to retain a little more control. I have seen Windows just decide to switch for reasons unknown to me.

I’m stuck!

Now, let’s say that you don’t want Tablet Mode but your grandkids or your best friend came over and turned on Tablet Mode. Or you had a massive Windows Update, and now you’re in Tablet Mode.

How do you get out of it?

If you have a touch screen device, swipe in from the right side to open the Action Center. Tap on Tablet Mode to toggle it on and off. (You might have to tap on Expand if you don’t see Tablet Mode.)

Now, go into Settings and turn the doggone thing off as described above.

If you don’t have a touch screen, click on the Action Center icon in the lower right corner of your screen. (It looks like a cartoon word balloon.) Toggle Tablet Mode off and change the settings as above.

Do you have a tablet? Did you realize there was such a thing as Tablet Mode?


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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