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6 ways to customize the Windows 10 lock and sign-in screens

Make your lock screen functional and your sign-in screen minimalist.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

If you're a Windows 10 PC user -- like me -- you probably haven't put much thought into customizing the lock and sign-in screens. I run Windows 10 on a desktop, and the lock screen felt redundant so I simply turned it off. But these two screens, and they are separate screens, can be customized to suit even desktop users' needs with notifications, app statuses and cool wallpapers from Bing's homepage. Here are a few different ways you can make the lock and sign-in screens look and feel the way you want them to:

Put Cortana on the lock screen

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Cortana got a big update in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, and she can now look up stats and make appointments without you ever having to unlock your device. To put Cortana on your lock screen, open Cortana and go to Settings > Lock screen > Use Cortana even when my device is locked. This will let her perform basic tasks, such as looking up information or the weather, while your device is locked. If you want Cortana to be able to access your personal information and do things like make appointments, you will need to check the box next to Let Cortana access my calendar, email, messages, and Power BI data when my device is locked.

Turn on Windows Spotlight

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You have three options for the lock screen background: A picture of your choice, a slideshow or the super-cool Windows Spotlight, which pulls high-resolution photos from Bing's homepage. Spotlight photos cycle periodically, and you can rate them to let Bing know which ones you prefer and which ones you dislike for future reference (like a Pandora of wallpapers). To turn Spotlight on, open the Settings menu then go to Personalization > Lock screen > Background and choose Windows spotlight from the dropdown menu.

Add some apps

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If you want your lock screen to be functional, you can add up to eight apps that will display at-a-glance statuses -- one app to show detailed statuses and seven apps to show quick statuses. To pick these apps, open the Settings menu and go to Personalization > Lock screen > Choose an app to show detailed status or Choose apps to show quick statuses. You can then click or tap a box to pick an app.

If you don't want to show apps, click each box and set the app to None. Apps that can show statuses include Weather, Skype, Calendar, Mail, Store and Xbox. They'll vary depending on the apps installed on your device.

Change your sign-in screen background

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Ridding yourself of the flashy Windows logo on the Windows 10 sign-in screen used to be an ordeal. But now that logo screen is gone forever and you have two options for your sign-in screen background: A solid color or the photo displayed on your lock screen.

To toggle between these options, open the Settings menu and go to Personalization > Lock screen > Show lock screen background picture on the sign-in screen. If you turn this option off, your sign-in screen will display a solid color. To choose this color, go to Personalization > Colors and pick an accent color.

Hide your email address

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In the interest of privacy, Windows 10 now lets you hide your email address on the sign-in screen. In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, this option is turned on by default. You can toggle it on or off by opening the Settings menu and going to Accounts > Sign-in options > Privacy > Show account details (e.g. email address) on sign-in screen.

Turn off notifications

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If you don't want your notifications to pop up when your device is locked, you can turn that off. To do this, open the Settings menu and go to System > Notifications & actions > Show notifications on the lock screen and turn it off.