How to Unlock Microsoft’s Free Graphing Calculator in Windows 10

How to Unlock Microsoft's Free Graphing Calculator in Windows 10 thumbnail

While your math teacher (or your kid’s math teacher) might not let them lug a laptop into their calculus class, I still think it’s awesome that Microsoft is finally giving the good ol’ Windows Calculator a boost of geekiness. If you thought “Scientific” mode was fun, you haven’t seen anything yet—coming soon, to Windows 10, is a full-fledged graphing calculator.

I kid, but only a little bit, as it’ll be great to finally have a graphing calculator baked into the operating system. You won’t have to turn to third-party apps to emulate one anymore, not unless you crave that sweet, Texas Instruments feel.

If you’re impatient, you can even start playing with this new graphing calculator today. You’ll have to trade away a little potential stability to calculate sine curves, as you can only access said calculator at the moment via one of Microsoft’s preview builds of Windows 10.

If that doesn’t dissuade you—and you can always drop out of the Windows Insider program once you’ve had your fun, or in case you encounter issues with its Windows 10 previews—here’s how to get started.

Were I you, I’d start by making a System Restore point just in case, via Control Panel > System > System protection. After that, hit up the Settings app > Update & Security, scroll down to the “Windows Insider Program,” and begin the process of signing up. Make sure you’ve enrolled yourself in the Fast track. Once your computer restarts, visit that same section again and stick with the “Windows Update” screen instead of clicking on “Windows Insider Program.” Check for updates and install anything that’s offered, which will undoubtedly require another PC restart.

After that, you should have a fresh, beta build of Windows 10 to play with—and should see something like this in the lower-right corner of your desktop, to confirm that:

Screenshot: David Murphy

You can pull up the Calculator now, but you might not see anything new—at least, I didn’t when I first loaded it. To fix that, go visit Windows Calculator’s listing in the Microsoft Store. Click on “Get” to reinstall it, and you should see a little notification that Windows Calculator has been updated. Now, when you pull up Calculator on your desktop, you’ll see the fancy new “Graphic” option via the upper-left “hamburger icon” menu:

Screenshot: David Murphy

Are you ready? Click on it, and then type in your favorite equation. Hit Enter, and you’ll see the results graphed to your left. Yes, you can enter multiple equations at once—color-coded!—and you can use the tracing feature to see the exact x and y coordinates of any point. Ah, it’s like I’m back in AP Calculus again.

Screenshot: David Murphy

And if you enter two equations that relate to one another—for example, using “x” in one and defining “x” in another—you get a little adjustment bar that shows you how different values impact the primary equation:

You can also hover over your equation and, if supported, Calculator will even give you a quick analysis that shows you key information: the domain and range, the x-intercept, the y-intercept, inflection points, et cetera.

While Calculator won’t do your Calculus homework for you, it’s at least a lot easier to navigate than your handheld graphing calculator—prettier, too, and a lot cheaper.

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