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Windows 8 Review

Your First Use of Windows 8

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s latest Operating System and it’s vastly different in appearance and design to all the previous versions of Microsoft Windows.

Windows 8 Log In ScreenWhen you first start to use Windows 8 you can set up new security settings to protect your computer by means of a lock screen. This gives you the choice of several ways to access your PC using a password, a pin or a series of swipes across a photo of your choice. This lock screen can even be personalised with your calendar and unread email etc.

  Windows 8 Start ScreenThe new Windows 8 Start Screen is full of tiles, many of which are live and provide constant updates about your social life. You can also add any recent tweets appearing on your Twitter app, quotes on your Stocks app, temperatures on your weather app, and so on.

The Tiles can be clicked to access your files, apps and programs. They can also be grouped and moved around and if you right click a tile you will see an Option Bar appear at the foot Windows 8 Charms Barof the page with even more settings you can adjust.

The new Charms Bar gives quick access to a number of settings. You can access this by clicking or dragging a finger across the upper or lower right hand side of the screen.

Charms include Settings, Devices, Start, Share (information with others) and Search.

The Search Charm will certainly be your friend as you try to find your way around the Windows 8 interface.

Working with the Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 'traditional desktop' looks and works much like the Windows 7 desktop although the aero look has been dumped for something far flatter and plainer.

Windows 8 Desktop You can access the Windows 8 Desktop by selecting the Charms Bar and clicking the Start Tile or by clicking the Desktop tile on the Windows 8 Start Screen. You can also use the Charms Bar Search Box and type in 'Desktop' or view all the Apps, as the desktop is one of them.

When you arrive at the Windows 8 Desktop you will see that the look and feel of is very familiar to what you will have used in Windows 7.

Here, you'll find the familiar Recycle Bin, Internet Explorer, File Explorer and taskbar. But you will notice that that the Start Menu is missing from the task bar at the bottom of the screen.

So for anyone that plans to use Windows 8 it will be a good idea to download a replacement Start Menu for the Desktop.

Both Start 8 from Stardock ( and Classic Shell ( provide these Start Button replacements.

Once downloaded and installed these start menu programs (either one) can put you straight onto the Windows 8 Desktop when you start up your PC. So if you want to, you don't have to visit the tiled interface at all!

Windows 8 still has many familiar desktop tools including the Calculator, Paint, Word Pad, Notepad, Windows Media Player, Control Panel, Sticky Notes, Character Map, Sound Recorder and the Snipping Tool. And once you have your Start Menu installed and configured you'll find these desktop tools in the Start/Programs/Windows Accessories folder.

Windows 8's Family Safety

Windows 8’s Family Safety can supervise all your online activities.

To help protect your children you can set up new accounts for them and adjust the settings so you can get weekly email reports showing all their Internet activity.

You can also set up filtering to set time limits and to restrict the use of games and apps.

Privacy features such as Do Not track are also built in.

Windows 8 Adding a new user

When you create an account during Windows 8 installation it is an Administrator – that is to say the account can do anything and change any setting on the computer.

If other people are going to be using the computer, especially children, you'll want to set up separate accounts for them and make them Limited Accounts.

Windows 8 Charms BarPress Windows and C to start the Charms menu and click on Settings. Click on Change PC settings at the bottom.

Click on Users in the left-hand column, scroll down and click on Add User on the right-hand side.

If the new user has a Windows Live account you can enter their email address in the first text box that appears. If not, click on the 'Sign in without a Microsoft Account' text at the bottom of the window.

Click on the Local account button. Give the user a name and a password. Ensure the password is hard to guess so their account will be safe. You can also enter a hint to help them remember it.

Just make sure that it is not so obvious that it gives the game away.

Click on next and Windows will show a summary of the user account. You can also turn on Family Safety by clicking in the box. Click on Finish when you're happy with the account.

Installing programs with Windows 8

You can install programs easily and almost everything that ran on Windows 7 will still run on Windows 8.

If you plan to upgrade your PC to Windows 8 the best way to see what will work is to run Microsoft’s Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant.

This will check to see if your PC can handle the new Operating System. Running this Upgrade Assistant gives you a list of all the programs that will still work, a list of those needing manufacturer upgrades, and those that will not work after the upgrade.

Backup and storage

Fewer than 5% of Windows users use the Windows Backup feature, so for Windows 8 Microsoft has replaced it with File History.

You can still use System Restore, or create an image that adds your installed applications to the built-in recovery tools so you get them back when you refresh Windows with the new troubleshooting tools.

As your Windows settings are synced through your Microsoft account, so having a full system backup is less important than it used to be.

File History insists on using an external or network drive and it doesn't do full system backups. Instead it takes hourly copies of files in libraries or on the desktop, as well as contacts and favourites.

You can choose to exclude files, change how often file history takes a snapshot or how long it keeps copies for, or you can just turn it on and leave it running.

To turn on File History Open the Windows Desktop Control Panel and select the System and Security category and click File History to open the program.

The File History program takes a guess as to which drive you want to begin filling with your backups. If it guesses correctly just click the Turn On button.

file history If you need to switch to a different drive, click the Select Drive link from the window's left side and select the drive you want to use, and then click the Turn On button.

When you turn on File History, Windows 8 immediately starts its backup - even if one isn't scheduled yet.

Windows 8 normally backs up files automatically every hour. To change that schedule, click the Advanced Settings link from the windows' left edge. Then choose the backup frequency, which ranges from every 10 minutes to once a day.

Tip: Windows 8 saves your backup in a folder named File History on your chosen drive. Don't move that folder, or else Windows 8 may not be able to find it again when you need to restore it.

Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces are one of the neatest features in Windows 8. Forget the complexity and rebuild issues of a RAID set up - you can plug multiple drives into a PC and see one large storage 'space' whether the drives are the same size or all different sizes.

If you want to take advantage of Storage Spaces, you must first create at least one pool of disks to house your virtual drive. The number of disks you use in your pool is up to you.

You can create a pool containing only a single disk. This might seem waste of time, but it allows you to create a storage space that can be easily expanded by adding a second drive to the pool at a later date.

However, there is a big benefit to using multiple drives, as this lets you take advantage of the various storage space resiliency options. Using more than one disk may also improve performance, as it allows Windows 8 to read and write data from multiple drives at once.

Be aware that when you add a disk to a pool it’s completely wiped and becomes inaccessible to Windows. You can’t access it through Explorer, nor save regular files onto it directly; and if you ever remove it from the pool it will need to be reformatted before you can reuse it. You can’t add any specified partitions to a pool, either: it’s the whole disk or nothing.

If something should go wrong with your Windows 8 Computer, you can hook up the drives in your pool to a different Windows 8 system and your storage spaces will automatically be recognised and mounted.

Windows 8 Task Manager

Windows 8 Task ManagerTask Manager's new layout works as a simple task switcher. Expand it and you get a screen that's easy to navigate but is packed with useful information, from historical data about which apps use the most bandwidth, to how many items in your Start-up list slow Windows down, to what all the strangely named Windows services are doing. When you switch to detail view, Processes is now divided into Apps and Background processes.

This version of Task Manager is much easier to understand, and numbers at the top of each section give you a quick feel for how busy your computer really is.

Windows 8's New Recovery Options

Windows 8 Recovery OptionsWindows 8 brings two new recovery options (Refresh and Reset) that could help save IT personnel and home users' time when a PC becomes infected or corrupt, or when they're being readied for disposal or reuse.


Refresh keeps all your personal data, apps, and important settings, and then reinstalls Windows.

While a Refresh does not keep your traditional desktop applications, it saves a list of them in an HTML file (without the license keys, however) that will appear on the desktop.


The Reset option removes all your data and files and then re-installs Windows so the PC is in the same condition as when it was started up the first time.

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