Microsoft Windows 8.1 is highly customizable -- but only if you know your way around its menus. Our tips help you get more from the new OS.
4. Decide when to use SkyDrive SkyDrive is fully baked into Windows 8.1; it's listed right in the file structure, alongside more familiar categories such as Documents and Downloads. The OS's beefed-up cloud hooks offer several advantages. As mentioned, they can allow users to negotiate storage limitations. They also enable on-demand access to files, which can be a lifesaver if you ever unexpectedly need a document that's not locally stored on whatever machine you have handy. And if you use multiple devices, SkyDrive lets you synch content across machines with minimal maintenance.
One problem? Microsoft encourages users to store all files in SkyDrive. Compelling as the cloud can be, many people don't want to put everything there, after all.
To customize SkyDrive, you'll need PC Settings again. It contains controls to dictate whether SkyDrive is enabled by default, as well as how it handles specific types of content, such as photos taken with a device's built-in camera.
That said, even if SkyDrive is activated, you can still choose where to put files on a case-by-case basis. If you save a new Microsoft Word document, for example, you can select a different storage destination, such as your "Documents" folder, when you name the file. And transferring files between the cloud and local drives is as simple as dragging a file from one location within the file structure to another.
5. Change the number of Live Tiles that appear on the Start screen As mentioned above, many users will find the Start screen most useful if it's not overpopulated with apps. That said, if lots of Live Tiles are more your style, you might want to increase the number of apps that are visible at once. This option could be particularly useful if your device includes a large, high-definition screen, as the extra pixels can easily accommodate an extra row of tiles.
To control how many tiles are displayed, you'll need the Settings charm -- which, just to be clear, is different from the PC Settings menu that's also accessible via the charms bar. From Settings, select Tiles and activate Show More Tiles.
Windows 8.1 also enables users to customize the size of individual tiles. To do so, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Tile Customization bar. Next, select Customize from the bottom right, and then choose the tile you want to modify. Once you've done so, you can use a menu in the bottom left to control different tile attributes, including size and whether the tile stays pinned to the Start screen.
6. Learn how to control automatic app updates Windows 8.1 automatically downloads updates, just like Windows 8. But app updates are now automatically installed by default; in Win 8 this final step isn't initiated without the user's manual approval. For Win 8.1, if you want more granular control over which apps are updated, open the Windows Store and then access the Settings charm. The charm must be activated from within the store; otherwise, the necessary menus will not be listed.
Inside Settings, navigate to App Updates. Here you'll find the option to disable automatic updates.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.