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10/18/2013
07:22 PM
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Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips

Windows 8 was a complete flop on non-touch desktop PCs but Windows 8.1 cures some headaches. Here's how desktop users can get the most out of Microsoft's new operating system.

10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
(click image for larger view)
Windows 8 has accrued more than 8% of the desktop market, according to Net Applications, and 4% of the tablet market, according to IDC. This translates to well over 100 million users who can upgrade for free to Windows 8.1, which was released Thursday via the Windows Store.

But many of these existing users installed Windows 8 on their aging, non-touch PCs, machines for which the operating system's touch-centric design was poorly suited. Microsoft compounded this problem by removing some of the desktop mode's most popular features, namely the Start button and Start menu.

Although Windows 8.1 seeks to advance Microsoft's touch-oriented mobile agenda, this update is also intended to provide a better experience for traditional desktop users. If you're one of these users, you'll need to enable several of the features, which are turned off by default.

Fortunately, turning on these features requires little effort and could transform your difficult-to-use Windows 8 PC into a Windows 8.1 workhorse. Here are eight tips to get you started.

1. Access the Taskbar and Navigation menu.

If you're a desktop user annoyed by Windows 8, the Taskbar and Navigation menu is Microsoft's attempt to appease you. This menu doesn't contain all of Windows 8.1's improvements for desktop users, but it has most of them. There are several ways to access this menu from the desktop. The easiest is to simply right-click the taskbar and then select "Properties," which will launch the menu in a new window.

Alternatively, you can access the Taskbar and Navigation menu via the Settings menu, which is activated from the desktop either by pressing "i" and the Windows key at the same time, or by positioning the mouse cursor over one of the right-hand hot corners.

Once the Taskbar and Navigation menu is open, you'll want to navigate to the "Navigation" tab. As you'll see in many of the remaining tips here, this tab is where most of the action is.

2. Activate the boot-to-desktop mode.

By default, Windows 8.1 still boots to the Live Tile-dominated Start Screen. You can change this by enabling the new boot-to-desktop mode. Go to the "Navigation" tab in the Taskbar and Navigation menu, and select "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go the desktop instead of Start."

3. Explore the Start button's secondary menu.

Windows 8.1 brings back the Start button but not the Start Menu. But by right-clicking on the Start Menu, users can summon a list of secondary functions. This list includes many of the Start Menu's features, including restart and power-down commands. It might be enough to pacify some unhappy Windows 8 users. For others, the Windows Store offers a variety of Start menu replacements that might do the trick.

4. Unify your backgrounds.

Windows 8.1 lets you set the same background for the desktop, the Start screen, and the All Apps view. This might not sound like a big deal, but if you have to move between any of the views, having the same background makes it a lot less jarring. To activate this feature, you'll need the Navigation tab again. Just select "Show my desktop background on Start."

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mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2013 | 8:03:06 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
I've seen a lot of reviews from staff writers, not that many from users. Also, anyone from Win 7 that did the upgrade? Is it worth it?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/19/2013 | 8:50:07 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
I don't have experience yet with both Win 7 and Win 8 on the same machine, but I actually find Win 8.1 on my Surface Pro more satisfying than Windows 7 on my Lenovo ThinkPad, which is less than two years old. Yes, Win 8.1 still makes some things harder than they should be, but it runs much snappier than Win 7 in my opinion, crashes far less, lets me throw more at it at once in the desktop, etc. Some of the Win 8.1 advantage I'm seeing is owed to the Surface Pro's superior hardware, but some is also due to Win 8.1 being better in some ways.
midmachine
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midmachine,
User Rank: Strategist
10/21/2013 | 5:54:16 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
I can't crash it and believe me I've tried. Slowed it down a bunch (my fault) but couldn't crash it. Big improvement over 8.0, I am enjoying it.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Author
10/21/2013 | 7:19:36 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
Thanks for the helpful tips. Win 8 has been frustrating; Win 8.1 sounds like it's a good step forward to making things smoother.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/22/2013 | 10:46:27 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
Win8.1 remains a flop on desktops because the Metro UI is still front and center, even when booting straight to the desktop. In order to get to anything that used to be in a well-organized and quickly accessed start menu one has to continue to hassle with Metro that looks like a mix between Bloomberg TV and an explosion in a crayon factory while giving zero means of hierarchical organization. Grouping the tiles is no help because there will still be only one level and given how much space they take up even when resized (all extra steps that are not necessary with a real menu) it will only be a matter of time until you need to swipe left and right to get to what you need. That UI just sucks for desktop. The one OS for everything strategy is the dumbest idea Microsoft ever cooked up and they had plenty of dumb ideas.
The only chance for 8.1 is that it can still be customized using a large number of 3rd party tools that force 8.1 into the OS that it should be right out of the box.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
10/23/2013 | 4:51:03 PM
re: Windows 8.1 Desktop PC Installs: 8 Tips
The metro is only front and center, as you put it, if you leave it in default mode. It is very easy (2 minutes or less) to change the default to boot to desktop so it looks like Win 7. Incidentally, I now prefer the metro vs the desktop screen 90% of the time. One keystroke to swap back and forth...how easy is that. Fools like you that only complain make it difficult for yourself, and misinform those not using Win 8 yet, or using it incorrectly for their needs. If you are a consumer I give you some forgiveness, but if you are an IT staffer you are an embarrassment.
ratinaflat
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ratinaflat,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2013 | 4:21:46 AM
Windows 8
The best way to get rid of the windows 8 mess, which was ostensibly made for tablets and not desktops is to download and install CLASSIC SHELL.  You will be relitavely back to normal in no time.
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