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Customize Your Surface through PC Settings

The Surface's Start screen’s control panel, called the PC Settings screen, lets you polish off your Surface’s rough edges. Each section in the PC Settings screen lets you customize a different area of your Surface’s behavior.


The Personalize screen lets you change three areas: the lock screen that appears when you turn on or wake up your Surface, the Start screen’s background colors and patterns, and your account photo.

  • Lock screen: Tap the words Lock Screen to see and change your current lock screen photo. Tap one of the existing images, or tap Browse to select your own photo from your Photo library. At the screen’s bottom, choose which icons should display bits of information on the Lock screen.

  • Start screen: This lets you merge 20 background patterns with 25 colors to create 500 different Start screen combinations.

  • Account picture: To change your account photo, tap Camera and take a quick snapshot. Or, tap Browse to create an account photo from pictures in your Pictures library.


This lets you upgrade your user account from a Local to Microsoft account, if desired. Head here to change your password, as well. Chances are, though, you visit here most often to add a new user account to your Surface by tapping the section’s Add a User button.

Newly added users will need to download waiting updates, both from Windows Update and the Windows Store.

If you’re adding a child, choose to Turn on Family Safety, if desired, so you may monitor their computer use.


When one of your apps does something exciting, it sends you a notification: a little box in your screen’s top right corner that displays the reason for the excitement — a new instant message, for example, or an upcoming appointment.

Head to the Notifications section to choose which, if any, programs may send announcements, as well as whether they can make noises when doing so.


The Charm bar’s Search option lets you search for missing apps, lost files, or hard-to-find Settings. Beneath the Apps, Files, and Settings icons, you also see a list of searchable apps.

Tap the Search pane’s Maps app, for example, type Alaska, and the Maps app pops up, ready to offer driving directions.

If you don’t want an app listed as searchable within the Search pane, this area of PC Settings lets you toggle its removal.


This rarely used setting lets you choose which apps appear on the Share pane’s list of destinations. (To see the Share pane, open the Charms bar and tap Share.) For example, when Facebook graces Windows 8 with an app, you can add (or remove) Facebook in this section.


This bone tossed in for privacy advocates lets you choose whether apps can use your general location (handy with maps and weather), and your name and account picture (used by many social networks).

A third option lets Microsoft receive lists of websites used by apps, hopefully so Microsoft can weed out apps doing unscrupulous things.


This handy list shows all the devices now- or once-attached to your Surface. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you do anything but remove them by tapping the minus sign to the right of their name.

The gem here is Add a Device, listed at the top. Tap that to add Bluetooth gadgets like mice, keyboards, and headsets.


Only three toggle switches live here, but they’re all handy. Tap the Airplane Mode toggle to turn off your Wi-Fi before heading onto a plane. The other two toggles control Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Feel free to turn off Bluetooth to extend your battery life if you never connect with Bluetooth gadgets like wireless mice and keyboards.

Ease of Access

These switches help adapt the Surface to people with physical challenges. The High Contrast switch, for example, helps the vision-impaired by reducing all distraction. And Windows’ Narrator, a Windows chestnut for years, reads menus and text with its robotic tone.

Sync Your Settings

Microsoft kindly remembers the settings of Microsoft account owners. Log onto another PC with your Microsoft account, and your settings, passwords, app purchases, favorite websites and more, ride along, making that other PC behave much like your own.

This section lets you choose which settings, if any, you don’t want to travel with you. (For example, if you prefer your Surface’s wallpaper to be different than that on your Windows 8 desktop PC, tap the Personalize toggle to Off.)


The Surface with Windows RT can’t start a homegroup, but it can join an existing one. The Surface with Windows 8 Pro, by contrast, can both start and join an existing homegroup. This section lists the password of the homegroup you’ve joined, if any.

Windows Update

Your Surface is very new, and updates arrive frequently to fix problems and smooth out rough spots. You can tap Check Updates here to find the latest.

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