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How to Install Desktop Programs on Your Windows 8 Tablet

Windows 8 tablets include a fully functional desktop, just like the one found on desktop PCs. However, because tablets don’t come with disk drives, how do you install a desktop program?

Windows RT tablets include a traditional Windows desktop, but with one problem: Windows RT tablets won’t let you install any programs onto the desktop. Instead, Windows RT tablets are limited to downloads from the Windows Store app, which usually isn't a problem because the Store adds more apps every day.

Windows 8 tablets give you several options:

  • Windows Store: When you browse the Windows Store app with a Windows 8 tablet, many desktop programs appear on the Store’s list of apps. When looking at a program you want, tap the Go to Publisher’s Website link. The software publisher’s website appears, where you can buy the program and download the program’s installation file.

  • Website: Desktop programs not listed in the Windows Store can still be downloaded directly from the Internet, just as in previous versions of Windows.

  • Flash drive: All Windows tablets include a USB port. You can copy or download a program’s installation file onto a flash drive with another computer and then insert the flash drive into your tablet and install it from there.

  • SkyDrive: This online cubby hole works well for swapping files between your tablet and desktop PC. From your desktop PC, copy a program’s installation file to any folder in SkyDrive. Then open the Start screen’s SkyDrive app, visit the SkyDrive folder, and tap the program’s installation file to install it.

There’s another alternative, but it limits your tablet’s portability. You can buy a DVD drive that plugs into your tablet and then install the program directly from its CD or DVD. Be aware, though: plug-in DVD drives are battery hogs. Use them only when your tablet is plugged into the wall.

If you’ve downloaded a program and now need to find and run it, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Desktop app and tap the File Explorer icon.

    The File Explorer icon appears, letting you peek into your tablet’s folders.

  2. Navigate to the folder containing your program’s installation file.

    Downloaded files live in your Download folder, which you’ll find listed in every desktop folder’s left edge in the Favorites section.

    Tap the Download folder, and a window appears, listing every file you’ve downloaded from Internet Explorer.

  3. Double-tap the name of the program’s installation file.

    Two successive finger taps (which are the equivalent of a double-click) let the Windows desktop know that you’re not just selecting the program for a name change — you want to install it.

  4. Tap through the warning screen.

    A User Account Control window appears, warning you of potential damage. After all, you downloaded a program from the wilderness of the Internet, and now you want to install it on your computer.

    However, Windows 8’s built-in malware detector already scanned the program as you downloaded it, so it’s probably safe. So tap the Yes button, telling Windows to install your program.

  5. Follow the program’s prompts, if necessary.

    The program may ask you what language you prefer and in which folder it should set up camp, as well as recommend that you close all of your other programs. (Potential problems like this are what moved Microsoft to create Windows 8, with its simpler and more secure app system.)

When the program finally installs, it tosses a tile onto the Start screen’s far-right edge. This annoyance can be fixed by shuffling the Start screen’s tiles into more convenient positions.

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