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The Windows 8 Start Screen’s PC Settings Screen

The Window 8 Start screen’s mini control panel — the PC Settings screen — would make more sense if it simply offered mini tweaks, such as changing colors or other cosmetic fluff. But oddly enough, Microsoft stuffed it with some of the most powerful commands in Windows 8.

To open the Start screen’s PC Settings screen, follow these steps:

  1. Summon the Charms bar’s Settings pane.

    You can summon the Charms bar’s Settings pane any of three ways:

    • Mouse: Point the cursor at the screen’s top- or bottom-right corner; when the Charms bar appears, click the Settings icon.

    • Keyboard: Press Windows+I.

    • Touchscreen: Slide your finger from the screen’s right edge inward and then tap the Settings icon.

  2. Choose the words Change PC Settings with a mouse click or tap of a finger.

    The PC Settings screen appears.

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Like the desktop’s large Control Panel, the PC Settings screen breaks its settings down into categories, each described here:

  • Personalize: This lets you choose a new picture for your Start screen and lock screen. The Account Picture area lets you change the thumbnail photo assigned to your user account.

    Don’t overlook the Lock Screen Apps section, found at the bottom of the Lock Screen page of the PC Settings screen. This section lets you choose which tiles should automatically update on your lock screen. Click the Calendar app, for example, and the lock screen displays your next appointment’s time and date.

  • Users: This category lets you change your password or authorize another person to use your computer.

  • Notifications: Sometimes called toast notifications, these little strips of text appear on your screen’s top-right corner. If you find them informative, you needn’t visit here. But if you find some of them to be distracting, head here to choose which programs, if any, are allowed to display onscreen notifications.

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  • Search: You can safely ignore this settings category, unless you want to prevent an app or its contents from being indexed. You usually want Windows to index everything, making everything easier to find.

  • Share: Designed for social networkers who enjoy sharing what they see on their computer screens, this lets you choose apps that can share information. Windows 8 starts with your Mail and People apps for e-mailing items to friends. As you install other apps, they may appear as options here, as well.

  • General: This catch-all category offers a way to turn off the spell checker and to make Windows ignore Daylight Savings Time. Don’t ignore the General category completely, though, because three important troubleshooting tools live here: Refresh Your PC, Remove Everything, and Advanced Startup.

  • Privacy: The Privacy category lets you prevent apps from knowing your geographic location and from sharing your name and account picture. If you’re concerned about privacy, though, look for the Delete History buttons sprinkled in the General, Share, and Search categories.

  • Devices: This simply lists all of your computer’s devices — things you’ve plugged into your computer. That usually includes things like a mouse, monitor, printer, camera, speakers, and other gadgetry. (It doesn’t let you adjust any of their settings, though.) To remove a device, click the gadget and then click the little icon in its top-right corner. To add a device, click the Add a Device button at the page’s top.

  • Ease of Access: This includes settings to make Windows more navigable by people with challenges in vision and hearing.

  • Sync Your Settings: If you’ve signed in to Windows 8 with a Microsoft account, this category lets you pick and choose which settings should link to your account. Then, when you sign in to a different Windows 8 computer, that computer automatically changes to reflect your favorite colors, background, language preferences, app settings, and other personal details tied to your Microsoft account.

  • Homegroup: This lets you choose which libraries to share with other computers in your Homegroup — a simplified way to share files between connected computers.

  • Windows Update: This settings category lets you know at a glance if Windows Update isn’t working. Click the Check For Updates Now button to see whether Microsoft has released any fixes for your computer today.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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