Top Tasks for New Windows 8.1 Users
Part of the Windows 8.1 All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Like most new software, Windows 8.1 comes with a few administrative tasks you should do before using it. If you just upgraded, here's what you need to do:
Get your logon IDs straightened out. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a Microsoft account (formerly known as a Windows Live ID) as your logon ID. The two big advantages: your Outlook.com mail and contacts get pulled into the Metro Mail and People apps; all your settings (including accounts and passwords for Facebook, if you've provided them) travel to other Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 computers when you log on with the same Microsoft account. Big disadvantage: Microsoft knows when you've logged on, and where, and can use your Windows logon ID to keep track of your browsing. Tough choice.
Turn off Smart Search. New with Windows 8.1, Smart Search is very, very smart for Microsoft — they use it to sell advertising — and a privacy-sapping intrusion with no conceivable benefit for you.
Show filename extensions. Windows hides a key piece of information from you that can help you identify and avoid viruses and discombobulate all sorts of, uh, combobulations. The next time you use Windows, take a few seconds and make it show you "file name extensions" — the little piece at the end of each file's name, usually three characters long (for example, .doc or .exe or .bat), that dictates how Windows treats the file.
Turn off Automatic Updates. Let Windows tell you when updates are available, but don't download or install them until you're good and ready. Now's the time to take de bull by de horns and de-horn de bull. If you're willing to manage updates and look at them with a critical eye (you can see updates on updates at AskWoody.com), this is the way to go. (If you're setting up a computer for someone who finds basic computer maintenance intimidating, however, Automatic Updates may be the better option.)
If you have two hard drives, or a big USB drive that you aren't using, set up File History. It's Microsoft's answer to Apple's "Time Machine" — an easy way to save copies of all your files, going back to the beginning of time, on a backup disk. It'll save your tail, guaranteed.
If you plan to mostly use the desktop and ignore the Metro tiled side, set up Windows to boot directly to the desktop, turn off the "hot" corners on the screen, and install a Start menu program like Start8 (go to www.stardock.com for more information).