How do you spruce up the Windows 8 Start screen? How do you change your password options? How do you populate the desktop with shortcuts to all your favorite programs?
Whether you’re a Windows 8 maven or you’re still getting your feet wet, you’ve probably bumped into a host of screens, commands, and other features that you’d like to control or adjust. And those of you who checked out Windows 8.1 via the Preview edition, got it preinstalled on a new PC late in 2013, or received it via a Windows update in mid-October or later may feel the same way.
Well, don’t worry. More than most pieces of operating-system software, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 lend themselves to customization—though it may not be readily apparent. You can tweak various parts and pieces to make them more user-friendly—or simply more your own. Microsoft purposely offers options to customize the Start screen, the desktop, the Taskbar, and more. Some other features that are not as easily customizable can be renovated through a Registry hack, a Group Policy setting, or a special bit of code.
Windows 8.1 provides more options for tweakers than Windows 8 does. Just a few examples? The 8.1 update lets you match your Start screen background with that of your desktop, organize the Apps screen, and use your fingerprint as your password (assuming your PC has a fingerprint reader).
Most of the 25 tips offered here work in both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, but some support only one or the other. We’ve indicated the supported versions under the name of each tip. That way, you won’t get frustrated trying a particular tweak in your edition of Windows only to later learn that it’s not supposed to work in it.
We’ve broken out the 25 tips into five categories. The first category shows you how to tweak the Start screen. The next one covers your Windows environment in general. The third shows you how to refurbish the Windows desktop and Taskbar. The fourth one focuses on File Explorer. And the final category shows you how to take control of Windows by using the Registry, the Group Policy Editor, and other power tools.
Hard to believe, but at the time of this writing (just before the Windows 8.1 launch), Windows 8 was officially almost a year old. (Time flies, whether or not you’re having fun.) Windows 8.1 will be the new normal by the end of 2013, unless you consciously keep your Windows 8 PC from updating to it. Whichever version is nestled on your PC or tablet, these tips and tricks should help you control and tame Windows so it looks and works just the way you like it.