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The Big Guide: 20 Tips and Tricks to Get The Most Out of Windows 8



What do you do with a new operating system? If you’re a typical Maximum PC reader, you roll up your shirt sleeves and jump elbow-deep into every part of the OS you can get your hands on. You make manual registry tweaks to open up hidden elements of your new OS; you navigate through all of the different configuration options to see what’s changed, what’s new, and what you can personalize to your liking; you devote hours to playing around with all the different features.

Or, if you want a quick fix, you can read a guide like this.

We’ve gotten our arms full of data and dust in our attempts to unearth some of the more noteworthy features of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. And the following list of twenty awesome items represents the must-do tweaks and must-check-out, new features of Microsoft’s latest operating system.

This is but the start of our Windows 8 week festivities: Come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you about the 8 things we absolutely love in Windows 8!


1. Metro: Just Type It!

We’ll start with an easy trick. When you’re in Windows 8’s Metro UI and you want to load an app, don’t bother moving your mouse around the screen or trying to scroll your way over to wherever it is you’ve placed the app’s tile icon. Just start typing. Literally – start typing. You don’t have to go find the search button or any of that: Windows 8 will try to find anything you type, be it “Solitaire” or “Control Panel,” or what-have-you.

2. Screenshots Are Fun and Useful

Tech journalists covering Windows 8, take note: Microsoft has finally made it super-easy to dump the contents of your screen down to an image file. In times prior, you could hit the Print Screen key to copy the contents of the entire display, but you’d still have to paste that image into a third-party application (or Paint. Or you could also use Microsoft’s Snip tool, but we digress). Now, hitting the Windows Key and Print Screen at the same time dumps the entirety of your screen to a .PNG file in your Pictures folder. Easy!

3. Don’t Upgrade!

You’ve (hopefully) caught our guide for installing Windows 8. If you haven’t, go read that. And no matter what you do, don’t install Windows 8 as an upgrade to your existing operating system. There’s a giant list of reasons why you shouldn’t let a Consumer-Preview-cough-beta serve as your primary operating system, the least of which being that it can be a bit confusing for newcomers to try. You’ll shoot your productivity in the foot, not to mention all the potential incompatibilities / bugs / quirks you’ll find in your favorite software, games, and the current “test version” apps found in Windows 8.

4. Hot Corners Are Your Friends

If you’re a bit befuddled the first time you fire up Microsoft’s newest operating system, we understand. Microsoft’s left a number of navigational elements invisible to your eye unless you move your mouse over one of the four extreme corners of your screen. Hover your mouse over the top-right or bottom-right to access the Charms Bar: Windows 8’s built-in Search and Sharing capabilities, as well as a list of devices you can send the contents of the current app to and Windows 8’s ever-important Settings menu. Hover your mouse over the top-left or bottom-left corners of your screen to jump between open apps on Windows 8’s “Switch List,” just like you would otherwise do by hitting the combination of alt and tab on your keyboard.

5. Hotkeys Are Your Friends, Too

Unless you’re rocking a touchscreen PC, navigating your way around the Metro UI interface (and its horizontal-friendly apps) can be a bit of a drag. So don’t use your mouse; Use your keyboard. Check out some of these helpful hotkeys for flying through the OS and controlling its many elements:

· Windows Key + Tab – Opens up the left-hand “Switch List”

· Windows Key + C – Opens up the right-hand Charms Bar

· Windows Key + I – Opens up your ever-important Settings Menu

· Windows Key + T – Dumps you back to Desktop Mode and cycles through your open windows on the taskbar.

· Windows Key + Shift + . – Docks the app to the left, middle, or right side of the screen with each press.

· Windows Key + M – Jumps to the Desktop and minimizes all applications

· Windows Key + Q – Opens up Windows 8’s global search utility within Metro.

6. The PC Settings Panel is Your Best Friend

In its infinite wisdom, Microsoft has decided to split the options you can configure on Windows 8 between the contents of its typical Control Panel and a new Metro-based Settings menu, which can be accessed by going to the Charms Bar’s Settings option and clicking on the slightly buried “More PC Settings” link. Here’s where you’ll be able to adjust your lock screen’s background, Metro’s colors, how notifications and Windows 8’s built-in search work, the names of the attached devices Windows 8 has found, and your specific synchronization settings, among other important options.

7. Windows 8 Versus Disaster

Well, you’ve gone and done it. Either as a result of something (or things) you’ve installed, some setting you’ve mucked up, or just general apathy toward the well-being of your PC, Windows 8 doesn’t work right anymore. In Windows’ past, this would normally force you to take a trip down reinstallation lane. That part hasn’t changed, but Windows 8 now makes it really easy to return a broken operating system to happiness once again. Click on the General tab within the aforementioned “More PC Settings” menu. The “Refresh” option strips your system of the third-party apps you’ve installed and returns it to factory-default settings, but it keeps your User files. The “Reset” option wipes your operating system clean of all your data and returns your system to Windows 8’s factory-default settings.

8. Enable Safe Mode

Speaking of computer disasters, if you want to reboot your system into Safe Mode, you can’t just jam on the F8 key prior to Windows 8 loading: You have to first enable Safe Mode itself. Type “cmd” on your Metro UI, right-click on the Command Prompt app (called “cmd”), and select to run it as an administrator. Then type “bcdedit /enum /v” on the command prompt screen and hit Enter. Copy the entire “identifier” string (including the braces) for the entry that has “Windows 8 Consumer Preview” as the description, not “Windows Boot manager.”  Then, type the following into the command prompt: bcdedit /copy youridentifierstring /d “Windows Developer Preview (Safe Mode)” and hit Enter. After that, type in “msconfig” and hit enter.

Click on the “Boot” tab and select the entry called “Windows Developer Preview (Safe Mode).” Click on the “Safe Boot” option, the “Make All Boot Settings Permanent” option, click OK, and click “Yes.” Restart your system, and you’ll be given the option to launch either your normal Windows 8 environment or your new Safe Mode environment.

9. Be a Super-Administrator in One Clck

Here’s a great hidden tidbit of Windows 8: Move your mouse cursor the lower-left corner of Windows 8’s Metro or Desktop mode until it pops up the live thumbnail of the to-be-switched-to environment. But don’t left-click; Right-click. You’ll pull up a menu that gives you a shortcut to a bunch of handy power user options, including Command Prompts, your Disk Management window, and your System menu, among other options.

10. Fast-Uninstall Apps

Looking for a quick way to nuke any Windows Apps or third-party apps that you’ve installed on Windows 8? Just right-click on the app’s icon within Windows’ Metro UI and select “Uninstall.” Third-party apps will jump you to the good ol’ Windows “Programs and Features” window for the same ol’ Windows uninstallation routine you should be used to by now. Apps downloaded from the Windows Store will simply disappear. Poof!

On the next page: Xbox 360 Synchronization! Task Manager Awesomeness! Tile Management!  And more!


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