A beginners guide to Windows 8

Taking a look at Windows 8 for the first time may leave you a little unsure about where to go. Compared to previous editions of Windows, the new Start Screen in Windows 8 offers new ways to access your files and programs however it does take a bit of getting used to.

This guide will take you through the basics to point you in the right direction.

Where to start...try the corners

The majority of the options and areas that you were used to in windows 7 can now be accessed in a few different ways.

Move the mouse down into the bottom left corner of the screen and right click once - a list of options will be displayed.

Using this menu is the quickest way to access things such as Control Panel, Device Manager and Windows Explorer from the new Start screen.

Right click in the bottom right corner to launch menu

Getting to know the Charms menu

Slide the mouse down to the bottom right corner of the screen and a column known as the Charms bar will appear on the right hand side of the screen.

Select Search at the top.

Move mouse down to the bottom right corner of the screen to launch the Charms menu

Searching for Apps

The search panel here allows you search for three different things on the computer.

The first is Apps - The computer came with a number of pre-installed Apps such as Maps, Photos and Music App.

You should also be aware that certain aspects of the computer such as Device Manager and Windows Explorer are also classed as Apps and can be located through this Search option.

Search within Apps

Searching for Settings

The seconds panel down is Settings

In here you will find things that you would have expected to find previously within Control Panel such as Printer, Region and Ease of Access Center.

Searching within Settings

Searching for Files

The third search section is Files.

In here you can access your Photos, Music & Video collection and your Documents.

Searching within Files

Using the windows key to navigate

Press the windows key on your keyboard to return to the Start screen.

You may have noticed that unlike previous versions of windows you do not have a red X in the top corner to close down a window, you simply press the windows key to return to the start screen.

Use the windows key on the keyboard to get back to the Start screen

Accessing the Settings

Move the mouse down to bottom right hand corner again to bring up the Charms bar.

This time select Settings - a further panel will slide in from the side.

This panel will contain details such as which wireless network you are connected to, your brightness and sound settings and an option to restart and shut-down the computer.

Accessing the Settings from the Charms menu

Under the hood

At the bottom of the column is an option called Change PC Settings.

This could be thought of as the 'under the hood' settings for your Windows 8 computer.

From these menus, you can personalise the appearance of the computer, create user accounts on the PC, enable or disable your wireless and choose when you want Windows Update to run.

Accessing PC settings

Removing a tile from the Start screen

There are a number of simple methods of altering the appearance of the start screen.

You may find that there are certain apps you do not wish to have on the Start screen.

For example, you may not feel any need for the Xbox LIVE Games tile - right click the tile and a row of options at the bottom will appear.

Select Unpin from Start and this will disappear.

Unpin a tile from the Start screen

Uninstall a tile

You may also have an App that you wish to remove entirely.

In this case, right click on the app to make the bottom row of options visible again - this time click on Uninstall.

Uninstall a tile from the Start screen

Changing the size of a tile

The tiles appearance can also be altered in other ways.

You may not want each of the tiles to take up as much space as they do on the start screen.

For example, right click on the Weather tile, from the options row at the bottom click Smaller and the width of the tile will be reduced.

Equally, right click a smaller tile and select Larger to double it's size.

Changing the size of a tile

Turning Live Tile On and Off

There is another feature known as Live Tile.

If you right click on the News tile as an example, the normal row of buttons will appear at the bottom.

This time select Turn live tile on.

With live tile turned on you will be shown further details relating to that tile.

Turning Live Tiles On and Off

Tiles/Apps for your media collection

There are tiles/apps designed specifically for your Videos and Music.

These have been designed to make it easier for you to view content through those apps.

If you have copied your existing music or video collection onto the computer, you will still be able to access these files through the apps however you may need to tell the apps where your collection is stored.

For a more in-depth look at each of these check our our Music App Guide and Video App Guide

Tiles for your media collection

New Internet Explorer and Email client apps

There is a new look version of Internet Explorer on the Start screen as well as an app for your Email

The new Internet Explorer app makes full use of the size of your screen by enlarging websites rather than having the address bar and navigation buttons at the top like previous versions of Internet Explorer did.

Although this can improve the browsing experience it can seem confusing at first trying to figure out how to navigate your way through the new browser.

For further details about these apps check out our Guide to Internet Explorer and Guide to the Windows 8 Mail app

Tiles to launch Internet Explorer and view your Emails

The good old fashioned desktop

Some people will find the Start screen quite unusual and may prefer to spend more time in the desktop environment.

You can access this from the Desktop tile on the Start screen.

At first this may look similar to windows 7 you will soon spot that there is no Start button in the bottom left corner.

Using the desktop environment rather than the Start screen

Create shortcuts to access your favourite programs a bit quicker

To access things such as your programs, folders and Control Panel will involve going back into the windows start screen, finding and launching that program and waiting for it to load up icon the desktop.

This can feel slight schizophrenic at first and if you do feel more at home in the desktop environment, you can make life considerably easier by creating a number of short-cuts to the things you want to use regularly

Useful shortut links:

Bring Calculator, Notepad and Windows Media Player back to the taskbar

Create Shutdown shortcut that can be used on both the Desktop and the Start screen

Bring My Computer back to Desktop and Start Screen

Create Shortcuts from the desktop

Change defaults back to the way they used to be

At the bottom of the screen is a link to Windows Explorer.

As with previous versions of windows you can use this to access any music, videos and photos that you have copied onto the computer.

Even if you access these files from the desktop, they may still be launched through the windows 8 apps at first unless you change the default program settings.

View our guides if you want more details about how to open your photos in Photo viewer, listen to your music through Windows Media Player or watch your videos through Windows Media Player

Set Default Programs to open files


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