You Just Got A New Windows 8 Computer: Now What?

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I know, exactly, that feeling of excitement when you first turn on your new computer.  I have done it many times since my first PC back in 1982. You push the “on” button and wait for the initial screen to show up to give you that wonderful feeling that tells you, you now have a new computer. But after the screen lights up and initial excitement wanes, what do you do next? If you are moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8 there will be a lot of familiar things to do and there will be some new things to consider. For one thing, after some preliminaries, like setting the language (English), Microsoft would like you to set up an account with them in the “cloud”. You don’t have to, but Microsoft would like to give you a SkyDrive account with 7GB of memory, free. This “SkyDrive” account, in the cloud, will be a place for you to store files like documents and pictures; but more importantly Microsoft can use that account to synchronize your computers, if you so desire. (If you don’t want to set up a SkyDrive account you can opt for a “Local” account.)  After you setup your User Account the display will go to the new “Start” screen - you know, the one with all the Tiles. Now the fun starts.

The Start screen is probably the first unfamiliar thing you will have to get over. If you are feeling a little queasy and you have to get to something familiar, then find the “Desktop” tile, on the Start screen, and click it (or touch it if you have a touch-sensitive screen). The desktop tile is probably in view on the new Start screen, and a single left click will get you to the familiar Desktop... go ahead, give it a try. When you get there you will find that it looks very much like the old Windows 7 Desktop, except that down in the lower left corner, there is no “Start” button. Well, this is one of the very first and seemingly difficult differences to get over during this transition from Win7 to Win8. Don’t let it get to you. In fact, the Win8 Start screen (the one with all the tiles) provides all the capabilities that were included in the Start button in Win7, and then some. So when you click the Desktop tile, voila, there is the familiar Desktop (sans Start button). Notice all the familiar things, the Background, the Notification Area (lower right), the Taskbar, Icons (short-cuts) typically on the left. Go ahead, play with it, just make believe you’re back in Windows. Most everything should feel very familiar. To get back to the Start screen, just point to the lower left corner until a thumbnail shows up. A left click will get you back to the Start screen, but a right click will give you a menu with a lot of familiar capabilities, including the Control Panel and File Explorer.

If you ever took one of my classes you will remember that Windows Explorer held the keys to the kingdom. Well, now Windows Explorer has been renamed “File Explorer”, so File Explorer now holds the keys to the kingdom. Fortunately, there is a File Explorer icon pinned to the taskbar on the Desktop (along with the other explorer, Internet Explorer). Let me take a minute here to say that this Internet Explorer is the one that you are familiar with. When you get to the Internet Explorer tile, on the Start screen, you will find a slightly different user interface. The familiar menus and tabs will be missing and the address bar will be on the bottom, instead of on the top. They both do the job, but I guess it’s up to everyone to decide which one they like. Right now, I think, the jury is out on this.

Once you get over the idea of a new Start screen and have reveled in the familiarity of the Desktop, there may be some things that you may want to do. First, go to Windows Update in the Control Panel and update Windows. Your copy of Win 8 may have been created many months prior to your starting up your new computer. During that time there were probably many updates to Windows that your computer has not gotten, so get them and install them now. (My new laptop computer had not been updated for 268 days and needed 36 updates.)  By the way, you’ll probably want to update all of your Apps when you get around to it, but more on Apps in a future article. Here’s another way to get to the Control Panel: go back to the Start screen (If you have not done this yet, move the pointer to the lower left corner and when a thumbnail of the Start screen appears, left-click it.) and just start typing c..o..n..t.  Immediately after you start typing, you will be in the Search Capability, and Control Panel will show up on the left. There is a lot going on here which is probably enough for still another article. But just click on Control Panel and you will be taken to another familiar screen, the Control Panel.  You’ll find Windows Update in the alphabetical list, if you are in the Icon view.

Another thing you may want to do early on is decide on Virus Protection software. Many new computers come with a starter Virus Software subscription from McAfee or Norton or some other manufacturer. If it is installed on your computer you can use it for the initial subscription time, usually a few months. Or, if you know you do not want to use it, Windows now comes with Windows Defender which now includes both Virus protection and Spyware protection features. If you decide to use Windows Defender, you should first uninstall or at least disable the Virus software that was initially included. After that Virus software is not in the picture, you can turn on Windows Defender. You can get to Windows Defender through the Control panel.

Once you have a virus protected computer, you can venture out on to the Internet. (Although you were probably out there already, if you setup a Microsoft SkyDrive account.)  The “Store” tile on the Start screen is the place to go for new Apps. I used it to get the Yahoo Mail App so I could easily get into my Yahoo Mail. There is a generic Mail App on the Start Screen, but I wanted the one that was developed by Yahoo. Yahoo has tried to make their Mail (for Mobile devices) App very similar to their Desktop Mail experience. To find a specific App when you are at the Store, just start typing and the Search Capability will pop up on the right side of the screen, with “Store” highlighted, showing you that you are searching the Store. Type in the App name and if it is available it will show up on the left side of the screen. Follow the directions for installation and it will be installed on your computer.  The Yahoo Mail App was installed in no time, finally signaled by the audio cue indicating the download was complete.

Windows 8, I am told (and so far I have no reason to not believe it), has a lot of security and performance improvements, besides the new Tiled User Interface. It seems to be a good step in the right direction. It incorporates new capabilities while maintaining all the familiarity and usefulness of the very popular Windows 7, so don’t hesitate to jump in, the virtual water is just fine.

Phil Sorrentino, Member, Sarasota PCUG, Florida

May 2013 issue, PC Monitor

philsorr (at)