So after helping Mark T last week with fixing things on his new Windows 8 laptop I decided that I'd write down some of the things we did to make Windows 8 a more familiar and fluent experience.
As you go through reading this you may notice something's missing out of the images (icons of programs) this is mainly because there are some programs I have that have bugs in them that my lead to security risks on my network so parts of images have been removed in places. Don't worry nothing has been removed that is important to the instructions.
The Windows 8.1 update:
One of the most important things we did was update Windows 8 to 8.1. This freely available service pack fixes not just the start button issue that Windows 8 has, but adds a lot of other minor fixes to the operating system. To update to 8.1 you will need to be connected to the internet because the 8.1 has to be downloaded before it can be installed. If you are not comfortable with installing Windows 8.1 by yourself get someone to help you.
Now we need to go to the start screen (press the Windows key) and the click on the store icon.
The store app will now open and you should see a screen similar as shown below.
Click anywhere on the purple square and it will take you to the product description screen. Then click on the install button. Note that the update is very large and is about 3.5GB.
Windows 8.1 will start downloading and will automatically install. You will be able to continue to do work while it is downloading and during the initial install stages. Before Windows 8.1 can be fully installed it will need to restart itself so that the installer can make changes to your operating system. A pop up will appear asking you to restart your computer and you should let your computer restart. After your computer will restart and install items several times over about an hour or two.
When your computer has finished installing Windows 8.1 it will walk you through a few set up options before you can jump back into Windows. Just follow the prompts.
The first thing you will notice that has change is there is now a start button on your task bar.
Removing the combining of the programs on the task bar:
In Windows XP your programs don't combine into one icon on the task bar unless the task bar is full, this changed in Windows 7. In Windows 8 and 8.1 task bars are similar to Windows 7's. The following trick works in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1.
To change this back is quite simple. Right click on this task bar and a menu will show.
Left click on properties and the options menu below will show.
Click the drop down menu that has the text "always combine, hide labes" and change it to "combine when the taskbar is full."
Then click apply and then ok.
Adding the control panel icon to the start screen:
Adding the control panel to the start screen was quite tricky in Windows 8 and required a small hack that takes advantage of the shortcuts in Windows. But in Windows 8.1 you don't have to do that and it's a lot simpler.
Go to the start screen.
Don't click on anything and just type "Control Panel".
In the search menu on the left you should see the Control Panel icon followed by the words Control Panel. Right click on the Control Panel icon and left click pin to start
A Control Panel icon should now be added to the start screen. Note it will show up as the last icon on the right so you will need to move it to where ever you want it to be on the start screen.
Where is the "all programs"?
Very good question. In 8.1 they changed it so that it was more accessible to get to by clicking with the mouse. See the little down arrow in the image below, this is the "all programs" button. Just left click on it and it should come up with a screen that displays all the programs installed on your computer.
One cool thing you can do on this screen is search for the program you want and to do this just start typing in what you are looking for. You don't have to click on anything to do this just start typing.
To go back to the start screen click the up arrow.
Okay, so in Windows 8 and 8.1 there are two types of programs, Apps and Executables. Executables are programs that you have seen in every other version of Windows. Apps on the other hand are different and you can think of them as similar to Applications on a smart phone. When they open they take up the whole screen and you will notice the task bar is no longer visible. This is okay, it's how applications on Windows 8 are supposed to work. To close an application move your mouse to the very top of the screen then left click and drag down to the bottom of the screen then let go of the left mouse button and the application will close.
Making the file menu options stay:
By default the options in the file manager don't say down in Windows 8 and 8.1. The menus look something like this:
It's got the standard file menu look even though the menu is actually similar to the ones in office 2010 or 2007; there is even a quick access tool bar in the file manager now. To change this left click on the down arrow that is underneath the close wind button.
And it will change to look like the image below and the added menus won't disappear when you decide to do something else in the file manager.
Exploring on your own:
The best way to learn is to experiment on your own. Spending 10 or 20 minutes a day or week at just experimenting on finding new things is a good way to learn how to do new things. Windows 8 and 8.1 have lots of new things to discover that were not in previous Windows operating systems. If you're worried about breaking your computer just follow these very simple rules:
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Don't delete anything if you don't know what it is/does and stay out of the system folders. You should not be poking around in file paths starting with â "C/Windows" or "C/program files" unless you know what you are doing.
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Change one setting at a time and if you don't like the result change the setting back to what it originally was.
Ã¢â¬Â¢ If you do manage to break part of the operating system or a program it can be reinstalled so don't worry about breaking the operating system.
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Read instructions
Ã¢â¬Â¢ Google knows all â if want to know how to do something type into the search bar the name of the program followed by what you want to do. The chances are that someone out there is having the same problem as you are having.
I.e. if you wanted to know how to insert a photo into Word, you would type: Word inserting photo
Ã¢â¬Â¢ If you can't find the answer online then ask someone that knows and write notes if you're not good at remembering instructions.
Zach Radloff lives on the Gold Coast and is studying IT technology at university.
Zach Radloff's previous articles may be viewed at