10 Windows 8.1 Tips to get you started

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 27, 2013
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 8

Microsoft released a preview of Windows 8.1 yesterday which interested users can install on their systems. It is not really recommended to do so on productive systems, considering that you will lose access to all installed programs and apps once you make the upgrade to the final version of Windows 8.1

The new version of Windows introduces several changes and also improvements. A basic example is that apps that you install are not automatically added to the start page anymore. This may look like a small change but it means that you will have to find out how you can pin apps to the start screen, or where you find those installed apps after all.

Windows 8.1 Tips

1. Boot to desktop

boot to desktop

Microsoft has implemented a boot to desktop option in Windows 8.1 When enabled, you are taken directly to the desktop of the operating system so that you bypass the start screen of the operating system.

  1. Right-click the taskbar on the desktop of the system and select Properties from the context menu.
  2. The Taskbar and Navigation properties window opens up.
  3. Switch to the Navigation tab.
  4. Locate the "Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in" box and check it.

2. Search

windows 8.1 search

You can search directly from Windows 8.1's start screen just by typing, but instead of getting results sorted into three different groups that you need to click on to find what you are looking for, you do get a unified search experience. That's however not all, as Microsoft has integrated web search results as well.

Depending on what you search for, you may be taken directly to an application, program or tool on the system, or to a search results page that displays local results next to web results.

The results may look different depending on what you are searching for. A search for Steam displays the locally installed Steam application next to the first ten Bing results, links to Windows Store apps and related searches.

A search for Berlin on the other hand displays a map, information about the city that include attractions and the current temperature, videos, local results and more.

3. Working with tiles

tiles windows 8.1

Microsoft has introduced two new tile sizes in Windows 8.1  You can now make them 50% smaller than the smallest size in Windows 8, and twice as big as the biggest size in the operating system.

That's however not the only change that you will come across. To change the size of one or multiple tiles right-click them all on the start screen and select the resize option from the context menu at the bottom of the screen. Here you can change the size to Large, Wide, Medium or Small.

Wide and Medium are the two tile sizes of the original Windows 8 system, while Large and Small are the two new tile sizes.

Multiple tiles can be dragged and dropped to new locations easily once they have been selected, and also uninstalled which can be quite useful as well if you want to uninstall multiple apps in one go.

4. New apps


Not all apps are displayed on the start screen by default. The new Calculator and Alarms applications for instance are not highlighted here. To add them, open the Apps view, right-click those new apps and select the Pin to Start option from the context menu.

  1. Alarms offers alarm clock, timer and stopwatch functionality. You can set multiple alarms in the app, for instance one for all weekdays and other for weekends or use the basic timer and stopwatch functionality it makes available.
  2. Calculator has a standard and scientific mode, and also lets you convert units into each other.
  3. Scan can control connected scanners on the computer system to scan documents.
  4. Sound Recorder is the basic Windows Sound Recorder in app form.

5. Desktop Wallpaper on Start

If you prefer a unified look and feel, it is now possible to display your desktop wallpaper on the Start screen as well. You need to get back to the Taskbar and Navigation properties, there to Navigation, and check the Show my desktop background on start option to enable that.

This displays the desktop wallpaper, or a solid color if you prefer that, on the Start screen as well.

6. The Start button menu

The Start button does not display a start menu on the desktop when you click on it. It instead opens the start screen interface. You can however right-click it to display a context menu with options that were previously available in the lower left corner of the screen or by using the shortcut Windows-X (which works just fine still).

It displays a shut down option that you can use to change the PC's power state. Other options include opening the control panel, run box or search.

7. Libraries

Libraries are not displayed by default anymore in Windows Explorer. While you see the Documents, Pictures and Music folder listed here on top of the folder structure and in the left sidebar, libraries are nowhere to be found.

To display them, right-click on the sidebar area in Windows Explorer and select Show libraries from the context menu that opens up.

8. Display address bar and tabs in Internet Explorer 11 all the time

Internet Explorer 11 when executed on the start screen hides the address bar and open tabs after some time. That's great for small-screen users who want to use all of the screen's space to display websites. If you are running a large screen or resolution, you may want to display the address bar and tabs at all times to access them faster.

  1. Open IE11 on the start screen.
  2. Press Windows-C to bring up the Charms Bar.
  3. Select Settings > Options from the menu.
  4. Switch Always show address bar and tabs to on here.

9. Access newly installed apps

New apps that you install are not automatically added to the start screen anymore, they are instead listed on the all apps page. To get there, click on the small down arrow displayed on your start screen.

You were previously able to right-click to go there, but that option seems to have been removed by Microsoft. If you are using touch-based input, you can swipe up to access it.

new apps

Here you see all installed apps sorted by name and on the right of that all desktop applications sorted by name as well.

New apps and programs are highlighted by a new sign underneath them. While that makes them easier to spot, it is not really that easy because of the color bomb effect that is going on here. You can however sort the apps by date installed instead so that new ones are highlighted right at the top left corner.

You can alternatively use the search to find apps that you have just installed provided that you can remember at least part of the apps' name.

10. Accessing Apps

The Taskbar and Navigation properties window that I have mentioned in tip 1 holds two all apps screen preferences that you may find useful as well.

  1. Show the Apps view automatically when I go to start displays the Apps listing instead of the start screen and its widgets when you open it on your system. The core idea seems to be to provide you with a menu that looks more like the Windows start menu.
  2. List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category moves desktop programs to the front so that you can access them more easily.
10 Windows 8.1 Tips to get you started
Article Name
10 Windows 8.1 Tips to get you started
The article looks at 10 new features or improvements in Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system compared to the Windows 8 operating system.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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