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BryanC (RIP)

Installing Windows 8.1 Preview - 3: Setting Up 8.1 the Way You Want it!

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If you have been following along you have either installed Windows 8.1 Preview from the Windows Store or you have set up a new partition and, using the OSI version, you have installed the 8.1 Preview there. In either case you have made it through the installation and are looking at the Windows 8.1 Preview Lock Screen.

It looks somewhat different from the Windows 8 version but it functions the same way. Just click anywhere or press the Enter key and you will move on to the 8.1 Start screen.

Before we go any further let’s make note of the fact that every Windows 8.1 Preview screen, contains in the bottom right corner, a note to the effect that this is an evaluation copy. See the image here for an example.
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The Start Screen and Desktop Environments

The 8.1 Start Screen will look very familiar but is a little different. There seems to be fewer tiles and those that are there are of varying sizes; a bigger selection than was previously available but you still can’t choose your own specific size! They are also arranged in groups. Just click the group header to enter your own group name. You can also set up your own groups.

In the lower left you will see a down pointing arrow within a circle. Clicking this will move you to the new All Apps screen which lists the vast majority of the applications on your PC! On the left will be new Windows 8.1 apps and on the right are the desktop apps.
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If you wish, it is possible to sort the apps list into various sequences. Just click the main heading at the top of the list to see the options.

In the lower left of the screen is another arrow but this time it is pointing up. This allows you to flip back and forth between the Start screen and the All Apps screen.

Clicking on the desktop tile (or a Win+D key press) will take you to the familiar desktop!

Here there are very few changes. The most obvious is the return of the Start button (looking rather different) at the left end of the Task Bar. However, clicking it does not show the old Start Menu; it just takes you to the Start screen, although you can change that to take you to the All Apps screen instead, if you choose.
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Microsoft says the All Apps screen provides all the information that was in the original Start menu. Maybe is does (although I am not convinced) but it is a much more cluttered view. There are no folders, just groupings making it necessary to peruse the whole display to find what you are looking for

One nice thing about the new Start button is that a right-click will invoke what I have, in the past, called a “wanna-be-start-menu”. This is the menu that used to require a Win+X key press to invoke (this key press still works). The menu offers the same options it did in Windows 8 with one new, but important, addition. There is now a Shut down option from which you may choose Sleep, Shut down or Restart. These new capabilities are really useful; I use them all the time!
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One final note about the new Start button. It is present in both the desktop (leftmost on the taskbar) and in the Metro/Modern environments. In the latter, just move the mouse pointer to lower left corner and it will show up! A quick and easy way to get to the desktop if desired.

Setting Appearance and Startup Options

One of the nice things about 8.1 is that it gives you a lot of control over the appearance of the screens and the options you choose to take effect at startup. Most of these settings are made using the Properties dialog of the Taskbar.

In the desktop, right click on the Task Bar and select Properties (last selection). You will be presented with a tabbed dialog. We will only discuss the first two here; they are Task bar and Navigation.

The Task Bar Tab
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This tab provides the means of controlling what the task bar looks like and how it functions. There is nothing new about this tab and I am including it here because there are probably a lot of users out there who do not realize they have this kind of control! The options specified within this tab are:

· Lock the taskbar (check box)
The taskbar is fixed in the display position.
· Auto-hide the taskbar (check box)
The taskbar will slide in and out of view as the mouse pointer touches the edge of the screen.
· Use small taskbar buttons (check box)
Use half sized icons in the display (results in a narrower task bar).
· Taskbar location on screen (dropdown list)
The taskbar can be aligned with any screen edge.
· Taskbar buttons (dropdown list)
What to do when the taskbar becomes full.
· Notification area (dialog)
Allows for some formatting of the notification area of the task bar.
· Use Peek to preview the desktop when… (check box)
Hides the open windows when the mouse pointer is moved over the Show Desktop area at the end of the taskbar.

The Navigation Tab
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This tab provides for all the options you have regarding appearance and start-up. The options specified within this tab are:

· Upper right corner and Charms bar (check box)
Show Charms bar when pointing to upper right corner.
· Upper left corner and task switching (check box)
Switch between recent apps when clicking the upper left corner.
· Command prompt vs. Windows power Shell (check box)
Replace the Command prompt with the Windows Power Shell in the menu when right-clicking the Start button or using the Win+X key press.

· Desktop display on start-up (check box)
Boot to the desktop rather than the Start screen
· Desktop background on Start screen
Show the desktop as the background of the Start All Apps screens.
· Windows button and Start screen (check box)
Show the Start screen when pressing the Windows key.
· Start screen vs. All Apps screen (check box)
Show the All Apps screen when clicking the Start button.
· Search scope (check box)
When searching from the Apps view search everywhere instead of just my apps.
· Sequence of Apps in Apps display (check box)
Show desktop apps first when apps are sorted by category.

Disabling the Lock Screen

After all this the Lock Screen is still in place. If you would prefer to dispense with it (as I am sure most desktop users will want to do) just follow the instructions below!

Note: For the following to work you need to be using Windows 8 Pro and be logged in using an Administrator account.

· Press Windows+R to open the Run dialog.
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· Enter gpedit.msc (group policy editor) and press the OK button.
· From the left panel select Computer Configuration => Administrative Templates
· Now select Control Panel => Personalization
· Double-click Do not display the lock screen (in right panel).
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· Select Enabled in the resultant dialog (probably already selected).
· Press the OK button.

From here on in you should not be bothered by the Lock Screen when starting your machine!

At this point you now have your Windows 8.1 Preview setup for working in a desktop environment. The need to make use of the Start Screen should now be minimal unless you choose to use it!

Disclaimer: All of the above is based on my experiences, what I have read and my personal opinions. As is always the case, YMMV. Further I can accept no responsibility for any malfunction of the links and methods I have provided. While they should work just fine, use them at your own risk.

Updated 20th Jul 2013 at 11:09 AM by BryanC (RIP) (Correct some typos)

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