Coly Computer Help

Configuring Windows 8.1

Configuring simply means setting up Windows 8.1 so that it looks and behaves the way you want it to. As released, Windows 8.1 is not fit-for-purpose as a desktop operating sysytem. No doubt you will want to skip past the the garish Lock screen and the ugly tiled Start screen. Although Microsoft has produced another Vista type disaster, this aticle will tell you how to make Windows 8.1 work and look more like Windows XP and Windows 7.

Sign-in: When Windows 8.1 is installed, you will be asked to sign-in with an email address and password. If you already have a Microsoft email such as hotmail, or that will provide your sign-in information. If you don't have a Microsoft account you will be expected to create one before you can proceed further. You will need the password to sign on each time you open your Windows 8.1 computer, however, later in this article you will find instructions for skipping this chore.

Emails: Don't let Microsoft bully you into using web mail for your emails such as, or worse still g-mail. Resist this unless you like obstacle courses and don’t mind your email being stored on a remote server that might allow any Tom, Dick or Hacker to harvest information from your emails.

The Mail app in Windows 8.1 does not even support POP3 emails that are used by 90% of the public. You could use Mozilla Thunderbird for emails but I find this rather unfriendly. Instead go to: and download the free Windows Essentials suite, this contains an email client very similar to Outlook Express that will import your backed up Outlook Express contacts and emails. The Live Essentials suite also provides Movie Maker and Photo Gallery.

The Lock Screen: Whenever you switch on your Windows 8.1 computer you will be confronted with the garish lock screen. The screen gives no indication that you should press Enter or click the left button of the mouse to proceed to the sign in page. The screen can be changed to something that does not make your eyes bleed, but you can't dispense with the Lock screen altogether unless you have Windows 8.1 Utimate. You can get rid of it if you opt NOT to use a password to sign in, see the lower half of the right column for instructions.

Lock screen

The Lock Screen

The Windows 8.1 Start screen: This was designed for smart phones with touch screens, therefore it is quite unsuited to a desktop computer using a mouse and keyboard. To use a touch screen on a desktop computer means lifting your hands off the mouse and keyboard every time you need to navigate to somewhere else on the computer; this does not make ergonomic sense.
To skip past the Start screen, right click the Task bar at the bottom of the screen, select the Navigation tab. Then select "When I sign in, or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start"  

Start screen

The Windows 8.1 "Start" screen shows tiles.

Icons are the little pictures which you double click to access a program or folder. Icons are only signposts, if you delete an icon, the  program or folder is not deleted. Similarly, if you destroy the signpost pointing to your town or village, the town/village is not destroyed.

Put icons on your Windows 8.1 desktop: Right click an empty area on your destop. Windows XP had a My Computer icon on the deskytp. In Windows 7  this icon was renamed Computer. In Windows 8.1, the icon is named This PC which is rather odd as the operating system was designed around a smart phone not a PC. You will need to add the icon to the desktop as follows:

Right click an empty space on your desktop and click Personalise. On the left panel of the next screen, click Change desktop icons. In the next widow Desktop icon settings tick the box next to Apply and OK.  

While you are in the Desktop icons settings window, you will see three other icons that you may wish to add to the desktop.  





The start button: Windows 7 changed the familiar Start button to a round button as shown on the left in the next picture. Then to everyone's horror Widows 8 had no start button at all. There was premature rejoicing when Windows 8.1 provided a start button (shown on the right in the next picture), however, the button turned out to be a fraud. Clicking the start button simply sent users to the ugly start screen and its tiles.

Sart buttons

The Windows 7 start button (left) and the Windows 8.1 start button (right)

Download a proper Start button: Several downloadable start buttons for Windows 8.1 are available, my favourite is Classic Shell. This can be found at  The effect of clicking the Classic Shell start button is shown in the next picture.  

Classic Shell 

The interface of the Classic Shell start button

Classic Shell can be configured to replicate either the Windows XP start button and start panel or the Windows 7 panel as shown in the above picture. You can choose to replace the Windows 8.1 button with the Classic Shell button as shown bottom left, or you can have the Classic Shell button in addition to the Windows 8.1 button. A fast search field is provided (bottom left of the white panel ). The shutdown button is shown (bottom right) and it works the same as Windows 7 by simply clicking the button.

Pokki from is an alternative replacement start button, but the start panel is not a replica of the familiar XP or Windows 7 panel.It also calls programs "apps" which is confusing. "Apps" is short for Applications which is the smart phone buzzword for programs. 

 Passwords and user accounts: Avoid having passwords and separate user accounts if you can. They are an extra chore every time you switch on your computer. These are only necessary if you wish to keep your files and settings secret from other members of the family or staff members. Separate user accounts and passwords may be necessary if you have badly behaved children or grandchildren who tend to mess up your settings, and who insist on down loading dodgy programs.

Dispense with the password in Windows 8.1: If like me, you dislike having to log in with a password every time you access your computer, the following steps will enable you to avoid this chore:

Hold down the Windows key and press X. In the screen's lower left corner select Command prompt (Admin) from the menu. In the text filed type the following: control userpasswords2

The next window will be the User accounts pane, un-tick the box labelled Users must enter a username and password to use this computer.Click OK.

 In the next window, enter your current password and then confirm it by entering it again. Restart your computer to save the change in the register, you will not need to enter a password in future, and suprise suprise, the lurid Lock screen will never appear again.


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