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Windows 8.1 is the most recent operating system designed by Microsoft. Windows 8 introduced a lot of new changes, and many people found it difficult to use. Windows 8.1 is very similar to Windows 8, but it addresses some of the problems people had with Windows 8.
There have been many different versions of Windows over the years, including Windows 7 (released in 2009), Windows Vista (2006) and Windows XP (2001). While previous versions of Windows mainly ran on desktop and laptop computers, Windows 8 is also designed to run on tablets. Because of this, the interface has been simplified so that it will work with touchscreens.
Now that you’ve seen some of the new features that Windows 8.1 has to offer, you’ll need to decide whether you should upgrade an existing computer, or buy a new computer or tablet that has it pre-installed.
In this lesson, we’ll talk about the different editions that you can buy, the hardware requirements, and how to buy Windows 8.1.Windows 8.1 Editions and Pricing
Windows 8.1 was released as an update to Windows 8 on October 17, 2013. There are three main editions:
- Windows 8.1: This is the standard edition, and it will run on desktops, laptops, and some tablets.
- Windows 8.1 Pro: This gives you all of the features of Windows 8.1, as well as some extra features intended for advanced users and businesses. For example, people who need more security can use BitLocker to encrypt their files.
- Windows RT 8.1: This is the edition that most tablets will have. It may also be used by some budget laptops and netbooks. Windows RT comes pre-installed with a version of Microsoft Office, known as Office RT, which is optimized for touchscreens.
If you’re buying a new Windows computer or laptop, Windows 8.1 will probably come pre-installed. If you want to upgrade your current computer, you can purchase Windows 8.1 for $119.99, or Windows 8.1 Pro for $199.99. You can purchase either version from a retail store or directly from Microsoft.
For a complete list of differences between editions, go to the Which Windows is right for you? page from Microsoft.What’s the Difference Between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1?
You cannot install desktop applications on Windows RT 8.1. While Windows RT gives you access to the Desktop, you can only use it for Office RT and customizing certain settings. If you want to install and use traditional desktop applications on your computer—for example, Adobe Photoshop or QuickBooks—you will need a device that runs Windows 8.1 or 8.1 Pro.Windows 8.1 Tablets
If you want to use Windows 8.1 on a tablet, you’ll need to buy a tablet that has it pre-installed, such as the Microsoft Surface. Other manufacturers also sell tablets that use Windows 8.1. Keep in mind that many tablets run Windows RT 8.1, which means that you won’t be able to install desktop applications.
Getting Started with Windows 8
Windows 8 can be confusing at first, since the interface has changed so much. You’ll need to know how to navigate the Start screen as well as the Desktop. Although the Desktop looks very similar to previous versions of Windows, it has one major change: The Start menu has been removed.
In this lesson, we’ll show you how to navigate Windows 8, use the Charms bar, and work with apps. We’ll also show you where to find features that were previously found in the Start menu.
Watch the video to learn how to navigate Windows 8 and use the Charms bar.
To Sign In to Windows 8:
When you’re setting up Windows 8, it will require you to create an account name and password that you will use to sign in. You can also create additional accounts, and you’ll have the option of associating each one with a Microsoft account.
To learn more about creating accounts, check out our Managing User Accounts and Parental Controls lesson.
- Click anywhere on the lock screento unlock the computer.
Clicking the lock screen
- Your user account name and picture will appear. Type your password and then press Enter to sign in. Alternatively, you can press the back arrowto select a different user.
The sign-in screen
- The Start screen will appear.
The Start screen
Using SkyDrive with Windows 8
One of the biggest changes in Windows 8 is that it is closely integrated with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s online storage service. If you have files stored in your SkyDrive, you’ll be able to access them easily with Windows 8. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to manage your SkyDrive files, and also how to install the SkyDrive Desktop app.
Why Use SkyDrive?
If you’ve used previous versions of Windows, you’re probably used to working with folders and files on your computer. But people are now more mobile than ever, and it’s nice to have your files with you wherever you go. The cloud is generally the most convenient way to do this. If you store your files online, then all you need is an internet connection, and you’ll be able to access your files—whether you’re at work, at home, or at a friend’s house.
SkyDrive gives you 7 gigabytes of online storage space for free, and you can purchase more space if you need it. You can decide whether you want to store all of your files online, or just the most important ones. When you log in to Windows with your Microsoft account, it automatically connects to your SkyDrive, allowing you to access your files from the built-in SkyDrive app or the Photos app.
Using the Search Feature
Once you’ve used Windows 8 for a while, you’ll start to have more and more files, such as music, photos, and documents. It may sometimes be difficult to find the exact file that you want. You may even have trouble finding a specific app, since Windows 8 has moved everything around. Luckily, there is a built-in search feature, which can help you find files, apps, or almost anything else on your computer.
To Search From the Start Screen:
- From the Start screen, type what you’re looking for. Your search results will instantly appear below the search bar. A list of suggested web searcheswill appear below the results.
Searching for a file
Using Different Search Options
You can select different search options to help find specific files, settings, and more. Just click the drop-down arrow above the search box and then select the desired option:
- Select Settings or Files to search for a setting or file.
- Select Web images or Web videosto search the web.
Setting search options
Searching From the Desktop
If you’re on the Desktop, you will first need to press the Windows key to switch to the Start screen, and then type what you’re looking for.
Searching on a Tablet
If you’re using a tablet without an attached keyboard, you can search by swiping in from the right, and then selecting the Search charm. You can then type what you’re looking for.
Personalizing Your Start Screen
You’ll probably spend a lot of time on your Start screen, so you may want to personalize it so that it suits your taste. In this lesson, we’ll show you several different ways to personalize it, including changing the background image and color, rearranging apps, pinning apps, and creating app groups.
To Change Your Start Screen Background:
- Hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to open the Charms bar, and then select the Settingscharm.
Selecting the Settings charm
- Click Personalize.
- Select the desired background image and color scheme.
Changing the Start screen background
To Change Your Lock Screen Picture:
- Hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to open the Charms bar, and then select the Settings charm.
- Click Change PC settings.
Clicking Change PC settings
- Select Lock screennear the top of the screen.
Clicking Lock Screen
- Select the desired picture from the list of thumbnails. Alternatively, you can click Browseto select one of your own pictures.
Selecting a lock screen picture
The lock screen will appear whenever your computer is locked, which happens automatically after a few minutes of inactivity. You can also lock your computer by clicking your account name and selecting Lock.
To Change Your Account Picture:
- Hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to open the Charms bar, and then select the Settings charm.
- Click Change PC settings and then select Account picture.
- Click Browse.
Changing the account picture
- A list of folders will appear. Select the desired photo on your computer, or click the drop-down arrow at the top of the screen to select a different location. In our example, we’ll add a photo from our SkyDrive.
Navigating to the desired folder
- When you have selected a photo, click Choose image.
Selecting an image
If your computer or tablet has a built-in camera, you can click Camera to take a picture of yourself.
Although Windows 8 uses the Start screen for launching apps and other tasks, the Desktop view is still an important feature that you’ll need to know how to use. In this lesson, we’ll show you the basics of using the Desktop, including how to navigate with File Explorer, pin apps to the taskbar, and manage open windows with the built-in desktop effects.
Watch the video to learn the basics of using the Desktop.To Switch to the Desktop:
- Click the Desktoptile on the Start screen.
Switching to the Desktop
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the Desktop view in Windows 8.
You can easily manage your files and folders using File Explorer in the Desktop view. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to view, organize, and search for files with File Explorer, and how to use libraries. We’ll also talk about how libraries work with certain apps on the Start screen.File Explorer
File Explorer (previously known as Windows Explorer) allows you to open, access, and rearrange your files and folders in Desktop view. If you’ve used prior versions of Windows before, File Explorer should feel like a familiar way to manage and organize your files.
- Click the folder iconon the taskbar in Desktop view to open File Explorer.
Opening File Explorer
Click the buttons in the interactive below to become more familiar with the File Explorer interface.
Windows 8 makes it easy to customize the look and feel of the Desktop view. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to access the Personalization pane, which allows you to customize the theme, background image, and color of your Desktop. You’ll also learn how to adjust your font size and text display.
Any changes you make to the appearance of the Desktop will not affect the Start screen. Check out our lesson on Personalizing Your Start Screen to learn more.
- To access the Personalization pane, right-click anywhere on the Desktop and then select Personalize from the drop-down menu. The Personalization pane will appear.
Accessing the Personalization pane
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about using the Personalization pane to customize the appearance of the Desktop view.
The People app is the central place for all your contacts, and it’s one of the most important apps you’ll use in Windows 8. The People app can also be integrated with your favorite social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to add, manage, and organize your contacts, and how to connect your social networks.
- To open the People app, locate and select People on the Start Screen. The People app will appear.
Opening the People app
Click the buttons in the interactive below to become more familiar with the People app interface.
The Mail app offers a new way to view and manage your email messages. In many ways, the Mail app is very similar to other email applications, such as Outlook or Gmail, but its redesigned interface may feel a little confusing at first. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to send, receive, and reply to email messages using the Mail app. You’ll also learn how to organize your inbox, add multiple email accounts, and modify your account settings.Getting Started with Mail:
- To open the Mail app, locate and select Mail on the Start screen. The Mail app will appear.
- The first time you open the Mail app, you will need to connect an email account to start sending and receiving email. If you are signed in to Windows 8 with a Microsoft account, the Mail app will request to connect with that email address. Enter your account information, and then click Connect. Your inbox will appear.
Connecting an email account to the Mail app
If you have already connected an email service with the People app, such as Hotmail or Gmail, you will not need to connect to the account again.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to become more familiar with the Mail app interface.
Internet Explorer—also known as IE—is the default web browser in Windows 8. While IE offers many of the same features you would expect to find in any browser, the simplified interface may be a little confusing at first. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to use the address bar, open and move between tabs, and save your favorite websites for quick access. We’ll also talk about how to clear your browsing history.
Windows 8 comes with two versions of IE, with an app for both the Start screen and the Desktop. This lesson will focus on the Start screen app. The Desktop version of IE offers a more traditional web browsing experience, as well as advanced options for bookmarking and privacy. Check out our lesson on Getting Started with the Desktop to learn more about using Desktop apps.Getting Started with IE:
- To open IE, locate and select Internet Explorer on the Start screen. IE will appear.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to become more familiar with the IE interface.
The Music and Video Apps
To play and buy media in Windows 8, you’ll use the built-in Music and Video apps. If you already have purchased music, TV shows, and movies, you can easily access them from these apps. You can also buy music and videos, and even listen to music for free (with ads). In this lesson, we’ll show you how to access your media and use the Music and Video apps to find and buy music, TV shows, and movies.
Accessing Your Music and Video Libraries
Windows 8 lets you organize your media files by placing them into libraries. To do this, you’ll need to go to the Desktop view and add files to your Music and Videos libraries. Any files that are in these libraries can be played or viewed with the Music and Video apps. If you’ve already purchased music, movies, or TV shows, make sure to add those files to your libraries.
To learn more about libraries, check out our Managing Your Files and Folders lesson.
Creating an Xbox Profile
In order to use many of the features in these apps, you’ll need to have an Xbox profile. The sign-up process is very quick, and you don’t need to enter an address or credit card until you actually buy something. Once you sign up, your Xbox profile will be linked to your Microsoft account, and you’ll automatically be signed in whenever you open the Music and Video apps.
If you own an Xbox game console, you can use your Xbox LIVE account as your profile.
To Create an Xbox Profile:
- Click the Music app on the Start screen.
Opening the Music app
- In the upper-right corner, click the Sign Inbutton.
The Sign In button
- Select your Country from the drop-down list. If you would prefer not to receive emails, uncheck the box. When you are done, click I Accept.
Entering profile information
- You will receive a random name (called a “gamertag”). Note: You will not use this name to sign in, so it’s not important to remember it. It will appear to other gamers if you play online games.
- Click Ok. Your profile will be created, and you’ll automatically be signed in.
The Windows Store
The Windows Store is where you’ll download new apps for your Windows 8 device, much like the App Store for Apple devices. Most apps are designed to run from the Start screen. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to browse the store, download and install apps, and update apps when necessary.
You’ll need to sign in with your Microsoft account to use the Windows Store. Check out our Microsoft Account tutorial to learn more about creating a Microsoft account.
- To open the Windows Store, locate and select Store on the Start screen.
Opening the Store
Navigating the Store
Apps in the Store are sorted by category, such as Games, Shopping, Social Networking, and more.
To Browse Categories:
- To browse different categories, locate and select the category headingabove each category.
Navigating to categories in the Store
- The selected category will appear. Click an app to see the app information page.
Clicking an app to see more information
To search for apps, hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to open the Charms bar, then click Search.
Viewing App Information
When you select an app, you’ll see more details on the app information page, including the price, user reviews, requested permissions, and more.
anaging User Accounts and Parental Controls