11.6 – Installing & Configuring Windows 8.1-2013-12-15

You have or plan to replace your previous Windows 7 or earlier PC with a new Windows 8 computer. Once you have Windows 8, you need to install Windows 8.1. Then, you have to configure Windows 8.1 for ease of use. Last but not least, you need to protect, upgrade and backup this new computer.  Looking for help? Look no further! Reading this article and others on this website should help you understand and guide you through the steps required to accomplish the above. It should also provide guidance for acquiring important complimentary utilities.

APROACH

Since I had myself to go through the same process when I converted my own PCs to Windows 8, I will present the decisions I have made and explain why I made these choices to help you decide what you should do. If you don’t have alternatives that you are confident with, then you should follow the steps and actions describe in this article. You will not go wrong since I have tested and implemented these recommendations and I know they work well.

WHY WINDOWS 8?

Before we go further, let me explain why Windows 8 came about and why you have little practical alternatives to turn to if you are a serious Windows PC user. Please read article 11.4 – Selecting the right computer product for your needs – Windows 8.1 Hardware Update – 2013-11-11 to identify which alternatives are available and which one is best suited to fulfill your requirements. Maybe, you don’t need a full PC! Maybe a tablet would fulfill your needs! For you to decide! Going to an Apple PC is not an alternative I recommend because learning a new operating system, once you already know one, is not a good investment of your time and will result with more frustrations than moving to Windows 8.

As I have indicated in other articles, Microsoft has never been the innovator. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, each being a computer on its own, PC sales have gone down for the last several years. Being caught late in the game, Microsoft had to do something to curb the erosion of its PC market. It had to get into the growing smartphone and tablet markets.

Smartphones and tablets are touch operated products. Therefore, Microsoft needed a touch based operating system. While doing so and at the same time rejuvenate its Windows PC operating system, Microsoft decided to come up with a single touch graphic interface for all the three product lines (PCs, tablets and smartphones): Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Developing a complete new operating system requires many years if not decades. Further, to operate under a different operating system ALL application software has to be rewritten: a mammoth, impossible and costly task. Therefore, Microsoft had to come up with an hybrid operating system it called Windows 8. From a user point of view, Windows 8 is basically an evolution of Windows 7, for most applications, with a new touch interface to operate the new touch based applications. Internally, it operates differently than Windows 7 and offer more security to be less vulnerable to viruses and other malwares.

The main problem with an hybrid operating system such as Windows 8 is that some applications use the new touch interface while most run as Windows 7 applications. Since you are often going back and forth between the two modes, this creates quite a bit of confusion at first. Therefore, it is important to configure Windows 8 to minimize this confusion. This is what this article is trying to accomplish.

MEET THE NEW WINDOWS

To learn more about Windows 8 & 8.1, please explore the following Microsoft web site by clicking on the following hyperlink: The new Windows. View the short videos under “How-to”. This web site is a good starting point in learning about the new Windows and how to use it. It’s a must read for all new Windows 8 & 8.1 users.

OUT OF THE BOX

You just bought your new Windows 8 computer and are ready to start using it. The first thing to do is READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS provided with the computer. Once you turn your PC on, to initialize itself, Windows 8 will ask you questions. Go through each step carefully and document everything. You will be asked to create a Microsoft account. If you have an email address such as …@outlook.com, …@hotmail.com or …@live.com, you already have a Microsoft account. Just enter that email address with its password. Otherwise, create a Microsoft account. Remember, you don’t have to use the newly created email address. You can keep your current email address if you want to.

ONCE YOUR COMPUTER IS INITIALIZED AND RUNNING WINDOWS 8

Before going further, there are three important steps to perform: Virus protection, Windows 8 Updates and Backup.

1 – Replace the Antivirus Software installed on your new computer

Over the years, I have discovered that most of the antivirus software that are initially offered FREE and installed on your computer slows down your computer. Second, why pay when you can get a FREE antivirus.

Windows 8.1 is the first Windows to incorporate a built-in antivirus and firewall software: Windows Defender which is a firewall that now incorporates the previous Microsoft’s Security Essentials anti-malware. You now have the choice of using Microsoft’s Windows Defender or another free antivirus from a reputed company such as AVG AntiVirus Free that I have used successfully for many years.

First, uninstall the provided antivirus such as Norton or similar. To do so, start the “Control Panel” program. Then, click “Uninstall a program”. Locate the antivirus program supplied with the computer and uninstall it. Restart your computer after uninstall is completed. Check that Windows Defender has taken over and is activated by typing Windows Defender in the search box that opens when you swipe your finger from the right edge of the screen in. Click on Windows Defender to open the app. It should indicate in the upper left corner: “PC Status: Protected”. You then use this app to monitor your antivirus and modify settings.

The other option is to install a free antivirus from a reputed company such as AVG. To do so, go to: AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 – CNET Download.com . To download: Click “Download Now” under “AVG AntiVirus Free 2014”. Follow the instructions carefully. Once downloaded and installed, click to update: in the middle right of the screen. DO NOT click to activate the firewall since Microsoft has a good firewall provided with Windows 8.

Personally, I had installed AVG AntiVirus Free 2014, but I came back to Windows Defender after learning about its functionality and to minimize interference between similar applications.

2 – Windows 8 Updates

The Windows 8 version that comes with your computer is outdated and needs to be updated. To do so, with your finger, slide the right side of the screen outside in and click “Settings”. Then click “Change PC settings”. Once in PC Settings, click “Update and recovery”. In Windows Update, click “Check now”. Once the checking is completed, click “View details”. All the important Updates will be checked. Click “Install”. Once the whole install process is completed and the computer restarted, repeat the same process described above, until there are no important update to install. Your Windows 8 version will then be up to date. It’s time to back it up.

3 – Install reputed and easy to use backup software

If you do not own an external hard drive, you should buy one with 500Gb or 1Tb. The day your system fails you will be very happy to have an external backup. If your new computer has USB 3.0 ports, you should get a USB 3.0 hard drive to significantly reduce the backup’s time. I personally use Western Digital My Passport USB 3.0 drives and I am very satisfied.

For many years now, I have been using the Acronis easy to use backup software which I recommend strongly. Go to Acronis True Image 2014 to buy and download the Acronis True Image 2014 backup application software. PRICE: U$49.99 for one license and U$79.99 for three licenses, until December 31, 2013. Carefully follow the download and installation instructions plus note the license activation number and store it in a secure place. Once the backup software is installed do a FULL backup right away.

TIME TO INSTALL WINDOWS 8.1

Once Windows 8 is installed, updated and fully backed up, it’s time to install Windows 8.1. Please plan at least four hours. It is a long process. You don’t have to sit at the computer but you should be monitoring the installation process at least every 15 minutes. To get started, go to Update to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8 and carefully follow the instructions. It is quite straight forward and not complicated. Just be patient.

Once Windows 8.1 is installed, restart your computer. Then download the Windows 8.1 updates.

1 – Windows 8.1 Updates

The Windows 8.1 version that you downloaded is outdated and needs to be updated. To do so, follow the Windows 8 update instructions above.

2 – Backup Windows 8.1

Once Windows 8.1 is updated, it’s time to back it up right away. This is important, because if you run into trouble later while installing applications you don’t want to redo all of the above from the start which is equivalent to one day of work. Follow the procedure described above to do a FULL backup.

3 – Install or update the required Drivers

Falling into this category are the specific device drivers that need to be updated following the installation of Windows 8.1.

  1. Windows 8.1 does part of this during its installation and with the updates thereafter.
  2. Then, your computer manufacturer may also provide drivers for your computer. In my case, Samsung provides those through the Samsung “SW Update” software. I only had to run the software which took care of everything.
  3. Install your printer drivers and printing application software: in my case I use an HP Photosmart C4750. To install the latest software to support your printer go to the manufacturer’s web site, in my case HP, and download the latest software version for your printer and computer (32Bits or 64Bits).
  4. Update your external disk drive drivers and software, if applicable: in my case it was for my two external WD My Passport Essential SE (USB 3.0) hard drives.
  5. Make sure you have the proper drivers for whatever other devices you must support.

4 – Install your Google products and services

  1. Google products: as you can read at 07.2 – The Google Universe-2013-06-24, I use Google’s offerings extensively and I am a strong advocate of Google products and services. The reasons are simple: they are great from a functionality point of view, they are easy to learn and use, they work seamlessly with Android on my phone/tablet and Google is a market leader that constantly innovates! As I have mentioned under the 02-Approach tab, I take a pragmatic approach, try to keep things simple and stick with market leaders. I invite you to do the same.
  2. Google Gmail: you should NEVER use the email address provided by your local internet service provider. The main reason is that it is not portable and you will have to change email address every time your change service provider. One of my friends along with his wife have changed their email addresses at least three times within a few months because they were moving. What a needless pain! Worst, their current email addresses are with a local internet service provider. Therefore, they will have to change again next time they move. The next IMPORTANT reason is: if you want to send emails while on the road away from home. Since not all internet service providers offer outgoing mail service while on the road, you may find yourself being able to read your emails but not able to reply or send emails. Who needs that? I strongly recommend Gmail to everyone, unless you enjoy all of what Gmail offers and are fully satisfied with your current portable email provider. Please read 07.1–How to configure Gmail?-2012/01/19 to learn how to configure your Gmail.
  3. Google Calendar: great for my needs and most everyone’s.
  4. Google Maps: simply the best, no other map product touches it.
  5. Google Search: Google has built their business on Google Search, why would anybody want to use anything else?
  6. Google Chrome browser: one of the problems with Windows 8.1 is that you have TWO different internet Explorer: one that works with the new interface and one that works like the previous Explorer, depending where you click. Confusing to say the least! Also, if you want to use Google Chrome extensions, such as the Chromecast extension and others, you need to use Google Chrome. Finally, since I prefer Google Search over Microsoft’s Bing, why not adopt Google Chrome with Google Search as the default browser.
  7. Chrome App Launcher: One neat new Google app is the new Chrome App Launcher. When you click on it you get all of the popular Google products icons that you can click to access the product. You can download it from the Chrome web store – App Launcher .
  8. Chromecast: you should read 14.1-Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player . We use this streaming media device almost every day. Once you download and install the Chromecast software on your laptop, in addition to your smartphone, you can use your Laptop to stream any Chrome content on your flat screen TV. You can download it from the Chrome web store – Google Cast.

5 – Configure Chrome to launch Gmail & Calendar at start

To have Chrome automatically launch Gmail & Calendar when you open it, do as follow:

  1. Open your Chrome browser. Click on the box with nine little squares in the upper right corner of the Chrome page to show the Google apps icons.
  2. Click on the Gmail envelope to load Gmail.
  3. Open the next tab. Click on the box with nine little squares in the upper right corner of the Chrome page to show the Google apps icons.
  4. Click on the 31 Calendar box to load Calendar.
  5. Then, open the Chrome Settings by clicking on the box with three lines at the extreme right on the address line (Upper right). Then click Settings. Once in Settings, Click on “Set Pages” under “On startup”. Then click on the “Use current pages” box bottom left. Then, click OK. Get out of Settings and you’re done. The next time you load Chrome Gmail and Calendar should load automatically.

NOTE: you can easily access many of the Google apps and services by following the instructions in item 3 above or by using the Chrome Apps Launcher box.

6 – Install your application software

The best way to alleviate trouble when installing a major new operating system, such as Windows 8.1, is to re-install all your applications from scratch. This way you will not import any of the bad stuff that may have existed before. To install each application you own, please carefully read and follow the application software instructions. Such application software includes:

  1. Windows Office: after testing the new Microsoft Office 365, supplied FREE for one month if I remember well, I decided to delete it and install my Microsoft Office 2010. I already have paid for these licenses and I don’t need the new stuff that Office 365 has to offer. If I ever need a Cloud based office product, I can get it free from Google.
  2. Quicken 2014: I have upgraded to Quicken 2014 at a good price on black weekend. Therefore, I have installed Quicken 2014 on my computers and Galaxy Note 1 phablet.
  3. Design CAD 3D Max 19: this is my Computer Aided Design (CAD) software that I use for design including the graphics I incorporate in my articles.
  4. eWallet GO!: this is my password storage vault application software. It is a neat low cost product that works both on my PCs and my smartphone/tablet. It backs up on Dropbox to synchronize with all devices. I could not operate without it!
  5. TC2000: this is my stock charting software. Voted best stock charting software under $500, for 21 years straight by Stocks & Commodities Magazine.
  6. E-TRADE PRO: the stock tracking and trading software from one of my stock brokers.
  7. TWS Latest Version: another investment broker software.
  8. MagicJack: please read 13.2 – Telephony with Magic Jack Plus-2013-05-21 . MagicJack is a very low cost voice over IP telephony service.
  9. Garmin Express: Garmin application to help me update my Garmin products software.
  10. HomePort: Garmin application software for editing and backing the personal cartographic data on my Garmin marine products.
  11. Belarc Advisor: free downloadable application to dig out and document your computer’s component characteristics. More details on this app at the end of this article.
  12. TuneUp Utilities 2014: a Windows cleanup software. As you may not know, when Windows installs software or do other work, it creates all kind of temporary files and settings. A Windows cleanup software is to clean these left overs and help you speedup your system. Be careful, because there are many free cleanup products advertised and many are ways to invade your computer. I use and recommend TuneUp Utilities 2014 because it’s from AVG, a security software market leader. It’s at your own risks if you venture outside known paths.
  13. Acronis True Image 2014: you should not have to install this app at this time since it was done after installing Windows 8, as described above. If not installed previously please install it right now.

7 – Install Clouds and other services

NOTE: for all these go to their web site to download or memorize the web
address.

  1. Dropbox: my primary Cloud services provider. Read 06.01-Cloud services: the only way to go!-2012-01-13 and 06.03-Cloud services-Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive-2012-12-25 if you are not familiar with Cloud services.
  2. Google Drive: another Cloud services provider.
  3. Microsoft Sky Drive: another Cloud services provider.
  4. Skype for desktop: most are familiar with the Skype services. What’s IMPORTANT here is to download “Skype for desktop” to get all the functionally you are used to. The Skype app in the tiles that comes with Windows 8.1 is different and has less functionality. Use the familiar “Skype for desktop” instead.
  5. Netflix: the must have media streaming service to watch most of the popular TV series and a multitude of older films.
  6. L’informatique personnelle actuelle: this is the French version of the web site you are currently reading.
  7. Today’s Personal Computing: the web site you are currently reading.
  8. Reel Action Location: this is a boat location and rescue service. On this web site people that have the appropriate web address can see my boat’s location when the on board SPOT satellite transmitter is turned on.

8 – Backup Windows 8.1

Once you have installed the above software, it’s time for a backup. This is important not to have to redo all of the above from the start. Follow the procedure described previously to do a FULL backup.

CONFIGURING WINDOWS 8.1

One you have installed and backed up all your apps and important web sites, it is time to configure the Windows 8.1 interface to suit your specific needs. As you know by now, Windows 8.1 operates with two interfaces: Start screen (the new interface with tiles) and Desktop (the Windows 7 like interface with icons). Applications run on either or both interfaces. As pointed out earlier, this can be quite confusing. In order to minimize this confusion I am proposing an approach that tries to replicate most of the same applications on each interface. This way when you pick an application on either interface you should get what you expect.

Configuring the desktop interface

On your Desktop interface, you should find the icons corresponding to the applications you have installed. You can also get then from the list of applications on the Start menu. The easiest way to start these applications is to PIN then to the taskbar at the bottom of the Desktop screen. To do this, you only have to right click on an icon and click “Pin to Taskbar” and it will appear on the taskbar at the bottom of the desktop screen. Do this for all the apps that you use every day. To start such apps, you just need to click ONCE on the icon on the taskbar.

You can move the taskbar icons by clicking and dragging them from left to right or vice versa. So arrange them the way it makes more sense for you to locate each one easily.  Also notice that, on the right end side of the taskbar, Windows adds a number of useful icons for your use. This is basically, how you configure the taskbar on the desktop. Here is an example below.

Blog-Menu-4

Adding often accessed web sites to the Start menu

To add often accessed web sites to the start menu, you must first add then to the detail apps list. To do so, using the Start menu Explorer (the new touch version of Explorer, not the traditional desktop version) open the web site you want to generate a tile for. Once on the web site, right click on the web site page or swipe a finger from the screen bottom edge up. A menu will appear. Click the Star dot in the bottom right of the menu. A new three item menu will open above. Click the Pin dot in the center and a new menu will open above, click on Pin to Start. This will pin the hyperlink to the Start menu. Exit Explorer by dragging the page from top to bottom to get to the start menu. Drag the new hyperlink tile where you want it to be on the Start menu.

Configuring the Start Menu Tile interface

The Start Menu Tiles comes pre-configured by Microsoft to put forward and promote the Microsoft products. Don’t think for one minute that this is a practical layout. Quite the opposite! Fortunately, you have full control in configuring the Start Menu Tiles interface.

  1. The first thing to do, with the exception of the Desktop tile and the Explorer tile, is to move all the other tiles into another group. To do this you only have to click, hold & drag the tile, and release the click where you want it to be.
  2. Then, click the small arrow, at the bottom left of the tiles screen when you move the cursor, to access all the installed apps and hyperlinks.
  3. Right click on the Office Word app. A check mark will appear and a menu will open at the bottom of the screen. Click “Pin to Start” at the bottom. The app will be posted on the upper menu.
  4. Right click this new tile in the upper menu and “Customize” will appear in the bottom menu. Click on the “Name group” above the new tile and type OFFICE TILES, to name that group of tiles. Then name the first group, which contains Desktop and Explorer, the same way by typing TASKBAR & KEY LIVE TILES.
  5. Then, go back following step 2 above, to the application list and right click on the Snipping Tool app. A check mark will appear and a menu will open at the bottom of the screen. Click “Pin to Start” at the bottom. The app will be posted on the upper menu.
  6. Right click this new tile in the upper menu and “Customize” will appear at the bottom menu. Click on the name group above the new tile and type UTILITIES TILES, to name this new group of tiles. Then name the other group of tiles, the same way by typing OTHER APPS.

Now you have all the groups to Pin other apps and hyperlinks into. Use the same process as described above to pin all the appropriate apps into the Start Menu groups. Below is my grouping for such apps.

When you don’t want an app on the Start menu, just right click it and chose Unpin from Start. Use this to get rid of all the apps you had moved from the original Start menu and you don’t want.

Under TASKBAR & KEY LIVE TILES, I have regrouped all the Desktop Taskbar apps other than those falling into either OFFICE or UTILITIES groups. This way I can easily access the apps and web sites I use most often whether I am on the Start menu or on the Desktop menu.

Blog-Menu-1

NOTE: on the desktop tile (left upper corner) you can see a picture of my boat. If you want to have a personal picture on your Desktop, do as follow: open “Control Panel”. “Under Appearance and Personalization” click “Change desktop background”. Browse to find the picture you want and click OK. Then follow whatever prompt you get.

On the OFFICE TILES group, I have regrouped all the MS Office apps and other office related tools that I use most often, including access tiles to the Cloud files.

On the UTILITIES TILES menu, I have regrouped all the apps and tools that I often use to backup, clean, configure or other utility type tasks.

Blog-Menu-2

Finally, I have kept on the OTHER APPS menu only the other apps that I access most often. It is useful not to have apps that we don’t use often on the Start menu since it increases the size of the Start menu and forces you to move the menu to access the most often used apps.

Blog-Menu-3

When you need to start a rarely used app, just go to the detailed apps list and start it from there by clicking on it.

NOTE: you can also change the size of most tiles. Just right click on the tile you want to change size and then click on Resize in the bottom menu. Pick the size you want.

Learning and documenting your computer characteristics with Belarc Advisor

Lately, I came across a free utility application to identify the components inside your computer. It is called “Belarc Advisor”. You can download this app from Belarc Advisor – CNET Download.com . Once on the download site, click “Download Now” immediately under Belarc Advisor, not any other download box.

Basically, this app compiles and assembles in one report most of the information about your computer. It analyzes software, hardware and operating system’s components, as well as security configurations. It can tell you exactly where problems are, if any, on your computer. In addition, it can tell you the activation keys of your Windows license and other key information about your computer. You should install his app and run the report. Then, you should store this report so that you can retrieve it when needed.

This completes this article.

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