The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks

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You’ve finally made the leap to Windows 8 (or, more probably, Windows 8.1), and a pretty big leap it was. Everything looks different. Everything acts differently. Even a simple task like shutting down your PC suddenly becomes a challenge.

We know. We've lived through Windows 8, too, and we've received many, many questions about it. Here are the 10 most common ones we hear about Microsoft’s latest operating system. With these answers under your belt, you can consider yourself well past the beginner stage.

1. What's the differences between Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and the Windows 8.1 Update?

To start the confusion, there are three versions of Windows 8:

· The original Windows 8

· The much-improved Windows 8.1

· The even-better Windows 8.1 Update, though saddled with an idiotic name

windows 8 top10 questions start button and none

The Start button is one subtle, but key, difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

How do you tell which you have? Go to the Desktop environment and look in the lower-left corner. If there’s no Start button, you’ve got the original Windows 8.

If there's a Start button, click or tap it to go to the Start screen. Look in the upper-right corner. If there's a magnifying-glass icon, you have Windows 8.1 Update.

If you have the Start button, but not the magnifying glass, you have Windows 8.1, without the Update. In that case, you need update KB2919355. Microsoft is patching Windows 8 and the Windows 8.1 Update, but not Windows 8.1 without the Update. Without patches, Windows becomes less secure.

windows 8 top10 questions magnifying glass

The magnifying-glass icon means you have Windows 8.1 Update.

Besides, the Windows 8.1 Update is by far the easiest and friendliest version of Windows 8 so far. Finally, the two user interfaces—Modern and Desktop—appear to be cooperating.

The good news: If you have a new computer, it’s almost certainly running Windows 8.1 with the Update.

2. What about the Start menu?

windows 8 top10 questions start menu classic start menu setup

Classic Shell brings back the Start menu that Windows 8 took away.

From the very birth of Windows 8, this was the biggest complaint: “Where’s the Start menu?” 

Even with the improvements of 8.1 and the 8.1 Update, which brought back the Start button, there’s still no Start menu.

windows 8 top10 questions start menu separate programs and apps

There you go, a Windows Start menu, courtesy of Classic Shell.

One could argue that the Start screen—which is what you get when you click the 8.1 Start button—can do everything that the Start menu can. Except that it can’t. You can’t hover the mouse over a Modern tile and get a submenu of files recently opened in that application. And the Start screen just doesn’t feel right. When you’re working in a windowing environment like the Desktop, you don’t want to be thrown into a bad-imitation iPad just to launch a program.

Luckily, where Microsoft fails, others provide. You can find plenty of third-party Start menus for Windows 8, and many of them are free.

My favorite, Classic Shell, is one of the free ones. It’s capable of giving you, with no trouble at all, a close facsimile to the Windows 7 Start menu. But you can change that look with additional skins, add separate Programs and Apps menus in place of the traditional All Programs, and pick an image for the Start button. You can also control what happens when you left-click and shift-click the Start button.

3. What’s that screen with all the little tiles?

You may have stumbled upon it accidentally. You’re at the Start screen, you do something (you’re not sure what), and suddenly you have a screen filled with tiny tiles instead of big tiles.

That’s the Apps screen, which Microsoft added with Windows 8.1. It lists every program and app installed on your PC. Think of it as the equivalent of the Windows 7 Start Menu’s All Programs submenu. Or Android’s All Apps screen.

windows 8 top10 questions  apps screen

This is the Windows 8 Apps screen. It looks busy, but it's actually easy to sort.

You get to it through the Start screen. If you’re using a touchscreen, swipe up. If you’re using a mouse, move that mouse, and a little arrow icon will appear near the lower left corner of the screen. Click it.

Unlike Windows 7’s All Programs, you can sort this list. The default is to sort by name, but you can also sort by date installed, most used (which makes it a bit like the Windows 7 Start menu’s left pane), and category. Note, however, that it lacks All Program’s ability to use submenus.

One other important point: If you sort by name or category, it lists apps first, and traditional desktop programs after them.

4. How do I do some of the simple tasks that should be obvious to anyone?

The Windows 8 learning curve isn’t just about the big stuff. Here are three minor issues that vex new users.

Right-click in a touch interface

Your index finger lacks left and right buttons, and the touchscreen doesn’t know one finger from another.

To bring up a context menu on a touchscreen, touch the object and keep your finger there until a square appears around the object. Then release, and the menu will pop up.

windows 8 top10 questions simple tasks search charm

Find anything in Windows using the Search charm.

Search

Windows 8’s equivalent to Windows 7’s “Search programs and files” field is the Search charm. There are a lot of ways to bring it up, so I’ll just give you the most convenient:

· On the desktop, press Winkey-S.

· On the home screen, just start typing.

Relearn more seemingly simple tasks in Windows 8 on the next page...

This story, "The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks" was originally published by PCWorld .

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