5 cool tools in Windows 8

Windows 8

Windows 8 has gotten a lot of flak, primarily because of its radical Start menu UI. But this new OS has several great things about it, which include the following five useful tools that come with it.

Internet Explorer synching

1. Sync your bookmarks and OS settings

Google and Mozilla have offered syncing on their respective browsers -- Chrome and Firefox -- for a while now. Microsoft finally provides a similar feature for Internet Explorer --  but only through Windows 8. This is useful only if you own more than one Windows 8 device, or if you want your home computer setting synched to your work computer that runs Windows 8. To access sync in Windows 8, go to the Charms toolbar, select "Settings," "Change PC Settings," and then "Sync your settings."

Windows 8 file transfer

2. More detailed file transfer stats

Under File Explorer, the Windows 8 file manager program, whenever you copy or move a file or folder from one storage medium to another, the progress indicator bar can be expanded to show more details of the transfer's real-time status. File Explorer also groups together multiple file transfers that are occurring simultaneously under one pop-up window. And you can pause and resume each file transfer separately.


3. Built-in file storage and syncing to the cloud

Microsoft's cloud storage service, SkyDrive, is incorporated into Windows 8. You interact with it as if it's a real external storage drive connected to your computer. Within File Explorer is a "SkyDrive" virtual drive; you simply drag-and-drop files or folders. Files in this drive are saved locally, and uploaded to your account on SkyDrive.com. You can sync your SkyDrive drive with another computer (whether it's running Windows 8, 7 or Vista, or a Mac), or share selected files or folders with fellow SkyDrive users, or as a Web link you give out to others.

Windows 8 File History

4. Easy file recovery and backups

The File History tool can save "snapshots" of previous versions of your personal files or ones you've deleted that you can recover if you need them back. Basically, this is Windows 8's version of Mac OS X's Time Machine application. File History lets you set things so selected folders will be archived to an external storage medium or a networked drive. File History is turned off by default. To switch it on and configure it, go to the Charms toolbar, select "Settings," "Control Panel," and then choose "File History."

Windows 8 reinstall

Reinstall Windows 8 ... from within Windows 8

If things go wrong with Windows 8 -- if it becomes riddled with malware or other suspicious code -- you can conveniently restore it to a freshly installed state from within the OS itself. You get two choices: "Refresh your PC" retains your personal files and OS user settings. "Remove everything" performs a complete wipe of all contents on your computer's local drive. To reinstall Windows 8 within the OS, go to the Charms toolbar, select "Settings," "Change PC settings," "General," scroll all the way down, and then choose either "Refresh your PC" or "Remove everything."