20 must-know Windows 8 tips and tricks

Refresh your PC

Enjoy a fresh PC without losing everything.

If your system is feeling a little sluggish, it may be time for a refresh. In the past we would have to find our copy of Windows 7, back up all of our data, and perform a fresh install to enjoy that back-to-factory-fresh feeling. But now Windows 8 allows you to perform a fresh install from within Windows without losing any data.

In order to perform the refresh, go to Settings and click the Change PC Settings tab near the bottom. Select the General tab and find the "Refresh your PC without affecting your files" section near the middle (you may also select "Remove everything and reinstall Windows" to get the true factory settings treatment). Select "Get started" and press "Refresh." After a few minutes the PC will restart, and you will have a fresh copy of Windows 8.

Start in Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a great way to get into your system when something won't allow you to start up normally. Troubleshooting becomes a breeze when corrupted drivers and files aren't loaded that prevents a system from functioning. It used to be as easy as pressing F8 when the system starts up, but doing so with Windows 8 will take you to Automatic Repair Mode. The trick to getting back to good old fashioned Safe Mode? Hold down the Shift key and press F8 while booting up.

This takes you to the Recovery mode. Select "advanced options," then "troubleshoot," then the "advanced options" again (there are a lot of advanced options). Select Windows Startup Settings and finally the Restart button. This will reboot the computer and give you the option to boot into Safe Mode.

If you need to get into Safe Mode from within Windows, open the dialog box (the Windows key + R) and type "msconfig" (no quote marks). Select the Boot tab and check the Safe boot box. The system will continually boot into Safe Mode until you go back and uncheck the box.

Turn Live Tiles on and off

Use the Live tile option to customize what you want to see.

When looking at the plethora of tiles on your Start screen, the view can get stagnant, despite all the pretty colors.This is where Live Tiles come in. They offer real-time data right on your Start screen, and you don't need to open any apps. For example, the Weather tile will show you the current conditions, and Mail will show you the subject of the latest message you've received.

You can customize which apps are live and which aren't by right-clicking on the tiles. A settings bar on the bottom will pop up with an option to turn the Live Tile on or off. Simply select the preferred option, and you're all set. Note, however, that not all apps have a live, real-time data-streaming option.

Find the Windows games folder

Currently, the games folder used in Windows 7 isn’t present in Windows 8. Fear not; if you install any current-generation PC game that would regularly save to this folder, the folder is automatically created. For a quick way to find it, right-click on the game icon on the Start screen and choose “Open file location” at the bottom.

Activate Family Safety

Let your kids play without having to worry.

Want to avoid some nasty surprises on your credit card? Create a separate, standard account on the device for your kids (Family Safety can't be applied to an administrator account). You can activate Family Safety by going to the Control Panel, User Accounts, and Family Safety, and selecting the account you would like to apply it to. From these settings you can get reports on the account's activity; set a level of Web filtering; set time limits; and enforce Windows Store, game, and app restrictions.

Shut down with one click

Easy to create button to shut down.

Windows 8 hides the Power button in the Settings menu, forcing a multistep process just to shut down one's PC. But thanks to a crafty shortcut trick, you can pin a Shutdown button right onto the bottom of your desktop. Here's how.

Create a shortcut on your desktop (right-click, go to New, then Shortcut). Enter "shutdown /s /t 0" (with no quotes, and, yes, that's a zero not an "O") as the location of the item, and press Next. Now name the shortcut (prefereably "Shutdown") and press Finish.

Right-click the shortcut, and navigate to Properties. Choose Change Icon in the Shortcut tab, and then OK to leave the warning box. Choose an icon of your choice from the list. In the screenshot above, you'll see we chose a Power button.

Right-click the shortcut again, and select Pin to Start. You can place the icon on your Start screen wherever it's convenient. Clicking it will instantly shut down your computer.

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