Take a free online course in Windows 8 basics

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Windows 8: kind of confusing, right? There's no Start button (unless you install a third-party replacement), no straightforward way to shut it down, no Windows Media Center (unless you download it separately).

Perhaps worst of all, there's no instruction manual. So how exactly are you supposed to learn your way around the new OS?

One option: Lynda.com, a site that's home to over 1,500 online training courses—including one just for Windows 8.

Although you can get a free 7-day trial for the service, that's a hassle because you have to provide a credit card and cancel before billing kicks in. (Subscriptions start at $25 per month.)

Fortunately, there's a much easier way to learn Windows 8: Like Lynda.com on Facebook for free access to "Windows 8 Essential Training," a five-hour video course.

The class is divided into 11 sections, each with a smattering of subsections consisting of various videos: "Getting familiar with the new user interface," "Organizing folders and files," "Removing unwanted programs," and so on.

Because the entire outline is presented on the course page, you can easily jump around to whatever topic you want; you don't have to sit through the entire thing in order.

I've watched a few of the course videos, and they were all excellent. Instructor David Rivers explains things in plain English, ultimately making Windows 8 seem a lot less daunting.

By the way, if you're not a Facebook user, it appears you can take the course without going through the "liking" process. That step merely sends you to the course page, where all the individual videos are already enabled.

If you're new to Windows 8, I can't recommend this online course highly enough. The only catch is that it'll no longer be free after November 23, so start your learning as soon as you can.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community ForumsSign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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