8 tricks to optimize Windows 8.1

Want to make Windows 8.1 more efficient? Here's how.

Windows 8.1

Making Windows 8.1 more efficient

You’ve just installed or updated to Windows 8.1, or you’ve bought a brand-new device running the OS. Here are eight things we recommend doing to make Windows 8.1 more efficient.

RELATED: 10 reasons to upgrade to Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1

Maintain your list of Microsoft email addresses to log in

If you already have a Microsoft email account (which includes Hotmail or Outlook.com), you can just log in to Windows 8.1 with it. This is convenient because your settings preferences for Windows 8.1 will be backed up to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service.

So when you log in to another Windows 8.1 device with this email account of yours, these preferences will be carried over to this system. You can add and remove other Microsoft email accounts to use for logging in by going to Settings in the Charms bar, Change PC settings, Accounts, and Other accounts.

Windows 8.1

Customize sync settings

If you use a Microsoft email to log in, your settings for Windows 8.1 are synced to SkyDrive. And you can switch off or on what specific things are to be synced (related to the appearance of Windows 8.1, installed apps, and preferences for Internet Explorer). Go to Settings in the Charms bar, Change PC settings, SkyDrive, and Sync settings.

Windows 8.1

Remove (unpin or uninstall) unused apps from the Start screen

The key is to reduce clutter on the Start screen and keep only the apps you use the most -- ideally, cutting down their number so they all fit on the Start screen without you needing to swipe toward the right to see more of them.

Also, switch off the live tile function of any app for which you don’t want to see real-time, updated information; on a Windows 8.1 mobile device, this can consume mobile Internet data and battery life.

Windows 8.1

Set your favorite app on the Start screen to launch whenever you press Enter

Whenever you switch to the Start screen, the app tile at the top-left of the first column will launch when you press the Enter key. We suggest placing in this spot the app that you use the most, in order to launch it quickly from the keyboard.

If you don’t use apps much on your Windows 8.1 device, or not at all, we suggest putting the desktop tile here. That’s because if you accidentally press Enter while in the Start screen, you’ll just jump to the desktop and not launch whatever other Windows 8.1 app would be here.

Windows 8.1

Remove unwanted lock screen apps

Apps can be set to run in the background even when the Windows 8.1 screen is locked. They will continue to display notifications on the lock screen; this is useful for certain apps like Skype, Twitter, or the Windows 8.1 default weather app.

You should clean up the lock screen of any apps you don’t want running on it, though, to save on system resources such as battery duration (especially if you are using a Windows 8.1 mobile device). Go to Settings in the Charms bar, Change PC settings, PC and devices, and Lock screen. Up to seven apps can be added to the lock screen.

Windows 8.1

Make Windows 8.1’s Start button work (sort of) like the classic Start menu interface

In the desktop environment, right-click an empty spot on the Taskbar, then select Properties, the Navigation tab, and check the option “Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start” and the wordier “List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category.”

When you click either Start button (on the Taskbar or Charms bar), Windows 8.1 will skip the Start screen and, instead, go directly to the screen which displays all the Windows 8.1 apps and traditional Windows applications that are installed on your device. The desktop applications will be listed first.

Windows 8.1

Turn on easy backup of personal files

By activating the File History function, your files in your personal file directories (Documents, Desktop, Music, Pictures, Videos) will automatically be backed up.
To access the File History tool, go to Settings in the Charms bar, Change PC settings, Update and recovery, and File History.

The first time you connect an external storage drive, all the files in your personal file directories will be copied to it and placed under a directory named File History. Any changes made to these files (such as being deleted, renamed, or updated) will be mirrored to this external drive when it’s connected to your Windows 8.1 device.

Windows 8.1

Make a recovery tool on a USB memory stick.

What will you do if Windows 8.1 won’t load properly from boot up -- perhaps due to the installation of a software update gone wrong,malicious code, or you or somebody else messing around with the system? 

Set your device to boot from this USB memory stick. This will load software to help you diagnose and repair your installation of Windows 8.1 to make it load and run normally again. To make such a tool, type “recovery” into the Search tool of the Charms bar, and click the result “Create a recovery drive” to launch Recovery Drive.

Related: 5 tips and secrets for getting more out of Windows 8.1