5 top tips and secrets for Windows 8

Want to get more out of Windows 8 and 8.1? I've got help. Check out five of my favorite tips.

Hack Windows with 'GodMode'

Windows 8 doesn't look particularly customizable, but in fact there's a lot you can do to bend it to your will. The problem is that settings for doing that are spread out among many places in the operating system.

However, so-called "God Mode" puts many of them in easy reach. It's not really a separate mode. Instead, it's a hidden folder that provides access to many settings that are otherwise hard to find, and you can put it right on your desktop.

First, you'll need to make sure you can view hidden files in File Explorer. In File Explorer, click the View tab, and check the boxes next to "Hidden items" and "File name extensions" in the Ribbon at the top.

Now right-click the Desktop and select New --> Folder. Doing that creates a folder on the desktop named "New folder." Rename the folder:


The folder icon changes, and its name is GodMode. Keep in mind that the "GodMode" text doesn't turn the folder into a special one. Rather, that long string of letters and numbers inside the curly brackets does it. You can use any text you want before the period just ahead of the opening bracket, and it still points to the same folder and everything works the same --- call it SatanMode or anything else you want.


Double-click the icon, and you get to a folder filled with dozens of actions, tools and tweaks, such as "Change Automatic Maintenance settings," "Change SmartScreen Settings," "Customize the mouse buttons," and many others. They're organized by category. Expand or shrink each category by clicking the small triangle next to it. Each category displays a number next to it, showing how many settings there are in it.

Use Fast Startup

Want to speed up how fast Windows 8 starts? There's an easy way to do it, via Fast Startup, which is a hybrid of a traditional shutdown/boot operation and hibernation. With Fast Startup, when you shut down your PC, all user sessions are closed but the Windows kernel session is saved to disk, or hibernated. That way, when you start Windows again, it loads the hibernated system session from disk, cutting startup time.

Fast Startup should be enabled on your system. But it's a good idea to makes sure that it is. Press the Windows Key + X and click Power Options on the menu that appears. Then click "Choose what the power button does" in the left pane, and under "Shutdown settings" at the bottom of the screen that appears, make sure that the box next to "Turn on Fast Startup" is checked.

Monitor App Storage Space

If you've got a Windows 8 device without much storage, such as a tablet or a 2-in-1 device, you'll find that apps can quickly eat up your storage space. There's a simple way, though, to monitor how much space each uses, and kill any space-hoggers.

From the Charms bar, select settings-->Change PC settings-->PC and devices-->Disk space. You'll see a screen that shows the total amount of disk space, the disk space that's free, and how much space is used by pictures, videos, documents and so on. There's also a section that shows how much total disk space your apps use. Click "See my app sizes" and you'll see a list of all your apps, and how much space each uses. Click any app and an uninstall button appears. Click the button to uninstall the app.


Use the hidden backup and System Image Backup features

You probably don't know it, but Windows 8 has some great features for automatically backing up all your files and even saving different versions of them. It also has a nifty System Image Backup feature that helps you restore your entire system in case of a hard disk failure.

To use them, you'll need to first connect an external drive to your PC. Once you do that, press the Windows key + S to open up search, and search for file history. Then select "File history settings." From the screen that appears, on the top part of the screen, turn File History on. To immediately back up your files, click "Back up now."

Now search for file history again. Down on the lower left corner of the screen, tap "System Image Backup." A wizard appears. Follow the directions for creating a disk image of your entire system. You'll be able to use that to recover from a disk failure.

Run Modern-style full-screen apps side by side

So-called Modern apps (those once called Metro apps) are designed to run full-screen, which is problematic if you want to see two or more onscreen at the same time. But with Windows 8.1, Microsoft introduced a way to run two or more Modern apps onscreen at the same time.

First, run a Modern app, then get back to the Start screen and run another. They'll each be running in their own full screen and you can't see them onscreen at the same time. Now, in one of the apps, grab the upper-left part of the screen with your mouse and drag it down. Release the app, and you'll now have two Modern apps running side by side.

See the divider in the middle? Drag it in either direction to change how much screen real estate each app gets. Note that depending on your screen size, you can run up to eight Modern apps onscreen at the same time.


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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