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Whether you’re using Windows 8.1 on a desktop, tablet, or something in between, there are a variety of useful tweaks you should know about. These options allow you to do everything from making Windows 8.1 work better on a desktop PC to tweaking the way it works on a tablet.

Many of these options are all-new in Windows 8.1 or have moved from where they were in Windows 8. Windows 8.1 is quite a large update compared to Microsoft’s old service packs for previous versions of Windows.

Tweak Desktop Integration

Windows 8.1 brings many useful options for desktop users. If Windows 8 was Microsoft’s declaration of war on desktop users 6 Ways Microsoft Is Killing The Traditional Desktop In Windows 8 [Opinion] 6 Ways Microsoft Is Killing The Traditional Desktop In Windows 8 [Opinion] The traditional desktop is still around in Windows 8, and it’s probably the best Windows desktop yet (aside from not having a Start menu.) But Microsoft is setting it up for the kill. The writing... Read More , these options in Windows 8.1 are an attempted peace offering from Microsoft.

To access these options, right-click the desktop taskbar and select Properties. Click the Navigation tab and use the options here to configure Windows 8.1 to your liking. You can have Windows boot to the desktop, show your desktop background on the Start screen, show the Apps view automatically when you activate the Start button, and disable the app switcher and charms hot corners that appear when you move your mouse to the top-left and top-right corners of your screen.

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Delete Old Windows Installation Files

When you upgrade from an old version of Windows, Windows keeps a C:\Windows.old folder What Is TrustedInstaller & Why Does it Keep Me From Renaming Files? What Is TrustedInstaller & Why Does it Keep Me From Renaming Files? TrustedInstaller is a built-in user account in Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista. This user account "owns" a variety of system files, including some files in your Program Files folder, your Windows folder, and... Read More with your old files in case there’s a problem. If your upgrade process went well and you have all your old files, you can delete this folder to free up gigabytes of disk space.

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To do this, press Windows Key + S, search for Disk Cleanup, and click the Free up disk space shortcut. Click the Clean up system files button, enable the Previous Windows installation(s) option, and run a disk cleanup. If you don’t see this option, there’s nothing to clean up.

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Remove Old Wireless Networks

Windows 8.1 no longer allows you to forget WiFi networks you’ve saved in the graphical interface. If you still want to do this, you can do so from the Command Prompt. Press Windows Key + X and click Command Prompt (Admin). Run the following command to view your saved wireless networks and their names:

netsh wlan show profiles

Next, run the following command to delete a saved WiFi network:

netsh wlan delete profile name=”PROFILE”

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Restore Libraries

Microsoft hid libraries Make Windows 7 & 8 Libraries Work For You Make Windows 7 & 8 Libraries Work For You Libraries, found in Windows 7 and 8. are more than a list of suggested folders for saving documents, music, pictures, and video. Customizing your libraries isn’t just tweaking for the sake of tweaking – with... Read More by default in Windows 8.1. You can re-enable them from the File Explorer window if you still want to use them.

To do this, open a File Explorer window, click the View tab on the ribbon, and click the Options button. Activate the Show libraries option at the bottom of the Folder Options window.

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Disable SkyDrive Integration

Microsoft doesn’t provide an easy way to disable SkyDrive integration on Windows 8.1. On typical versions of Windows 8.1, you can only disable this via the registry editor, if you activated SkyDrive integration when you set up your Windows user account.

We don’t recommend disabling this as so many features in Windows 8.1 depend on SkyDrive How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 Storing data remotely and syncing them across devices has never been so easy, especially if you're using Windows 8.1. SkyDrive received a significant update, improving its integration with Windows and adding interesting new features. Read More , but you can disable it if you really want. The easiest way to do so is by downloading the Disable_SkyDrive_Integration.reg file from here and double-clicking it. This will save you from having to edit the registry by hand What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] The Windows registry can be scary at first glance. It’s a place where power users can change a wide variety of settings that aren’t exposed elsewhere. If you’re searching for how to change something in... Read More .

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Disable Automatic Brightness

Windows now has integrated support for automatically adjusting your screen’s brightness level, which it will do on laptops and tablets with brightness sensors. Automatically adjusting your brightness can help your device save battery power.

If you’d rather control your screen’s brightness on your own, you can disable this from the Power Options window. Press Windows Key + S, type Power Options, and select the Power Options shortcut to open it.

Click Change plan settings next to the power plan you’re using and then select Change advanced power settings. Expand the Display section, expand Enable adaptive brightness, and set it to Off. You can disable it while plugged in and only use it on battery power, if you like.

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Disable Bing Search

Windows 8.1 includes integrated Bing search, so you can search with Bing from the system-wide search charm. This also means that Windows sends your search terms to Bing, even if you’re just searching for apps, settings, and files on your local computer. You can disable this integration from the PC settings app if you’d rather not use it.

To do this, open the Change PC settings app — press Windows Key + C, click or tap the Settings icon, and select Change PC settings. Select Search and apps and disable the Use Bing to search online option.

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Use Quiet Hours

Windows 8.1’s integrated notifications Managing Notifications in Windows 8 Managing Notifications in Windows 8 Windows 8's new app platform provides an integrated notification system for Modern apps. Windows 8-style apps can use several different types of notifications -- traditional toast notifications, lock screen notifications, and live tiles. All of... Read More pop up and notify you about new emails, tweets, and other information. This can be a serious distraction if you’re using your computer for work and you’d rather focus on what you need to do.

If you never want to see notifications during work hours or another period of time, you can use the Quiet Hours feature. In the PC Settings app, navigate to Search and apps > Notifications and select the quiet hours you want to use.

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Remember to use the power user menu 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor 8 Ways To Improve Windows 8 With Win+X Menu Editor Windows 8 contains an almost hidden feature you need to know about! Press Windows Key + X or right-click at the bottom-left corner of your screen to open a menu you can now customize. Read More , too — either press Windows Key + X or right-click on the taskbar’s Start button to open it. This menu allows you to quickly access important applications like the Control Panel and quickly shut down your computer. It helps make up for the lack of a pop-up Start menu on Windows 8.1’s desktop.

Do you know any other great power-user tricks for Windows 8.1 users? Leave a comment and share them!

Image Credit: Rodrigo Ghedin on Flickr

  1. Smart Person
    February 12, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Use ReactOS, it's Windows binary compatible.

  2. chris
    January 26, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Why didn't they improved on XP. Vista onwards are duds.

  3. Mike
    March 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Linux. lol. get a clue.

  4. john
    January 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

    i was so disapponinted i wiped windows 8 in favour of linux :)

  5. Joe
    January 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Windows 8.1 isn't all that bad for me as I have my computer set to boot straight to the desktop. From there everything is mostly like Windows 7. Otherwise, I just have a few gripes:

    - Telling everyday users to use the Command Line to manage wireless networks is pure craziness. Does M$ want users mucking up their computers?

    - There's no option to burn a Recovery Drive on a CD/DVD anymore. It was possible in Windows 8.

    Od

  6. Todd
    December 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    W8.1 has been a struggle - but I can get close to W7 Pro by using Start8 and applying many of the changes above, including making the Start Menu and desktop of the same background. SkyDrive integration in 8.1 needs to be fixed and should work as a connected app (like in 8.1) or the drag/drop drive once you installed the client in W7.
    M$ really fell behind in the next OS - and I will be moving to OS X (Mac) very soon. Many folks don't want to "appify" their laptop/PC - as that's what tablets and smartphones are for - the power user MUST live on.

  7. Mrwirez
    November 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    The #1 and #2 BEST things I did with Windows 8.1 was:

    1. Spent $3.00 on StartIsBack imo... It is THE - BEST start menu/button app
    [startisback.com]

    2. Spend $5.00 on Stardock's "ModernMix" modernmix lets you use windows 8/8.1 Modern/Metro apps in a window with an x/close button
    [stardock.com]

  8. Erin
    November 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    i installed classic shell as soon as I got my new computer with windows 8. I pretend I still have windows 7. Only when I hit the charms on the right do I remember :-)

  9. Anonymous
    November 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I'm not very happy with Windows 8. I am wishing I would have just stayed with Windows 7 for my new build last month.

  10. Anonymous
    November 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I'm not very happy with Windows 8. I am wishing I would have just stayed with Windows 7 for my new build last month.

  11. Saikat B
    November 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Nice tips. Windows 8.1 is taking some getting used to. Working with these tips is flattening the learning curve at least.

  12. Kannon Y
    November 16, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Great article. I've been really unhappy with Windows 8.1 - it just feels like what some desperate, clingy ex would do. The SkyDrive and Live account integration just don't sit right with me.

  13. Jack
    November 16, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Add start8 = done

  14. Matthew Orndoff
    November 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Nice article. I couldn't seem to find the "Search and apps" section from the directions, but a simple search uncovered it pretty quickly.

  15. Manuth C
    November 16, 2013 at 12:40 am

    You can actually lock the CPU to a specific load from the advanced settings window in Power options.

  16. David Craker
    November 16, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Wonderful tips..

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