Windows 8.1 can be frustrating to use. No, not just because of how different it is — Windows 8 was very different, but Windows 8.1 shows Microsoft becoming more reasonable. We’re talking about blurry text, laggy mouse pointers, touchpad issues, and SecureBoot problems — good, old-fashioned Windows annoyances.
Windows 8 has improved support for high-resolution displays — also known as high-DPI displays, because they have a larger number of dots (or pixels) per inch. Many Windows 8.1 laptops and tablets are now including these high-resolution displays, which make text easier to read and offer better image quality.
Many Windows desktop applications don’t properly support Windows’s display scaling, so Windows 8.1 includes a solution — if a program doesn’t support the native display scaling, Windows just doubles its interface in size. This ensures that the program’s interface isn’t tiny. This doubling makes text blurry in such applications.
If text is blurry in an application, you can right-click the application’s shortcut and select Properties. (If the application is on the taskbar, right-click the taskbar icon, right-click the application’s name in the list, and click Properties.) Under the Compatibility tab, enable the “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings” option for that application. Close and reopen the application — text won’t be blurry anymore, but the application will appear smaller.
Laggy Mouse Pointer
Windows 8.1 changed how mouse input works. This leads to a laggy, stuttering mouse pointer in some PC games — especially older games.
To fix this issue, you’ll need to install update 2903939 from Microsoft’s website. This update automatically fixes the issue in some popular games. Run the Fix It tool from that web page to fix the problem for a specific game if the problem isn’t automatically fixed after you install the update.
Touchpad Not Working
Windows 8.1 finally has integrated touchpad controls, so you don’t have to locate a manufacturer-specific touchpad control panel whenever you want to manage your touchpad. You can disable your touchpad from here — so, if your touchpad isn’t working at all, it may just be disabled.
To check for this, open the PC settings screen — press Windows Key + C or swipe in from the right, tap Settings, and tap Change PC settings. Navigate to PC and devices > Mouse and touchpad and ensure the Touchpad option is enabled.
Touchpad gestures can be obnoxious if you don’t use the new Windows 8.1 features. Swipe your finger in from the right and the charms bar will appear — it’s nice and fluid, but it can just get in the way if you only use the desktop and never want the charms bar to appear.
This option can be disabled on the touchpad settings screen, too. Disable the Enable swiping in from the left or right edge option.
OneDrive File Issues
Windows 8.1’s integrated OneDrive cloud storage system tries to be smart. Rather than syncing all your files to your computer, it uses a “smart files” system. Files aren’t actually stored on your PC until you open them or tell OneDrive to store them offline.
This can cause some issues. OneDrive may download too many files you don’t need, taking up too much space. Or, OneDrive may download too few files and you may find yourself unable to use those files while you don’t have an Internet connection.
Recent updates have provided Windows 8.1 with more integrated OneDrive options. You’ll see a cloud icon in your system tray if OneDrive is enabled. Right-click it and select OneDrive Settings. You’ll be able to configure how OneDrive works from here. Select “Make all files available even when this PC isn’t connected to the Internet” to always store all OneDrive files offline, or select “Make all files online only” to free up disk space and remove all copies of OneDrive files from your device. Be sure to run Windows Update and install the latest updates if you don’t see these options.
“SecureBoot Isn’t Configured Correctly”
Secure Boot is a security feature that protects Windows as it boots. It ensures that only verified code can boot, protecting the system against rootkits and other malware that might try to interfere with the boot process and load before Windows. If Secure Boot is disabled, you’ll see a “SecureBoot Isn’t Configured Correctly” message on your desktop.
You can re-enable Secure Boot by entering your PC’s BIOS, looking for the Secure Boot option, and enabling it. Microsoft recommends checking your manufacturer’s documentation for information about accessing its BIOS or UEFI settings screen. However, you can generally access the BIOS on new Windows PCs through the advanced boot options menu.
If you just want to hide the message without enabling Secure Boot, you can install update 2887595 from Microsoft. This update hides the message from the desktop.
Windows 8.1 has many features that make the most sense on a tablet. This includes the hot corners that activate the apps switcher and charms bar when you move your mouse to the top left and top right corners of your screen.
Such features can be disabled from the taskbar’s properties window. Right-click your taskbar, select Properties, and use the options under the Navigation tab to configure how your system behaves.
It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature
All of these frustrating features can also be useful. The display-scaling feature that leads to blurry text also makes small buttons easier to click. The change in mouse input handling improves battery life. The touchpad toggle gives you a way to turn off the touchpad, while the gestures allow you to access the new charms and app switcher more easily. A Secure Boot warning can be a security feature that informs you if SecureBoot was switched off. OneDrive’s smart files can save local storage space on your device. Even all those annoying touch-first features are nice on a tablet.
Which other Windows 8.1 features would you rather see disabled?
Image Credit: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr