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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, 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.
Delete Old Windows Installation Files
When you upgrade from an old version of Windows, Windows keeps a C:\Windows.old folder 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.
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.
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”
Microsoft hid libraries 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Use Quiet Hours
Windows 8.1’s integrated notifications 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.
Remember to use the power user menu, 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