Windows® 8 For Dummies®

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Table of Contents

About This Book
How to Use This Book
Tablet Owners Aren’t Left Out
And What about You?
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: Windows 8 Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Part II: Working with Programs, Apps, and Files
Part III: Getting Things Done on the Internet
Part IV: Customizing and Upgrading Windows 8
Part V: Music, Photos, and Movies
Part VI: Help!
Part VII: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: Windows 8 Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Chapter 1: What Is Windows 8?
What Is Windows 8, and Why Are You Using It?
What’s New in Windows 8?
Should I Bother Switching to Windows 8?
Can My Current PC Still Run Windows 8?
The Four Flavors of Windows 8
Chapter 2: The Mysterious New Start Screen
Being Welcomed to the World of Windows 8
Understanding user accounts
Keeping your account private with a password
Signing up for a Microsoft account
Figuring Out the New Start Screen in Windows 8
Launching a Start screen program or app
Viewing or closing your open apps
Finding a Start screen app or program
Adding or removing Start screen items
The Charms bar and its hidden shortcuts
Introducing your free apps
Customizing the Start screen
Exiting from Windows
Temporarily leaving your computer
Leaving your computer for the day
Chapter 3: The Traditional Desktop
Finding the Desktop and the Start Screen
Working with the Desktop
Summoning the Start screen and open apps
Jazzing up the desktop’s background
Snapping an app alongside the desktop
Dumpster diving in the Recycle Bin
Bellying Up to the Taskbar
Shrinking windows to the taskbar and retrieving them
Switching to different tasks from the taskbar’s Jump Lists
Clicking the taskbar’s sensitive areas
Customizing the taskbar
Making Programs Easier to Find
Add five helpful icons to your desktop
Creating taskbar shortcuts for your favorite programs
Chapter 4: Basic Desktop Window Mechanics
Dissecting a Typical Desktop Window
Tugging on a window’s title bar
Navigating folders with a window’s Address Bar
Finding commands on the Ribbon
Quick shortcuts with the Navigation Pane
Moving inside a window with its scroll bar
Boring borders
Maneuvering Windows Around the Desktop
Moving a window to the top of the pile
Moving a window from here to there
Making a window fill the whole screen
Closing a window
Making a window bigger or smaller
Placing two windows side by side
Making windows open to the same darn size
Chapter 5: Storage: Internal, External, and in the Sky
Browsing the File Explorer File Cabinets
Getting the Lowdown on Folders and Libraries
Peering into Your Drives, Folders, and Libraries
Seeing the files on a disk drive
Seeing what’s inside a folder
Managing a library’s folders
Creating a New Folder
Renaming a File or Folder
Selecting Bunches of Files or Folders
Getting Rid of a File or Folder
Copying or Moving Files and Folders
Seeing More Information about Files and Folders
Writing to CDs and DVDs
Buying the right kind of blank CDs and DVDs for burning
Copying files to or from a CD or DVD
Working with Flash Drives and Memory Cards
SkyDrive: Your Cubbyhole in the Clouds
Accessing files with the SkyDrive app
Accessing SkyDrive from the desktop
Part II: Working with Programs, Apps, and Files
Chapter 6: Playing with Programs, Apps, and Documents
Starting a Program or App
Opening a Document
Saving a Document
Choosing Which Program Should Open Which File
Navigating the Windows Store
Adding new apps from the Store app
Uninstalling apps
Updating your apps
Taking the Lazy Way with a Desktop Shortcut
Absolutely Essential Guide to Cutting, Copying, and Pasting
The quick ’n’ dirty guide to cut ’n’ paste
Selecting things to cut or copy
Cutting or copying your selected goods
Pasting information to another place
Chapter 7: Finding the Lost
Finding Currently Running Start Screen Apps
Finding Lost Windows on the Desktop
Locating a Missing App, Program, Setting, or File
Finding a Missing File inside a Desktop Folder
Finding Lost Photos
Finding Other Computers on a Network
Finding Information on the Internet
Chapter 8: Printing Your Work
Printing from a Start Screen App
Printing Your Masterpiece from the Desktop
Adjusting how your work fits on the page
Adjusting your printer’s settings
Canceling a print job
Printing a web page
Troubleshooting your printer
Part III: Getting Things Done on the Internet
Chapter 9: Cruising the Web
What’s an ISP, and Why Do I Need One?
Connecting Wirelessly to the Internet
Browsing Quickly from the Start Screen
Navigating the Web with the Desktop’s Internet Explorer
Moving from one web page to another
Making Internet Explorer open to your favorite site
Revisit favorite places
Finding things on the Internet
The Web Page Says It Needs a Weird Plug-In Thing!
Saving Information from the Internet
Saving a web page
Saving text
Saving a picture
Downloading a program, song, or other type of file
It Doesn’t Work!
Removing Unneeded Plug-Ins
Chapter 10: Being Social: Mail, People, Calendar, and Messaging
Adding Your Social Accounts to Windows 8
Understanding the Mail App
Switching among the Mail app’s views, menus, and accounts
Composing and sending an e-mail
Reading a received e-mail
Sending and receiving files through e-mail
Managing Your Contacts in the People App
Adding contacts
Deleting or editing contacts
Managing Appointments in Calendar
Chatting through Messaging
Chapter 11: Safe Computing
Understanding Those Annoying Permission Messages
Assessing Your Safety in the Action Center
Avoiding Viruses with Windows Defender
Staying Safe on the Internet
Avoiding evil add-ons and hijackers
Avoiding phishing scams
Setting Up Family Safety Controls
Part IV: Customizing and Upgrading Windows 8
Chapter 12: Customizing Windows 8 with the Control Panel
Finding the Right Switch
The Start Screen’s PC Settings Screen
The Big Guns: The Desktop’s Control Panel
System and Security
User Accounts and Family Safety
Network and Internet
Changing the Windows 8 Appearance (Appearance and Personalization)
Changing the desktop background
Choosing a screen saver
Changing the computer’s theme
Changing the screen resolution
Hardware and Sound
Adjusting volume and sounds
Installing or setting up speakers
Adding a Bluetooth gadget
Adding an Xbox 360 game console
Adding a printer
Clock, Language, and Region
Adding or Removing Programs
Removing apps and programs
Installing new programs
Modifying Windows 8 for the Physically Challenged
Chapter 13: Keeping Windows from Breaking
Tuning Up Windows 8 with Built-In Maintenance Tools
Backing up your computer with File History
Finding technical information about your computer
Freeing up space on your hard drive
Empowering your power button
Setting up devices that don’t work (fiddling with drivers)
Chapter 14: Sharing One Computer with Several People
Understanding User Accounts
Changing Your User Account or Adding a New Account
Adding another user to your computer
Changing an existing user’s account
Switching Quickly between Users
Sharing Files among Account Holders
Changing a User Account’s Picture
Setting Up Passwords and Security
Chapter 15: Connecting Computers with a Network
Understanding a Network’s Parts
Setting Up a Small Network
Buying parts for a network
Setting up a wireless router
Setting up Windows 8 to connect to a network
Setting Up or Connecting with a Homegroup
Accessing what others have shared
Sharing a printer on the network
Part V: Music, Photos, and Movies
Chapter 16: Playing and Copying Music in Media Player
Playing Music from the Start Screen
Handing Music-Playing Chores Back to Windows Media Player
Stocking the Windows Media Player Library
Browsing Windows Media Player’s Libraries
Playing Music Files (MP3s and WMAs)
Controlling Your Now Playing Items
Playing CDs
Playing DVDs
Playing Videos and TV Shows
Creating, Saving, and Editing Playlists
Ripping (Copying) CDs to Your PC
Burning (Creating) Music CDs
Chapter 17: Fiddling with Photos (and Movies)
Dumping a Camera’s Photos into your Computer
Taking Photos with the Camera App
Viewing Photos from the Start Screen
Viewing Photos from the Desktop
Browsing your photos from the desktop’s Pictures library
Viewing a slide show
Copying digital photos to a CD or DVD
Part VI: Help!
Chapter 18: The Case of the Broken Window
New Magic Fixes in Windows 8
Refreshing your computer
Remove everything from your computer
Restoring backups with File History
Windows 8 Keeps Asking Me for Permission
I Need to Retrieve Deleted Files
My Settings Are Messed Up
I Forgot My Password
My Computer Is Frozen Solid
Chapter 19: Strange Messages: What You Did Does Not Compute
Could Not Enable File History. The System Cannot Find the Path Specified.
Do You Want to Install This Device Software?
Do You Want to Save Changes?
How Do You Want to Open This Type of File?
Insert Media
Malware Detected: Windows Defender Is Taking Action
Removable Disk: Choose What to Do with Removable Drives
Sign In with a Microsoft Account
Something Went Wrong: Couldn’t Share Photo(s) with Mail
There Is No Email Program Associated to Perform the Requested Action
USB Device Not Recognized
Windows Isn’t Activated
You Don’t Currently Have Permission to Access This Folder
Chapter 20: Moving from an Old PC to a New Windows 8 PC
Choosing How to Transfer Your Old Information
Transferring Information Between Two PCs
Picking and Choosing Files, Folders, and Accounts to Transfer
Chapter 21: Help on the Windows 8 Help System
Consulting a Program’s Built-In Computer Guru
Finding the Information You Need in Windows Help and Support
Summoning the Windows Troubleshooters
Part VII: The Part of Tens
Chapter 22: Ten Things You’ll Hate about Windows 8 (and How to Fix Them)
I Want to Avoid the Start Screen!
Bringing back the Start button
Knowing when the Start screen reappears unexpectedly
I Want to Avoid the Desktop!
Windows Makes Me Sign In All the Time
The Taskbar Keeps Disappearing
I Can’t Line Up Two Windows on the Screen
It Won’t Let Me Do Something Unless I’m an Administrator!
I Don’t Know What Version of Windows I Have
My Print Screen Key Doesn’t Work
Chapter 23: Ten or So Tips for Touchscreen Owners
Switching to Airplane Mode
Connecting to a Wireless Internet Network
Toggling Your Tablet’s Screen Rotation
Choosing What Happens When You Close Your Laptop’s Lid
Adjusting to Different Locations
Backing Up Your Laptop Before Traveling
Cheat Sheet

Windows® 8 For Dummies®



About the Author

Andy Rathbone started geeking around with computers in 1985 when he bought a 26-pound portable CP/M Kaypro 2X. Like other nerds of the day, he soon began playing with null-modem adapters, dialing computer bulletin boards, and working part-time at Radio Shack.

He wrote articles for various techie publications before moving to computer books in 1992. He’s written the Windows For Dummies series, Upgrading and Fixing PCs For Dummies, TiVo For Dummies, PCs: The Missing Manual, and many other computer books.

Today, he has more than 15 million copies of his books in print, and they’ve been translated into more than 30 languages. You can reach Andy at his website,

Author’s Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Dan Gookin, Matt Wagner, Tina Rathbone, Steve Hayes, Nicole Sholly, Virginia Sanders, and Russ Mullen.

Thanks also to all the folks I never meet in editorial, sales, marketing, proofreading, layout, graphics, and manufacturing who work hard to bring you this book.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions and Editorial

Senior Project Editor: Nicole Sholly

Executive Editor: Steve Hayes

Copy Editor: Virginia Sanders

Technical Editor: Russ Mullen

Editorial Manager: Kevin Kirschner

Editorial Assistant: Leslie Saxman

Sr. Editorial Assistant: Cherie Case

Cover Photo: © Yin Yang/Getty Images

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katherine Crocker

Layout and Graphics: Jennifer Creasey, Corrie Niehaus, Julie Trippetti

Proofreaders: Lindsay Amones, ConText Editorial Services, Inc.

Indexer: BIM Indexing & Proofreading Services

Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies

Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director

Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director

Publishing for Consumer Dummies

Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Executive Publisher

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Welcome to Windows 8 For Dummies, the world’s best-selling book about Windows 8!

This book’s popularity probably boils down to this simple fact: Some people want to be Windows whizzes. They love interacting with dialog boxes. Some randomly press keys in the hope of discovering hidden, undocumented features. A few memorize long strings of computer commands while washing their hair.

And you? Well, you’re no dummy, that’s for sure. But when it comes to Windows and computers, the fascination just isn’t there. You want to get your work done, stop, and move on to something more important. You have no intention of changing, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

That’s where this book comes in handy. Instead of making you a whiz at Windows, it merely dishes out chunks of useful computing information when you need them. Instead of becoming a Windows 8 expert, you’ll know just enough to get by quickly, cleanly, and with a minimum of pain so that you can move on to the more pleasant things in life.

And you’ll be able to do that whether you’re dealing with a touchscreen, laptop, or desktop computer.

About This Book

Don’t try to read this book in one sitting; there’s no need. Instead, treat this book like a dictionary or an encyclopedia. Turn to the page with the information you need and say, “Ah, so that’s what they’re talking about.” Then put down the book and move on.

Don’t bother trying to memorize all the Windows 8 jargon, such as Select the Menu Item from the Drop-Down List Box. Leave that stuff for the computer enthusiasts. In fact, if anything technical comes up in a chapter, a road sign warns you well in advance. Depending on your mood, you can either slow down to read it or speed on around it.

Instead of fancy computer jargon, this book covers subjects like these, all discussed in plain English:

check.png Keeping your computer safe and secure

check.png Making sense of the new Start screen

check.png Finding, starting, and closing programs and apps

check.png Locating the file you saved or downloaded yesterday

check.png Setting up a computer for the whole family to use

check.png Copying information to and from a CD or DVD

check.png Saving and sharing photos from your digital camera

check.png Printing your work

check.png Creating a network between computers to share an Internet connection or printer

check.png Fixing Windows 8 when it’s misbehaving

There’s nothing to memorize and nothing to learn. Just turn to the right page, read the brief explanation, and get back to work. Unlike other books, this one enables you to bypass the technical hoopla and still get your work done.

How to Use This Book

Windows 8 will most definitely leave you scratching your head at some point. It’s the most confusing version of Windows ever released to the public, so take pride in the fact that you’re strong enough to persevere.

When something in Windows 8 leaves you stumped, use this book as a reference. Find the troublesome topic in this book’s table of contents or index. The table of contents lists chapter and section titles and page numbers. The index lists topics and page numbers. Page through the table of contents or index to the spot that deals with that particular bit of computer obscurity, read only what you have to, close the book, and apply what you’ve read.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to find out more, read a little further in the bulleted items below each section. You can find a few completely voluntary extra details, tips, or cross-references to check out. There’s no pressure, though. You aren’t forced to discover anything that you don’t want to or that you simply don’t have time for.

If you have to type something into the computer, you’ll see easy-to-follow bold text like this:

Type Media Player into the Search box.

In the preceding example, you type the words Media Player and then press the keyboard’s Enter key. Typing words into a computer can be confusing, so a description follows that explains what you should be seeing on the screen.

When I describe a key combination you should press, I describe it like this:

Press Ctrl+B.

That means to hold down your keyboard’s Control key while pressing your keyboard’s B key. (That’s the shortcut key combination that applies bold formatting to selected text.)

Whenever I describe an email address or filename, I present it this way:


And website addresses appear like this:

This book doesn’t wimp out by saying, “For further information, consult your manual.” Windows 8 doesn’t even come with a manual. This book also doesn’t contain information about running specific Windows software packages, such as Microsoft Office. Windows 8 is complicated enough on its own! Luckily, other For Dummies books mercifully explain most popular software packages.

Don’t feel abandoned, though. This book covers Windows in plenty of detail for you to get the job done. Plus, if you have questions or comments about Windows 8 For Dummies, feel free to drop me a line on my website at I answer a reader’s question on my website each week.

Finally, keep in mind that this book is a reference. It’s not designed to teach you how to use Windows 8 like an expert, heaven forbid. Instead, this book dishes out enough bite-sized chunks of information so that you don’t have to learn Windows.

Tablet Owners Aren’t Left Out

Although Windows 8 comes preinstalled on all new Windows computers, Microsoft not-so-secretly aims this bold new version of Windows at owners of touchscreens. Tablets, as well as some laptops and desktop monitors, come with screens you can control by touching them with your fingers.

If you’re a new touchscreen owner, don’t worry. This book explains where you need to touch, slide, or tap your fingers in all the appropriate places.

If you find yourself scratching your head over explanations aimed at mouse owners, remember these three touchscreen rules:

check.png When told to click, you should tap. Quickly touching and releasing your finger on a button is the same as clicking it with a mouse.

check.png When told to double-click, tap twice. Two touches in rapid succession does the trick.

check.png When told to right-click something, hold down your finger on the item. Then, when a little menu pops up, lift your finger. The menu stays put onscreen. (That’s exactly what would have happened if you’d right-clicked the item with a mouse.) While you’re looking at the pop-up menu, tap any of its listed items to have Windows carry out your bidding.

remember.eps If you find touchscreens to be cumbersome while you’re sitting at a desk, you can always plug a mouse and keyboard into your touchscreen tablet. They’ll work just fine. In fact, they usually work better when working on the Windows desktop rather than the Start screen.

And What about You?

Chances are good that you already own Windows 8 or are thinking about upgrading. You know what you want to do with your computer. The problem lies in making the computer do what you want it to do. You’ve gotten by one way or another, perhaps with the help of a computer guru — either a friend at the office, somebody down the street, or your fourth-grader.

But when your computer guru isn’t around, this book can be a substitute during your times of need. (Keep a doughnut nearby in case you need a quick bribe.)

How This Book Is Organized

The information in this book has been well sifted. This book contains seven parts, and I divide each part into chapters relating to the part’s theme. With an even finer knife, I divide each chapter into short sections to help you figure out a bit of Windows 8 weirdness. Sometimes, you may find what you’re looking for in a small, boxed sidebar. Other times, you may need to cruise through an entire section or chapter. It’s up to you and the particular task at hand.

Here are the categories (the envelope, please).

Part I: Windows 8 Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know

This part dissects the backbone of Windows 8: its new Start screen, where you load apps and programs. It also explains how to find the traditional Windows desktop — the background found in every version of Windows for the past decade. It explains how to move windows around and click the right buttons at the right time. It explains the Windows 8 stuff that everybody thinks you already know.

Part II: Working with Programs, Apps, and Files

Windows 8 comes with bunches of free programs. Finding and starting the programs, however, often proves to be a chore. This part of the book shows you how to prod programs into action. If an important file or program has vanished from the radar, you discover how to make Windows 8 dredge your computer’s crowded cupboards and bring it back. It also explains how to move your work from the computer screen onto paper through your printer.

Part III: Getting Things Done on the Internet

Turn here for a crash course in today’s computing playground, the Internet. This part explains how to send e-mail and globetrot across websites. Best yet, an entire chapter explains how to do it all safely.

A section explains Internet Explorer’s built-in security tools. They stop evil phishing sites from tricking you and keep parasites from attaching themselves to your computer as you move from one website to another.

Part IV: Customizing and Upgrading Windows 8

When Windows 8 needs a jolt, fix it by flipping one of the switches hidden in its Control Panel, described here. Another chapter explains computer maintenance you can easily perform yourself, reducing your repair bills. You discover how to share your computer with several people in your family or in a shared apartment — without letting anybody peek into anybody else’s information.

And when you’re ready to add a second computer, head to the networking chapter for quick instructions on linking computers to share an Internet connection, files, and a printer, as well.

Part V: Music, Photos, and Movies

Turn here for information on playing music CDs, digital music, and movies. Buy some cheap CDs and create your own greatest hits CDs from your favorite tunes. (Or just copy a CD so that your favorite one doesn’t get scratched in the car.)

Digital camera owners should visit the chapter on transferring pictures from your camera to your computer, organizing the pictures, and e-mailing them to friends.

Part VI: Help!

Although glass doesn’t shatter when Windows crashes, it still hurts. In this part, you find some soothing salves for the most painful irritations. Plus, you find ways to unleash the Windows 8 program’s team of troubleshooters.

Stuck with the problem of moving your files from an old computer to a new one? You can find help here, as well. (If you’re ready to upgrade your Windows XP, or Windows Vista, or Windows 7 computer to Windows 8, check out for instructions.)

Part VII: The Part of Tens

Everybody loves lists (except during tax time). This part contains lists of Windows-related trivia, such as ten aggravating things about Windows 8 (and how to fix them). As a bonus for the tablet and laptop crowd, I’ve collected the most useful portability tips for Windows 8 and placed them into one chapter. You can find step-by-step instructions for the most frequently used tasks while traveling, whether you’re moving across the world or across the street.

Icons Used in This Book

It just takes a glance at Windows 8 to notice its icons, which are little push-button pictures for starting various programs. The icons in this book fit right in. They’re even a little easier to figure out.

technicalstuff.eps Watch out! This signpost warns you that pointless technical information is coming around the bend. Swerve away from this icon to stay safe from awful technical drivel.

tip.eps This icon alerts you about juicy information that makes computing easier: a method for keeping the cat from sleeping on top of your tablet, for example.

remember.eps Don’t forget to remember these important points. (Or at least dog-ear the pages so that you can look them up again a few days later.)

warning_bomb.eps The computer won’t explode while you’re performing the delicate operations associated with this icon. Still, wearing gloves and proceeding with caution is a good idea.

newinwin8.eps Are you moving to Windows 8 from an older Windows version? This icon alerts you to areas where Windows 8 works significantly differently from its predecessors.

touchscreen.eps Controlled by fingertips rather than mice and keyboards, touchscreens are standard fare on tablets, as well as some laptops and desktop computer monitors. This icon appears next to information aimed directly at the touchy feely crowd.

Where to Go from Here

Now, you’re ready for action. Give the pages a quick flip and scan a section or two that you know you’ll need later. Please remember, this is your book — your weapon against the computer nerds who’ve inflicted this whole complicated computer concept on you. Please circle any paragraphs you find useful, highlight key concepts, add your own sticky notes, and doodle in the margins next to the complicated stuff.

remember.eps The more you mark up your book, the easier it will be for you to find all the good stuff again.

To access additional Windows 8 content, go to windows8. Occasionally, we have updates to our technology books. If this book does have technical updates, they will be posted at

Please note that some special symbols used in this eBook may not display properly on all eReader devices. If you have trouble determining any symbol, please call Wiley Product Technical Support at 800-762-2974. Outside of the United States, please call 317-572-3993. You can also contact Wiley Product Technical Support at

Part I

Windows 8 Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know


In this part . . .

Most people are dragged into Windows 8 without a choice. Their new computers probably came with Windows 8 already installed. Or maybe the office switched to Windows 8, and everyone has to learn it except for the boss, who still doesn’t have a computer. Or maybe Microsoft’s marketing hype pushed you into it.

Whatever your situation, this part explains the bizarre new Start screen in Windows 8. It shows how to find the traditional Windows desktop and then gives a refresher on Windows basics and buzzwords such as dragging and dropping, cutting and pasting, and even tapping a touchscreen.

This part explains how Windows 8 has changed things for the better, and it warns you when Windows 8 has messed things up completely.

Chapter 1

What Is Windows 8?

In This Chapter

arrow Getting to know Windows 8

arrow Discovering the new features in Windows 8

arrow Deciding whether to switch to Windows 8

arrow Figuring out whether your PC is powerful enough to run Windows 8

arrow Knowing which version of Windows 8 you need

Chances are good that you’ve heard about Windows: the boxes and windows that greet you whenever you turn on your computer. In fact, millions of people worldwide are puzzling over Windows as you read this book. Almost every new computer and laptop sold today comes with Windows preinstalled, ready to toss colorful boxes onto the screen.

This chapter helps you understand why Windows lives inside your computer, and I introduce Microsoft’s latest Windows version, called Windows 8. I explain how Windows 8 differs from previous Windows versions, whether you should upgrade to Windows 8, and how well your faithful old PC and programs will weather the upgrade.

What Is Windows 8, and Why Are You Using It?

Created and sold by a company called Microsoft, Windows isn’t like your usual software that lets you calculate income taxes or send angry e-mails to mail-order companies. No, Windows is an operating system, meaning it controls the way you work with your computer. It’s been around for nearly 30 years, and the latest incarnation is called Windows 8, shown in Figure 1-1.

Figure 1-1: The newest version of Windows, Windows 8, comes preinstalled on most new PCs today.


The name Windows comes from all the little windows it places on your computer screen. Each window shows information, such as a picture, a program, or a baffling technical reprimand. You can place several windows onscreen simultaneously and jump from window to window, visiting different programs. Or, you can enlarge one window to fill the entire screen.

When you turn on your computer, Windows jumps onto the screen and begins supervising any running programs. When everything goes well, you don’t really notice Windows; you simply see your programs or your work. When things don’t go well, though, Windows often leaves you scratching your head over a perplexing error message.

In addition to controlling your computer and bossing around your programs, Windows 8 comes with a bunch of free programs and apps — mini-programs. These programs and apps let you do different things, such as write and print letters, browse the Internet, play music, and send your friends dimly lit photos of your latest meal.

And why are you using Windows 8? Well, you probably didn’t have much choice. Nearly every computer sold since October 2012 comes with Windows 8 preinstalled. A few people escaped Windows by buying Apple computers (those nicer-looking computers that cost a lot more). But chances are good that you, your neighbors, your boss, and millions of other people around the world are using Windows.

newinwin8.eps check.png Windows 8 introduces a radical new full-screen–sized Start menu that’s designed for touchscreens — displays controlled with your fingertips. Now called a Start screen, it also appears on desktop PCs, oddly enough. Be prepared for some initial mouse awkwardness as you try to mimic a fingertip with your mouse pointer.

newinwin8.eps check.png The new automatic backup program in Windows 8, File History, greatly simplifies what you should have been doing all along: creating copies of your important files for safekeeping. Because Microsoft leaves it turned off, I explain how to turn it on in Chapter 13.

What’s New in Windows 8?

newinwin8.eps You may have worked with earlier versions of Microsoft Windows. If so, toss away that hard-earned knowledge because Windows 8 starts from scratch. Why? Because Windows 8 tries to please two camps of computer owners.

See, some people are mostly consumers. They read e-mail, watch videos, listen to music, and browse the web, often while away from their desktop PC. Whether on the go or on the couch, they’re consuming media (and popcorn).

Other people are mostly creators. They write papers, prepare tax returns, update blogs, edit videos, or, quite often, tap whichever keys their boss requires that day.

To please both markets, Microsoft broke Windows 8 into two very different sections:

check.png Start screen: For the on-the-go information grabbers, the Windows 8 Start screen fills the entire screen with large, colorful tiles that constantly update to show the latest stock prices, weather, e-mail, Facebook updates, and other tidbits. Shown earlier in Figure 1-1, that information appears before you touch a button. And touch is a keyword: The Start screen works best with a touchscreen monitor or tablet.

check.png Desktop tile: When it’s time for work, head for the Start screen’s desktop tile. The traditional Windows desktop appears, shown in Figure 1-2, bringing all its power — as well as its detailed, cumbersome menus.

Some people like the convenience of having both types of computers built into one. Others find the two experiences to be oddly disjointed.

check.png In a way, Windows 8 offers the best of both worlds: You can stay on the Start screen for quick, on-the-go browsing. And when work beckons, you can head for the desktop, where your traditional Windows programs await.

Figure 1-2: The Windows 8 desktop works much as it did in Windows 7, but without a Start button.


check.png The catch is that the Windows desktop no longer contains the traditional Start button and the Start menu that sprouted from the corner. Instead, you must retreat to the new, Start screen. To open a program, click or tap a program’s tile from the Start screen, and Windows shuffles you back to the desktop, where the newly opened program awaits.

check.png Welcome to the split personality awaiting you in Windows 8! I explain the Start screen in Chapter 2; the Windows desktop awaits your attention in Chapter 3.

Should I Bother Switching to Windows 8?

In a word, no. Most people stick with the Windows version that came installed on their computers. That way they avoid the chore of figuring out a new version of Windows. Also, Windows 8 comes with a particularly steep learning curve because it’s quite different from earlier Windows versions.

Also, many of the biggest changes in Windows 8 work best with touchscreens — those fingertip-controlled screens found on expensive cellphones, tablets, and some of the latest laptops. No matter what device it runs on, Windows 8 looks and behaves the same, whether it’s controlled by fingers on a touchscreen tablet or by a mouse and keyboard on a desktop PC.

On the positive side, if you manage to figure out Windows 8 once, you’ll know how to run it on all of your Windows devices: a tablet, Windows phone, a laptop, a desktop PC, and perhaps even a touchscreen television. On the negative side, being designed for so many different things makes Windows 8 behave a little awkwardly on all of them.

Instead of upgrading, stick with the masses and stay with your current computer. When you’re ready to buy a new computer, the latest version of Windows will be installed and waiting for you. (But if you’ve bought Windows 8 on a DVD, you can install Windows 8 onto a computer you own that’s currently running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP; find out how at www.dummies.go/windows8. There, you’ll also find a plethora of other helpful Windows 8 tidbits.)

technicalstuff.eps Windows 8 doesn’t support Windows XP mode, a popular way to run a Windows XP desktop inside its own window within Windows 7. If you needed Windows XP mode in Windows 7, don’t upgrade to Windows 8.

Can My Current PC Still Run Windows 8?

If you want to upgrade to Windows 8, your computer probably won’t complain. Windows 8 should run without problem on any PC currently running Windows 7 or Windows Vista. In fact, Windows 8 may run faster on your old PC than Windows Vista did, especially on laptops.

If your PC runs Windows XP, it may still run Windows 8, but probably not at its best.

If you have a technogeek in your family, have him or her translate Table 1-1, which shows the Windows 8 hardware requirements.

Table 1-1 The Windows 8 Hardware Requirements


x86 (32-bit)

x86 (64-bit)


1 GHz

1 GHz

Memory (RAM)



Graphics Card

DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

HDD free space



In common language, Table 1-1 simply says that nearly any computer sold in the past five years can be upgraded to Windows 8 with little problem.

Windows 8 runs nearly any program that runs on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. It even runs some Windows XP programs, as well. Some older programs, however, won’t work, including most security-based programs, such as antivirus, firewall, and security suites. You’ll need to contact the program’s manufacturer for an upgraded version.

tip.eps Shopping for a new PC to run Windows 8? To see how well a particular showroom PC can handle Windows 8, point your mouse at any screen’s bottom-left corner and click the right mouse button. When the menu appears, choose System. The Windows Experience Index appears. It has already tested the PC and given it a grade ranging from 1 (terrible) to 9.9 (extraordinary).

Don’t know what version of Windows runs on your current PC? Go to the Start menu, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. The screen that appears lists your Windows version. (If your Start menu fills the screen with a bunch of colorful tiles, you’re already running Windows 8. If so, right-click in the bottom-left corner, choose System from the pop-up menu, and the System window’s Windows Edition section says which version of Windows 8 is running.)

The Four Flavors of Windows 8

newinwin8.eps Microsoft offers four main versions of Windows 8, but you’ll probably want only one: the aptly titled “Windows 8” version.

Small businesses will choose Windows 8 Pro, and larger businesses will want Windows 8 Enterprise. Still, to clear up the confusion, I describe all the versions in Table 1-2.

Table 1-2 The Four Flavors of Windows 8

The Version of Windows 8

What It Does

Windows RT

Designed for long-battery life, this version only comes preinstalled, mostly on touchscreen tablets and laptops. It runs the Start screen and apps, but its limited desktop won’t run your own Windows programs. To compensate, Windows RT includes versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Windows 8

Aimed at consumers, this version includes the Start screen, apps, and a full-featured Windows desktop that can run most Windows programs.

Windows 8 Pro

Aimed at the small business market, this version features everything from the Windows 8 version, as well as tools used by small businesses: encryption, extra networking features, and similar tools. If you buy a Media Center Pack upgrade, Windows 8 Pro can record TV shows through a TV tuner with Windows Media Center, as well as play DVDs. (To upgrade Windows 8 to Media Center, buy a Windows 8 Pro Pack.)

Windows 8 Enterprise

Microsoft sells this large business version in bulk to large businesses.

Each version in the table contains all the features of the versions preceding it. Windows 8 Pro contains everything found in Windows 8, for example.

Here are some guidelines for choosing the version you need:

remember.eps check.png If you’re considering a tablet with Windows RT, make sure you realize that it can’t run regular Windows programs. You’re limited to its bundled Office programs and any apps you download from the Windows Store.

check.png If you’ll be using your PC at home, pick up Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.

check.png If you need to connect to a domain through a work network — and you’ll know if you’re doing it — you want Windows 8 Pro.

Want to play DVDs or record TV shows with Windows Media Center in Windows 8 Pro? Then pull out your credit card and upgrade online for the Media Center Pack. (To upgrade the consumer-oriented Windows 8 with Windows Media Center, buy the Windows 8 Pro Pack.)

check.png If you’re a computer tech who works for businesses, go ahead and argue with your boss over whether you need Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise. The boss will make the decision based on whether it’s a small company (Windows 8 Pro) or a large company (Windows Enterprise).

tip.eps Most computers let you upgrade to a more powerful version of Windows 8 from the desktop Control Panel’s System area. (Reach for your credit card before clicking the Get More Features with a New Edition of Windows link.)