Shortcuts and surprises in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Shortcuts and surprises in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Summary: After a couple days of poking around in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on multiple PCs, I've found a few shortcuts and surprises. If you're a Windows 8 power user, these five tips are for you.


I’ve had a chance to poke around in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on multiple PCs for 48 hours now (after spending a week with the beta on a Samsung tablet identical to the one that developers received at Microsoft’s BUILD conference last September).

In that time, I’ve discovered a few useful little shortcuts and surprises. If you’ve installed the Consumer Preview, you might find these tidbits useful:

Fast access to system-management tools

If you aim the mouse pointer in the lower left corner and click, you go straight to the Start screen. But what happens if you move the mouse pointer to the extreme lower left corner and then right-click? Aha! You get this menu, packed with shortcuts that any power user or administrator will  appreciate:

Those are all desktop tools, but this shortcut works from any Metro app, from Start, or from the Windows desktop.

If you don't want to take your hands off the keyboard, use this shortcut: Windows key + X. (That key combination used to be reserved for Windows Mobility Center on notebooks; that feature is still there, but its shortcut has been reassigned.)

Capture a screenshot

For the first time in its long history, Windows has a shortcut that allows you to capture screenshots directly, without requiring extra steps or third-party utilities. In previous editions (including Windows 7), you could press PrtScr to capture the current screen to the Clipboard, but you needed to open an image editor to save the screen. In Windows 8 Consumer Preview, press Windows key + PrtScr. That keyboard shortcut copies the current screen and saves it as a PNG file in the default Pictures folder. Each file has the generic name Screenshot, followed by a sequential number.

Save a custom refresh point

This is one of the coolest tricks of all. Windows 8 includes a Refresh option, which you can use to restore your system to an earlier point, without wiping out your data files. By default, the refresh image is the clean install that your PC started with.

But you might prefer to roll back to a different state—after you’ve set up your favorite programs and tweaked them to your liking, for example.

To create a custom refresh image, you need to use the Windows 8 command line, specifically  the Recimg utility. Using this tool lets you create an image that includes Windows desktop programs and settings as well as all Windows system files in their current state. It doesn’t include Metro style apps or synced settings, which are restored when you log in with a Microsoft account.

To create a custom refresh image, open an administrative Command Prompt window (it’s an option on the power menu when you right-click in the lower left corner), and enter this command:

recimg /createimage directory

where directory is the local folder in which you want to install the image.

On my test system, I created a folder called Recover, in the root of the C: drive. Here’s what the output looked like:

The file it creates is a Windows Installer image. Because the image doesn’t include any data files, it’s relatively small. On a clean installation of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it occupied less than 7GB.

Enable Windows 8’s backup tool, File History

Since Windows Vista, Windows has had the capability to create regular backups of data files on the fly. This feature was called Previous Versions, but it was barely used because most people don’t know it exists.

In Windows 8, the user interface is simpler, and the feature gets a name change. You’ll need a separate drive from your Windows system drive—an external hard drive works great, as does a large enough USB flash drive.

To turn on File History, press Windows key + W and then type File History in the search box. Click or tap the File History shortcut. You can explore the options for yourself (I’ll have more details in the next update to my Windows 8 book). Here’s what it looks like when enabled:

Check the Windows Experience Index

This one surprised me when I first saw it, because Microsoft made no mention of it in the Building Windows 8 blog or in review materials it provided.

The maximum rating available for subscores in the Windows Experience Index has been boosted past the 7.9 maximum in Windows 7. Here’s the score I got from one test system; look at the rating for Memory:

If you’ve got a top-of-the-line gaming system, you might see similar high numbers in the CPU and video scores. If you’re seeing higher ratings in Windows 8 than you did in Windows 7, leave a note in the Talkback section.

See also

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • Higher Experiance Index

    my windows 7 rating 3.6 .windows 8 3.9 !!!! .Hooray thx for nice tip : fast access to management tool
    • Do you really believe that nonsense?

      I actually disabled Windows Experience Index since it's pretty useless and not really a good barometer of how your machine's running. As an added bonus, on a 32bit machine with limited RAM upgrades, it saves about 3-5mb running in the background all the time.
      • Not useless if you have an SSD

        When you have just installed Windows on an SSD, then installed all the necessary drivers and run WEI, it has the side effect of automatically performing several system optimizations that are important when using SSDs, such as disabling Prefetch and scheduled defrags and enabling TRIM. Having an occasional look at the index also helps to check if there is anything wrong with the system, as one or more components are likely to underperform.
      • SSDs are only a small part of the market

        During the Thailand flooding, they had a great opportunity to have a spike in sales and that didn't happen.

        That may change in a few years but for right now, let's get real.
    • Sliding scale

      Windows experience index isn't a benchmark it's a Microsoft sales gimmick
      Spinal Tap is about right, or 42 (Hitchhikers), Now what was the question
      • No, it's more like EPA mileage estimates ...

        Whatever the value turns out to be, it is relative to other automobiles. For me the city numbers are always too high (but I live in a small city - not a big one). The last four cars I have owned have actually beaten the highway estimates from time-to-time, depending upon a number of factors.

        The Windows experience ought to measure the relative performance of Windows on one hardware configuration versus the same performance for Windows on a different hardware configuration. One would hope that the numbers for Windows 8 are higher than for Windows 7 (on the same hardware configuration) because Windows 8 is more efficient than Windows 7. We certainly know that the performance of the NT 6.1 (Windows 7) kernel is decidedly better than the performance of Windows Vista (the NT 6.0 kernel) and Windows 8 uses the NT 6.2 kernel so, it stands to reason that, all else being equal, Windows 8 ought to product higher numbers.
        M Wagner
    • Odd Scores

      Memory, Graphic, Gaming Graphics, and Hard Disk sub-scores all moved from 7s to 8s. However, Processor went down (from 7.5 to 7.4).

      I could understand all scores moving up if the scale was revised.

      It would be nice if MS would adjust the WPI computations so that Win8 scores are reasonably close to Win7 scores on the same machine. If that cannot be done, perhaps we could get an explanation of what was changed.
      • Odd Scores

        This is a different kernel and a new OS. Things have changed which is why your CPU score went down. If your PC is a few years old that would also explain the lower score.
  • Wow, now my system goes to 11 instead of 10

    Following for the old Spinal Tap joke Ed?
  • I discovered that one on Thursday

    about the access to system-management tools. I was surprised for a moment until I realized it was just system-management tools.

    I though I found the old Start Menu "button" :(
    William Farrel
  • Without imperical data.

    You can't trust the numbers. It could simply be a glitch in one of the subroutines.
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • So basically...

      If you're not a Microsoft cheerleader, your posts will get voted down to the point that they are normally hidden?
      Jumpin Jack Flash
      • You got it

        @Junpin Jack Flash
    • Jumping:

      It's empirical. Mister Flash.
      • No the data

        Is subjective, as it is collected and displayed by the same company that is trying to sell you a bag of wares. Remember, once you give Microsoft your money, you'll never get it back.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
  • Well done MSFT

    I am actually surprised with the amount of work they have put into Windows 8, I hope I will have enough money to buy a tablet with Win 8
    • Got $1,000?

      [i]I hope I will have enough money to buy a tablet with Win 8[/i]

      Cause that's what you'll need by the time they get through with this.
      • I doubt it ...

        Microsoft KNOWS they have to stop (or at least slow) the iPad juggernaut. They cannot afford to come in over that $500 to $830 price range.
        M Wagner
      • Well they can cheapen it... they do with a lot of the OEM junk that's out there. Not much good for re-sale.
      • Don't worry...

        If you wait just a couple of weeks after Windows 8 launch you'll be able to grab many deals on HP's, Dell's, Asus', etc. "fire sales" on Windows On ARM and on Samsung's Intel tablets when people find out that the former can't run basic Windows apps like WinRAR, PGP Desktop and tons upon tons of IE plug ins. The latter will die an even lower death when buyers start complaining about their sub par battery life, their excessive heat and noise due to the fan, sub par performance [since these systems will feature Intel Cloverview] on desktop apps and dearth of upgrade options.

        The very high level tablets (based on ultrabook engines) will demand top dollar and might as well save the Windows 8 experience in the long run for those with deep pockets.