How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

Summary: Microsoft will be giving Windows 8 users the option to log into their PCs and tablets using their Windows Live ID. Here's what you'll get if you do so.

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Microsoft officials shared more specifics around the coming ability of Windows 8 to sync user settings and app purchases in a September 26 post on the Building Windows 8 blog.

Microsoft revealed at the Build conference that users will be allowed to sign into their Windows 8 PCs using an existing or newly created Windows Live ID. (Signing in this way is not required; it is an option.)

According to today's post by Katie Frigon, the group program manager of the You-Centered Experience team (yes, that is her real title), there are advantages of going the Live ID route. By doing so, she blogged, users can:

  • Associate the most commonly used Windows settings with your user account. Saved settings are available when you sign in to your account on any Windows 8 PC.
  • Reacquire your Metro style apps on multiple Windows 8 PCs. ("The app’s settings and last-used state persist across all your Windows 8 PCs.")
  • Save sign-in credentials for the different apps and websites you use and easily get back into them without having to enter credentials every time.
  • Automatically sign in to apps and services that use Windows Live ID for authentication

I believe the sync mechanism here is the next version of Microsoft's Live Mesh PC-to-PC sync service. (I've asked the Softies just to be sure, but no word back yet and they're not commenting one way or the other.) Note that the new syncing seemingly works across multiple Windows 8 PCs, not PCs running any other version of Windows (and not with Windows Phone or other non-Windows-based PCs or phones).

In the Windows 8 Control Panel, there is a section called “Sync PC Settings" that will allow Windows 8 users to turn sync on or off. Users can turn off all syncing or vary it based on the type of setting. (Customizable settings groups include Personalize, Themes, Ease of access, Language preferences, Apps, Web browser, "Other stuff" and Some passwords.)

The syncrhonized settings data is stored in the Microsoft "cloud" separately from users' other Windows Live data, ("for example, what you store on SkyDrive," Frigon said.)

There are other ways that business users can take advantage of the roaming state/settings, as well. IT administrators can control what users can sync on their work PCs through group policy. In addition, Frigon said in her post:

"Using the new Restore/Refresh tools, it is possible to easily create an image that has your preferred desktop apps installed, and then use that as a refresh point.  If you do want to roam your settings for desktop apps then you can continue to use the mechanisms available for roaming profiles and client side caching of files available with Active Directory and Windows Server."

Potential Windows 8 users: Can you see yourselves using the new Windows 8 sync capabilities? Will this encourage you to log into Windows 8 with Windows Live ID?

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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30 comments
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  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    I can see a few benefits. It'd be especially awesome once everyone had Windows 8, but before then it might be a little flakey. We'll see. I would personally have my own login for my personal PC, but then have anyone else who wanted to use the machine use their Live login :)
    Imrhien
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    I've been using Live Mesh on Windows 7 for some time now to synch my laptop and desktop. It's great. I'm a little concerned about having to log into Windows with a Windows Live ID though since I use a domain account. I guess they will link them like Live Mesh does.
    Sir Name
    • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

      @Sir Name It's optional, you don't have to login with a live ID if you don't want to.
      goombawa
      • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

        @goombawa

        After I wrote my post, I remembered that when I set up my user account on the Windows 8 Developer Preview it gave me the option specifying a Windows Live ID for the account. So you can associate a Windows Live ID with a local or domain account. That's a pretty smart and simple integration of Windows Live with existing user management.
        Sir Name
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    i'll never use it.
    g_keramidas@...
    • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

      @g_keramidas@... - Then why are you posting?
      PollyProteus
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    For school's that use Live@edu this is absolutely fantastic! Centrally synced data no matter where you go or what device you use!
    aredubbya
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    I'm more interested in any improvements in mesh & skydrive for windows 7 users. Many will be using 7 for a long while yet.
    sheldyck
  • Three reactions to the sign-in via M$ Live ID:

    1. Useful functionality for consumers. My tablet/ultrabook could look the same as my desktop. (Does that mean if I buy a METRO app I can use it on any W8 device? Without paying more? STGTBT.)

    2. This bit of 'Windows Reimagined' ... is a copy of SUN's network terminal login from way back. 'Twas a good idea then and 'tis a good idea now.

    3. Another piece of my PERSONAL computer ... now moved to a M$ datacentre. Ken Hess calls me paranoid: he's right ... but my defence is 'justifiable cause'.
    jacksonjohn
    • So what?

      @johnfenjackson@... Already Apple does the same exact thing with MobileMe. Storing your personal profile settings on THEIR datacentre.
      MSFTWorshipper
    • For non-US users ...

      @johnfenjackson@...
      ... it means free access by US law under the Partiot Act.

      I wish you US people weren't so gullable whenever the word 'patriot' is used. The consequences extend further than your own shores.
      Patanjali
    • Guantes de vinilo

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      andra08
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    Signing into my Windows PC with Windows Live ID would make my Active Directory Server useless. It's nice to back up my Firefox browser settings, extensions, and cookies (essential for logging into my Bank of America account) and any files and projects that I currently have, but then I do back them up to my Linux server at home. I would certainly buy myself a Windows 8 tablet (I prefer having a desktop experience regardless of any form factor, such as smartphones) and have it synchronized to a tablet. It'd be nice to associate my Active Directory profile with my Live ID account.
    Grayson Peddie
    • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

      @Grayson Peddie,

      You know, it's odd, but Windows 8 has such a TOTAL consumer orientation that i just assumed it wouldn't support enterprise functionality -- such as Domains and Active Directory!

      On the other hand, reading Mary-Jo's description of this feature did remind me an awful lot of "roaming profiles' in Domains. Given the amount of trouble I had when I was working in operations trying to sort out problems with lost or corrupted roaming profiles, let's just hope that Microsoft commits sufficient resources to support the less sophisticated consumer-level customers when they have trouble with their profiles.
      MikeMJ
      • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

        @MikeMJ This sounds like Roaming Profiles Light. The biggest problem with roaming profiles was large files being copied between the server and the PC at login and logoff. This sounds like it's just saving settings and states which would be small.
        joshandrebekah
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    microsoft you can stick windows 8 where the sun don't shine i have run vista and i have run windows 7 (vista 2 ) and i have see your windows 8 on the iphone and IT SUCKS
    AGAIN YOU HAVE MESSED UP AGAIN i am sorry go back to xp and build off of it you will have a great windows and people would buy but windows 8 is sunk all i read is no no no no no i am not buying crap windows 8 you made the mess so clean it up
    ttx19
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    I personally would like to see the syncing work between WINDOWS 8 and WINDOWS 7 PCs.
    lkuhnle@...
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    Using Live ID will allow developers to provide "cloud-based" settings and app state without having to manage user identities themselves. This is a big win.
    tca9
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    Big win, but Next Problem: Managing multiple identities. I have a Live ID for personal stuff and one for business, but it's clumsy to switch between them.
    tca9
  • RE: How Microsoft's Windows 8 will sync users' settings and apps

    Using Live ID will allow developers to provide "cloud-based" settings and app state without having to manage user identities themselves. This is a big win.
    tca9