Six clicks: Weird tricks that will actually make you happier with Windows 8.1

Six clicks: Weird tricks that will actually make you happier with Windows 8.1

Summary: Each new update chips away at the annoyances of Windows 8. Here are six power features that are new or improved with the Windows 8.1 update due in a couple of weeks.

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TOPICS: Windows 8
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  • Move your OneDrive cache

    Windows 8.1 has its own built-in file sync service, OneDrive (previously SkyDrive).

    By default, it allows you to sync files from the cloud to a system folder in your user profile. But if you're using a device with relatively limited storage, like a 32 GB tablet, that can be a problem.

    The solution is to right-click the OneDrive icon in the navigation bar on the left of File Explorer and choose Properties. On the Location tab, shown here, you can move the OneDrive files to another location, such as a MicroSD card in an expansion slot. Note that this option will fail unless the target drive is formatted with NTFS.

  • Turn on File History, the auto-backup feature

    Over the past decade, Windows has had no fewer than four different backup tools. Which no one ever used.

    File History, which is the implementation in Windows 8.x, is the latest incarnation, and it probably comes closer than any of its predecessors to delivering on the promise of being able to undelete files and folders, roll back to previous versions, and even restore or transfer all your data to a new PC.

    You need a separate storage device to use this feature: an external hard disk, a USB flash drive (which you should encrypt), or a network share, which you have to set up using the File History settings in the desktop Control Panel. (Although it's possible to point File History to a separate partition on your system drive, I don't recommend that setting, which leaves you completely unprotected in the event of a disk crash.)

    Oh, and the Windows 8.1 Update fixes a design flaw in previous versions of File History. Now, those backups also include OneDrive files you've synced to the local PC or device. So if you want to recover that brilliant paragraph from the first draft of the document you've been working on since last week, you can. Even if it's stored inthe cloud.

  • Lock down your flash drives

    Flash drives are wonderful ways to save important data.

    Flash drives are also terrible ways to lose important data.

    This is why I encrypt every flash drive that holds any of my personal data. I do the same to the MicroSD cards that are in some of my phones and tablets.

    In Windows 8.1, the feature is called BitLocker To Go. You can only encrypt a flash disk or MicroSD card using a PC running Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise. But after the disk is created you can unlock it and use it on any Windows version, including Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 8 Standard, and Windows RT.

    Right-click the drive icon in File Explorer and then click Turn On BitLocker. Enter a password, choose the encryption options, and wait till Windows finishes encrypting the current contents of the drive. You can then safely remove the drive or card and move it to a different machine. If you want the drive to unlock automatically on a PC after you sign in, choose that option when you enter the password to open it.

Topic: Windows 8

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  • Add the Win+X power menu to your toolkit

    I just started reading and already I can see a very useful feature.
    BoxOfParts
    • Re: BitLocker To Go

      "In Windows 8.1, the feature is called BitLocker To Go. You can only encrypt a flash disk or MicroSD card using a PC running Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise."

      I know Microsoft likes to dangle a carrot to get upgrades but this feature would be a great one to include across the skews.
      BoxOfParts
      • Friendly FYI...

        It's typically SKU
        robradina@...
        • That depends on

          the intent, doesn't it?
          nesdave
    • Win X Menu

      It's worth to mention, that there is great tool WinXEditor who lets you to personalize this menu, you can add whatever you want:
      http://s23.postimg.org/danymp88r/Win_Xmenu.png
      http://winaero.com/comment.php?comment.news.30

      Something like that Microsoft should add by default to Windows, and if you ask me, many more tools to personalize some elements, like context menu, task bar (something like Bins will be awesome) etc.
      Mr.SV
  • Two More:

    1. you can set the Start Button to go directly to the Apps Menu (you'll never have to see the Start Screen again)-(this in addition to booting directly to Desktop)

    2. you can still place the Task Bar on any of the four edges that you wish - just grab it and drag it there!
    Mujibahr
  • You got me going there Ed

    I was all excited that you could finally banish Metro. Oh well just have to see what Santa brings, maybe Father Nads will bring proper split screens to file explorer a la Dolphin.
    Alan Smithie
    • file explorer splitscreens

      It's been there all along.
      It's called multiple instances, you just open another file explorer and size the window however you like it.
      warboat
      • Re-read the post

        A la Dolphin !

        http://www.ghacks.net/2011/03/27/kdes-dolphin-tips-and-tricks/

        Multiple instances is laughable and a PITA, it just another FE process. The are 3rd party was of doing this but it would be nice if MS did it out of the box, it's very handy.
        Alan Smithie
        • Drag the window

          For split screens just drag one window to the right (It will auto re-size) and then drag the other to the left. holding Shift and a left click from the taskbar will open another instance of whatever you have clicked!
          Odiously it isnt splitting in the same window.
          JohnnyJammer
          • Halving the screen

            Once you have two Explorer windows to work with, select one and press Win+Left. Select another and press Win+Right.
            Remember Norton Commander :)
            cubeover
  • The return of the "Run" command

    that's what makes me happiest!
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • You Can

      pin both 'Run' and 'Cmd' to the Task Bar
      Mujibahr
      • I always have cmd pinned

        Even in Windows 7..... But you can't pin everything.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
        • The Right-Click has that...

          Actually, Right Clicking the Windows icon provides both "Command Line", and "Command Line as Administrator", which is really nice.
          TechNickle
        • I did

          I've pinned nearly everything I use.
          And once you get used to it. Moving the mouse to the Lower left "magic area" & clicking something in the start screen. Takes an identical number of clicks as moving the mouse to the lower left "Start button" & clicking something in the Start menu.

          I hate the "full screen" of metro. But the Start button/Start Screen thing is a non-issue once you get over the initial shock. Eventually you realize Win 8 / 8.1 has some really nice improvements over 7 & Vista.
          DavidLean2
    • Win+R

      It's always been there.
      codeslave
      • Without the screen winking out

        Metro style?
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
        • What do you mean

          What do you mean by screen winking out? I don't see that behavior on any of my systems.
          TechNickle
          • re screen winking

            Many that use Windows 8 consider the Start screen transfer jarring. That is what he means by 'winking out'. It doesn't bother everybody (me anyway) and can be offset by changing the start screen to share the same background as the desktop. The start screen is optimized for touch and while it works fine with mouse and keyboard the large space taken by tiles (icons) and the organization in columns and rows is objectionable to many, especially legacy users. Biggest issue faced by MS is making both touch centric and mouse centric users happy with the same OS. They are the bleeding edge of this development.
            The Heretic