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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.
Tame the taskbar
Apparently the venerable Windows taskbar is not going to disappear without a fight.
Beginning with April's Windows 8.1 Update, you'll be able to pin Windows Store (Metro) apps to the taskbar. You'll also be able to make that taskbar appear by moving the mouse pointer to the bottom of the display, even if you're currently at the Start screen or in a Metro app.
You've also got new options for working with multiple monitors, which will be especially welcome if you gave up on that second monitor because the experience in Windows 8 was so awful. It's much better now.
And as this screenshot shows, the ability to pin new-style apps to the good old taskbar makes an old trick useful again. Unlock the taskbar and drag its top edge up so that it occupies two rows. That lets you see twice the number of program icons in the taskbar. (Be sure to lock the taskbar again after you're done.)