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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.)
Sync the desktop and Start screen backgrounds
Windows 8.1 introduced a set of improvements designed to make things easier for people who don't like the new-style Start screen (See "The Metro hater's guide to Windows 8.1" for a full listing, with step-by-step instructions.)
But one of those options is worth calling out for special attention. You can set the Start screen background to be the same as the desktop background (aka wallpaper). To adjust this setting, go to the Start screen, click the Settings charm (or press Windows key + I) and then click Personalize.
The "Sync with desktop background" option is in the lower right corner of the group of 20 background options. After you save this change, you can click the Start button or tap the Windows key and shift between the Start screen and the current window, without a jarring change of background.