Microsoft Windows 8 is due to be released to the retail market on October 26, 2012. And, while I don’t envision long lines camping out over night to be one of the first people to get their hands on the new operating system, I do expect more than a few copies to be sold.
Note: This list is specifically for Windows 8 installations on desktops or notebook computers with no touch interfaces. When the new Windows 8 tablets come out, we’ll make a list for those.
What to do
After using Windows 8 on some office test machines for months now, I think there are at least ten specific things every user should do to a newly installed Windows 8 operating system.
1. Check for updates: This piece of advice applies to any operating system you install no matter if it is Linux, Mac OS X, Windows XP or Windows 8. The first thing you do for any new OS installation is check for security updates. If you want some proof about how important updates are, take a look at the Microsoft Patch Tuesday Resource Page.
2. Personalize settings: This is a very subjective suggestion, but I like to personalize the various computers I use to reflect their purpose. Some of the PCs I use are for productivity and some are for fun and I like to identify them by how they are personalized.
One trick I like to use for desktop computers running Windows 8 is to move the tile representing the desktop to the upper left position on the Start Screen. At that position, all I have to do is press the Enter key and I’m on the desktop.
3. Trust your computer: This suggestion is an extension of the Personalization idea. If you want to propagate your personalized settings across your various computers via the cloud, you will need to establish the trustworthiness of your Windows 8 computers. Setting up the Trusted PC feature is also important if you plan to take advantage of SkyDrive.
4. Trim tiles: Despite Microsoft’s recent peculiar attitude toward the “Metro UI” nomenclature, the fact is that tiles play an important role in how Windows 8 works. So, it only makes sense that you should spend some time arranging the tiles on the Start Screen. For example, I seldom use instant messaging, so I remove that tile entirely. Depending on your preferences, there are bound to be more than a few tiles that can be removed, or at least re-sized. You may have to trim and arrange times from time to time as you add and subtract applications.
5. Turn on Administrative Tools: As part of the tile trimming process, I like to add the Administrative Tools tiles to the Start Screen and arrange them in their own group. As someone who spends a great deal of time configuring and reconfiguring Windows, I like having these tools readily available.
These are the kinds of tools you are likely to need as you fine tune your Windows 8 installation. Once you get Windows 8 set up the way you want it, you can turn them off if you wish.
6. Always open Internet Explorer in Desktop mode: First, let me say that have nothing against Internet Explorer 10. It is a perfectly fine web browser. However, I am not a big fan of IE or any app, running in the full screen Metro style (sorry, I don’t know what else to call it). That’s why I change the default configuration in Windows 8 to force IE to run in desktop mode.
7. Disable lock screen: On a desktop PC, there is really no need to have a lock screen displayed while the system waits for you to enter your password. Using the group policy editor, you can disable the lock screen.
8. Install your apps: Windows 8 has lots of handy built-in applications, however, you will still need to install additional software. For example, my preferred web browser is Chrome. I have also been using Office 2013 lately and on my gaming PCs I have to install Steam and World of Warcraft. For efficiency’s sake, I like to install as many third-party apps as I can before I move on to the next thing on my list.
9. Group tiles and pin to taskbar: This is the reason why you want to get your applications installed. Because once they are, you will want to make another pass at the Start Screen to move and resize tiles into some organized system of your choosing. This may take some time initially, but it will be worth the effort in the long run.
This is also a good time for deciding which applications to pin to your Taskbar. For Windows 8 Desktops, the Taskbar should play a primary role in how you navigate your system. I suppose some users will continue to place icons on their desktop, but I much prefer the Taskbar.
10. Turn on File History: One of Windows 8 new features, and one that is much appreciated, is the ability to automatically back up files using File History. Using File History you can protect the data located in common folders like your libraries or in other folders that you designate. Files can be saved automatically and incrementally to external drives or to storage on a network.
Add your own
Okay, obviously this is a subjective list. These are some of the first things I find myself doing when I install or reinstall Windows 8 on a desktop or notebook PC, but it is not the definitive list. What other configuration tweaks do you recommend when installing Windows 8?