Quick Tip: Customize live tiles in the Windows 8 Start Screen

For better or worse, live tiles are part of Windows 8, so you should at least have a basic understanding of how they work.

Reactions to the Start Screen in Windows 8 tend to be on the passionate side, although I'm not really sure why. I have been using Windows 8 on a notebook PC for several months and I hardly ever see the Start Screen (previously referred to as the Metro UI). However, with that being said, no matter what device you use Windows 8 on, you will have to work with the Start Screen to some degree, which means you should at least know how to customize the Start Screen tiles when they need it.

Customized tiles

For new apps designed specifically for Windows 8, you are going to have the benefit of dynamic tiles on the Start Screen. Looking at the snapshot of my Start Screen (Figure A), you can see that the tiles are updating for news, the stock market, people, local weather, and Bing. As Windows 8 matures, dynamic tiles will become more feature-rich, which means that they will probably need to be managed, which can be done with a right-click.

Figure A

An example Start Screen
Right-click on a tile and you will see a set of options. The options you see depend on the application represented by that tile. For example, right-click on the Internet Explorer tile (Figure B) and you will see options to Pin or Unpin from Start and the Taskbar, an option to uninstall, and options to open in a new window, run as administrator, and open the file's location.

Figure B

Right-click options for Internet Explorer
On the other hand, right-click a native Windows 8 app, like Messaging, and you will see these options: Pin/Unpin, Uninstall, and Smaller/Larger (Figure C). Apps designed for the Start Screen can be the larger rectangle shape or they can be the smaller square shape. Which you choose to use is really a personal choice.

Figure C

Larger or smaller tiles - your choice
For live tiles, like the Bing (Figure D) or People, a right-click on the tile will also give you the option to turn off the live tile update feature. When you turn off the live tile featurethe tile reverts to the designated primary color. (The Bing tile is the second tile on the top row, with the check mark.)

Figure D

Update Bing tile or perhaps not

Bottom line

Managing tiles on the Start Screen may seem like a rather mundane thing to talk about, but that is only because we are dealing with the minimal Start Screen items that come with the initial Windows 8 initialization. As the operating system matures and the Microsoft ecosystem develops, managing and customizing the tiles on your Start Screen is likely to become a common basic maintenance task.

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Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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