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Maximize your first 30 minutes with Windows 8

Loyd Case | Oct. 30, 2012
You've successfully installed Windows 8. You're staring at the Start screen, in all its flat-tiled glory, and it all seems completely alien based on your previous experience with Windows.

Keyboard shortcuts

All of this mousing around may seem tiring, so you may want to consider using basic keyboard shortcuts for easier navigation. I won't list all the shortcuts, but here are some popular ones that ease navigation chores. Most involve pressing the Windows key plus some other key.

Windows-D: Go to the bare desktop. If you're in the Start screen, you just switch to the desktop. If you're in the desktop, it behaves like the Windows 7 hotkey, toggling between running applications and the bare desktop.

Windows Key: Switches between the Start screen and the last application used.

Windows-C: Shows the Charms bar.

Windows-R: Goes to the desktop and shows the Run dialog box.

Windows-E: Opens the computer, which enables you to use the file manager.

Windows-I: Pops up settings, where you can easily get to the Windows settings screen or shut down the PC.

Windows-X: Brings up the Simple Start menu, allowing easy access to key system-management apps, like the control panel.

Check out our comprehensive list of hotkeys, in case you're looking for more.

Basic networking

When you initially set up Windows 8, network drivers were installed and started. (If not, you'll need to install a network driver.) But that's just the first step. Assuming you have other PCs, you'll need to connect your Windows 8 PC to your existing network.

Assuming you have a workgroup created, you'll set up Windows 8 networking just like you did with Windows 8. The quickest way is to press Windows-D to get to the desktop, then press Windows-C. The Charms bar in the desktop is slightly different than in the Start screen in one important way: Clicking on Settings will present you with a pop-out that looks like the one you see in the Start menu but happens to list the Control Panel, Personalization and other desktop-centric settings. At this point, you can run the Control Panel, and then manage network settings there.

Windows 8 supports HomeGroups, so you can also connect your PC to the Windows Homegroup, provided you know the password. Homegroup settings, including entering or changing the HomeGroup password, reside in PC Settings. Press Windows-C and select Settings, and then select Change PC Settings and navigate to the HomeGroup menu entry.

Note that you may have been asked to connect to the HomeGroup during the Windows setup. If you've taken care of that chore already, then you're good to go. But this screen is also handy for changing sharing settings.

Managing users

User management in Windows 8 works similarly to the way it did in Windows 7. However, you now have two ways to manage users. The old way, through the user Control Panel, still exists. Remember, getting to the Control Panel is easy: Press Windows-X to bring up the Simple Start menu and click on the Control Panel menu entry. There's one new entry in the legacy Control Panel user-account-management screen, however.


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