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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.

The top clickable item under "Make changes to your account" is "Make changes to my account in PC settings." Clicking this item takes you to the Windows 8 version of user management. You can also access the Windows 8-centric user-management screen directly. Bring up the Charms bar, select Change PC Settings, and click on the Users menu entry.

Note that the system illustrated in this example is currently set up as a local account. One of the options in this screen (that's not present in the legacy User control panel) is "Switch to a Microsoft account." If you're a home PC user, you may not want to choose this, since you'll always be prompted for your Microsoft account login when you first start up your PC. But there are benefits to having a Microsoft account.

If you add Microsoft account sign-on after installing Windows 8, you'll be asked to supply your Microsoft login information.

Note that if you don't have a Microsoft account, you can click on the Sign up for a new email address link at the bottom, which will launch a browser where you can create both an account and a Hotmail address. However, you don't need to use the Hotmail address as your account ID. I use my personal (non-Hotmail) email account as my Microsoft account login.

You'll also be asked to verify whether the PC you're connecting to your account is trusted. You'll get either an email or an SMS text message (depending on how you configure your Microsoft account) asking you to verify this system. You only need to do this step once.

Note: You do not need to be connected to the Internet to log in to your PC when you turn it on--assuming you use the Microsoft account login feature. You can even disable the requirement to enter a password (you do so in the PC Settings Users screen), but you'll get a warning if you do this.

Only enable this if you're confident no one else will be using your system. If other people do, they'll have full access to your Microsoft Store account, your SkyDrive, and other shared features.

Benefits of a Microsoft account

Being connected to the Internet and logging in with a Microsoft account gives you several benefits. First, as mentioned earlier, you have access to your SkyDrive cloud storage. If you have other PCs, smartphones, or tablets, you can access SkyDrive from any of your Internet-connected devices. This feature saved my bacon during the course of my work at PCWorld, allowing me to send my editor a critical file using SkyDrive on my iPhone.

Every Windows 8 user gets 7GB of free SkyDrive storage. If you exceed that amount, you have to pay an additional, ongoing fee. However, 7GB is fairly substantial, provided you're not storing tons of high-resolution images and video.


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