Five Windows 8.1 shortcuts and tricks you need to know

These tips are meant to enhance your user experience with the Windows 8.1 and its update.

Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update brought quite a few changes, with some a little confusing to users.

Here are 5 main tips by Tech Support to help you configure five of the important changes to suit your own preferences.

1. Disable Bing integration into search and configure Smart Search: In Windows 8.1, the search function (called Smart Search) has been integrated with Bing. Even your local searches are sent to Microsoft’s Bing servers. If you don’t want information about all your files and searches sent to Microsoft, you can change the way Smart Search works.

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey(Windows key)+I to open “Settings”
  • Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Charms bar
  • Click "Search and apps"
  • Click "Search" in the side bar
  • In the section “Use Bing to search online”, move the slider “Get search suggestions and web results from Bing” to “Off”

If you want to use Bing as your search engine for the Internet but want to reduce the amount of information Microsoft stores about you, you can leave the above setting at “On” but configure the settings under the section “Your search experience”. Choose the setting “Don’t get personalized results from Bing”. This is supposed to stop Bing from using your search history and location.

2. Check what is using your disk space: Checking to see how much disk space programs are taking up is not as simple in Windows 8.x  as it used to be. However, in Windows 8.1 Update it became easier to check the space used by Windows Store apps and by certain personal folders. Here's how:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”.
  • Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Charms bar.
  • Under PC settings, select “PC and devices”.
  • Select “Disk space”. There may be a pause while Windows calculates how much space is being used.
  • Click or tap “See my app sizes” to get a list with the space used by individual installed apps.
  • To uninstall an app, select it and an uninstall button will appear.

There is also a section “Media and files” that lists the space used by personal folders like Pictures, Documents and Downloads. This is for information only. Actually deleting files has to be done elsewhere, such as from File Explorer.

3. Bring Libraries back: Not everybody uses the Windows feature called “Libraries” but, if you do, you will not find them displayed in the Windows 8.1 File Explorer the way they were previously. They are still available, however, and are easy to restore.

  • Open File Explorer
  • Select the View tab on the ribbon
  • Choose “Options”
  • Select “Change folder and search options” if necessary
  • The “Folder Options” dialog box will open
  • Select the “General” tab
  • In the section “Navigation Pane, put a check in the box next to “Show libraries”
  • Click or tap “OK”
  • Close and reopen File Explorer

File Explorer will now show Libraries instead of the default view “This PC”. If you want to restore the default view for File Explorer, just remove the check by “Show Libraries” and click “OK”.

4. Make the hidden Administrative Tools visible: Like previous versions of Windows, Windows 8.1 comes with an assortment of system tools that are collected under Windows Administrative Tools. Examples are the Task Scheduler and the Event Viewer. However, this collection is normally hidden. They aren’t in the All apps list and aren’t displayed on the Start screen. They also won’t show up when you search the Apps list. It is often convenient to have quick access to these tools and here is how to make them easier to find:

  • Go to the Start screen
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”
  • Select “Tiles”
  • Set the slider to “Yes” for the entry “Show administrative tools”

Tiles for the administrative tools will now be displayed in the Apps list and they will appear when you search for them by name.

5. Enable or disable automatic updating of Windows Store apps: By default, Windows 8.1 automatically downloads and installs updates for Windows Store apps without any notification. Many consider that a convenience but not everybody likes automatic updating. If you prefer, you can disable it.

  • Click the Windows Store icon to open it
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”
  • Under Settings, click "App updates"
  • On the App updates screen, move the slider “Automatically update my apps” to "No"

Of course, if you like automatic updates, you can set the slider to "Yes".

And there you have it - five tweaks to have Windows 8.1 work your way.

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