Windows 8 tips

Last month I promised to include some Windows 8 tips in this month’s column. But first, let’s talk about a question I received from a reader concerning my advice on which operating system to buy. Basically, it boils down to some confusion over Windows 8 versus Windows 8.1. Specifically, the question was which one of those two operating systems would best serve a home user. In case you didn’t read my response online, I want to clear up the confusion here.

Put shortly, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are the same operating system. 

Think of it as an update. In fact, Microsoft, and the other software companies, all routinely update their operating systems. It’s only when there is a significant change in the structure or operations of the software, that a company will release a new version, with a new name. In the case of Microsoft, you can see this happen periodically throughout the development of Windows; e.g. Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista, 7, and then 8. All of those operating systems also have updates released that added to their base system, but didn’t modify it greatly enough to be called a new operating system.

I apologize for the confusion in my earlier column. I should have been clearer on that point. Hopefully, now everyone is on the same page. So when I say Windows 8, I am actually referring to the operating system and not any particular version. Of course, I would definitely recommend you upgrade your system to the newest version. You can do that online for free. Just visit and follow the instructions on the screen.

Like always, when performing a major software install or upgrade, be sure to back up all your personal files first! I believe that may even be one of the steps. Don’t skip it!

Ok, now that’s settled, let’s talk about a few tips to make Windows 8 a little friendlier. 

The first thing I’m going to recommend is the Start8 add-on. ( This software helps those who are used to Windows 7 menus make the transition to Windows 8. Basically, it adds the Start menu back in the lower left corner. Of course, you may decide you don’t need it and can get along just fine by using the Windows 8 charms bar. But, many people find it difficult to make the transition, especially if you are using a traditional computer. For those who are on touch screens, you may find you actually prefer to not use the desktop view, instead staying in the Windows 8 start screen.

That brings me to the next point. Did you know you have three unique views within Windows 8? You can use your computer in Desktop mode, Start Screen mode, or Apps view. For those most comfortable with the traditional way of using Windows, the Desktop mode is probably going to be what you want. I have heard many people say they prefer the Apps view though. I can tell you, I definitely prefer the Start Screen mode when using a touch screen device. 

So, all three views have good uses. I recommend you try them all. 

That brings me to my last point for this month. If you have done the 8.1 update, you can choose which view you would like to see when booting the computer. If you haven’t made any changes, when you boot up you will see the Start Screen. It’s the one that looks like a bunch of tiles. You should see a tile entitled “Desktop.” Click or touch that one, and you will be in Desktop mode. 

From here, you can right-click on the taskbar (at the bottom of the screen) and choose Properties -> Navigation. You should now see another Window appear that allows you to check a box for whichever view you prefer as your default view when starting your computer. 

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what Windows 8 can do, but hopefully these small tips will get you started. As always, if you have specific questions or comments, visit us online and leave a note. 

4 Responses to “Windows 8 tips”

  1. Glen Richter

    I would like to comment on your tips concerning windows 8or 8.1, I took someone’s advice telling me that I could not go wrong by putting in 8.1 and I have been kicking myself ever since. 8.1 does not have provisions for using Skype, google plus or any other video program, I have talked to Microsoft and I get no help from them and Skype says they are not making any changes to their program to accommodate 8.1, so my advice would be to make the move to 8.1 very cautiously. I guess it has some quality’s that are ok for the geekies but the average person doesn’t need it. You can go back to windows 8 but it entails a lot of monkey business.
    If Mr. Vanhoose has any cure for this I would appreciate knowing about it.

    Glen Richter

    • Ed VanHoose


      Thank you for taking the time to respond. I must admit I’m a little baffled at what’s happening with your computer though. Did you know that Skype is actually owned by Microsoft? It has been for quite some time now. They purchased it at a hefty price tag too! I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-$9 Billion. With that big of an investment, you can bet the company wants to ensure Skype is usable in their current operating system (8.1). So, I’m not sure who you spoke with who informed you “Skype says they are not making any changes to their program to accommodate 8.1.” Skype is Microsoft! And, Skype comes preloaded on all Windows 8 computers. As far as your concern over moving from 8 to 8.1, let me just say once again: this move is just an update to the existing operating system. If you already have Windows 8, then moving to 8.1 is unequivocally the right thing to do.

      I want to make sure you have some resources at hand for correcting your issue with Skype though. I wonder, have you tried updating it to the most recent version? You can do that pretty easily online at . Keep in mind though, you will need a computer with Windows XP with SP3, Vista, 7, 8 or 8.1, as well as a webcam for video calls and a microphone. I took those requirements directly from the site.

      Also, you might try uninstalling your current version before installing the new one. I know that sometimes I get an error when I install a new downloaded version over top of the old version. Most of the time it’s ok, but every once in awhile, something just doesn’t install right.

      As far as using other video programs with Windows 8.1, I don’t have any personal experience. I’ve been using Skype. But, I checked out Google+ hangouts, and I don’t see any issue with using hangouts with Windows 8.1. You just have to use a supported web browser. In fact, Google specifically says they support the most recent version of Windows (8.1) and the last two revisions. So, you should be able to use their service without problem! Here is the link to their system requirements page:

      I hope this helps! If you have any other questions/concerns, please let me know. I always enjoy hearing from readers!

  2. Vince A

    Mr. VanHoose,

    I wanted to drop you a note of thanks for all of the great tips in your articles. I’m an IT Admin at a financial firm in a suburb of Springfield called Chicago. (har har) I get the ICL publication because my wife and I own property served by the Egyptian Electric Co-op. Your advice is always great, especially concerning Windows 8. Having used many operating systems (Mac, Linux, Server OS), version 8 is the best by far.

    Even with no touch screen, the Windows 8 interface with tiles is awesome. I can find what I want just by typing, and with a single click of a tile, my browser (or any other application) is off and running.

    To Mr. Richter’s point, I’m wondering if there is a device driver issue with his webcam. It may not be that the programs (Google+, Skype, etc.) do not run, but that they might not interact with an older webcam. I know my old Logitech webcam is not supported on Windows 8 64-bit because it is quite old (6+ years). The device manufacturers cannot support these devices indefinitely because it is cost prohibitive. It is important to note the ‘system type’ in the properties. This will be 32-bit or 64-bit. Older devices may not have drivers for 64-bit operating systems, as they require different programming components to support. Device makers do not always have budgets to completely re-write the code to make these older devices work on a 64-bit architecture.

    Thanks again for your great articles, and I look forward to the next one!

    Vince A

    • Ed VanHoose

      Thanks for the reply Vince! You have some great points as well. Let me know if you ever have a suggestion for a topic. I’m always looking for new issues to keep everyone up-to-date!