Christmas was just a few days ago. Chances are that at least some of you received a new Windows 8 PC for Christmas. And with this being the end of 2013 (can you believe that?) business owners may be making large end of the year purchases to get them on the books for this budget year, or to get them on the books for 2013 taxes. With a new computer very often comes a learning curve. If you are used to Windows 7 moving to Windows 8 can be a bit daunting. But rest easy, your beloved Windows 7 is still really there under the hood. And with a few tweaks and tips, you can get used to using Windows 8. Here are a few things that you should do after you receive a new Windows 8 computer.

1. Update to Windows 8.1: Windows 8.1 was just released in October. While some computers on the shelves may already have the newest version, there are probably still computers shipping with Windows 8. One of the first things you should do is update to the new Windows 8.1. Updating is easy. Just click on the Store tile on your home screen. You may see a huge tile inviting you to upgrade to Windows 8.1 right there. If not, swipe in from the right of the screen to search for Windows 8.1. The update will add many new features which you can read about on the Windows 8.1 website.

2. Setup your SkyDrive: SkyDrive is Microsoft’s Cloud based storage service. When you get your PC you should open up SkyDrive. It will probably already be connected to your Microsoft account if you logged in when you first turned on your PC. Swipe in from the right and click Settings to reveal the SkyDrive settings. Click on Options. Here you can tell if it you want to access all of your SkyDrive files offline. Changing this setting to On will depend on your computer. For example, on my Surface 2 which has only a 32gb hard drive, I would not want to sync all of my files. However, on my Lenovo Yoga which has a 250gb hard drive I can afford to sync my entire default SkyDrive.

I said default SkyDrive because you get 7gb of space free when you sign up for a new SkyDrive account. This is enough plenty of important documents and keep your favorite photos backed up. You can check your space by swiping in from the right of your Windows 8 computer and clicking PC Settings–>SkyDrive. You can also purchase more space.

3. Personalize your Start screen: You were probably prompted to choose a color when you first turned on your new PC and initialized Windows. But Windows 8.1 allows you to customize even more. One of the main improvements over Windows 8 is that newly installed programs no longer add themselves to your Start screen. The eliminates having a ton of tiles on your Start screen that you never use. Instead you can now swipe up the screen from the middle (swiping from the bottom does something different which we will get to) to reveal all apps.  Here you can access all of your apps, or choose to add one to your Start screen. To do so just click and hold an an app. It should highlight with a checkmark next do it. Then click on Pin to Start at the bottom of the screen. One of these important tiles is for your Desktop. If you were a Windows 7 user you will be looking for your desktop. If it is not already there on the left side of your Start screen (it depends on your computer), add the Desktop Tile for easy access.

Swiping up from the bottom of your screen provides you with the option to customize your Start screen by arranging it into groups. You can create groups like social media, work, games, or photography. Then drag and drop your tiles to rearrange them in you new groups. When done just hit the Windows button again to save.

4. Setup Office 365: Certain computers or tablets that you purchase may come with a copy of Office 365 installed. If you purchase a key separately you will need to input that into your copy of Office. Open up any MS Office app like Word and you should be prompted to input your key. And when working be sure to save your documents to your SkyDrive account so that they are backed up and accessible from all of your devices. For more information and tips on installing Office 365 see the Office website.

5. Install Essential Apps: Depending on which version of Windows 8 you have you can install apps in two different ways. Windows RT 8.1 allows you to install apps only from the Windows Store. There are thousands of apps there to choose from. Chances are that you will find an app to handle whatever you are looking for. However, if your computer is running Windows Pro 8.1 you can also download apps from your browser, or even install apps using a CD, DVD, or USB key. Install only what you need to get your job done when out and about. Try to avoid installing unnecessary apps that take up valuable hard drive space.

These are just a few tips based on questions that I have received from users switching over to Windows 8. There is so much more that you can do. I especially love using Windows 8.1 on a touch device. Some tasks are easier, and getting things done is faster.

Have any questions about using Windows 8? Just ask.


Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement in the compensated Office Ambassador program. All opinions are my own.