So you have a new Windows 8 PC … now what?

A salesperson has guided you through the purchase of a new PC (desktop or laptop) and it’s now sitting in a box in your home. Assuming you can see the little symbols showing where to plug in the keyboard and mouse (which in reality are usually all just USB these days anyway), you should be good to just plug everything in and go, right?

Ah, well, almost.

Chances are that most PCs you’ll drag home from a retail store have a manufacturers release of Windows 8 installed on them. Unfortunately, there are usually a ton of updates that have been released by Microsoft since that PC has its software installed … the most important being the immensely helpful upgrade to Windows 8.1

That’s your second job – update all the things.

Umm .. second? What about the first?

Well you can’t run any of the updates until you’ve completed the setup screens. There aren’t very many tricky questions in here, honest, but the ‘Account’ is the biggest gotcha. And you also want to make sure your PC has access to the internet (you’ve plugged in a network cable OR you add the WiFi network details during the setup process).

Windows will ask you to use a Microsoft account (Microsoft ID or Live ID) for signing into your new computer. If you don’t have one, you can create one. It’s the equivalent of Google asking you to create an account for using some of its services. You can still use an old school style local account, but your Microsoft account will sync settings to another computer and (more importantly) remember some of your settings and apps if this PC ever crashes and needs re-installing.

Whatever option you choose …. Remember your password!!! Heck, write it down on a piece of paper and store it in a bank safety deposit box. And don’t make it ‘password’.windows 8.1 metro

OK, so let’s assume you navigated that and now have the weirdly looking ‘Metro’ screen of colourful tiles that are as confusing as hell if you’ve never seen them before.

The tell-tale sign that you DON’T have Windows 8.1 is that you don’t see a little power symbol icon in the top right hand corner, like this:

windows 8.1 power icon

Trust me, that icon alone will save your sanity.

But, to get Windows 8.1, you first need to install any updates to Windows 8 that your PC may be missing. Microsoft will tell you to: “Open Windows Update by swiping in from the right edge of the screen (or, if you’re using a mouse, pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen and moving the mouse pointer up), tapping or clicking Settings, tapping or clicking Change PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Update and recovery.

I’ll tell you that ‘Search is your friend’ so, with the Metro tiles displayed, just start typing the words Windows Updates. Search will magically appear and display check for updates (or similar) in the results. Run this gem of a tool a million times, including reboots. OK, maybe not quite a million, but don’t think you’re done after the first one.

You’ll know you are done when you can click on the Store and then click on the Windows 8.1 tile and it actually does something. Until then, back to Windows updates you go!

Hooray, now you can skip to Step 3 of this lovely Microsoft tutorial on how to install Windows 8.1:

WARNING: The Windows 8.1 update is approximately 3.5GB in size to download. Depending on your connection speed & number of teenagers in your house this may a) take some time b)blow your monthly download limit or c) both. You have been warned. But it’s still worth it. Trust me.

Yay! Having survived all that, you are still left facing those gorgeous Metro tiles with no clue how to use them. You can moan about how you hate change and force Windows to always start on the desktop (no, I’m not going to tell you how) or you can learn something new. Your brain cells will thank you for it, eventually. My top two tips are:

  1. ‘Type to search’ is your friend.
  2. So is the Windows key on your keyboard. If you EVER get stuck in a weird Windows 8 looking app, desperately pining for your desktop, hit your Windows key. You’ll be back at the Start screen with the Desktop tile waiting patiently for you, as always.

For everyone new to the Windows 8 look, I recommend this humorous but informative free Windows 8 training video (courtesy of our friends at Bigger Brains):

…. And probably this Windows 8.1 tutorial video from Microsoft

Huzzah! You’ll be a Windows 8.1 using expert in no time … until Microsoft releases Windows 10 to the public and gives you back your precious Start menu ( But that’s another blog post for another day.


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