Five Windows 8.1 Tips You Need to Know


Windows 8.1 and 8.1 Update brought quite a few changes. Here are tips 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.

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”
  2. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Charms bar
  3. Click "Search and apps"
  4. Click "Search" in the side bar
  5. 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.

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”.
  2. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Charms bar.
  3. Under PC settings, select “PC and devices”.
  4. Select “Disk space”. There may be a pause while Windows calculates how much space is being used.
  5. Click or tap “See my app sizes” to get a list with the space used by individual installed apps.
  6. 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.

  1. Open File Explorer
  2. Select the View tab on the ribbon
  3. Choose “Options”
  4. Select “Change folder and search options” if necessary
  5. The “Folder Options” dialog box will open
  6. Select the “General” tab
  7. In the section “Navigation Pane, put a check in the box next to “Show libraries”
  8. Click or tap “OK”
  9. 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:

  1. Go to the Start screen
  2. Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”
  3. Select “Tiles”
  4. 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.

  1. Click the Windows Store icon to open it
  2. Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+I to open “Settings”
  3. Under Settings, click "App updates"
  4. 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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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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On my machine, 'Tiles' comes up only from the Start screen, not the Desktop.


Yes, that is correct. That is why the first step in Tip 4 says explicitly, "Go to the Start screen".

Why do people keep banging on about needing special ways to access admin tools or using third-party start menus to replace the old Windows 7 ways of doing things?

Here are two simple steps that you use in Widows 8/8.1/8.1 Update 1 to get all of this.

1. Right-click on the Taskbar, mouse over Toolbars and click on Desktop - you now have a tree style menu to everything on your desktop.

2. Right-click on the Taskbar, mouse over Toolbars and click on New Toolbar, now in the window that opens navigate to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs and select this folder - you now have a toolbar that gives you, in tree format, everything on your computer.

(If you don't see the Program Data folder go to View in File Explorer and check the "Show Hidden Folders" option.)

Really people, don't make things any harder than they need to be.

Brilliant thank you!! Any other tips you care to share?

It didn't for me when doing it from the desktop - no settings / Tiles. From the RT screen all is well
Not complaining just clarifying. Great tip!

Did you click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Charms bar?

Yes, but the tiles selection is not there and from the RT interface it is right there on the top
I am not worried about this - I was just clarifying for other users

I appreciate that you want to be helpful and I don't want to drag this out but your reference to RT is puzzles me. Also. I have no problem starting from either the Desktop or the Start screen. Maybe you could send me an email?

The windows key I command brings up a different menu when you do it from the desktop. Your commands should start from the start (RT) screen

Rick, it is true that the Winkey+I opens a somewhat different Charms bar depending on whether you are on the Desktop or Start screen. However, the procedure described in Tips 1 and 2 works from either the Desktop or the Start screen. Tips 4 and 5 give explicit directions about where to begin. You mention RT. These tips were not tried on Windows RT.
Good tips, thanks. I use libraries almost exclusively to get to the folders I normally use. It allows me to standardize folder access across my computers which are configured very differently.

To bring Libraries back just right-click in the left pane of File Explorer. In the context menu that pops up click on "Show libraries". No need to go to View->Options->Folder Options.