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Maximize your first 30 minutes with Windows 8

Loyd Case | Oct. 30, 2012
You've successfully installed Windows 8. You're staring at the Start screen, in all its flat-tiled glory, and it all seems completely alien based on your previous experience with Windows.

You also have what's known as "single sign on." You no longer need to enter your account info when you go to the Microsoft Store, the Music store, or other features. You'll be able to sync your main PC's settings with other Windows 8 PCs you may use, provided you can log in to those PCs with your Microsoft account. So it's easy to keep your Windows 8 laptop and Windows 8 desktop in sync.

Drawbacks of a Microsoft account

As useful as a Microsoft account can be, there are pitfalls to using one, too. SkyDrive itself has some odd limitations compared with similar services such as Dropbox. SkyDrive imposes a 2GB file size limit, which makes uploading large, high-definition video files problematic. Also, Microsoft has reserved the right to monitor what you upload, and if it thinks what you've uploaded is illegal, you'll find those files deleted. If that Big Brother aspect of SkyDrive troubles you, you may want to consider other services instead.

SkyDrive on the Desktop

A Windows 8-style SkyDrive app is included with your Windows 8 installation, but how do you get to your SkyDrive folder from desktop software, like Microsoft Office? If you use the Office 2013 preview, you're asked for your Microsoft login, so you'll automagically have SkyDrive access. But other apps might not be so smart. In addition, you may simply want to copy files between local folders and SkyDrive. While you can do this with a Web browser, that's a cumbersome process at best.

The answer is to download and install the SkyDrive app. The SkyDrive desktop application adds a SkyDrive folder to your system and conveniently adds it to the Favorites list in the Windows file manager.

Microsoft supplies SkyDrive apps for Windows (Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8--but not Windows XP), Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and MacOS. So if you're using SkyDrive, you'll want to get the necessary apps.

App confusion

Before we look at the preinstalled apps, it's discussing for a moment what an app actually is.

Windows 8 now has the concept of two types of apps. One type is called Windows 8 apps. These are the apps you buy or download for free from the Microsoft Store--and only from the Microsoft Store. Most will have some cross-platform capability, so they'll also be available on Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft's tablet-only OS that runs on ARM processors.

The other type of app is what we normally think of when we think of software running on Windows--what Microsoft calls "desktop apps," though individual Microsoft folk have occasionally slipped up and called them "legacy apps." Desktop apps will be sold and serviced as they always have. You can get to them from the Microsoft Store, but you'll typically be taken to the publisher's website. You can buy them from retail outlets and install them that way. Other ways to buy them include various digital-downloads purveyers--from to Steam to direct from the developer.


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