Every Windows power user has a default set of steps they perform right after installing Windows, which involves configuring Windows the way they want it, downloading any pending Windows Updates (a painful multi-step process today), setting up a backup regimen, installing key applications, and the like. I'm no different, and over the years I've honed the post-Setup configuration with each passing Windows release, as well as the set of applications I install. This is changing, again, with, and will change even more as useful Metro-style apps become available.
For now, with the Windows Developer Preview, we're pretty much stuck with installing and using "classic" desktop-style applications, not newer Metro-style apps. So the list of stock applications I install hasn't changed, yet, compared to what I use with Windows 7. I'll discuss application compatibility in a future "8 is Enough" article, but the short version is that it's been pretty successful overall, with just a few notable exceptions. Ditto for hardware compatibility.
Post-Setup configuration is another matter entirely, as this process has already changed dramatically since Windows 7, and I expect the Developer Preview experience to closely match that of the final shipping version of Windows 8. (There will be some differences, of course. Microsoft will make changes to Windows 8 based on feedback, and some configuration options--like themes--just aren't available yet in this earlier preview build.)
A couple of notes up-front:
User accounts. You can now choose between an old-fashioned local user account and signing in with your Windows Live ID. I recommend the latter, if you have one, since it comes with some additional functionality. I'll write more about this in the future, and as the feature develops.
Security software. Windows 8 ships with the equivalent of Microsoft Security Essentials built right in, so there's no reason to download and install this software separately (or trigger the download through Windows Update). Windows 8's security software is now managed through the reinvigorated Windows Defender, which also provides real-time protection against malware too.
Two places for configuration. As with Windows 8 itself, the Windows 8 post-configuration tasks (and any future configuration) occur through two separate user experiences. That is, there are separate Metro-style and desktop versions of Control Panel, each of which provides different options. You'll want to examine and use both.
OK, so you've installed Windows 8 and you're staring at the new Start screen in disbelief. Now what? Per the first article in this series, you may want to cull unwanted tiles from the Start screen and organize the remaining tiles in a way you like. There's a lot less reason to do this now than will be the case in the future (remember, few Metro-style apps are available right now), but I don't like how every single shortcut that's added to the Start menu during application installs is also plastered as a tile on the Start screen. You may want to spend some time cleaning it up. (I did.)
As with Windows 7, it's probably a good idea to get Windows Update up to date first. You can access a minimal version of Windows Update through the Metro-style Control Panel, but you're better off just hitting the desktop and launching the classic version first. Of course, there's no obvious way to do this, since the old Start menu is gone. That's OK, since Windows 8 includes a new version of Start Menu Search, which I call Start Screen Search.
From the Start Screen, simply start typing (no need to tap the Windows key first): windows update. As you can see below, the new Search experience appears when you type, and by default, you'll see a list of apps and applications that meet the criteria of your search.
For windows update, there aren't any apps or applications, but there are some Control Panel choices. So click the Settings choice to change the search results list from apps and applications to Control Panel. You'll see something like this:
Click "Check for updates". The Windows desktop will appear, with the classic version of Windows Update. So install any pending updates, restart as need, rinse, wash, and repeat.
Once that's done, it's probably a good idea to check and make sure that all of the devices attached to your PC are correctly identified and provided with an up-to-date driver. In Windows 8, as with previous Windows versions, the best way to do so is via Device Manager. The process for finding and launching this interface is similar to how we found Windows Update: Use Start Screen Search, this time with the search term device man. You see Device Manager located under Settings.
If there are any missing device drivers, remember that Windows 8 is fully compatible with Windows 7 drivers, so the process for finding and installing them is the same as it is with that OS.
Once the system is properly configured with updates and your hardware is working properly, it's time to install whatever applications you typically use. (In the future, this will involve installing Metro-style apps as well.) There's nothing unusual about this process per se, and it should work as it does in Windows 7. (Again, there are a few application compatibility issues I've seen; I'll discuss this in a future article.)
Control Panel (Metro)
You should spend a bit of time examining each setting in the new Metro-style Control Panel.
Some of the notable settings include:
New account protection options. While you can and should protect your PC and user account with a password (mandatory for Windows Live ID-type accounts, of course), you may want to make the logon process simpler, especially if you're using a touch-enabled device. So in addition to standard alphanumeric passwords, Windows 8 supports two new alternatives: Picture password and PIN logon. With Picture password, you can optionally configure a photo that you'll use as the basis for some touch gestures (two touches and a swipe). Apply these gestures over the photo to logon. With PIN login, you can use four numbers to logon, instead of your full password, similar to how you can access your bank account with an ATM card. Neither of these approaches replaces your account password. Instead, they are used to make logging in simpler.
Wireless. Windows 8 supports an Airplane Mode, similar to that feature on a smart phone. This option only appears on PCs with wireless networking capabilities, and only makes sense on portable computers.
Location awareness. Cribbing from another smart phone feature, Windows 8 can also relay your location information to compatible (Metro-style) apps. Note that this feature is disabled by default because of privacy implications. You can find it in the Privacy settings area of Control Panel.
PC Reset. This is one of Windows 8's greatest features. It allows you to completely reinstall Windows in just minutes and, optionally, restore all of your data (documents, photos, music, and so on) and other personal files, and Metro-style apps and their settings. This can be found in General.
Sync PC. If you logon with a Windows Live ID, you can optionally sync configured settings to the cloud (in SkyDrive) and then reapply those settings anytime you logon to another Windows 8-based PC. Synced settings include personalization (colors, background, and lock screen), themes (background image, sounds, and other desktop configurations), ease of access, language, apps settings, web browser (IE history and favorites), and more.
Homegroup. If you use homegroup sharing as I do, you'll want to enable this feature, logon to your homegroup, and then configure which homegroup features (documents, music, pictures, videos, and printers and devices) your PC shares.
Control Panel (Classic)
In the Developer Preview, the classic Control Panels appears to look and work just much that in Windows 7. There are a few differences, including a few new control panels like Location Settings (previously called Location and Other Sensors), File History, Language (previously part of Region and Language), Region (previously part of Region and Language), and Taskbar (previously Taskbar and Start Menu). There are also some control panels missing since Windows 7, including Backup and Restore* and Getting Started. (Desktop Gadgets is present in the Developer Preview but could be removed, as Microsoft is not supporting this feature further.)
(*Note: Windows Backup is actually available in the Developer Preview. Just choose Restore Windows 7 Backups and then click Set up backup.)
Configuring Startup Applications
In previous versions of Windows, you would use different tools and methods to prevent applications from auto-starting when Windows booted. In Windows 8, this is now consolidated in the new Task Manager. To find this interface, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar (in the Windows desktop) and choose Task Manager. You'll see a window like the following:
Click the More Details button to expand the view. The window will change to resemble this:
Click the new Startup tab to view the Startup process management functionality. As you can see, each application and process that auto-starts when Windows boots is listed here. (Note that no Metro-style apps are listed. According to Microsoft, Metro-style apps cannot be auto-started at boot time.)
To prevent any of these items from auto-starting at boot, right-click and choose Disable. Repeat for each item you'd like to prevent auto-starting.
At this point, you should have a fairly clean and well-configured Windows 8 PC on your hands. Of course, there's a lot more going on here, and additional worries around hardware and application compatibility that could prevent this from happening fully. I'll look at these issues, and other related Windows 8 Developer Preview concerns, in future articles in this series.