Windows 8.1 Pro RTM Tips and What’s New

With the release of of  Windows 8.1 Microsoft have added many new features and keyboard shortcuts, some of which I will try and cover here in the hope that it may help someone somewhere..!

Installation

Windows 8.1 (Professional) asks for a license key before you can proceed with any install.  It also seems to want you to enter your Microsoft account details or create a new one if you do not have one. 

Start Screen

The start screen has not changed much on initial viewing. 

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All Apps

There is a down arrow on the bottom left of the screen which takes you to a list of all applications, this is also mirrored in the Windows Server 2012 R2 release. 

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Naming icon groups is also a bit more accessible and intuitive, by right clicking any icon an option appears at the top to name the group.  Previously one had to zoom out and right click the group they wanted to rename.

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Tile Sizing

There are now four tile size options where previously there were only small and large for tiles that support these sizes only.  Here is the largest option for the supported weather tile.

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The smallest option for the same tile.  The SkyDrive tile to the right is the default of medium.

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Windows+S for Search

The Search (everywhere) box pops out on the right hand side of the screen as shown below.

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Only problem with this for me is that I use One Note and use the screen clipping function of Windows+S a LOT.   I have changed mine to Windows+A as it was next to S and not in use for anything.  So in order to get around this I found various articles on the internet and put my findings here. 

  • Open Registry Editor, Navigate to
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OneNote\Options\Other
  • Create a new DWORD and select Decimal and enter the ASCII code for the letter you want to use.  In my case I used A which is 65 for Windows+A. image

Restart One Note.

The trickiest part is getting used to the change !

Proper Shutdown

As Windows 8 and 8.1 do not properly shut down the computer (not the full kernel)  when shut down from the GUI using the charms bar.  There may be occasions where you want to shut down the machine properly.  To do this create a shortcut on the desktop with the following text.

shutdown.exe /s /t 0

Save this and I would recommend changing the icon to the Shutdown button via properties of the shortcut.  If you then right click and select save to Start menu it will also appear on your Windows Start Screen.

  • Right click on the desktop and select new short cut,
  • Enter shutdown /s /t 0
  • Name it Proper Shutdown or whatever you want.

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  • Save the file and right click properties to change icon
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    Close, then right click again and select Pin to start.

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This will now show on the start screen

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Windows+F

The Windows+F features opens a search box for FILE searching as opposed to the S option which searches everything.

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Integrated SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro

Windows 8.1 now has SkyDrive baked into the OS.  Previously one had to download the desktop app, configure it and view options in the task bar.  Now SkyDrive appears in Windows Explorer and right clicking this allows access to it and location change settings.

Other options are available from the start screen if you type SkyDrive you will have access to storage settings and sync settings as well as options to buy more storage !

SkyDrive Pro lets you Sync up with SharePoint libraries

Once you have given it a URL of a SharePoint library to sync with a shortcut appears while it syncs in the background.

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The “Start” Button

 

Show Desktop on Start

To change Windows default behaviour of opening up the start screen and change to desktop mode when Windows starts right click anywhere on the task bar and select properties.

Click the Navigation Tab, and select “When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start

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Two new start menu options

Now when you right click the new start button (previously bottom left of screen) there are two new options which are Network Connections and Shutdown or sign out.  It was easy in Windows 8 via CTRL+F4 but not very intuitive so this is a nice addition.

comparing Windows 8.0 start menu (left) to windows 8.1 (Right).

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Hyper-V Generation 2 Virtual Machines

Hyper-V in Windows 2012 R2 and in Windows 8.1 introduces the Generation 2 specification for virtual machines which aims to move away from legacy features and requirements for virtual machines which have been around for many years.  Generation 2 adds new features such as support for PXE booting from a virtual SCSI disk rather than the old legacy adaptor which was required when using PXE network installation images.  Increased bandwidth offered by SCSI allows faster performance as well as being the default disk type.

See comparison of Generation 1 VM on the left with Generation 2 on the right which has no IDE interface.

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specifying the Generation ID of virtual Machines in hyper-V in Windows 8.1

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Note Generation 2 VMs can only support X64 editions of Windows 2012 R2 and Windows 8 and they can not be converted to Generation 1 VMs after build.  Also Generation 2 machines can not be migrated to older Hyper Visors such as those that ship with 8.0 or Windows 2012.

IE 11 Compatibility Mode

From IE press F12 to get the develop tools.  Use the User Agent String to change the browser behaviour as shown here :-

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Overall Verdict

I think 8 was fantastic in what it was trying to do but had some serious work to do to content with the almighty Windows 7 OS.  Windows 8 brought a new look and feel as well as the excellent Hyper-V features.  My opinion is that Windows 8.1 is now the finished product which feels a lot more smoother and definitely a lot more stable.  It is much more refined and reliable and as a result very pleasant to use.   I have not tried touch screen as yet but the app arrangement looks a lot better too.  

I would call Windows 7 AND Windows 8 legacy Operating systems, controversial I know.  If you are considering a solid platform for your organisation and are considering Windows 8 then windows 8.1 might save the day for you.  I may review 8.1 Enterprise when it RTMs and purely focus on the Enterprise features.

I hope you found this useful, if there are some good tips you think people may like then feel free to post them and I can add them to the article.

Have you tried 8.1 and how do you find it ?

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About Mitesh Chauhan
Mitesh Chauhan, Azure Cloud Solutions Architect. This is my blog where I share articles and thoughts on IT Infrastructure and architecture. The topics I am most passionate about are Implementation and architecture of rock solid Cloud Infrastructure based around SQL Server and Windows Server mainly using Microsoft Azure. MCTS - Azure Architecture MCTS - Azure Implementation MCSE Server Infrastructure (Windows Server 2012) , MCITP SQL Server 2008, Togaf Certified, Prince 2 Practitioner.

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