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Tech Talk:

Taming Windows 8

Windows 8
Susie Day / Mainstream

Almost all new laptops and PCs come with Windows 8 installed and many people’s first reaction to Windows 8 is abject horror. Microsoft’s newest version of Windows throws out features that have been standard since its earliest versions. Short of installing Windows 7 or holding off on purchasing a new computer, there are a number of things that can be done in order to tame Windows 8 into behaving more like the older versions.

NOTICE: All of the programs listed in this article are safe for your computer, although caution is always advised when downloading programs from the internet.

Where’s my Start menu?

The Start menu has been replaced by the Start screen where you can access your programs and settings. The Start screen is opened by moving your mouse cursor to the bottom left-hand corner of your screen or by pressing the Windows key.

There is currently no way to just check a box and get the old start menu back. There are a couple ways to get the Start menu back, however. The easiest option is to install a program which replicates the start menu’s features.  StartIsBack ($3) exactly replicates the Start menu from Windows 7. Pokki (free) goes beyond the traditional features, adding integration with online apps such as Facebook or Twitter.

How can I skip the Start screen?

Adding an extra step between you and the desktop can be frustrating. A simple solution is to drag the desktop tile to the far top right. When the Start screen appears, pressing the enter key will open whichever tile is in that default position. If this is even too much bother, you can install the Skip Metro Suite (free) which you can use to skip right past the Start screen. As a bonus, Skip Metro Suite also lets you turn off all the hot spots at the edges of the screen.

How do I pick which program opens my media files?

By default, Windows 8 opens media files in “app mode” rather than the traditional media player. To change the default programs that Windows uses, go to the Control Panel, then go to Programs, then Default Programs, then Set Default Programs. From here, pick the program you would prefer out of the list and press the Set this Program as Default button.

How do I play DVDs?

Your computer will not be able to play DVDs unless it came with a DVD program such as PowerDVD. You can purchase and install a DVD program, or you can download and install VLC, which is free.