This is the first post in a series called Computer Basics 101.
If you happened to get a laptop or other computer for Christmas, you’re probably stuck on Windows 8, right? Windows 8 is Microsoft’s answer to a computer that works like cell phone, a step backward in my opinion and I’m not alone. Across the internet, you will find posts giving step by step instructions on how to configure Windows 8 so it looks like Classic Windows. Classic Windows is much easier to navigate. You will still have mouse problems because Windows 8 is designed to work like a cell phone where you flip through screens with your fingertips. But at least you’ll have access to most of the features you used to have access to.
Install Classic Shell
Classic Shell is a free software program that gives you access to the old Classic Windows features. It’s free and easy to use, no training require. You can download Classic Shell here.
Unfortunately, the interface isn’t the only problem with Windows 8. So let’s talk about what you might want to do to fix your Windows 8 computer so it works better.
Remove all Norton programs
Norton Internet Security now comes preinstalled on many Windows 8 computers. For those of you who don’t know the downfall of Norton, let me explain. Back with Windows Vista, Norton began crippling Windows computers with its software. It was intrusive, slow, and left fragments all over the place which rendered other programs useless. So people stopped using it. Not to be hampered by mere mortals, Norton turned around and made some deals with computer manufacturers. Rather than shipping their computers with Norton preinstalled but not activated, they began shipping them with Norton preinstalled AND activated. And when Norton activates, it deactivates many of the useful components of Windows Operating System, like Windows Defender, a much better malware, anti-virus program than Norton Internet Security (and it’s free).
This Norton software is bloatware. It’s not useful. It hampers your system and prevents other free and useful software from working. So remove it. All of it. If it’s a Norton product, remove it. On my Toshiba laptop, three Norton software packages were preinstalled and activated: Norton Internet Security, Norton Anti-Theft, and Norton Online Backup. I removed them all. It also came with Norton PC Checkup. I left that because, long ago, Norton had a product called Norton Utilities and it was a completely separate product that was useful. But that may change. A month from now, I might delete that too.
- Push the windows button (between the ALT key and the FN key) until you get a window that has tiles.
- Click on the desktop tile (lower left corner).
- Click on the Start key in the lower left corner (this won’t work if you didn’t install Classic Windows because Windows 8 removed the Start key, making it very difficult to access the Control Panel)
- Click on the Control Panel
- Click on Programs and Features
- A list of installed programs will appear
- Click on Norton Internet Security
- Click on “Uninstall” at the top of the window
- Your computer will now uninstall Norton Internet Security and it will probably ask you to restart your computer when it’s finished, so go ahead
- Repeat these steps for every Norton program you have installed
Activate Windows Defender
From now on, I will use shortcuts to describe where you want to find things.
Start–>Control Panel–>Windows Defender
This shortcut means click on START in the lower left corner of your screen, select CONTROL PANEL from the menu, and select WINDOWS DEFENDER from the list of programs. Make sure you turn on Windows Defender because Norton deactivates it completely. It may take a few times before it actually works. I had to remove every last piece of Norton software (except for Norton PC Checkup) and reboot several times. As long as any pieces of Norton’s Internet Security Suite are installed, you won’t be able to use Windows Defender.
Run updates. Just click on the UPDATE button. It may take a few minutes.
Run a scan. You can run a full scan or a quick scan, but since you’ve never run one before, I’d run the full scan which can take up to half an hour.
Everyone thinks computers don’t come with malware. That’s not accurate. They occasionally do come with malware installed, usually from bloatware that comes preinstalled on the PC. So run the scan!
Make sure Windows Firewall is ON
Start–>Control Panel–>Windows Firewall
Windows Firewall protects your computer from a lot of virus attacks and malware. So leave it on. There are very few instances when you will need or want to shut it off. Any software you need to install on your computer should have no problems with Windows Firewall. If it does, there are settings in the firewall you can change to permit the software to install properly. Unless you really trust the software that asks you to shut it off, I’d leave it on.
I read a lot of complaints online about the particular laptop I got for Christmas. They all said the sound was terrible and “tinny”. So I went to the sound settings:
I found a little button for DTS Sound. If you don’t find one here, you might find it under Start–>Programs–>DTS
Apparently Windows 8 ships with DTS surround sound to make it sound like a movie theatre, but it doesn’t work very well.
- Click on Bass Boost to give your sound some bass (like any normal sound device)
- Click on Surround so it’s off (yes, I said off; it doesn’t work right and sounds tinny)
- Click on Volume Leveling so it’s on (grey)
If the icon is grey, it’s on. If it’s orange, it’s off. At least on my laptop.
Now if you play music, it should sound much better. Try with the headphones before you assume it’s not working correctly. Problem fixed.
Find your music player
Windows Media Player is not a part of Windows 8. I know, I was surprised too. My Toshiba came with a new media player called sMedio TrueLink. It’s a piece of garbage. Fortunately it came with a backup music player provided by Windows called Xbox. I actually like Xbox a little better than Windows Media Player, but it’s certainly not intuitive. There are some features that Windows Media Player has that Xbox does not like right clicking and going to the file location or uploading your own album covers, but there are also features Xbox has that Windows Media Player doesn’t have like exploring other songs by the same artist.
If you have a Microsoft account and have linked your credit card to that account, you can stream music on your computer. I don’t trust Microsoft so I could only stream a few freebies without an account. 🙁
When in doubt, right-click
When you’re looking for something and you can’t find it, like the menu on Internet Explorer, right click on every section of the window until you find it. I’m getting around better this way and finding there are more options than I thought with Windows 8. I still hate it.
Fail safe, Windows key
If the right-click doesn’t work, then click on the Windows button until you get to a familiar screen. Only in Classic mode does the bottom status bar show up. I never realized how much I use that status bar until it disappeared. And it disappears constantly. Eventually I might spring for the paid version of classic shell, but right now the freebie is sufficient.
Annoying Windows 8
Here’s a short list of the most annoying features of Windows 8 that won’t go away.
- Constantly changing screen size. Since Windows 8 was designed for touch screens it really abhors mice and if you’re using one the screen will constantly change size. It’s incredibly annoying and reduces efficiency considerably (by more than 50%). In the upper right hand corner of your browser (IE) is a wheel button. Click on that and select ZOOM and then 100% (or whatever ratio size you want the screen). Unfortunately you’ll have to stop and do this every single time Windows 8 changes your screen size. Exasperating, isn’t it?
- Skipped letters when typing. Since Windows 8 is designed for touch screens and multiple sources of input, it is sloooooow. I type very fast. It constantly misses complete words and series of letters. That’s also a time waster and loss of efficiency. There’s nothing to do about it, however, so I’m trying to type slower.
- Constant popup windows. Even in classic mode there are popup windows from Windows 8 that appear at the worst possible moment, like when I’m about to click on something. When I actually click on the rightmost or bottommost screen bands, they don’t appear, but when I’m typing they pop up all the time. Very annoying. I have been unsuccessful in getting rid of them because they’re part of Windows 8 windows explorer. 🙁
I hope this little lesson has been helpful. My next chore is to set up either Microsoft Office or the open source version available for free. Windows switched to downloads a few years ago and I’ve hear the new Microsoft Office is a nightmare and you may have to purchase several versions for one computer because the licenses evaporate. That does not sound good. 😉