In this tutorial, we’ll continue our review of PC settings, with a focus on Windows user accounts and account settings, specifically what you can do in Control Panel rather than what you should be doing now in Computer Settings.
Windows 8 has made many changes to system user accounts. In fact, in many ways they are completely different now. Take, for example, a Microsoft account. It used to be that in order to «take» your desktop with you, you actually had to export your profile to something like an external drive or removable media and then transfer it to another computer.
With a Microsoft account, all your settings, preferences, and even Windows Store apps can now be easily moved from desktop to tablet to laptop with little effort than just logging into the computer with your username and password.
There are also new ways to sign in, which means that now, especially on touch devices, you can simply use an image or a PIN to sign in. It’s certainly easier when you don’t have to use the on-screen keyboard to always enter your password.
Finally, we’ll talk about OneDrive settings and why they’re so important to your roaming profile if you choose to use one. We then conclude with a brief look at ease of access. So let’s dive in and get started, we have a lot to tell!
Windows user accounts and account settings
Traditionally, user accounts in Windows were viewed in the Control Panel.
Windows 8.1 moves or removes most of the features found here and pushes them into PC settings. What you can still do here is basic or fairly advanced. For example, we’re willing to bet that most Windows users will never mess around with file encryption certificates and environment variables.
The only thing that the User Account Control Panel offers compared to similar PC settings is the ability to change User Account Control settings.
Let’s take a quick look at User Account Control so you know what it is and how to turn it off or even turn it off. UAC is designed to prevent damage to your computer and malware by issuing warnings when you try to make changes according to the following criteria:
- Always notify when applications try to install software or make changes to your computer, or you make changes to Windows settings.
- Notify you only when applications try to make changes to your computer. This is the default value.
- Only notify you when apps try to make changes to your computer, but don’t darken your desktop. This is a performance setting. The result is the same, except that when UAC warns you, it doesn’t dim the desktop, which is better for slower computers.
If you set the «never notify» slider, UAC will be disabled and you won’t be warned about possible changes. We do not recommend that you do this. .
How-To Geek School offers a whole tutorial on UAC Disaster Prevention and we encourage you to check it out!
Let’s turn our attention to PC Account Settings in earnest. At this point in the evolution of Windows, account management has more or less carried over here, so get used to using it to create and manage accounts.
Let’s take a look at each part of Accounts and explain a few things, such as the differences between local accounts and Microsoft accounts, and the different ways the system gives you to lock your device.
The first time you start Windows 8.1, you will need to set up an account. This can be one of two ways, you can choose for a Microsoft account or a local account. Both have their pros and cons, which we will cover in a moment. No matter which account you create, you can do so using your account settings.
If you click on the «other online account settings» link, you will be taken to your account page on the Microsoft website. Here you can complete the rest of your account.
While you may be reluctant to give Microsoft information about yourself, you really only need to provide them with a few pieces of personal information. Everything else is optional. Many of us use multiple Windows computers and it’s nice to have the same account on different computers.
Also, while the local account option may seem safer and more private, the truth is that you are only as secure and private as your computing habits dictate. This means that even with a local account, you are still vulnerable to network attacks and your machine can still be hacked if you don’t take precautions.
If you’re interested in learning more about user accounts, we encourage you to read this tutorial from the recent How-To Geek School Series!
Windows 8.1 includes many sign-in options for your devices. Not only can you use verified password options, but you can now switch between them and use a picture password and PIN, and if your device supports it, you can use other methods as well, including fingerprint readers. ,
Despite all these options, you will still need a master password that the system will force you to enter before you can set up alternative login options.
A picture password allows you to use a photo or picture so that you can access your computer with a series of finger swipes.
This is especially useful on touch screens because you don’t have to enter your password each time.
As you probably understood, a PIN code is a 4-digit code that you can use to quickly access a locked device.
While it’s certainly not as secure as a password, it’s probably more convenient than entering the password every time.
If your device has a fingerprint reader, you can teach it to recognize fingerprints.
This obviously only applies to machines that have these capabilities, but if it does, that’s where you’ll set it up more than the Control Panel in Windows 8 and earlier.
If you’d like to learn more about Windows 8.1 passwords and sign-in alternatives, read Lesson 1 in our series on protecting user accounts and passwords in Windows.
If you want to administer other accounts on your system, or want to add another account, you will be able to perform those functions here.
There are a few things you should keep in mind when creating a new account. As we mentioned earlier, a Microsoft account is essentially a roaming account, which means you can sign in to any Windows 8.x PC anywhere in the world with your settings and even things like documents and Images.
However, you can opt out of this and create a local account, or if you are creating an account for the smallest, you can also set up a child account.
The following screenshot shows the fundamental differences between local accounts and Microsoft accounts, but basically it looks like this: Microsoft accounts can roam wherever you sign in, while local accounts stay on the computer you use.
We recommend using a Microsoft account, you can use any email address you like and this is very handy if you have multiple PCs running Windows 8.1.
Assigned access can be thought of as a kind of kiosk mode, since that’s essentially what it is, except that with assigned access, a user can only access one Windows Store app.
This is no doubt useful if you want to set up a device so that it only works one way and others can’t use it for other purposes. You can also assign a game or learning app to that account and let your kids go crazy by giving you a kids account not meant for that purpose that even they can’t hack (perhaps)!
Child accounts and Windows Family Safety
You may notice that when you create a new account, you can make it a child account. This means that Microsoft Family Safety will be automatically enabled and the account can be monitored by the child’s parent or guardian.
Family Safety can be opened from the Control Panel and is actually a pretty good set of parental controls, as you probably don’t need to look elsewhere unless you have a network of mixed devices like Apple, Android, or even Linux.
However, if you work mostly on Windows computers or that’s all your kids use, then you’re good to go.
If you open the Family Safety dashboard, you will see that you need to use the Family Safety website.
A child’s account is a local account, meaning each child’s account must be recreated on every device they use. Thus, every time a child uses a computer, you receive reports related to that device.
If you click on a child’s account, you will get many options and ways to monitor the child’s activity.
Take, for example, time restrictions settings, you can allow the use of the device according to time restrictions blocks or set a special curfew time during which access to the computer is blocked.
This is just one of several categories that you can put in control of your child’s computer usage. In addition to receiving activity reports and access requests, you can also filter web access and restrict apps and games.
So, if you are a parent and your child or children are at a vulnerable, impressionable age, Microsoft Family Safety is a great (if not one of the best) options for you to lock down, monitor and control access and give you peace of mind.
OneDrive: The cloud service formerly known as SkyDrive
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud service, although you can call it SkyDrive. Microsoft had to change the name after a trademark dispute and the whole thing was renamed throughout the system. The Windows Store app is now called OneDrive.
As you can see, even the OneDrive integration in File Explorer has even been updated to represent the changes.
In the next section, we’ll talk about OneDrive settings, as they do have a significant impact on things like local storage and profile sync.
All in all, OneDrive is really very useful, so even if you don’t use the service to store your files, you should still learn about it.
File storage settings allow you to view storage usage and buy more if needed. You can also choose to save your documents to OneDrive by default. This means that the documents folder will be saved both locally and in the cloud, so if you sign in to another computer with your account, you will have instant access to everything you are currently working on.
If you think you need more storage space, then you can buy more. Just click the «buy more space» button and you can increase your capacity in just a few clicks.
The nice thing about OneDrive is that if you’re a Windows-only household, then you have an easy and convenient solution to share your content across all your devices, as long as you’re using a Microsoft account, of course.
The Camera Roll settings let you automatically upload your camera roll to OneDrive when you take any photo from your computer. This is similar to the feature you’ll find in the OneDrive app available for mobile devices, only in the location where pictures taken on Windows devices are stored.