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.


  1. What is it and why is it important?
  2. Create a home screen to suit your needs
  3. Personalizing your home screen
  4. Using Windows Store and Windows Store apps
  5. Working with PC settings
  6. Working with accounts and exploring sync settings
  7. Search, applications and search for some others
  8. Other settings
  9. Using the WIN + X menu for basic administration
  10. Rest of Windows 8.1

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!

Account settings

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.

Your account

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!

Login options

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.

Photo password

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.

Other accounts

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

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

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.

camera roll

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.


You can also disable video uploads, which is probably a good idea if you don’t have enough space. You can learn more about backing up stuff automatically with OneDrive or other cloud services by reading this tutorial from our How-To Geek School series on PC maintenance.

Synchronization settings

We want to explain the sync options to you and impress you that they are very important if you use a Microsoft account.

The sync settings are under OneDrive because when you use a Microsoft account, everything you sync between Windows computers is saved to OneDrive.


There is a lot here, let’s take a quick look at them so you understand what’s what and how it works.

It’s important to understand that you can always sync your settings if you want and just disable them on machines you don’t want them applied to. This is true for all sync settings.

Personalization settings

These options consist of the home screen, appearance, and desktop personalization options. Each of them can be turned on or off. Basically, whatever you do here will be reflected across all of your other devices, so if you want all of your machines to retain a unique look, you might want to check with them first to make sure that happens.

Application settings

It simply refers to apps and app data, specifically Windows Store apps. Essentially, these settings allow you to sync your list of installed apps, as well as any settings and in-app purchases you may have made.

Other settings

Finally, you can sync your web browser, passwords, language settings, ease of access, and other Windows settings. Make sure you go through each one and understand what they all do. It might be safe to leave everything enabled, but you might have other ideas.

Backup settings

Finally, you can back up all your settings to OneDrive, even if you don’t sync them. It’s not difficult and we recommend leaving it enabled, it’s just another great way to minimize downtime between device crashes.

Dosed Compounds

You can easily adjust the bandwidth used by OneDrive for metering connections, such as file uploads/downloads and sync settings.


Be sure to pay attention to these settings if you have data caps or bandwidth charges.

Ease of Access

The Ease of Access settings are very specific and are another area of ​​settings that users are likely to visit infrequently. However, they are very important for certain users with disabilities and/or those who find it difficult to use Windows without assistance.


For the most part, we think that if you need to use the Windows Ease of Access settings, then you already know about the Control Panel version, but let’s talk a little about the Ease of Access PC settings you’ll come across.


Users with visual impairments can use Narrator to read screen elements such as text and buttons.


If you would like to change settings such as tone and voice speed, you can do so here as well.

If you want to create your own keyboard commands, you’ll need to set them up in the Control Panel.


If you want to turn off the speaker, either «Exit» from the control panel or click on «Narrator» in the «Off» settings.

magnifying glass

The magnifying glass is generally cool, but is especially good for people who have a hard time making out small print.


You can customize the magnifier’s appearance, zoom level, and more from the desktop utility.


We like the look of the magnifying glass. This and the zoom levels can be adjusted in the settings, which you can access by clicking on the gear icon pictured above.


The magnifier options mean you can create narrower or wider glasses, but of course it’s better to use a mouse or a more precise pointing device to adjust these settings.

high contrast

Another ease-of-access feature designed to improve the reading experience on a computer is High Contrast. Simply put, High Contrast settings allow you to change screen elements so that things stand out from each other.


Basically, the PC version of High Contrast lets you choose a theme and then adjust the color of each thing. Again, to go deeper into the settings, open the control panel and select «adjust high contrast».


The overarching goal of these settings is to «make the computer more visible,» so you’ll find other items dedicated to Narrator and Loupe as well.


The on-screen keyboard is different from the touch keyboard that opens on touch screens by default. As you can see, this is a replica of the keyboard that you are probably physically typing with.


PC settings allow you to enable the keyboard and enable various «helpful keys» features.


Several additional options can be found by pressing the «Options» button on the on-screen keyboard.


If you’re wondering if there was a number pad option, the answer is yes, and it can be enabled here.


Mouse settings allows you to customize the size and color of the mouse pointer.


In addition, there are other options you can use that allow you to customize how the pointer moves, how fast it moves when you hold down the CTRL or SHIFT key, and the ability to use mouse keys when NUM LOCK is enabled.

Other options

And finally, the last «Other Options» allows you to tweak items that don’t fit into any of the previously discussed categories.


We like being able to change the thickness of our cursor, which can make it a lot easier to find it in a busy text field. Also note that you can change the timeout for notifications, which would be more appropriate if it was in the PC Settings for Notifications group.


It makes it for today. You can now better manage your OneDrive accounts and settings, including the very important sync options that are directly linked to your Microsoft account. Spend some time managing your accounts, adjusting your sync options, and maybe experiment with ease of access.

Tomorrow we’ll focus on search and app settings, but mostly on search. This includes a useful exploration of Advanced Query Syntax (AQS) and the search indexer and related control panels and options. The hopeful goal of this chapter is to teach you how you can search more efficiently so that you can find things without too much hunting through File Explorer.

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