Getting Started with Windows 8

If you're new to Windows 8 getting started can be confusing. This free lesson offers tips on how to get started with this operating system.

Getting started with Windows 8

Video: Getting Started with Windows 8

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Windows 8 can be confusing at first, since the interface has changed so much. You'll need to know how to navigate the Start screen, as well as the Desktop. Although the Desktop looks very similar to previous versions of Windows, it has one major change: The Start menu has been removed.

In this lesson, we'll show you how to navigate Windows 8, use the Charms bar, and work with apps. We'll also show you where to find features that were previously found in the Start menu.

Watch the video to learn how to navigate Windows 8 and use the Charms bar.

To sign in to Windows 8:

When you're setting up Windows 8, it will require you to create an account name and password that you will use to sign in. You can also create additional accounts, and you'll have the option of associating each one with a Microsoft account.

To learn more about creating accounts, check out our Managing User Accounts and Parental Controls lesson.

  1. Click anywhere on the lock screen to unlock the computer.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Clicking the lock screen
  2. Your user account name and picture will appear. Type your password, and then press Enter to sign in. Alternatively, you can press the back arrow to select a different user.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The sign-in screen
  3. The Start screen will appear.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The Start screen

Navigating Windows 8

There are several ways to navigate through Windows 8, including hot corners, keyboard shortcuts, and gestures if you're using a tablet.

Using hot corners

Whether you're in the Start screen or the Desktop, you can navigate through Windows 8 by using hot corners. To use a hot corner, just hover the mouse in the corner of the screen, and it will open a toolbar or tile that you can click. Each corner performs a different task:

If you have several apps open, you can switch between them by hovering the mouse in the upper-left corner and then moving the mouse down. This displays a list of all of your open apps, and you can click the desired app to switch to it.

Screenshot of Windows 8Switching to a different app

Navigating on a tablet

If you have a Windows 8 tablet, you can navigate by using swipe gestures instead of hot corners:

Using keyboard shortcuts to navigate

Windows 8 has several keyboard shortcuts that you can use to navigate more easily:

The Charms bar

The Charms bar is a toolbar that lets you access your computer's settings, along with other options. You can access the Charms bar by hovering the mouse in the top-right or bottom-right corner.

Screenshot of Windows 8The Charms bar


The Charms bar contains several icons, which are called charms, and each one contains different options:

Working with Start screen apps

Start screen apps are different from the "classic" Windows apps you may be used to. Apps fill the entire screen instead of opening in a window. However, you can still multi-task by opening two apps side by side.

To open an app:

  1. On the Start screen, locate and click the app you want to open.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Opening the Travel app
  2. The app will open and fill the entire screen.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The Travel app

To close an app:

  1. Hover the mouse at the top of the app. The cursor will change to a hand icon.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The hand icon
  2. Click, hold, and drag the top of the app all the way down to the bottom of the screen and then release. The app will close, and you'll return to the Start screen.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Closing an app

When dragging the app down, it may look like it's "stuck." However, just keep moving the mouse down until the cursor gets to the bottom of the screen, and the app will then close.

Viewing apps side by side

Although apps usually fill up the entire screen, Windows 8 lets you snap an app to the left or right side and then open other apps next to it. For example, you might want to keep your calendar visible while you're using another app.

To view apps side by side:

  1. From the Start screen, click on the first app to open it.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Opening the Calendar app
  2. Click, hold, and drag the top of the app all the way to the right or left side of the screen.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Snapping to the right side of the screen
  3. Release the mouse, and the app will snap to the side of the screen.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The snapped app
  4. Click anywhere in the empty part of the screen to return to the Start screen.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Clicking in the empty part of the screen
  5. Click an app to open it.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Opening the People app
  6. The apps will now appear side by side. Drag the bar to change the size of the apps.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Two apps side by side

Snapping is designed to work with widescreen monitors. You will need a screen resolution of at least 1366x768 pixels to use this feature. If you have a larger monitor, you'll be able to snap more apps at once.

Coping without the Start menu

One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is that it doesn't have a Start menu. The Start menu was a very important feature in previous versions of Windows, as it was used to launch apps, search for files, open the Control Panel, and shut down the computer. You can still do all of these things in Windows 8, but they're now found in different places.

To launch an app:

There are several ways to open an app in Windows 8:

To view all of your apps, click the arrow in the bottom-left corner of the Start screen.

Screenshot of Windows 8Navigating to all apps

To search for a file or app:

For more information about searching, check out our Using the Search Feature lesson.

To open the Control Panel:

  1. From the Desktop view, hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to access the Charms bar, then select Settings.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The Settings charm
  2. Locate and select Control Panel from the Settings Pane.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Clicking Control Panel
  3. The Control Panel will appear. You can then select the desired setting to change it.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The Control Panel

To shut down your computer:

  1. Hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to access the Charms bar, then select Settings.

    Screenshot of Windows 8The Settings charm
  2. Click Power, and select Shut down.

    Screenshot of Windows 8Shutting down the computer

Start screen options

Windows 8 introduces a lot of new features, but users who work mostly on the Desktop are often annoyed and frustrated by the Start screen. If you're not interested in using the Start screen very often, there are a few options that can make your computer function more like older versions of Windows. This includes the option to boot your computer directly to the Desktop instead of the Start screen.

To modify your Start screen options:

  1. Go to the Desktop.
  2. Right-click the taskbar and select Properties.
    Screenshot of Windows 8Selecting Properties
  3. A dialog box will appear. In the interactive below, we'll review a few options that you may want to customize.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about different Start screen options:

labeled graphic

Boot to Desktop

Check this option if you want the Desktop to appear when you sign in, rather than the Start screen.

Show All Apps

Check this option if you'd prefer to see a list of all your apps when you click the Start button or press the Windows key, rather than the Start screen.

This option will make the Start screen function more like the Start Menu in older versions of Windows.

Show Desktop Apps First

Check this option to show all Desktop apps before Start screen apps in the Apps view.