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How to Make Windows 8 Look Like Win 7 on Your PC

How to Make Windows 8 Look Like Win 7 on Your PC

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes, and that's just as true for operating systems as it is elsewhere in life. Not thrilled with Windows 8's lack of a Start button, for example? Not to worry. You can take matters into your own hands and bring it back -- along with the Windows Desktop and a number of other comfortingly familiar features.

Windows 8's blah reception from many computer users may have been due at least in part to a peculiar trait that we humans have, and that's our obsession with improvement.

Improving our lot has been a fixation throughout virtually all of human history, so it shouldn't come as any great surprise that Microsoft couldn't help itself when it became time to update its OS -- an OS that we had all learned to use expertly over the last 20 years or so.

That obsession, along with a need to keep about 100,000 employees occupied, resulted in Windows 8's improvements over Windows 7 -- the strange omission of the Start button and the hiding of the Windows Desktop, that icon-studded screen we used to launch into.

Well, if you don't like improvement, are simply a Luddite or just fondly miss the Windows Desktop, you can take matters into your own hands. Here's how to start Windows 8.1 into Desktop mode -- bypassing the new, improved tile-based look -- plus a couple of other tricks.

Update Windows 8 to Free Windows 8.1 (If You Haven't Already)

Step 1: Make a backup of your personal files by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and choosing Search. Enter the term File History Settings and then click on the results and follow the instructions to perform the backup.

Tip: You'll need an external drive, like a USB memory drive.

Step 2: Touch or click on the Store tile on the Start page.

Step 3: Choose the free Windows 8.1 Update and select Download. Allow the update to proceed and complete. Then restart the PC and sign in.

Configure the Desktop Startup

Step 1: Launch the Desktop from the Start page by clicking on the tile labeled Desktop.

Step 2: Right-click on the Taskbar.

Tip: The Taskbar is the solid-colored strip below the wallpaper.

Step 3: Choose Properties and then the Navigation tab in the resulting box.

Step 4: Scroll down to the dialog, "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the Desktop instead of Start," and check the checkbox. Click on OK.

The next time you restart your computer, the Start tile-based page will be skipped, and you'll launch into a Windows 7-style desktop instead. Hooray for the Luddites.

Tip: While you're on the Desktop page, check out the new-in-Windows 8.1 Windows icon in the bottom-left corner. It's a Start button of sorts, and clicking on it alternates you between the tile-infested Start page and the lovable classic Desktop page.

Launching Into the App Page

Adding insult to injury in the Windows 8 environment, you may have noticed that the Start page -- the one with all of the newfangled tiles -- doesn't include all of the apps that you've painstakingly searched for and downloaded.

The full listing of apps are in a page called Apps, not Start. You can get to the Apps page by clicking on the new-in-Windows 8.1 Down arrow in the bottom-left corner of the Windows 8.1 Start page if you want to see that page.

Here's how to launch straight into Apps from Desktop, bypassing Start.

Step 1: Launch the Desktop from the Start page by clicking on the tile labeled Desktop.

Step 2: Right-click on the Taskbar.

Step 3: Choose Properties and then the Navigation tab in the resulting box.

Step 4: Scroll down to the dialog, "Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start," and check the checkbox. Click on OK.

The next time you click on the Windows icon in the bottom left corner of the Desktop, you'll go to Apps instead of Start. Now that's an improvement.

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Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.


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