Windows 8.1 is generally an improvement on Windows 8 . For a start, you get the Start button back and SkyDrive is integrated so files sync from the cloud, even on Windows RT. Microsoft has already come out with fixes for some of the early problems we've seen, such as mouse lag in certain games, so make sure you're up to date on Windows Update.
If you see issues with Wi-Fi, check for updated drivers from your PC maker. Also, many registry checkers cause problems for the Windows 8.1 search service, so try turning those off.
But there are some annoying changes that you can fix yourself – such as libraries that no longer show up in Explorer, or the shortcut that used to open the snipping tool being reassigned to search, for example.
Not only that, there are some tweaks we think make Windows 8.1 more usable. Here's what we're doing to all our new Windows 8.1 systems to get them running smoothly.
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1. Fix SkyDrive
One of the most annoying issues with Windows 8.1 is when the newly integrated SkyDrive won't sync files. Often, that's because you have a lot of files trying to sync and your PC is hibernating or going to sleep before it's done. When you turn your PC back on, SkyDrive sync spends so long rebuilding the sync list that it doesn't get through all the files before you're turning off your PC again – with all the new files you created only making the backlog worse.
Open the SkyDrive app and wait a couple of minutes and you should see the total numbers of files that need to upload and download. Tap the numbers to see a list of files with sync progress bars. Create a power profile that doesn't turn your PC off after a set time, switch to that and leave your PC plugged in overnight, and SkyDrive should plough through all the files. If there are files causing problems, they'll be listed here as well, so you can find and fix them.
2. Get compatibility view back in IE
IE 11 includes a lot more web standards than before, but many sites still relegate all versions of IE to specially written pages designed for older, less standard versions. If a page didn't look right in IE 10, you could click the blue Compatibility icon in the address bar to load it in as if you were using one of those old browsers. You don't see that icon for most sites in IE 11 because it now only appears if a site is listed by Microsoft as having compatibility problems.
Fortunately, you can add individual sites to the list yourself. Click the Settings cog next to the tabs and choose Compatibility View settings. The current site will be highlighted. Click Add to put it on the list and you'll see the button again. Alternatively, press F12 and use the Document mode dropdown to make IE pretend to be a range of different browsers, which can fix sites Compatibility View doesn't.
3. Trust this PC
Until your PC is marked in your Microsoft account as 'trusted' it won't sync Wi-Fi passwords, website logins and other useful but sensitive information. Usually it's entrusted during setup (or when you add a new user account) by typing in a code Microsoft emails or texts to you. If you skip that step you can still use your PC, but secure details won't sync.
Microsoft will also stop trusting any devices you don't use for two months. Turn that back on in PC Settings, Accounts. Under Your account, choose 'More account settings online'. This loads the browser and asks you to sign in to your Microsoft account. Select the check box that says 'I sign in frequently on this device. Don't ask me for a code.'