Getting started with a new Windows 10 device

Changing the colours

So, you've bought a shiny new laptop or tablet. It's unpacked, plugged in, and humming gently. What's the first thing you should do?

The answer is set up a Microsoft account. Don't be disheartened by the word 'account', because a Microsoft account is the key to unlocking everything that's great about Windows 10, as well as the wider suite of Microsoft products, tools and services.

One account for all

At its most basic, a Microsoft account acts as your PC's first line of defence. That's because the password you choose when opening your account becomes the one that grants access to your copy of Windows 10 and, ultimately, to your new device.

Move beyond that and a Microsoft account also lets you access your email. Take a further step and your account will let you explore great products such as Skype, and your Office 365 subscription; it will let you buy games, music, apps and films, and access your videos, photographs and documents via Microsoft's OneDrive.

In short, a Microsoft account is the gateway to Microsoft's magic kingdom. Before we delve into the nuts and bolts of setting up your account, it's worth looking at a little bit of simple computing theory. Specifically, we'll look at the cloud.

Until very recently, information – your files, pictures, movies and documents – were all stored locally. In other words, they were stored inside your PC, and on a hard disk. The benefit was you could get at them quickly. There was, however, a big downside to this way of storing information. If you lost your laptop, you'd lose all of your files too. Also, if you wanted to view a file on a different machine, it would involve some particularly cumbersome messing about to get it.

The cloud is a tech term used to describe a different type of storage. Here, your information lives on a remote computer, out on the internet. If you want to access information you just access that external machine and get at your data that way. This style of working has many benefits. If you lose your device, your data remains safe. Storing data in the cloud also makes it easy to access it from all your different computers and devices.

A Microsoft account lets you embrace the benefits of this smarter way of working. In practice, it means your data will feel like it's following you around! When you've got everything set up, pictures taken on your phone will be viewable on your laptop, tablet or Xbox. You'll be able to get at your email, again, from any of your Microsoft devices. In a nutshell, you'll be able to get to all of your data, all of the time, in an instant.

The only caveat is you'll need to be connected to the internet. If you're not, your machine will still work but, Windows 10's clever data-sharing features will be paused until you're next online.