Setting up Windows 8

While Windows 8 is still mostly the Windows operating system you know and love there are a few things different about setting up a new Windows 8 install.

Windows Update

With the global release of Windows 8 Microsoft is going to be lambasted with feedback and bugs so it’s always best to check for updates especially with a new install. In Windows 8 you have two options for doing so:

Via Windows 8 new UI

Bring up the Charm bar (hover the mouse in top-right or bottom-right corner of the screen) and go to ‘Settings > Change PC Settings > Windows Update‘.

Windows 8 updates via Metro

Via classic desktop

Right-click in the bottom-left corner (when the ‘Start’ screen shortcut appears) and go to ‘Control Panel > System & Security > Windows Update‘.

A number of the bundled Microsoft Windows 8 new UI apps will inevitably need updating and Windows Update doesn’t handle these. To update Windows 8 new UI apps you need to click the ‘Windows Store’ tile first and then click on the ‘Updates’ text if any are pending. There doesn’t appear any way to force Windows 8 to check for updates apart from launching the Windows Store.

Windows 8 App updates


Installing the latest drivers is an essential step for a new Windows install and Windows 8 is no different. Well for the most part – at the time of release not all device manufacturers have Windows 8-specific drivers. However in many cases they also aren’t required: the Windows 7 drivers will work fine though there are some caveats. Here’s our advice regarding drivers.


Install the latest Nvidia AMD or Intel GPU drivers designed specifically for Windows 8. There have been enough changes under the bonnet that you need specific Windows 8 drivers for the best performance and stability.


Onboard sound (such as Realtek solutions) should work fine with Windows 8 but it’s still worth installing the management software from the manufacturer’s web site to get extra features like DSP or surround sound settings. This goes double for dedicated sound cards such as those by Creative.


Some motherboard hardware especially on devices such as laptops may not come with support in Windows 8. Where possible install the latest drivers from the manufacturer to ensure these work correctly but in some cases there may not be compatible drivers available.


Windows 8 should have you covered for most devices but some specific hardware – such webcams biometric scanners or specialised input devices – may need their full official drivers to work fully.

For those devices for which you can’t find native Windows 8 drivers again in many cases the current Windows 7 ones will work. However the install may baulk saying it can’t find a supported operating system (since it’s looking for Windows 7). Simply right-click the setup file for the drivers in classic desktop mode click on the ‘Compatibility’ tab tick to run in compatibility mode and select Windows 7 as the platform.

It would be worth setting a System Restore point for this before you do so just in case.

File History

Now is the time to take advantage of one of Windows 8’s new features. Set up File History to create an automatic backup so that you don’t lose all that important data you never plan to back up. It’s fire-and-forget now so you’ve got no excuse!

Via Windows 8 new UI

From the Charm bar click ‘Search’ and type in File . On the resulting screen click ‘Settings’ under the search field and then ‘File History’ in the left pane.

Via classic desktop

Right-click in the bottom-left corner and select ‘Control Panel > File History‘.

You can use an external USB drive or a network location (such as a NAS) as your backup target. If using a network target you’ll note the small text ‘Use network location’ in the warning box if no USB drive is plugged in. Simply browse to the network target where you want File History files stored.

With a USB drive connected or a network target selected click ‘Turn On to start File History’. It will make an initial backup and you’re done! To browse files in the backup click ‘Restore personal files’ in the left pane. It’s also worth clicking ‘Advanced settings’ and changing the ‘Keep saved versions’ option from ‘Forever’ to ‘Until space is needed’. This way if and when your storage target runs out of space it will automatically start culling from the oldest backup versions.

Finally note that File History backs up libraries contacts favourites and files on your desktop. Unfortunately these are fixed locations so if you want to use it to back up files elsewhere on your system you need to make a new library or copy the files to one of those locations.

Windows 8 File History

Create a backup

Before you get onto tweaks and installing applications now is a good time to create a backup image of your clean Windows 8 install just in case something should go wrong down the track. Here’s how to do it easily.

Via Windows 8 new UI

From the Charm bar click ‘Search’ and type in file recovery . Then click ‘Settings’ under the search field and then launch ‘Windows 7 File Recovery’.

Via classic desktop

Right-click in the bottom-left corner and select ‘Control Panel’. In the search bar type File and launch ‘Windows 7 File Recovery’ (yes Microsoft appears to have buried this function in ‘Control Panel’ – it doesn’t seem to belong in any category).

Once launched you’ll be presented with a choice of backup targets where a whole system image will be created – it can stored on a local hard drive on DVD recordable discs (note you may need a lot of them) or a network target. By default it will make an image of your C: drive but depending on your system configuration you may be able to image other drives as well.

Windows 8 backup 1

Once that’s been completed you’ll have a restorable image of your pristine and freshly set up Windows 8 install. You’ll also be prompted to make a system repair disc. This is a good idea and you can use a portable USB key to do so plus you can also initiate a system image recovery directly from the troubleshooting section of the new Windows 8 boot manager.

How big is a fresh Windows 8 install system image? Approximately 11GB.

Windows 8 backup2

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