How-To Geek

Here’s 6 Great Tricks for Windows 8 that You Probably Don’t Know


We’ve covered a lot of tips, tricks, and tweaks for Windows 8, but there are still a few more. From bypassing the lock screen to instantly taking and saving screenshots, here are a few more hidden options and keyboard shortcuts.

Whether you love Windows 8, hate it, or just wish Metro would go away, these options will help you make Windows 8 work the way you want it to.

Disable the Lock Screen

Windows 8 shows a lock screen when you restart your computer, log out, or lock it. It’s very pretty, but it just adds one more keystroke to the login process. You can actually disable the lock screen entirely, although Microsoft hides his option very well.


This option is located in the Group Policy Editor. To launch it, type “gpedit.msc” at the Start screen and press Enter.


In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Personalization.


Double-click the “Do not display the lock screen” option, set it to Enabled, and click OK.


The next time you restart your system, log out, or lock the screen, you’ll see the login screen instead of the lock screen.


Combine this with skipping the Start screen and you can boot to a login screen and log straight into the desktop, just like on previous versions of Windows. The desktop will be the second screen you access instead of the fourth.

Take & Save Screenshots Instantly

Windows 8 has a new hotkey combination that lets you take and save screenshots instantly. To take a screenshot, hold the Windows key down and press the Print Screen key. Your screen will flash and Windows will save a screenshot to your Pictures folder as a PNG image file.


You might assume that WinKey+Alt+Print Screen would take and save a screenshot of the current window, but it doesn’t. Maybe this will be implemented in the final version of Windows 8.

We’ve also covered other new keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8.

Prevent Files From Opening in Metro

If you prefer to use Windows 8’s desktop and try to avoid Metro, you may be surprised the first time you double-click an image file in Windows Explorer and get kicked back into Metro. By default, Windows 8 launches images, videos, and music in Metro apps – even if you open them from the desktop.

To avoid this, launch the Default Programs control panel by pressing the Windows key to access Metro, typing “Default Programs,” and pressing Enter.


Click the “Set your default programs” link.


In the list of available programs, select the “Windows Photo Viewer” application and click the “Set this program as default” option.


Repeat this process for the  “Windows Media Player” application. You can also set the desktop version of Internet Explorer as your default Web browser from within Internet Explorer.

Of course, if you have a preferred image viewer or media player, you can install it and set it as the default application instead.

Display Administrative Tools

By default, Windows hides the Event Viewer, Computer Management and other Administrative Tools from the Start screen. If you use these applications frequently, you can easily unhide them.

From the Start screen, mouse over to the bottom or top right corner of the screen and click the Settings charm. You can also press WinKey-C to view the charms.


Click the “Settings” link under Start and set the “Show administrative tools” slider to “Yes.”


The Administrative Tools will appear on the Start screen and in the All Apps list.


Control Automatic Maintenance

Windows 8 has a new scheduled maintenance feature that automatically updates software, runs security scans, and performs system diagnostics at a scheduled time. By default, the maintenance tasks run at 3am if you aren’t using your computer. If you’re using your computer at the scheduled time, Windows will wait until the computer is idle.

To customize this time, open the Action Center from the flag icon in the system tray.


You’ll find Automatic Maintenance under the Maintenance category. Click the “Change maintenance settings” link to customize its settings.


From this screen, you can set the time you want to run automatic maintenance tasks. You can also have Windows wake up your computer to run maintenance tasks, if it’s asleep.


Customize Search Applications

Metro apps can appear as options when you use the search feature.


You can control the apps that appear here and trim down the list. First, click the Settings charm from anywhere on your system and click the “More PC settings” link.


From the PC settings screen, click the Search category and use the sliders to hide apps from the search screen.


Do you have any other Windows 8 tricks to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 04/3/12

Comments (34)

  1. AlanWade

    Maybe you should change the last part of the post title from “You Probably Don’t Know” to “Everybody Already Knows”.
    Sadly nothing at all new that hasnt already been written about.

  2. ZiggyWig

    Well I actually didn’t know about them so thanks for the article. :D

  3. snewbury

    I didn’t know either, thanks for the tips!

  4. thedyolf

    I’ve also learned some new tricks, thnx!

  5. PeterB

    Great, thanks for the tips!

  6. Ratilla

    I think “AlanWade” is trying to impress someone… Maybe an X girlfriend. Good article. I didn’t know either. Thanks for the tips.

  7. abhijitrucks

    nothing really new :(

  8. Gbarcs

    Well here’s another numpty who didn’t know, thank you so much. Just a pity I’m only part geek and not all alone Alan!

  9. AlanWade


    At 60 years old I dont need to impress anyone! The tips posted here have been written about for weeks. Pity you couldnt find someone to read them out to you sooner.

  10. Noclass


    You know Alan, the same information being spread on multiple sites ensures that the information gets propagated and makes it much easier to find. Mr.Hoffman’s informative article is appreciated, your condescending attitude is not. You’ve read it somewhere before? Congratulations!! Would you like a gold star sticker? At 60 years old, you should know that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

  11. beergas

    Thanks. Still holding onto Win 7 x64 for ease of use – taint broken. Later tho for Win 8 in year (s).

  12. Mike

    My advice,

    1. Stay with your XP machines if you can and want to, Metro sucks.

    2. Buy a windows 7 machine and customize it to work and look like XP classic at the least. Not difficult to do just tedious.

    3. If you to make the leap go to Linux, even though Ubuntu has been stricken with the same stupidity as Micosoft you can rip out the GUI and replace it easily or just go to one of the other Linux distributions that still have a sensible desktop setup.

  13. hmetal1973

    Mike your advice sucks.. W8 is great ….Like everything in life people have to get use to it….I am using it since September and I love it…

  14. Granpirata

    Mike, I am writing from my Ubuntu Desktop, 12.04 though not officially released but very stable. Only demented I would change a Windows machine for a Linux one. I don’t like W8 yet either but … who knows. Having the same interface across devices might work out fine.

  15. William Knight

    I have yet to see any reason to change from windows 7 to windows 8, 8 seems to much like my grandkid phone

  16. Fantasm

    I too, see no compelling reason to switch.
    I don’t like the Metro UI
    I am not going to get a Windows Tablet or touchscreen ( I have a 40″ screen so I’m not goving that up)
    I don’t like the lack of a start button/Menu
    On my multi-monitor setup ( 4 screens) the corner and side area hot spots don’t work in Windows 8. Maybe they are somwhere in the “gap” between displays but I can’t find them…
    I tried it for a few days and my overwhelming thought was why go through all this for little or no gain…?
    I went back to Windows 7
    Sure, I’ll look at it again when it’s finally released… but so far not worth it to me…

  17. Rob Rogers

    Why get rid of the lock screen when it only takes a keystroke to move through it to the login screen. When the lock screen appears, simply press the SHIFT key and the screen will raise up to reveal the login screen. No biggie.

  18. jonas

    i switched back to windows 7. there are some apps i need that are not yet compatible with windows 8, even though it’s good. but it doesn’t mean i’m giving up windows 8. i can wait until a stable version is released

  19. computergeeks1

    This is real handy

  20. Qrazydutch

    Just loaded a bootable lubuntu on a 1 gig flashdrive for troubleshooting … And w8 cannot do this… Still waiting to find out why w8 would be worth upgrading to… It does seem to be running older PCs better than vista… I hope ms has a winner… But why so soon after w7 is beyond me… Out there most folks seem to be on wxp which still works ok..

  21. Ratilla

    Wow “AlanWade”. At 60 you shouldn’t even be trolling this site.

  22. Qrazydutch

    I thought we commented on OS etc…I find comments about others dysfunctional…and my 67th birthday is coming up… I hope yours as well… Although a byte later….

  23. DEV@N$H

    Win8 is nice exludin that metro and annoying apps which are just a preview and not fully made. Sometimes, i fell i am not workin on a pc but on a tab. But overall, its a nice OS.

  24. pbug56

    For an OS not out already in real life, its amazing how many tricks have been developed so far to try and make it semi usable. MAYBE it’s because its GUI doesn’t deserve to see the light of day! This GUI is so bad that it makes Windoze ME and VISTA look like good ideas!

  25. Citrus Rain


    Well, it’s a step in the right direction… IN the proper enviroment.

    Unfortuantely, the only proper eviroment I can think of is for it to be for a GPS menu layout.

  26. wwwale

    hello! tanx a lot 4 ur tipps.
    to the ‘i knew that already since umpteenforgottn’-people:
    its ok, that u knew it allready! but u didnt publish it!!! and what u know maybe others dont know!!!
    the ‘how-to geek’ is a blog which i always read! and even if its allready published elsewhere:
    i read the h2geek and i dont have time to look evereywhere else in da net!!!
    so tanx a lot to the h2geek ! keep up the good work !!!

    this message is from h2geek-fan who is 69years old!!!

  27. testertester123


    well, I’ll be sure be part of the first who will get Windows 8. The problem I see is that I move my C:\Users to D: (which is not an expensive SSD) and I have no idea if my method will remain the same with Windows 8.

    Yes, there is unattend.xml but that never worked for me in some way and I moved the folders by altering the registry and so on.

    It would be great if you could lose some words on that topic, if you don’t mind.

  28. Bob

    Article= 8

    “Here’s 6 Great Tricks for Windows 8 that You Probably Don’t Know”

    Should be: “Here are” not “Here is”

    This is plural, you have more than 1 Trick!

  29. Sloth

    Is gpedit going to be included with the Home/standard retail release?

  30. Chris Hoffman


    Probably not, it hasn’t in the past. There may be a registry setting you can adjust for this, though.

  31. JMelk

    Alan Wade, You are not alone I’m 69, and I cannot get enough information, about all OS’s as I have to keep up with my grandkids, to HTG please keep up the good work and give us more.

  32. megageektutorials

    To bad I can’t even install windows 8 to use this. It keeps giving me the “We couldn’t create a new partition or locate an existing one” error.

  33. harry999

    i havE installed windows 8 just for the option of direct print option so that i could save screen shots easily


    P.S: i don’t wanna use any screen capture soft wares or the old copy and paste on paint option


  34. Chris Hoffman


    Not sure — the method in the post works for me. If it doesn’t, you can still use the old print screen + paste in Paint option. Or use the snipping tool — I believe it’s still in the All Apps menu.

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