‘PC settings’ gets major makeover in Win8.1

Fred Langa

Microsoft made a host of changes to the commands and options on Windows 8.1’s PC settings page, adding new functions and moving or renaming others.

The result is a better user experience — but one that’s undeniably confusing at first. Here’s a guide to the most important changes.

Windows 8’s disorganized array of settings

Windows 8.0 was roundly — and fairly — criticized for its split personality. The most obvious manifestation of this was the tile-based Metro/Modern interface with full-screen applications versus the more-or-less classic Windows Desktop and multiple application windows.

But users who dug deeper into Windows 8 — including the many Windows Secrets readers who migrated to the new OS — quickly discovered an equally confusing schism in the dozens of common system settings used for personalization, privacy, screen size and resolution, accessing Windows Update, backup/recovery options, and so on. Some of those features now resided in a new Metro-based PC settings page; others, such as the Control Panel, remained in their traditional location.

There was no obvious rhyme or reason to where things ended up. Some options, such as Privacy, were on the Metro side; others were accessed only via the Desktop. Some ended up in both locations. For example, Win8.0’s Metro version of Windows Update let you check for and install Important Windows fixes. But you had to navigate to the classic Windows Update (typically, via Desktop/Control Panel) to see whether there were any optional updates available. (Most experienced Windows users probably went straight to Control Panel/Windows Update and never saw the Metro version.)

In other words, Win8.0 put related controls in different, separately accessed locations. Dumb!

Windows Update is just one example of Win8.0’s poorly designed system-settings schema. There were — and still are — many others.

Windows 8.1 cleans up much of the mess

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-11-14:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.