Windows 8 represents one of the biggest changes to Windows ever undertaken by Microsoft, with a new tiled main interface that works equally well via touch or keyboard and mouse. But one thing hasn’t changed from previous versions—it’s eminently hackable.
As you’ll see in this book, you can hack just about anything. Want to hack the new Start screen and tiles, the new Lock screen, the new tile-based apps, or the automatic notification information? Yes, you can do that. How about running other operating systems inside Windows 8, running Windows 8 on a Mac, or hacking SkyDrive and social media? I’ll show you how to do that as well.
And yes, I’ll even show you how you can bring back a version of the old standby Start menu that Microsoft killed off in Windows 8, or bypass the new Start screen and boot directly into the Desktop.
You’ll find over a hundred great hacks in this book. Some are simple enough that you can do them in a few minutes. Some take some serious time and thought. But all of them are useful or entertaining. You’ll learn how to get far more out of Windows 8, and have fun in the process.
The hacks you’ll find inside are useful, frequently entertaining, and will save you countless hours at the keyboard. Whether you want to speed up your PC, customize the Windows interface, hack your wired and wireless network, get more out of the Web, make better use of email, use the Registry to bend the operating system to your will, or use Windows for countless other useful tasks, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. And each hack doesn’t just show you how to do something; it also teaches why it works. Each hack is a starting point, rather than an ending point, so that you can apply the knowledge you’ve gained to create new hacks of your own.
You can read this book from cover to cover if you like, but each hack stands on its own, so feel free to browse and jump to the different sections that interest you most. If there’s a prerequisite you need to know about, a cross-reference will guide you to the right hack. If you’re not familiar with the Registry yet, or you want a refresher, you might want to spend some time in Chapter 11 to get a good grounding.
This book is not a mere tips-and-tricks compendium that tells you where to click, where to drag, and what commands to type. It takes advantage of Windows’ flexibility and new features, recognizes that there are specific tasks you want to accomplish with the operating system and related hardware and software, and offers bite-size pieces of functionality you can put to use in a few minutes. It also shows how you can expand on their usefulness yourself. To give you this kind of help, the book is organized into 11 chapters:
- Chapter 1, Setup and Startup Hacks
Want to disable or hack your way through the Lock screen, speed up boot time, refresh your PC by reinstalling Windows without touching your data, run Windows 8 on a Mac, or run other operating systems inside Windows 8? You’ll find those along with plenty of other hacks.
- Chapter 2, Hacking the Start Screen, the Windows 8 Interface, and Apps
Windows 8’s biggest change, as compared to previous versions of Windows, is the new tile-based Start screen, as well as the Windows 8 native apps built specifically for it. (The interface and apps for it were previously called Metro, but Microsoft has abandoned that name.) This chapter shows you how to bend the Start screen and Windows 8 native apps to your will. Here you’ll find out how to hack the Start screen and individual Windows 8 native apps, get access to Windows 8 power tools from the Start screen, track app use with the Task Manager, and much more.
- Chapter 3, Hacking the Desktop
Even if it’s no longer center stage, your old favorite the Desktop still lives in Windows 8, and I’ll show you how to hack it. Here’s where you’ll learn to bring a Start menu back to Windows 8, and even boot directly to the Desktop rather than the Start screen. You’ll also find out how to bring back the Quick Launch toolbar, run Desktop apps and Windows 8 native apps side by side, make the Desktop more tablet-friendly, and control the Control Panel. I’ll even show you how to turn on Windows 8’s hidden “God Mode.”
- Chapter 4, Productivity and System Performance Hacks
When it comes to PCs, there are only three important speeds—fast, faster, and fastest. This chapter shows you how to make sure that your PC always runs in the fastest lane. You’ll discover hidden tools for juicing up performance and tracking down bottlenecks, peer deep into your system with various Windows 8 monitors, speed up performance using the Task Manager, and use File History to recover deleted files or get back previous versions of files. And the chapter also includes a comprehensive list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts. Those with tablets or touchscreen devices will be pleased to see its comprehensive list of touchscreen gestures.
- Chapter 5, Cloud and Social Networking Hacks
Windows 8 is the first version of Windows designed from the ground up for the cloud and social networking, and this chapter shows how you how to hack them. Here you’ll find plenty of ways to hack SkyDrive, including making it play nice with your other Windows folders and using it to sync files on all of your Windows 8 devices as well as with other versions of Windows and Macs. I’ll also clue you in to other free file-syncing services, and show you how to get the most out of Windows 8’s People app and make it work with Facebook and other social media services.
- Chapter 6, Music, Media, and Video
Windows 8 is a multimedia powerhouse, and this chapter shows you how to get more out of it. It shows you how to improve watching DVDs and TV shows in Windows 8, use Windows 8 with your Xbox 360, organize your photos with metadata, burn recorded TV shows directly from Windows Media Center to DVD, and more. There’s even a hack that shows you how to convert vinyl LPs and tapes to MP3 files.
- Chapter 7, Networking, the Web, Wireless, and the Internet
Face it: you live on the Web, Internet, and wired and wireless networks, so why not make the most of it? In this chapter, you’ll find plenty of ways to improve your life online, including making Windows 8 play nice with your home network, hacking DNS to speed up Web browsing, and hacking Windows 8’s Wi-Fi, wireless, and network settings. You’ll see how the Task Manager can track bandwidth use of individual apps and your entire network. And there are also several hacks that show you how to use powerful networking command line tools like
pathping. You’ll find out how to extend the range of your wireless network, troubleshoot bad wireless connections, and how to keep your home network safe and secure.
- Chapter 8, Security
It’s a nasty world out here. There are snoopers, intruders, and malware writers looking to turn your PC into a spam-spewing zombie. But this chapter helps you fight them off and also shows how to customize how you use security. You’ll see how to encrypt your PC and set up your own virtual private network (VPN), as well as tell Windows 8 not to snoop on your location. You’ll find out how to create a picture password for even more Windows 8 security. Don’t like the way that User Account Control (UAC) works? No problem—I’ll show you how to hack it. You’ll also find out how to unlock Windows 8’s super-secret Administrator account, punch an escape hole through the Windows 8 firewall, and protect your privacy by removing Windows 8 metadata.
- Chapter 9, Email
Email—can’t live with it, can’t live without it. In this chapter, you’ll learn many ways to get more out of it. Here’s where you’ll find out how to trick the Windows 8 email app into using POP mail, use different live tiles for different email accounts, bypass limits on sending large email attachments, hack Microsoft’s Outlook.com web-based mail service, turn Gmail into a universal inbox, stay off spam lists, and more.
- Chapter 10, Hardware
Hardware hacks: just the though of them can make grown men and women shiver. But they’re easier than you think. I’ll show you how to use Windows 8’s new Storage Spaces feature to combine storage from many different devices into one big virtual disk as well as how to hack Windows 8’s power plan, extend Windows 8 across multiple monitors, troubleshoot hardware woes, get a comprehensive list of all your drivers, and more.
- Chapter 11, The Registry and Group Policy Editor
If you’re going to hack Windows 8, you’ll need to use the Registry. It’s that simple. This chapter goes beyond merely teaching you how to use the Registry and how it’s organized (although it covers that in detail). It also shows you how to hack the Registry itself—for example, by offering hacks on how to use .reg files to edit the Registry safely. Additionally, you’ll find out how to use the Group Policy Editor for hacking.
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Thanks as always to my editor Nan Barber, and to senior editor Brian Sawyer. And I’d like to thank Jason Schneiderman, who proofread the manuscript; Kristen Borg, who shepherded this book through production; Ron Bilodeau for the layout of the book; and my technical editors, Jason Arnold and Sander Berkouwer, for saving me from making disastrous errors.
Finally, as always, thanks go to my wife Lydia, my daughter Mia, and my son Gabe. Without them, is anything worth hacking?