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Tweaks and Hacks to Bend Windows 8 to Your Will

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Windows 8 registry hacks

Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Robert Kingsley

Since Windows 8's release, one thing has been made abundantly clear; a lot of people don't like it. Microsoft added a lot of great features, but also included a vastly different user interface that many long time users are having trouble adjusting to.

If you have Windows 8 and aren't happy with the way it works, you have two options. You can live with the annoyance and let it eat away at whatever shred of happiness you have left in your work day, or you can stand up and make a change.

If you aren't happy with some of the new features of Windows 8, change them. With a bit of guidance you can eliminate the most annoying features of Microsoft's latest release. Keep what you like, change what you don't. You'll be much happier with what you end up with.

WARNING: This article instructs users to tamper with registry files. Mistakes made during the procedures described could have unintended consequences. Be sure to back up your registry prior to attempting any hacks.

Disable the Charms Hint

Have you ever tried to close a desktop application by clicking the red "X" button only to have the ghost of the charms bar pop out and get in your face? If you spend a lot of time in the desktop environment you likely have. While this white Charms bar is only a visual hint and it doesn't stop you from clicking the button you're aiming for, it's jarring to have it popping out all the time.

To relieve yourself of this annoyance, you can try a simple registry hack that will disable this hint. You can still open the charms bar by moving your cursor to the top or bottom right corner and then sliding it towards the middle of the screen, but you won't see that annoying white hint ever again.

Launch the Registry Editor by searching for "regedit" from the Search Charm and selecting it from the results pane. Navigate to the following registry key using the folders in the left pane of the editor:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell

Right-click "Immersive Shell," select "New" and click "Key." Name the new key "EdgeUI."

After creating the new key, right-click "EdgeUI," select "New" and click "DWORD (32-bit) Value." Enter the name "DisableCharmsHint" and press "Enter."

Double-click this new value and enter "1" in the Value Data field. Click "OK" and your job is done.

Disable the App Switcher

The Charms bar isn't the only modern interface tweak that baffles desktop users. In the top-left corner, where many apps place the "File" menu, you'll find a switcher that allows you to swap between open Windows store apps on your computer.

If you find yourself with a thumbnail of your last opened app blocking your ability to click "File" you may want to consider disabling the switcher. Another registry tweak is all that stands between you and relief. Once done, you can still swap between Windows store apps and desktop apps using the alt+tab keyboard shortcut.

Disabling the switcher can be done by adding another DWORD value to the EdgeUI key you created in the last section. Navigate to the following key in the registry editor:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\ImmersiveShell\EdgeUI

Right-click "EdgeUI," select "New" and click "DWORD (32-bit) Value." Enter the name "DisableTLcorner." Double-click the new value and enter "1" in the Value Data field to complete the job.

Make the File Explorer Default to My Computer

Do you remember the days when the Windows File Explorer would open directly to the My Computer screen? From there you could access any drive on your system with a click. If you miss those days, as I do, you can reconfigure the default screen in File Explorer in Windows 8.

If you like the sound of the My Computer screen, you can use that, but you aren't limited to that one option. You can use any folder on your hard drive as your starting point. It's up to you.

Right-click the File Explorer icon on your desktop taskbar. Righ-click "File Explorer" from the context menu and then click "Properties."

Enter a new value in the "Target" field of the Shortcut tab to change the default page for the File Explorer. If you want to use the My Computer page, enter the following data:

%windir%\explorer.exe ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}

If you'd rather use another folder, simply copy the complete path to the folder from the location bar in File Explorer and paste it in the Target field. Click "OK" to finalize your settings and click the File Explorer icon to test your new default page.

Kill the Lock Screen

On a mobile device that spends a lot of time in your pocket, a lock screen is a helpful tool. It keeps you from accidentally triggering buttons as your fingers brush against the touchscreen. On a desktop or laptop computer though, it serves no purpose whatsoever except for requiring an additional step before logging in.

If you would rather the lock screen never existed, you can eradicate it with a simple registry tweak. Launch the Registry Editor by searching for "regedit" from the Search charm. Click "regedit.exe" from the results pane.

Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\

Check for a key called "Personalization" under the "Windows" key. If there, great; if not, right click "Windows," select "New" and click "Key." Name the new key "Personalization" and click "Enter."

Right-click the "Personalization" key, select "New" and click "DWORD (32-bit) Value." Name the value "NoScreenLock" and click "Enter."

Double-click the new value and type "1" in the Value Data field.

Boot to Desktop

If you're a desktop user, you'll likely spend very little time on the Start screen preferring to stick with the familiar desktop environment. If you are such a user, having Windows boot to the Start screen every time you log in is a pain. Windows 8.1 makes avoiding this a simple task, for users who don't want to wait for that update to be released, you have another option.

Using the Task Scheduler, you can create a task that runs each time you log in that switches you to the desktop. When you log in, you'll see the Start screen first, but after only a second or two the task you create will swap you over to the desktop.

Open the Task Scheduler by searching "Schedule" from the Search Charm. Select "Settings" and then click "Scheduled Tasks" from the results pane.

Select "Create Task" from the Actions pane on the right side of the Scheduler window. Enter the name "ShowDesktop" on the General tab and then select "Windows 8" from the Configure for drop-down list at the bottom of the tab.

Select the "Triggers" tab, click "New," select "At log on" from the Begin the task drop-down list and click OK."

Select the "Actions" tab, click "New" and select "Start a program" from the Action drop-down list. Enter "C:\Windows\explorer.exe" in the Program/script field. Click "OK."

Select the Conditions tab and deselect "Start the task only if the computer is on AC power." Click "OK."

The next time you log in, you'll only see the Start screen for a couple of seconds before it swaps over to the desktop. The only side-effect of this method is that you'll find an open File Explorer window on the desktop.

Bring Back a Start Menu

Last on the list is likely the most unpopular annoyance introduced in Windows 8, the lack of Start menu. For touchscreen users, the Start screen is likely an improvement over the Start menu. The big bold tiles and touch gestures make tapping your way into apps much easier than scrolling through a cramped menu. For mouse users though, the new interface results in a lot more mouse movement and scrolling to get where you need to go.

To bring the Start menu back, you have a number of options. If you don't like the idea of installing a third-party application and utilizing additional system resources, you can create a menu of your own. If you're not hurting for resources and are more interested in advanced features and a polished interface, there are a number of free applications you can install that will give you exactly what you need.

Conclusion

In the end, Windows 8 may still not be the Windows 7 successor you were hoping for, but it will be a lot closer. By tweaking the features you don't like and keeping those you do, you can personalize your environment to work the way you want it to.

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