Don’t you love it when you find a new shortcut to get across town or uncover a cool feature on your latest gadget? Windows 8 is full of “I didn’t know you could do that” surprises. I’ve compiled a list of hidden Windows 8 features that some advanced users or IT technicians may be able to take advantage of.

  1. Windows 8 is a pain to simply restart or shutdown. Strategies include right clicking in the bottom left and looking through the menus or going through the Start tiles to the FAR right of the screen to a “hidden” menu that allows access to the Windows 8 control panel and shutdown/restart options.  A good way to make it easier is to create a shortcut with a simple “shutdown /s” or “shutdown /r” command.
  2. You can create a “Start Menu” in the bottom left which is actually just a toolbar.
  3. While in the tiles Start menu, you can go to the top left and gain access to a task manager.  The old strategy of ctrl+alt+del still works, or right clicking the taskbar while on the Desktop.
  4. You can also close apps from this task manager by dragging the windows to the bottom of the screen (this mostly applies to touch screen users).
  5. They have expanded User Account Control to include “Smart screen” which boasts a few more customizable options than the prior versions of UAC.
  6. You can resize your Start tiles as well as create “groups” and name them.  The names appear as titles above the grouping.  This might be a nice way to organize Start tiles for users who are not comfortable with Windows 8, i.e. Microsoft Office group.
  7. To access the control panel menu easily, go to the bottom left of the desktop and right-click, it will bring up a menu of basic options including Power Options, etc.
  8. You can now access the “msconfig” menu and tweak Startup items from a tab in the task manager.  It’s actually exactly like msconfig without the extra step.
  9. You can customize your lock screen in many ways, including adding “widget” like applications (built-in) and can select Calendar and Email to update you on things while at the lock screen.  Attorneys with screen lock policies might appreciate this.  You can also use the “picture pattern” as an unlock option where you draw a pattern on a picture (even your own pictures) instead of using a standard password (or on top of a standard password).  This is once again mostly directed at touchscreen users.
  10. “netplwiz” is a command for advanced user control.  It’s not “new” to Windows 8, but you have the option to turn off passwords entirely for home workstations.
  11. At the Start tiles screen, you can just start typing as if it’s the Run line or “Start search” in Windows 7.
  12. Windows + “.” (keyboard key for Period)  will snap a window to the side while in the Tiles screen.  It’s slightly different than if you do the standard Windows left (or right) arrow as it actually sets the application as a “pane” and you can open other applications on the remainder of the screen without it falling “behind” the current one (similar to freezing panes in Excel).
  13. You can change your default Explorer folder (default folder location when opening explorer). This is nothing new, but might be useful while you adjust to Windows 8.
  14. There is a “God mode” secret code.  You can “create a new shortcut” and type in a string and it will open up ANY and ALL settings for Windows 8 all in one place.  This is especially useful for technicians setting up a new Windows 8 workstation – they can fly through numerous settings from one place.
  15. When you take a screenshot, it automatically saves them into a folder named “Screenshots” in your Pictures library.
  16. There is an automatic defragmentation schedule (set to run weekly) which can be edited or disabled.
  17. You can go into diskmgmt and create a VHD or VHDX (allows larger than 2 Tb partitions) on your own hard drive.  This feature is most likely present on Server 2012 as well and can possibly be a workaround for if you ever have to use Backup Exec 2012 and need to get around the “dedicated external drive” problem.  Either way, you can create a VHD on the hard drive and use it like its own partition.