Windows 8 cheat sheet

Here's how to find your way around Microsoft's new OS and make the most of its features

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Clicking the File tab on the left pops up a small box that lets you open new File Explorer windows, shows you a list of your frequently visited places so you can navigate to them quickly, and includes several other features.

File History. This new feature, turned off by default, backs up files stored in your Libraries, Favorites, Contacts and Desktop. Keep in mind that your Libraries include many folders, including public and private Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos folders, so you can use this feature to back up plenty of files. And you can add other locations you want backed up as well. It's a vast improvement over the less-than-useful Windows 7 feature called Previous Versions.

Of course, you'll need storage media such as a USB drive to back up your files to, or you can back up to local network storage. File History uses compression to reduce the amount of disk space you'll need.

And File History does more than just back up files. It also keeps interim versions of them, so that you can see previous versions of a file.

To turn on File History, first run Control Panel by typing "Control Panel" at the Start screen and clicking the Control Panel icon that appears. Then, in the Control Panel search box, search for "file history" and click the File History link that appears. Click the "Turn on" button and make any selections necessary, such as which drive you want to back up your data to.

Turning on Windows 8's new File History feature. Click to view image.

Three tips for getting more out of Windows 8

It may take you a little while to become comfortable with Windows 8, so I've put together three tips to help you get up to speed. The first two will help you make the most of the new interface, and the third will bring back an old friend: the Start button.

1. Customize the Start screen

The Start screen that appears by default is not necessarily the Start screen that's best for you. There are many ways to customize it, though. Here I'll show you how to add, remove, rearrange and otherwise tweak the tiles on your screen.

To remove a tile from the Start screen, right-click it and select "Unpin from Start" from the bar that appears at the bottom of the screen. You can select multiple apps by holding down the Ctrl key as you right-click them, and then unpin them in one fell swoop.

If you don't want a live tile such as the Weather app to display changing information, right-click it and select "Turn live tile off." To make a large tile smaller or a small tile larger, right-click it and select "Smaller" or "Larger."

Adding tiles to the Start screen takes a little more work than unpinning them, but not a lot. If you're on the Start screen and you know the name of the app you want to add, type its name. You'll be sent to the Search charm, and the app will show up on the left. Right-click it, and from the bar that appears at the bottom of the screen, select "Pin to Start." If you search for a Desktop app and right-click it, you'll also be able to pin it to the Desktop taskbar. If it's already pinned to the taskbar, you can unpin it.

To browse a list of your apps (or many of them, at least), you can right-click any tile on the Start screen and select "All apps" on the far right of the bar at the bottom -- or just press the Windows key + Z. You'll see a list of every Windows 8 app on your PC, and some -- but not all -- of your Desktop apps. (I have yet to figure out how Windows decides which Desktop apps to list under "All apps.") Right-click any apps you want to pin and proceed as above.

By default, the tiles on the Start screen seem to be randomly placed into groups, but you can group them however you like. To move a tile to a different group, just drag and drop it wherever you want it, including in the middle of a group -- the other tiles in the group will automatically rearrange themselves to accommodate it.

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