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Introduction to Windows 8.1 Administration

Running Windows 8.1

When the operating system starts after installation, you can log on and access the desktop. By default, Windows 8.1 stores user profile data under %SystemDrive% \Users\%UserName%. Within the user profile folder, each user who logs on to the system has a personal folder, and that personal folder contains additional folders. These folders are the default locations for storing specific types of data and files:

  • AppData User-specific application data (in a hidden folder)
  • Contacts Contacts and contact groups
  • Desktop The user’s desktop
  • Downloads Programs and data downloaded from the Internet
  • Favorites The user’s Internet favorites
  • Links The user’s Internet links
  • Documents The user’s document files
  • Music The user’s music files
  • Pictures The user’s pictures
  • Videos The user’s video files
  • Saved Games The user’s saved game data
  • Searches The user’s saved searches

Windows 8.1 uses personal folders and personal libraries. Personal folders are listed in the left pane of File Explorer and displayed in the main pane when you select the This PC node. Libraries are displayed in File Explorer only when you select the Libraries node.

Libraries work differently than they do in Windows 8 and earlier versions of Windows. Although libraries are still collections of files and folders that are grouped together and presented through a common view, the data they collect is different.

In earlier versions of Windows, libraries collected a user’s personal data and a computer’s public data. In Windows 8.1, libraries collect locally stored personal data and cloud-stored personal data. Thus, if a user has a connected local or connected domain account, locally stored data is collected with data stored on SkyDrive. For example, the Documents library collects the data from a user’s locally stored Documents folder and a user’s cloud-stored Documents folder.

When you are working with the Libraries node in File Explorer, you can create new libraries to act as views to various collections of data by pressing and holding or right-clicking an open area of the main pane, pointing to New, and then selecting Library.

Windows 8.1 provides themes that allow you to easily customize the appearance of menus, windows, and the desktop. In Control Panel, tap or click the Change The Theme link under Appearance And Personalization, and then choose the theme you want to use. Windows Default themes such as Earth or Flowers add improved visual design and enhanced dynamic effects to the interface. If you want to use fewer advanced features, choose the Windows theme. Additional themes are available online as well.

It is important to point out, however, that the interface enhancements that can be used on a computer depend on which Windows 8.1 edition is installed and on the computer’s hardware.

Using Action Center and activating Windows

By default, when you log on, the operating system displays an Action Center summary icon in the desktop notification area. This icon has a white flag on it. Action Center is a program that monitors the status of important security and maintenance areas. If the status of a monitored item changes, Action Center updates the notification icon as appropriate for the severity of the alert. If you tap or click this icon, Windows displays a dialog box with a summary listing of each alert or action item that needs your attention. Tap or click an action item link to run the related solution. Tap or click the Open Action Center link to display the Action Center.

If you’ve disabled Action Center notifications on the taskbar, you can start Action Center by following these steps:

  1. In Control Panel, tap or click the System And Security category heading link.
  2. Tap or click Action Center.

Action Center, shown in Figure 1-1, provides an overview of the computer’s status and lists any issues that need to be resolved. After you have installed Windows 8.1, action alerts in Action Center might let you know that device drivers are available and need to be installed. Simply tap or click the action item to begin the driver installation process. For detailed information on working with Action Center, see the “Using automated Help and support” section in Chapter 8, “Managing hardware devices and drivers.”

Figure 1-1

Figure 1-1 The Action Center window shows issues that need user attention.

Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise editions support volume licensing. Although volume-licensed versions of Windows 8.1 might not require activation or product keys, retail versions of Windows 8.1 require both activation and product keys. You can determine whether Windows 8.1 has been activated in Control Panel by tapping or clicking System And Security, and then tapping or clicking System. On the System page, read the Windows Activation entry. This entry specifies whether you have activated the operating system. If Windows 8.1 has not been activated and you are connected to the Internet, select View Details In Windows Activation, and then tap or click Activate.

Running Windows 8.1 in groups and domains

Computers running Windows 8.1 can be members of a homegroup, a workgroup, a workplace, or a domain. A homegroup is a loose association of computers on a home network. Computers in a homegroup share data that can be accessed by using a password common to the users in the homegroup. You set the homegroup password when you set up the homegroup and can modify the password as necessary at any time.

A workgroup is a loose association of computers in which each computer is managed separately. A workplace is a loose association of computers that grants access to certain internal network resources and business apps. A domain is a collection of computers that you can manage collectively by means of domain controllers, which are servers running Windows that manage access to the network, to the directory database, and to shared resources.

Homegroups are available when a computer running Windows 8.1 is connected to a home network. Workgroups, workplaces, and domains are available when a computer running Windows 8.1 is connected to a work network.

Some aspects of Windows 8.1 vary depending on whether a computer is a member of a homegroup, workgroup, workplace, or domain. The sections that follow discuss these differences as they pertain to UAC, logon, fast user switching, and password management.

Understanding UAC in Windows 8.1

In a homegroup, workgroup, or workplace, a computer running Windows 8.1 has only local machine accounts. In a domain, a computer running Windows 8.1 has both local machine accounts and domain accounts. Windows 8.1 has two primary types of local user accounts:

  • Standard Standard user accounts can use most software and can change system settings that do not affect other users or the security of the computer.
  • Administrator Administrator user accounts have complete access to the computer and can make any necessary changes.

Windows 8.1 has a special type of local user account called a Microsoft account. Microsoft accounts can be thought of as synchronized local accounts and are discussed in detail in the “Understanding user and group accounts” section in Chapter 5.

Windows 8.1 includes UAC as a way to enhance computer security by ensuring true separation of standard user and administrator user accounts. Because of the UAC feature in Windows 8.1, all applications run by using either standard user or administrator user privileges. Whether you log on as a standard user or as an administrator user, you get a security prompt by default whenever you run an application that requires administrator privileges. The way the security prompt works depends on Group Policy settings (as discussed in the “Optimizing UAC and Admin Approval Mode” section in Chapter 5) and whether you are logged on with a standard user account or an administrator user account.

When you are logged on with a standard user account, you are asked to provide a password for an administrator account, as shown in Figure 1-2. In a homegroup, workgroup, or workplace, each local computer administrator account is listed by name. To proceed, you must tap or click an account, enter the account’s password, and then tap or click Yes.

Figure 1-2

Figure 1-2 This User Account Control dialog box prompts for administrator credentials.

In a domain, the User Account Control dialog box does not list any administrator accounts, so you must know the user name and password of an administrator account in the default (logon) domain or a trusted domain to continue. When Windows prompts you, enter the account name and password, and then tap or click Yes. If the account is in the default domain, you don’t have to specify the domain name. If the account is in another domain, you must specify the domain and the account name by using the format domain\username, such as cpandl\williams.

When you are logged on with an administrator user account, you are asked to confirm that you want to continue, as shown in Figure 1-3. You can tap or click Yes to allow the task to be performed, or tap or click No to stop the task from being performed. Tapping or clicking Show Details shows the full path to the program being executed.

Figure 1-3

Figure 1-3 This User Account Control dialog box prompts for confirmation to continue.

Elevation of privileges allows a standard user application to run with administrator privileges. You can run applications with elevated privileges by following these steps:

  1. Press and hold or right-click the application’s tile or shortcut, and then tap or click Run As Administrator.
  2. When the User Account Control prompt appears, proceed as you normally would to allow the application to run with administrator privileges.

Logging on to, shutting down, and restarting Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 displays a Lock screen at startup. When you click the Lock screen, you get the Welcome screen. The behavior of the Welcome screen depends on Group Policy settings and the computer’s homegroup, workgroup, or domain membership.

Keep the following in mind:

  • In a homegroup, workgroup, or workplace, the Welcome screen shows a list of accounts on the computer. To log on with one of these accounts, tap or click the account and enter a password if required.
  • In a domain, the name of the last user to log on is displayed by default on the Welcome screen. You can log on with this account by entering the required password. You can log on as another user as well by clicking the Switch User button, selecting one of the alternative accounts listed, and then providing the password for that account or clicking Other User to enter the user name and password for the account to use. Note that the Switch User button has a left-pointing arrow in a circle and is to the left of the account picture.

By default, the last account to log on to the computer is listed in computer\username or domain\username format. To log on to this account, you enter the account password, and then tap or click the Submit button. The Submit button is part of the Password box, and shows a right-pointing arrow. To log on to a different account, tap or click Switch User, press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and then tap or click Other User. The logon information that you must provide depends on what type of account you are using:

  • If the account is in the current/default domain, enter the user name and password, and then tap or click the arrow button.
  • If the account is in another domain, you must specify the domain and the account name by using the format domain\username, such as cpandl\williams.
  • If you want to log on to the local machine, enter .\username, where username is the name of the local account, such as .\williams.

When you are logged on, you can display the Windows Logon screen by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. This screen allows you to lock the computer, switch users, sign out, change a password, or start Task Manager. The Power button is in the lower-right corner of the screen. Tapping or clicking the Power button displays Sleep, Shut Down, and Restart options.

Because Shut down and Restart are options of the Power settings, you also can shut down or restart a computer by following these steps:

  1. Slide in from the right side of the screen or press Windows key + C.
  2. Tap or click Settings, and then tap or click Power.
  3. Tap or click Shut Down or Restart as appropriate.

Managing user account passwords with Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 provides fast and easy ways to manage user account passwords. You can easily perform the following tasks:

  • Change the current user’s password.
  • Change the password for another domain or local computer account.
  • Create a password reset disk.
  • Reset a user’s password.

These tasks are discussed in the sections that follow.

Changing the Current User’s Password

You can change the current user’s password by completing the following steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and then tap or click the Change A Password option.

  2. Enter the current password for the account in the Old Password text box.

  3. Enter and confirm the new password for the account in the New Password and the Confirm Password text boxes.

  4. Tap or click the arrow button to confirm the change.

Changing Other Account Passwords

You can change the password for a domain or a local account other than the current user’s account by completing these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and then tap or click the Change A Password option.

  2. Tap or click in the User Name text box, and then enter the name of the account.

  3. Enter the current password for the account in the Old Password text box.

  4. Enter and confirm the new password for the account in the New Password and the Confirm Password text boxes.

  5. Tap or click the arrow button to confirm the change.

Creating and Using a Password Reset Disk

Passwords for domain users and local users are managed in different ways. In domains, passwords for domain user accounts are managed by administrators. Administrators can reset forgotten passwords by using the Active Directory Users And Computers console.

In homegroups and workgroups, passwords for local machine accounts can be stored in a secure, encrypted file on a password reset disk, which is a USB flash drive that contains the information needed to reset your password. You can create a password reset disk for the current user by completing these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and then tap or click the Change A Password option.
  2. Tap or click Create A Password Reset Disk to start the Forgotten Password Wizard.
  3. In the Forgotten Password Wizard, read the introductory message. Insert the USB flash drive you want to use, and then tap or click Next.
  4. Select the USB flash drive you want to use in the drive list. Tap or click Next.
  5. Enter the current password for the logged on user in the text box provided, and then tap or click Next.
  6. After the wizard creates the password reset disk, tap or click Next, remove the disk, and then tap or click Finish.

Be sure to store the password reset disk in a secure location because anyone with access to the disk can use it to gain access to the user’s data. If a user is unable to log on because he or she has forgotten the password, you can use the password reset disk to create a new password and log on to the account by using this password.

Resetting a User’s Password

Administrators can reset forgotten passwords by using the Active Directory Users And Computers console. In homegroups and workgroups, you can reset a password by following these steps:

  1. On the Log On screen, tap or click the arrow button without entering a password, and then tap or click OK. The Reset Password option should be displayed. If the user has already entered the wrong password, the Reset Password option might already be displayed.
  2. Insert the disk or USB flash device containing the password recovery file, and then tap or click Reset Password to start the Reset Password Wizard.
  3. In the Reset Password Wizard, read the introductory message, and then tap or click Next.
  4. Select the device you want to use in the drive list, and then tap or click Next.
  5. On the Reset The User Account Password page, enter and confirm a new password for the user.
  6. Enter a password hint, and then tap or click Next. Tap or click Finish.

Power plans, sleep modes, and shutdown

Normally, computers running Windows 8.1 use the Balanced power plan, and this power plan turns off the display and puts the computer in sleep mode automatically after a specified period of time passes with no user activity.

When entering the sleep state, the operating system automatically saves all work, turns off the display, and puts the computer in sleep mode. Sleep mode is a low-power consumption mode in which the state of the computer is maintained in the computer’s memory, and the computer’s fans and hard disks are turned off.

Windows 8.1 saves the computer state before entering sleep mode, and you don’t need to exit programs before you do this. Because the computer uses very little energy in the sleep state, you don’t have to worry about wasting energy.

To view or modify the default power options, open Control Panel. In Control Panel, tap or click System And Security, and then, under Power Options, tap or click Change When The Computer Sleeps. The options available depend on the type of computing device. With mobile computers and tablets, as shown in Figure 1-4, you might be able to set On Battery and Plugged In options for turning off the display, putting the computer to sleep, and adjusting the display brightness. With desktop computers, you can only specify when the display is turned off and when the computer goes to sleep. Tap or click Save Changes to save your changes.

You can cause most computers to enter the sleep state by tapping or clicking the Settings charm button, tapping or clicking Power, and then tapping or clicking Sleep. To wake the computer from the sleep state, you can press and hold somewhere on the touch screen, move the mouse, or press any key on the keyboard. Note that some computers have separate power and sleep buttons on their case. The way these buttons work can be set through the power plan options.

Figure 1-4

Figure 1-4 Configure power options to optimize power management for the computer.

There are instances in which a computer can’t use the sleep state. The system hardware, state, and configuration can affect the way the power and sleep buttons work. Some computer hardware doesn’t support the sleep state. In this case, the computer can’t use the sleep state. This is also the case when the computer has updates installed that require a restart or when you’ve installed programs that require a restart. Additionally, if an administrator has reconfigured the power options on the computer and set the power button, the sleep button, or both to alternative actions, the computer will use those actions instead of the default shutdown and sleep actions.

To change the default setting for the power button, open Control Panel. In Control Panel, tap or click System And Security, and then, under Power Options, tap or click Choose What The Power Buttons Do. As before, the options available depend on the type of computing device. With mobile computers, as shown in Figure 1-5, you might be able to set On Battery and Plugged In options that specify what happens when you press the power button, what happens when you press the sleep button, and what happens when you close the lid. Optionally, you can tap or click Change Settings That Are Currently Unavailable, and then do any of the following:

  • Choose Require A Password to require a password to log on after waking the computer from sleep.
  • Choose Turn On Fast Startup to save system information to a file on the system disk when you shut down the computer. This file is then read during startup to enable faster startup. When you restart a computer, Fast Startup is not used.
  • Choose the Power options you want displayed when you click Power.

Save your changes by tapping or clicking Save Changes.

Figure 1-5

Figure 1-5 Configure power button options.