Customizing the background of your Windows 8 Start Screen

Windows 8’s biggest change from the last several revisions of Windows is the advent of the Start Screen to replace the Start Menu. I’ve been asked “how do I change the background of my Windows 8 Start Screen?” by a few people lately. As more and more screenshots release just prior to the launch of Windows 8, people are seeing different colors, designs, background images… and they want to know how to get in on the customization action. It’s simple.

From within the Start Screen, bring up the Charms Menu – you can do this by placing the mouse in the lower right hand corner of the screen, or by pressing the keyboard combination of “Windows Key” + C. Then click on Settings then Change PC Settings. From there, it should default to the Personalize menu on the left, the top item. Then, on the right hand side of the screen, across the top you should have 3 options: Lock screen (see our article on customizing the lock screen!), Start screen, and Account picture. Select Start screen.

Once you’re there, you can choose from several color-themes ranging from dark themes with colorful tiles and highlights, to more light hearted themes with richer, more plentiful colors. Then you also have your choice of 2- different ‘scenes’ in the background, to which those colored themes will be applied. Some of them are themed similarly to existing Microsoft products, like the Xbox 360’s “Jelly Swirls.”

How to Shutdown and Restart Windows 8

It’s a basic question, but on current generation hardware, there is no basic answer! On tablets you’ll expect to see power buttons and some of the ‘gestures’ to open menus might make sense, but on a desktop PC, Windows 8 is so different that people are asking how do I shutdown my Windows 8 computer? Well, luckily, it’s not much more difficult than it was to learn that you had to click on Start, to shutdown your computer. Remember, back in 1995, THAT was unintuitive!

The fastest way to shutdown a Windows 8 computer is by bringing up the Charms menu. This can be done by placing the mouse in the lower right hand corner of the screen, OR by using the hotkeys: Windows Key + C. Once the menu pops up in the right hand side, click on Settings, then Power, then you can choose to Shutdown or Restart the computer (other options like Sleep or Hibernate may also be available, depending on your configuration).

It sounds like a lot, but it’s still just a couple of clicks, just like clicking start, then shutdown, then shutdown, again like Windows XP or Windows 7.

Outlook asking for password: "Welcome Back to…"

Since I didn’t have an app for you this week, how about a special edition of “From The Help Desk.” Today is a problem we’re seeing, live and “on the ground” right now. Outlook users are getting a pop up window, prompting them for their credentials. The Window would say “Welcome Back to servername…” Even if you enter your credentials correctly (DOMAINUSERNAME & password), you then receive an error message that Exchange isn’t responding.

The bad news: this is not something the Outlook user can fix. The good news: it is very easy for your server administrator to fix.

All I did, as the server administrator, was log in to the server, and click Start, then Run then typed: services.msc. Then, the easiest thing for someone new to administering an Exchange server to do is to is look for servers with a Startup Type of Automatic but with a Blank status and start them. I was able to quickly see that the Microsoft Exchange Information Store and Microsoft Exchange System Attendant were not started on the server. Once I started those two services, I had the users close and re-open their Outlook clients. Issue resolved.

The precise cause is, as yet, undetermined, but this happened on multiple Windows Small Business Server computers over the last few days.

How to Customize your Windows 8 Lock Screen

Windows 8, just like what was introduced in Windows Phone 7. You can press escape or drag the large image “upward” to unlock the screen. But did you know the icons at the bottom of your screen are customizable? It allows you to have much more information, at a glance, than you do with the default settings. Here’s how you can tweak your own:

From the Windows 8 Start Screen, you can simply type the phrase Lock Screen and, once you click settings on the right, one of your options will be to “Customize your Lock Screen and Notifications.” You can also find this by starting again from the Start Menu, but by placing the mouse in the lower right corner of the screen and waiting for the Charms Bar to come out from the right side of the screen, then clicking Settings at the bottom, then Personalize Settings. The first thing you should see is the Personalize menu. If not, it is the top option on the left, as pictured in the screen shot above.

At this time, only a few apps support Lock Screen notifications, but you can bet that more will come down the road. Right now the included Weather app, and the excellent eBay app allow you to add notifications. You can choose one app, if it supports the option, to provide additional details. You could have the subject lines of a few emails, upcoming calendar appointments, or even a weather forecast! It will be great to see what more apps, like an official Twitter or Facebook application, will end up doing.

Don’t forget to check out our ongoing informational series on Windows 8.