New Windows operating system 8.1 can be tamed

A new year usually brings new challenges.  One expats are trying to avoid is upgrading to Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8.1.  The company is trying to cram it down everyone’s throats after the release of Windows 8 was such a disaster.

In September of 2013, Windows 8 finally jumped past Apple’s OS X with 7.4 percent market share.  Windows 7 still had 45.63 percent and XP not far behind with 33.66 percent.

However, old computers die or slow down to a point upgrading is inevitable.  Most new Windows-based machines only come with the new system.

Most people do not like change, especially, when it comes to using something new when the old works just fine. That was the case with Windows XP. It was a great operating system and far superior to Windows 98, 2000, and Me. It was stable, usable, and fast. Most people back in 1998 to 2005 did not use Windows NT because it was more complicated, but an overall better system and true 32 bit.

When Microsoft released Vista, which was smart on security but full of driver and other problems, some people moved to Apple computers, the much friendlier machines. It was not until Window 7 was released did consumers get some relief.

Expats, young and old alike, take heart. Microsoft’s new operating system is not so bad. Actually, it is pretty good.  One of the many neat things about it is how well it works with touch screen devices.

Keyboards in the future may well go the way of slide rulers.  However, with Windows 8.1, one has the choice to use it with touch or a keyboard or both.

Microsoft, despite all the experts in the organization, still did not realize that taking away everything everyone learned in prior operating systems was not going to work. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

What most people do not know, because the details are buried, one can turn off all new fancy stuff in Windows 8.1 and use the system the old way but still get the benefit of better, faster and more security. Antivirus and malware protection are provided free in the operating system with Microsoft Defender. What most people hate is the new start menu.

Microsoft assumes everyone has a touch screen when most do not. They just want to go to the desktop where they feel comfortable.

This is how to turn off the start menu and go directly to the desktop all the time.  Navigate to the control panel and find the option Taskbar and Navigation. Go to the Navigation tab and change the options. This cannot be done with Windows 8, just with 8.1.

Why is Microsoft making these radical changes? Are they trying to confuse everyone? The reason is simple. They are trying to catch up with Apple and the way the company has changed the world with iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

This brings up the next cool aspect of the new Windows, it is part of a cloud system called SkyDrive in some ways like Apple’s iCloud where a person’s profile follows them from computer to computer or to a handheld device. This includes photos, videos, computer settings, documents, spreadsheets, and the like.

In some ways, this outshines Apple iCloud, which is geared more towards entertainment.  One expat installing his new computer for the first time was shocked to find all his settings automatically transfer from his desktop machine to his portable. The new operating system worked so well, he dumped his desktop.

BitLocker, full disk encryption, is also available with Windows 8+ Pro and Enterprise versions.  BitLocker uses the Trusted Platform Module to help protect user data and helps to ensure that a computer is not tampered with, even if it is left unattended, lost, or stolen.

Portable computers have become so powerful, desktop units are dying fast. Many offer HDMI and mini-display adapters so many monitors can be run at the same time, just like old clunky desktops. Using more than one monitor usually saves on paper because printing is not necessary as with one monitor.

The world is changing very fast, especially in the area of technology. Some expats do not want anything to do with these changes. However, it is difficult to find someone who does not write at least email. To use email, one must use a computer or a smart device. This means he or she will be exposed to new tech along the way, like it or not.

For those using Apples, Mavericks is the new operating system, it too has its problems. To name a few, Gmail’s IMAP is wacky, scrolling is broken in Chrome and other apps, mail will not remember some passwords, and computers are slow or stall during restarts.

Windows people who bought a new computer last year with Window 8 pre-installed wanted to jump out real windows. Microsoft’s neglect to embrace consumer wishes hurt the company much like when it introduced Vista. The company has done its best to satisfy those needs with it updated product.

For those using Microsoft Windows, there will be a time an upgrade is necessary, like it or not. Do not fear it. Embrace the new changes. Once the learning curve is conquered, most will find them fun and productive.

Garland M. Baker is a 43-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2014. Use without permission prohibited.

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