If you launch a Metro app, play with it for a while, then press the Windows key you'll switch back to the Start screen. Your app will remain running, but as there's no taskbar then you might be wondering how you'd ever find that out.
You could just press Alt+Tab, which shows you what's running just as it always have.
Holding down the Windows key and pressing Tab displays a pane on the left-hand side of the screen with your running apps. (To see this with the mouse, move your cursor to the top left corner of the screen, wait until the thumbnail of one app appears, then drag down. And of course you can always press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to see all your running apps in the Task Manager, if you don't mind (or actually need) the extra technical detail.
Run as Administrator
Some programs need you to run them with Administrator rights before they'll work properly. The old context menu isn't available for a pinned Start screen app, but right-click one, and if it's appropriate for this app then you'll see a Run As Administrator option.
Experienced Windows users who spend much of their time in one advanced applet or another are often a little annoyed to see their favourite tools buried by Windows 8. Microsoft have paid at least some attention, though, and there is a way to bring some of them back.
Open the Metro Settings panel (press Win+I), click the Settings link, change "Show administrative tools" to Yes and click back on an empty part of the Start screen. And it's as simple as that. Scroll to the right and you'll find a host of new tiles for various key applets - Performance Monitor, Event Viewer, Task Scheduler, Resource Monitor and more - ready to be accessed at a click.
Most mobile platforms recommend you only install apps from approved sources to protect your security, and Windows 8 is the same: it'll only allow you to install trusted (that is, digitally signed) apps from the Windows store.
If this proves a problem, though, and you're willing to take the security risk (because this isn't something to try unless you're entirely sure it's safe), then the system can be configured to run trusted apps from any source. Launch GPEdit.msc, browse to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > App Package Deployment, double-click "Allow all trusted apps to install" and select Enabled > OK.
The latest Windows 8 apps are better than those in the Developer Preview, but they're still a fairly random selection and you're sure to find some that you'll rarely, if ever use. In this case right-clicking one of their Start screen tiles will display a few relevant options.
If this is one of the larger tiles, for instance, choosing "Small" will cut it down to half the size, freeing up some valuable Start screen real estate.
If you just want to dismiss the app for now, select "Unpin from Start". The tile will disappear, but if you change your mind then you can always add it again later. (Search for the app, right-click it, select Pin to Start. Or, if you're sure you'll never want to use an app again, choose Uninstall to remove it entirely.
Launch programs fast
If you're a fan of keyboard shortcuts and don't like the idea of scrolling through Metro tiles to find the program you need, don't worry, Windows 8 still supports a useful old shortcut. This is perfect if, say, you're looking to be able to shut down your PC with a click.
Launch the desktop app, right-click an empty part of the desktop and click New > Shortcut.
Browse to the application you'd like to launch here. Of for the sake of this example, enter
shutdown.exe -s -t 00 to shut down your PC, or shutdown.exe -h -t 00 to hibernate it, and click Next. Type a shortcut name - Hibernate, say - and click Finish.
Right-click the shortcut, select Pin to Start and it should appear on the far right of the Metro screen - just drag the tile wherever you like.
VHD - enhanced
Windows 7 added support for creating and attaching virtual hard drives in Microsoft's VHD format. Now Windows 8 extends this with the new VHDX format, which improves performance, extends the maximum file size from 2 to 16TB, and makes the format "more resilient to power failure events" (so they shouldn't get corrupted as easily). Launch the Computer Management Control Panel applet, choose Disk Management, and click Actions > Create VHD to give the format a try.
Install Windows 8 and you also get Microsoft's Hyper-V, allowing you to create and run virtual machines (as long as you're not running in a virtual machine already). Launch OptionalFeatures.exe, check Hyper-V and click OK to enable the feature. Then switch back to Metro, scroll to the right, find and click on the Hyper-V Manager tile to begin exploring its capabilities.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview will now run common maintenance tasks - software updates, security scanning, system diagnostics and more at a scheduled convenient time, which is good.
Unfortunately it doesn't actually ask you what time is convenient, instead just setting it to 3am and allowing the system to wake your computer (if hardware and circumstances permit) to do its work. This isn't so good. To change this, launch Control Panel, click System and Security > Action Centre > Maintenance. You can now click "Start maintenance" to launch any outstanding tasks right now, while selecting "Change maintenance settings" enables you to choose a more convenient time, and optionally disable the feature's ability to wake up your computer if that's not required.
Advanced menu options
If you need to run the command prompt as an Administrator then your instant reaction will probably be to reach for the Start menu. Before becoming annoyed a microsecond later when you remember it's no longer there.
It's good to see that Microsoft have provided a simple alternative, then - just click the File menu in Explorer and click Open command prompt > Open command prompt as administrator.And while you're there, make note of the other advanced new options also on that menu: you can open a new window in a new process, open Explorer, and even delete your Recent Places and Address Bar histories with a click.
Show all folders
The default Windows 8 Explorer view doesn't show all the usual drives and folders - Control Panel, Recycle Bin and so on - in the left-hand navigation pane. It certainly keeps the display simple, and if you want to see all your drives then you can just click Computer, but if you prefer to see everything up-front then it only takes a moment. Click View > Options, check "Show all folders" and click OK.
Mount ISO files in Windows 8
Need to take a closer look at an ISO file? Right-click it in Explorer, click Mount and you can view it as a virtual drive, launch the files it contains, or add more if you like.
If Explorer locks up for some reason, then regaining control is now very easy. No need to close the process any more: simply press Ctrl+Alt+Esc, select Explorer in the list, click Restart and Windows 8 will handle the rest.
The safest way to sample Windows 8 CP is to install it on a VirtualBox virtual machine. It's fairly easy to set up, there's no need to worry about partitioning or other issues, and if it doesn't work for whatever reason (which is possible, it's a beta after all) then you'll have lost nothing but a little time.
After completing your installation, though, you might find your virtual Windows 8 complaining that "Your PC needs to be repaired". But despite telling you to "Press Enter to try again", or "Press F8 for alternate boot options", neither option works.
Fortunately there's an easy answer. Close the Windows 8 window, select your virtual machine in VirtualBox, click Settings > System > Processor and check the "Enable PAE/NX" box. Click OK, restart your virtual machine and this time it should launch properly.
Metro apps won't launch
You click a Metro app, and nothing else happens? Display issues are often the cause. In particular, Metro apps don't currently support screen resolutions lower than 1024x768 (or 1366 x 768 when snapping), so increase your resolution if possible (launch the desktop, right-click, select Screen Resolution).
Or if that's no help, try updating your video drivers.
If your Windows 8 system seems sluggish, the revamped task manager may be able to offer some clues. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to take a look.
The simplified Processes tab then reveals what's currently using your CPU time, RAM, hard drive and network bandwidth. (The more in-depth data available in previous Task Manager versions is now accessible via the Details tab.)
The Performance tab gives you a graphical view of resource use over the last few seconds, while the App History dialog looks back over days or more to reveal which app is the most resource-hungry.
And is your boot time slow? Click the new Startup tab to see programs your system is launched when Windows boots. The "Startup impact" now shows how much of an effect each of these has on your boot time; if you spot high impact programs you're sure you don't need, then right-clicking them and selecting "Disable" will ensure they're not loaded next time.
Powerful though all this is, if you can think of a reason to use the old Task Manager then it's still accessible. Hold down the Windows key, press R, type TaskMGR and press Enter to launch it. (Typing TM will launch the new version.)
Device Manager Events
If you've a driver or hardware-related problem with Windows 8, launch Device Manager, browse to the relevant device, right-click it, select Properties and click the new Events tab. If Windows has installed drivers, related services or carried out other important actions on this device then you'll now see them here, very useful when troubleshooting.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview has performed well for us, but if you find it won't boot at some point then you now have to press Shift+F8 during the launch process to access its recovery tools. Access the Troubleshoot menu, then Advanced Options and you'll be able to try the Automatic Repair tool, which may fix your problems. No luck? The same menu enables you to use the last System Restore point, tweak key Windows Startup settings, even open a command prompt if you'd like to troubleshoot your system manually.
If that all seems like too much hassle then the Troubleshoot menu's option to "Refresh your PC" may be preferable, as it essentially reinstalls Windows 8 but keeps your files, and will fix many issues.But if it doesn't then there's always the more drastic "Reset your PC" option, which removes all your files and installs a fresh new copy of Windows 8.You don't have to access these features from the boot menu, of course. If Windows 8 starts but seems very unstable, then open the new Recovery applet in Control Panel for easy access to the Refresh, Reset and other disaster recovery features.