Feature Articles

Windows 8: Lock Screen, Start Screen, Desktop & the Merits of a Microsoft Account

By Leo Boon Yeow & Ng Chong Seng - 11 Oct 2012

Microsoft Account & PC Settings

The Case for a Microsoft Account

Remember earlier, we recommend that you sign in to Windows 8 with your Microsoft account? That's because when you're done mucking around the desktop, you can sync the settings (colors, background, lock screen, account picture, themes, and taskbar, among others) to the cloud via the Sync your settings menu in the PC settings menu (for touch: Charms bar > Settings > Change PC settings; with a keyboard and mouse: Windows key + I > Change PC settings). This lets you regain your personalized Windows when you sign in on another Windows 8 PC. Even the settings and states of your Modern-style apps also stay in sync between each Windows 8 PC you use. The latter is important as it allows you to pick up where you left off in an app as you move between devices. And lest we forget, the lock screen and Start screen are also customizable through the Personalize menu under PC settings.

While you can choose from the provided images for the lock screen background, we reckon many of us would rather use a photo that is much more personal. The choice is yours. Here is also where you decide what apps to run in the background, and show quick status and notifications.

The Start screen is already a very colorful affair, with plenty of colored tiles, but you can also go one step further, and change the color of the background and highlights.

If you signed in with an existing Microsoft account, the account picture would be pulled automatically from the cloud. Of course, you can still choose to take a new photo, or use a photo that is on the PC.

Of course, you're not limited to syncing personalization settings. You can also sync language preferences, app settings, browser favorites and history, File Explorer settings, accessibility settings, and even mouse settings. To prevent incurring data charges, there's an option to disable syncing of settings over metered connections.

Under PC settings, select Sync your settings, and choose what you want to have across all your Windows 8 PCs. That's the power of a cloud-connected OS.

Besides syncing of settings, a Microsoft account will also land you with a set of cloud services, including an inbox, instant messenger, a calendar, contact list, and 7GB worth of SkyDrive cloud storage. And there's a corresponding Modern-style app for each of them in Windows 8, namely, Mail, Messaging, Calendar, People, and SkyDrive. In fact, when you sign in to your Windows 8 PC using your Microsoft account, you'll also be signed in automatically to these services. In other words, you can start replying to an email, check your schedule, or initiate a chat almost immediately after installing Windows 8.

Furthermore, these cloud services are shared between Microsoft products and services. For example, if you add an appointment into the Calendar app in Windows 8, it'll also show up in the Calendar app on your Windows Phone. Your contact list is also shared across devices (Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phones) and services (Outlook.com, Messenger, SkyDrive). Your shared photo albums also appear in SkyDrive, as well as in the Photos app. We'll talk about these built-in apps in a separate article.

In a nutshell, using a Microsoft account lets you have a personalized Windows experience on any Windows 8 PC you sign into. And anyone you share your Windows 8 PC with can have their own personalized, cloud-connected access when they sign in with their own Microsoft account. In Microsoft's own words, this is truly 'Windows everywhere'.

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