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Windows 8.1: New version, same mess

Woody Leonhard | Sept. 11, 2013
If you're stuck with Windows 8, the Windows 8.1 upgrade is a no-brainer, but the fundamental flaws remain.

Smart Search is smart for advertisers. For you, it's another unjustified invasion of your privacy — and one that's not adequately explained, as it's buried in the default settings. Here's how Microsoft puts it:

Bing Ads will be an integral part of the new Windows 8.1 Smart Search experience. Now, with a single campaign setup, advertisers can connect with consumers across Bing, Yahoo, and the new Windows Search with highly relevant ads for their search queries. In addition, Bing Ads will include Web previews of websites and the latest features like site links, location, and call extensions, making it easier for consumers to complete tasks and for advertisers to drive qualified leads.

To turn off Smart Search, from the Settings Charm, choose Change PC Settings, then Search and Apps, and Search, and move the "Get search suggestions and Web results from Bing" slider to Off.

Perhaps sanity will prevail and Smart Search will be turned off by the time Windows 8.1 hits General Availability.

In another slap at experienced Windows users, Windows 8.1 starts to dismantle Libraries. Where Windows 7 and Windows 8 both ship with fully functional Libraries (the Documents Library, for example, contains the \<user>\Documents folder and the \Public\Documents folder), the Documents Library in Windows 8.1 only contains \<user>\Documents. The Music, Pictures, and Videos Libraries don't get the Public folders, either.

If you sign on with a Microsoft account, Windows 8.1 activates SkyDrive, the SkyDrive folder gets added to the Documents Library, and it's pegged as the default folder in the Library. Thus, if you save a new file in Word, WordPad, or any other word processor that wants to save to the Documents Library, your new file will go into SkyDrive — where you get to pay for the privilege if you use enough space.

To make matters worse, where Libraries figured prominently in Windows 7's Windows Explorer and Windows 8's File Explorer, in Windows 8.1 they're hidden. You have to go through the View tab in Explorer to bring them back. And heaven help you if you need to explain to a novice how to find their Public folders.

In Windows 8.1, the treatment of Libraries is all over the place. You can't see them in Windows Explorer unless you find the right switch. But if you go into the Microsoft-made Metro Photos app, you work directly with the Photos Library. The Xbox Metro Music and Metro Video apps use the respective Music and Videos folders, not Libraries — and it's very difficult to bring in Music and Videos from the Public folders. Windows Media Player works with the Music Library.

One word of warning: If you use a Microsoft account in Windows 8.1 that was also used in Windows 8, you'll see your old Libraries in full force. Running your Microsoft account on Windows 8.1 won't dismantle your Libraries; Windows 8.1 just won't build new Libraries for new Microsoft accounts.

 

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