Making Windows 8 at least usable

Microsoft is a sinusoid, when talking about Windows releases. It always has perfect system followed by a total mistake and nightmare.

Since Windows 7 was a nearly-perfect system (thousand times better that Vista-joke), then we could expect, that Windows 8, that follows it, will be a nightmare, joke and a total mistake. It is.

While we’re waiting for (hopefully “perfect”?) Windows 9, we need to do something to make Windows 8 at least usable. Because, out-of-the-box, this system isn’t usable and is the shortest path to permanent mental illness. If you can avoid Windows 8, then do it, without asking why. If you’re forced to use it, this article should be a start point for restoring your mental stability.

This is rather a check-list (with some coment), what you should do or at least consider, than fully featured article. And, yes! Everything, what is written here, was tested on Windows 8.1, so should work just perfectly on both Windows 8 and 8.1.

Install Classic Shell

Install Classic Shell, just like that.

And, if you fell, like you’d be reborn, consider donating it. This is a must-have replacement to stupid and completely useless Start Screen in Windows 8. It brings you a Start Menu, you perfectly know from Windows 7, Vista, XP and earlier. There isn’t much more to say. If you have any doubt, that you need Classic Shell, you shouldn’t be reading this blog entry.

Disable User Account Control (UAC)

You can do this either from any prompt (telling you, that you need administrator privileges to do this or that), by changing advanced settings from there. Or, by using any of these solutions.

Note, with above instructions you not only are able to disable UAC, but on contrary — you can enable as high security settings as forcing user to enter a password, any time he or she want to do anything, that requires user privileges. I thrill even about thought, that I could become one day such a dick, to force my users to do this. But — hey! — notice, that this is possible.

Force Windows to treat you as an admin

There is a big difference between disabling UAC in Windows 7 and 8. In “seven”, when you lower level to minimum, you’re actually becoming a real administrator and you will not see “need admin privileges” any more. In Windws 8, lowering level to minimum does not disable UAC only enters it into special / strange / stupid (SSS) “silent mode”.

You won’t be seeing this pesky nag any more, but you still won’t be able to do anything, that requires privileges, unless you run any program as an administrator. I know, this is madness. I know, this is Microsoft.

If you want to permanently force Windows 8 (or 8.1) to treat you as an admin, you have to run PowerShell and execute magic script. Finish everything, you’re doing and save anything, what requires saving, because executing this script will perform an unconditional system reboot.

In details:

  1. Open Start Menu / Start Screen and enter powershell to the search box.
  2. Click PowerShell icon with right mouse button and select Run as an administrator from the context menu.
  3. Execute: Set-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:SoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesSystem" -Name "EnableLUA" -Value "0".
  4. Execute: shutdown -r -t 0, confirming anything with Enter. System will restart.

After that, you should be running anything as an administrator by default. You can confirm this, by doing anything, what previously required admin privileges.

For example, I verified this on Total Commander. I had it installed with configuration files stored in C:\Program Files. This location is not reachable by non-admins. So, each time I changed something in Total Commander’s configuration, I wasn’t able to write it permanently (TC showing error message about being unable to write wincmd.ini), unless I run this program as an administrator.

After applying above changes and restarting the system, I managed to change Total Commander’s settings and write changes, by simply running the program.

At last

I think, I don’t need to tell you, that you need an admin account and privileges to do all the stuff above. This seems to be obvious. If you’re just a regular user and can’t login to any admin account, you won’t be able to do anything of above solutions.

Note, that regular user privileges has changed very much since Windows 7. If your account is a regular user type, you won’t be able to save any file (or change exiting one) on such typical locations, like root disk (C:) or Program Files folder. I don’t know at Microsoft, who was hit by a low flying comet, and how hard, to figure out such a madness. But, in my opinion, using regular user account in Windows 8 is simply impossible, without risking your mental stability. Things, like those above, that were introduced there, has nothing to do with security!

There is an interesting topic in one of the forums. It didn’t bring me any particular solution to above mentioned problem. But, if you have some spare time, consider reading it, especially, if you’re new to Windws 8. It discusses many changes to security policy, that were introduced with this version of Windows.

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