Windows 8.1

How can I get my start button back in Windows 8?

StarDock Start8

Episode 1120

Mark from Anaheim, CA

Mark's computer died, so he got a new one running Windows 8.1 and he hates it. He's heard of StarDock and wants to know if he should get it. Leo says there's several options including StarDock's Start8, which only costs about $5. It'll bring back the Start Button and works really well. Classic Shell is another option, and it's free. Leo says that Start8 does a better job though and is worth paying $5 for.

Should I update to Windows 8.1?

Windows 8.1

Episode 1112

G. Scott from Minnesota

G. Scott picked up an ultrabook the other day with Windows 8.0, but he's wondering if he should upgrade to 8.1. Is there a benefit? Leo says absolutely he should. There's significant changes that not only bring more familiar features back to Windows, such as the start button, but it's also a service pack update that buttons up some bugs and vulnerabilities.

He should go to the Windows Store and apply the update. Leo says that moving forward, he should always get the most recent version of Windows.

Should I buy a Surface Pro 3 tablet?

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Episode 1105

Tim from Chino Hills, CA

Tim wants to know if the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet is worth the money. Leo says he's not a fan of Windows 8.1, but if he needs a lightweight Windows laptop that can become a tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is a nice alternative with a gorgeous screen. It's very light and portable. The keyboard is nominal, not great. But all in all, it's a good choice if you need a Windows option.

What industrial grade computer should I get for CAD work?

Lenovo Thinkpad W540

Episode 1096

Mackenzie from Grand Rapids, MI

Mackenzie needs to buy a computer and 3D printer for a business. He needs a touch screen on the laptop. Leo says that no matter what computer Mac gets, a Wacomb tablet/monitor will make it touch. But with Windows 8.1, getting a Lenovo Carbon X1 Touch is a great option.

The Thinkpad W540 is larger, has a ton of power, and is considered a "mobile workstation."

How can I restore my Windows 8 activation key?

Episod 1093

John from Dayton, OH

John is having issues with Windows 8.1 and a hard drive failure that has wiped out his Windows key. Leo says if he doesn't have the key, he'll have to contact Microsoft. There may be a way to recover the key from the hard drive. The chatroom says Belarc Advisor can give him the key as it will have it listed in it's register. Leo says that Microsoft also saves the product key in his Microsoft account, so he can log in with another machine and see it. But John says that Microsoft has blocked the key, so it won't help. Leo says the boot UFEI firmware saves it as well.

Should I get an All-in-One computer?

Episode 1092

Richard from Placentia, CA

Richard is thinking about getting the Dell XPS All-in-One Computer to replace his XP machine. Leo says it's a pretty good machine that's essentially their version of the iMac. Very elegant design, and no wires. The only downside is that if something goes bad, it's all down for the count. He can't swap out a hard drive, for instance. Leo also says that going forward, Windows 8.1 is the way to go and it fixes a lot of things that Windows 7 broke. Security and performance is better. A lot of people aren't a fan of the Metro tiled interface, but it's the future and Richard should go with it.

Windows 8.1 is not so bad.

Episode 1085

Richard from Las Cruces, NM

Richard just retired the ultimate gaming machine he built 10 years ago, and built a new one recently. He installed Windows 8.1 and loves it. He likes the Metro tile interface. Leo says that there's a ton of improvements in Windows 8 over Windows 7 including file copying. Leo believes that moving forward, it may be a bit confusing, but it's a lot better with version 8.1.

What's a good laptop for work?

Acer Aspire S7

Episode 1085

Lori from San Diego, CA

Lori is in need of a tablet or laptop that's easy to use and can provide her with a good productivity tool at work. She broke her laptop and she's a bit lost in what to get. Leo says for work, Windows is paramount. He's not really a fan of the Surface tablet so far, and even though the new Surface is light and portable, Microsoft doesn't seem to know what they want it to be -- a tablet or a laptop. The keyboard that it comes with isn't so great either. But it does come with One Note on the Surface 3, which makes it an ideal machine for work. That's the only real advantage of it though.

Why is my picture login for Windows not working?

Episode 1084

Thomas from Vancouver, BC

Thomas uses Windows 8.1 and he's having issues with the PIN log-in. Leo says that Windows offers a lot of ways for users to log-in, including Microsoft's ID. There's also the picture password. He can trace a pattern over the picture and he has a log-in. But if the picture password isn't working, and he has to use his Microsoft ID, that can be a pain. Microsoft isn't helping much, either. The issue may be that Thomas is using two monitors, and if he's using the picture password, it's touch focused and an extra monitor can confuse things. He should try the PIN.

Why doesn't Windows 8.1 support TrueCrypt?

Episode 1084

Walter from Burbank, CA

Walter got a new computer and just updated it to Windows 8.1. But he's thinking of downgrading to Windows 7 because he likes TrueCrypt's whole disk encryption. Leo says that BitLocker is good and it's built into Windows 8.1. Fast and effective. He can get BitLocker through Windows 8.1 professional, but Windows 8.1 automatically encrypts by default, and he'll have to use his Microsoft account to login.