Q. I read that you can make Windows 8.1 start directly in desktop mode instead of going to the Start Screen apps, but how?
A. Windows 8.1 now gives you the option to start out in the familiar old desktop environment instead of landing on the Start screen when the computer boots up, but the setting is not the easiest to find. Start by switching to desktop mode if you are not there already.
From the Windows 8.1 desktop, right-click on the taskbar and choose Properties. In the Taskbar and Navigation Properties box that opens, click the Navigation tab. In the options in the “Start screen” area, turn on the checkbox next to “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”
If you want to disable the Windows 8 “charms bar” — the menu that pops into view every time you move the mouse to the upper-right corner of the screen — you can turn it off in the “Corner navigation” area. Once you have made your changes to the Taskbar and Navigation Properties box, click Apply and O.K.
The next time you start the computer and log in with your Microsoft password, you should start off in the desktop mode. If you ever feel the need to peek at the old Start screen, just click the small “Start” button in the bottom-left corner of the taskbar.
Safely Updating to OS X Mavericks
Q. I got a Software Update notice on my Mac saying I could update to OS X Mavericks, but how can I find out if my most-necessary programs will work with it before I update?
A. Apple’s latest version of OS X, version 10.9 and nicknamed Mavericks, was released last week. The new system is free for Mac users running OS X 10.6.8 and later. The download is more than five gigabytes and is available in the Mac App Store.
In the past, operating-system updates have been known to cause problems with existing applications on the computer, often because of changes in the ways the new system handles the old programs. Frequent crashes, erratic behavior or a refusal to start are signs of a now-incompatible program trying to run on a new operating system.
If you are thinking about upgrading, make a list of the critical programs you cannot be without and check the manufacturer’s website for any Mavericks-related updates. (Some companies may also have other support information concerting product interactions with Mavericks.) The Roaring Apps site has a compatibility table that shows crowd-sourced information about programs that work (or do not work) with Apple’s operating systems, and is a good place to get information and links to manufacturer sites.
You should also go to the Apple menu and run the Mac’s own Software Update feature to make sure you have the latest versions of everything you have gotten from the Mac App Store. Mavericks needs at least two gigabytes of memory and eight gigabytes of available hard drive space, so make sure your Mac can handle the requirements.
Before you update your Mac’s operating system, you should do one more important thing. Back up your entire computer before you start — so you have a copy of your Mac’s contents safely tucked away.