Six ways your Microsoft account unlocks the full awesomeness of Windows 8

Six ways your Microsoft account unlocks the full awesomeness of Windows 8

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Microsoft account. Don’t worry—there’s no “accounting” needed. No spam or complicated processes either. Getting a Microsoft account is easy. And when you use it to sign in to your Windows 8 PC, it’s your key to free online storage, mobile entertainment, thousands of apps in the Windows store, free music streaming, and connecting your devices and accounts in a completely seamless way.

The great news is that you probably already have a Microsoft account—especially if you’ve ever used, Hotmail, Messenger, SkyDrive, Xbox, or MSN. That email address and password is your Microsoft account. You can also use a non-Microsoft email account. On your Windows 8 PC, go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Users and follow the instructions to connect your Microsoft account. If you don’t have an email address, you can get a free account and make that your new Microsoft account.

Once you have your Microsoft account, use it to sign in to your Windows 8 PC and you’ll get an entire world of awesomeness. Or at least these six awesome things:

1. Your settings go with you
With Microsoft account, Windows goes where you go. You can sign in on up to five different PCs and immediately see the things that make Windows yours: your Start screen, for example, as well as your settings and lock screen. You can easily move stuff around on Start and set up your work PC one way and your home PC another way. And you can install your Windows Store apps on five different PCs. More on this below.

2. Unlock a world of apps in the Windows Store
Windows Store tile

Adding apps makes Windows 8 more personal and more fun. You get apps from the Windows Store, and you get to the Windows Store with your Microsoft account. Find the Windows Store tile on your Start screen, sign in, and start browsing. (If you’ve connected to your Microsoft account already, you’re already signed in.) We've definitely got an app or 1,000 for you. We've got cooking apps, fitness apps, apps for kids, and apps for cars. More apps are being added every day, and many of them are free. So start browsing and load up on apps. The more you have, the more you can do.

Microsoft account gives you one more superpower with regard to apps: You can install your apps on up to five Windows 8 PCs. All you have to do is sign in, go to Windows Store, and download your apps.

3. A SkyDrive for all of your important files
SkyDrive tile

Go to, sign in with your Microsoft account, and there it is: 7 GB of free online storage that's all yours. Put your photos, docs, and media files into folders only you can view, or share them with anyone you choose. You can even let a friend edit a file right from SkyDrive, and both of you will always see the latest version.

It gets even better. Get the free SkyDrive app and you can edit and manage files on SkyDrive right from your PC. There are free SkyDrive mobile apps, too, for Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android. All those photos you take on your phone? Save them to your SkyDrive for easy storage and sharing.

Those are just the basics. Find out more about SkyDrive and get started. (Not all features are available in all markets.)

4. A universal address book
When you sign in to your Windows 8 PC with your Microsoft account, you can connect your non-Microsoft accounts and see all your stuff in one place. LinkedIn. Twitter. Facebook. Add them all to your People app. Then you'll see Tweets, your friends’ status updates, and all the other latest info from your networks. You can link accounts to your Photos app to see your Flickr, SkyDrive, and Facebook photos all from the app. You can also link accounts to your Mail and Messaging apps. For all these apps, first open the app, then go to Settings > Accounts > Add an account. You can read more about linking accounts here.

And linking accounts is what really lights up your Start screen. Tiles on Start will animate with live, personal updates before you even open a single app, so you can see what’s going on at a glance.

5. Millions of free streaming songs
Xbox Music tile

I’ve told friends about this perk of Windows 8 only to find that some of them simply don’t believe me. "No way!" they say. Well, yes way. When you sign in and hit your Xbox Music app tile, you get instant access to millions of streaming songs on your PC. Including the latest hits. I'm listening to Johnny Marr's new album right now. And how did I even know about this album? Xbox Music told me.

You can also get an Xbox Music Pass for unlimited access to music across all your devices. But note that not all features are available in all markets (more details about Xbox Music Pass).

6. The power of Xbox gaming right on your desktop
Games tile

Microsoft account is the key to great gaming. If you have multiple Microsoft accounts, use the one associated with your Xbox LIVE gamertag to sign in to your PC. Then launch the Games app to see what your gamer friends are up to, compare achievements, and see alerts when your friends invite you to play. The app also lets you discover and download new games of every genre. More about Xbox Games on Windows.

So there you have it, the full awesomeness of your Microsoft account revealed. Not that we want to make Microsoft account the hero of this tale. It's more like an invisible door that leads to a kingdom of freedom. Or, I don't know, a magical cup of tea that gives you X-ray vision? I'm not good at metaphors. The point is this: Microsoft account gives you an identity that's bigger than any box.

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  • yc627
    0 Posts

    1. I do like that the settings go with me. I own an actual laptop and a Surface RT. and the theme and such did follow.

    2. A world of apps? Not sure how any human being can say that... please have some decency. I find it difficult to even find a legitimately made app in the Windows Store. Oh, and on the RT, some apps lag horribly.

    3. SkyDrive. It is good enough... I think.

    4. Universal address book... hmm... I guess it was all there.....

    5. Millions of free streaming songs. In that respect it is good, but when I'm listening to my own music not a single damn advertisement should even peep out. I'm trying to listen to my own music! Not your free stream! Oh, and please make the music app not lag on Surface RT. Playing music on something like the Surface RT and lagging is just... wow it is just so horrible that I am not sure how to explain it.

    6. I don’t even use that Xbox gaming app. When I play a game, I play that game don't even bother to go to that Xbox crap.

    ... Microsoft, please update Windows RT, because it is so horrible + Surface RT… how to keep the RT…

    1. The Windows RT should update to “Windows Tab”. (like an update from 1.0 to 2.0… it would be nice if it would be free because the current one is just a piece of crap)... and in it, it should pretty much just remove the desktop feature. Keep office and the abilities to keep files and folders and exploring through them. Like being able to access Local Disk C: and Libraries. Do Windows phone 8 have a desktop feature? Let's keep a tablet a tablet (“Windows Tab”). Keep a tablet pc a pc (Windows 8/pro).

    2. The Surface RT used an outdated hardware when it came out... so much regrets on buying it.... when you make a new device it should be a good new hardware inside and out. The Surface RT's outside design is really nice. It triggered my impulses to buy it and made me think that it would run Windows RT fine, only to find out that Tegra 3 can not run Windows RT fine. Please use the latest stuff that comes out or at least something close to being pretty new while keeping an eye on efficiency.

    3. Can you please change the name RT? It does sound like Windows 8 ReTard…. I’m sure I have also read this around many different websites and forums... What does it even mean? Please change it to something simple. Try Windows Tab. It makes sense too: Windows 8 Pro/Windows 8, Windows Tab, Windows Phone 8…

    4… Back to music again…. Please make the music app something feasible. The “Play all music” button even has that “shuffle” button looks, but it plays the same music as the first music every time while it isn’t even the first music on the list. The shuffle function has to be turned on manually every time. It is annoying. Look at Android and iOS and their music apps. Windows has a lot to learn and to catch up. ….

    ….. there are more problems that Microsoft has to fix on Windows. A lot in Windows RT.

  • Anullymouse no one is forcing you to buy Microsoft products,

  • kenhes
    0 Posts

    @abdoms I had that issue with an old radeon card. Using the Microsoft driver instead of AMD's fixed it.

  • if you want to help.. "parent needed. You need to do this on with permission from a parent" and when (no matter which email address we still have acces to we use) my parents log in, it says it is not the email that has been assigned to my account.. which isn't very strange, because I have this hotmail account since 2006. I already had problems with this last year when I bought Windows 8.. because of all the bugs (apps that can't be reinstalled disappearing, configuration panel stopped working) and other problems I uninstalled WIndows 8. Now I bought a Windows 8 laptop, thought everything would be fixed.. but this problem still persists. could you please help me out? it is really stupid to be 20 and to need parental approval. thanks

  • This is total BS. I get sicker and sicker of Microsoft products every year. Look, when I buy a product I just want it to work. I don't want to have to make a freaking Microsoft account to use these "apps", that is ridiculous.

  • Microsoft, learn from Google before you're written off.

  • I thought this was about using Windows 8 with a Microsoft account. Don't know why someone would even use it without.

  • Sky drive really wont be viable for users like myself with local nas and potentially order of magnitute higher storage demands, until it works as a proper synch method for all of my devices like mesh did, or there is an unlimited storage package for a reasonable amount.  Really missed the mark in making it viable for me everyday, even if i did just use it for work, or just use it for home.

  • I dig W8 and WP8, but "4. A universal address book" is a joke, right? I could not even synchronize/import my Outlook 2013 calendar/contacts (from a account for years) with the account! There was a Hotmail Connector used earlier, but it is not available for Outlook 2013.

    I cannot copy calendar details from the legacy account to the new account under Outlook 2013. It tells me something about setting up a WebDAV site, but it is just not properly explained.

    My contacts do not appear under the Skype account, the Outlook import feature of Skype is just dead.

    Oh, and VPN is not available under W8.

    And country-wise limitation is another bad joke.

  • One of the best features - having my MS Office settings follow me EVERYWHERE! I love that a Word or Excel document I was working on with one PC appears in my Recent Documents list on both my Surface RT and Windows Phone!

    (PS - Off topic, but totally agree with the Zune sentiment - Xbox Music is OK, but Zune was much better at managing music on my PC and phone.)

  • Consider using Skydrive to store and sync all your music.  Then your music app will be able to play your music library without a problem.  You can store a lot of music on Skydrive - Especially Xbox subscription music that is legal. I never have a problem playing any of my music now.  

    Abdhoms - if your having an app issue, this is not a typical experience.  Uninstall it and add it back.  I can't imagine that not resolving the issue for you.

    Niclas - I couldn't agree more. I have way more than 5 Windows 8 PC's but I have to make do with 5 licensed PC with apps.  2 Desktops, home and work...1 Surface RT, 1 Lenovo Tablet 2, 2  laptops - plus my 3 kids laptops that I signed into to run Parental Controls.  Granted, I'm a tech guy but, 5 is not cutting it anymore.  At least my windows phone 8 doesn't count at the moment.

  • While reading the site, listening to playlist got from Music app's Xbox Music.....thanks!

  • But I also wanted to let you know of a crappy "workaround" that actually involves the far-superior Zune player - when you install that on Win8, it syncs with your Xbox Music app, so your subscription does transfer over to the Zune Marketplace, where you can download songs that are available for free. This isn't a streaming option, though, as you actually do need to download the songs to the device you want to listen to the music on. The downloads don't take long, and don't seem to be very large (must be heavily encoded), but it is a nusiance that I can't just stream it like I can on Spotify. However, I've also found many songs that are not available for the Xbox Music subscription and the only way to get them is to pay for the individual songs or albums themselves. So for now, I'll be sticking with Spotify.

  • I have the same problem as my wife and I both have WP7.5 devices (still waiting on the promised 7.8...), but I just bought his-and-hers Surface Pros for our birthdays. I'm seeing that, unlike Spotify, I can't sync up her phone and Surface to connect to a different account (ie mine on our Win8 Pro desktop) to access the music. I was all set to buy a year pass to Xbox Music too. But Spotify just asks you for an email address and password, so ALL devices can be synced to use the same subscription. If the Xbox Music service went in this direction (ie allowing a user to connect to another user's subscription service if they know the username/password), I'd buy a pass immediately.

  • Mike2k
    9 Posts

    @russieb I've had no issues with video and music apps working with nework locations. Xbox music in my opinion is a complete mess. Zune was so superior, and with the only way to take your "pass" music mobile is to own a WP8 or Surface I will probably drop the music pass. I bought into a WP 7.5, have had it for 16 months have not seen one update for it yet. The disappearing keyboard bug is a joke. Why would I invest in another WP with pathetic support like that? So that leaves me with no way to make my xbox music portable. At least with Zune, I had the Zune HD to take my music around. I think it's stupid to have to pay a monthly fee for a phone and a service just so it can be portable. If MS releases an Xbox music only device, I would probably consider it.

    MS has a tone of work left and with their poor communication/support for users, they will start losing them

  • Brandon: I have 1 PC, 1 Laptop, 1 netbook, 1 vivotab, 1 HTPC, 2 work PC, 1 work laptop and one phone.

    Adding to that, my better half has 1 PC, 1 laptop and one phone,

    Now, the laptops we usually share, so I like to have my account and settings roam there as well whenever I grab that one.

    So all in all I have 10 devices at the moment I would like to sync (I use at least 5 of them daily, and all 10 of them monthly). But even If I exclude the work computers and the shared ones, I still can't fit my own devices :(

    I can't understand what would promote you to set a limit on the number of devices I have, you get a license for each, I would have thought a store rebate for have more than 5 would have made sense..

  • Russieb
    1 Posts

    I agree with Mike2K, although not only the Photos app, Music, Video, etc.  I understand there could be technical limitations to indexing a non-library location such as a network location, but surely this could be overcome.  Windows 8 just doesn't seem to play nice with network location, in the modern world where people have multiple machines, why not?

    p.s. cloud solutions don't work for large media libraries, pretty sure they wouldn't play nicely with the modern UI apps either.

  • When I use xbox Music app I receive the following message:

    "You can use Xbox Music away from home for up to 2 weeks.

    To keep playing, make sure you're using an account that matches your region."

    For work reasons I live in a different country. How can I change my region account, I don't want to create a new Microsoft Account everytime I move around for work...

  • abm
    268 Posts

    Though its futuristic.. but would be fun, if the user can teleport the entire session (perhaps running only Modern UI apps) from one PC to another.  Subsequently, we can imagine laptops/transformers equipped with two processors IA (under base) and ARM (under screen) running Win pro and Win RT respectively, with the ability to smoothly handover the session on screen detach/attach. &-)

  • - how many Windows devices/PCs do you have?

  • It would unlock a lot if you didn't have the 5 device restriction. How did you come up with that restriction?

    5 simultaneous devices maybe, but not 5 registered devices.

    This limit is so annoying that it actually prevents me from upgrading all my devices to windows 8. Why on earth would you want to limit the amount of devices people buy?

  • - thanks for the feedback!

  • Mike2k
    9 Posts

    It would be nice if you could allow network locations in my photo library to appear in the Photos app.  It works with music in a network location. Why is that so hard?  

  • - I'm sorry you are having issues with the Music app in Windows 8. I would like to try and help. How did you go about contacting Xbox support? And you probably already have tried this but did you try uninstalling and reinstalling the app from the Windows Store?

  • abdhoms
    0 Posts

    "Millions of free streaming songs"? Really? I can't even open the ****ing app on W8. Your Xbox support wasn't helpful at all when I contacted'em. Microsoft, get arse right!