The busiest shopping season of the year is in full swing, and with just one week until Christmas, many of you may be rushing to make last minute purchases. If you’re like me, and it looks like many of you are,* your wish list is chock full of tech gadgets. While I’ve gone ahead and already gifted myself the Surface Pro 2, some of you are still figuring out which PC is the perfect match for your needs These tips we posted last month can help you decide. But the good news is, there’s a PC for every person who wants to stay connected, express themselves, get stuff done, and have serious fun.

Windows Hero Image

While it’s important to find that perfect laptop for your loved one, or tear open the box to a new tablet yourself, it’s equally important how you set things up on your Windows 8.1 device, right from the start. To ensure you get the most out of your shiny new Windows device I’ve provided a few tips to consider when signing in for the first time.

Sign in or sign up for Microsoft account

When you turn on your device for the first time, you’ll go through the process of signing in to your Windows 8.1 PC with a Microsoft account. This account is the key that unlocks your whole world of apps and services. With over 700 million active Microsoft accounts, there’s a good chance you’ve already created one, but if you’re not sure, it’s easy to find out. If you’ve used Microsoft services in the past – like Xbox, Outlook.com, Hotmail, SkyDrive, Skype, or Windows Phone – you already have a Microsoft account – it's the email address you use to sign in to those services. However, if you don’t have one, can't remember it, or you want to make a fresh start, then it only takes a minute to create a new one, and I recommend you make this an Outlook.com account. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The best email experience on any tablet. With Outlook.com, you get access to unique features in the Mail app – such as Sweep – that aren’t available with any other webmail service.

2. A more personalized and connected experience. When you use an Outlook.com address as your Microsoft account, all of your Microsoft services are connected, including Mail, Calendar, SkyDrive, Skype, and People.

3. Easy access to your Mail, Calendar, People, and SkyDrive when you’re way from your PC, because Outlook.com works great on both Windows and the web.

You can find more info on using Outlook.com with Windows and sign up at www.Windows.com/Outlook, or just sign up here for a new Outlook.com account.

Make Outlook.com your Microsoft account     

If you want to use Outlook.com as your primary Microsoft account, but you already have an existing Microsoft account using a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail address (yes, you can use any email address as a Microsoft account—even Gmail!), you can easily upgrade to a shiny new Outlook.com address. You simply need to create an @outlook.com alias and make that your primary account.

If you decide you want to use Outlook.com for all your inbox needs, it’s now super easy and fast to make the switch with the new import tool in Outlook.com. The Outlook team blog has more info and the steps you need to move all your Gmail mail and contacts into Outlook.com.

Once you’ve made the switch to Outlook.com, go ahead and make your @outlook.com address your primary Microsoft account, and you’re all set to experience the benefits we just talked about.

You’re now ready to dive in and enjoy your new Windows device!

*According to the National Retail Federation, consumer electronics such as computers were the second most popular purchase made during the Black Friday weekend.