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 Outlook.com, 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 Outlook.com 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.
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.
Go to SkyDrive.com, 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.
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).
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.
Updated November 7, 2014 7:54 pm