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Connecting Everything - Phones, Tablets, PCs, the Cloud - in Windows 8.1

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Windows 8.1 makes it easy for you to connect all the devices in your household — your camera, tablet, smartphone, and more — so that you can find and share the files and media you need. Katherine Murray shows you how to add and manage devices in Windows 8.1.
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Remember the days when you had only one computer in your home and you used it only rarely? (No, I don't, either.) Today is not only the day of always-on technology but most of us also own multiple computers and computing devices (phones included) that enable us to email, text, browse the web, and work with files almost non-stop, 24/7.

In the early days of computing, getting computers and devices to talk to each other was a real headache. Although the process has gotten easier through the years (thanks, in part, to Microsoft's Plug-n-Play technology), Windows 8.1 puts the finishing touches on the trend.

Now Windows 8.1 will search for all the devices in your home and install what it has drivers for; you can also connect your Windows 8.1 to new devices and let the operating system do the rest of the work for you.

In this article, I walk you through the steps of seeing which devices Windows 8.1 is already finding. Then you learn how to add a device on your own and remove devices you no longer need.

Seeing What Windows 8.1 Sees

Windows 8.1 includes an auto-discovery feature that scans for all devices connected to your PC or your network—detecting and connecting to printers, TVs, Xbox systems, and more. This means that Windows 8.1 may be able to find and install all your computer peripherals automatically, without you needing to do anything at all! Wouldn't that be nice?

The first step involves using the Settings charm in the Charms bar to see which devices Windows 8.1 has already discovered and added to your system. You can then add a device if you have one that isn't included on the generated list.

Swipe in from the right or press Ctrl+C to display the Charms. Tap or click Settings. Choose Change PC Settings and, in the PC Settings window, tap or click PC & Devices and choose Devices. Windows 8.1 displays a list of devices currently recognized by your system (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Windows 8.1 displays a list of recognized devices in the Devices screen

Status indicators give you information about the various devices. For example, you can tell whether the device is ready, offline, or needs your attention. This helps you know, for example, whether your printer is turned on and ready to receive files you send to be printed.

Adding a Device

If Windows 8.1 missed one of the devices that you feel should be on the device list, you can scan again to see whether the device is discoverable. Before you tap or click Add a Device, be sure that the device is connected to your computer or your home network and turned on.

After you choose Add a Device, Windows 8.1 scans your computer and shows any found devices in a popup list. You can then select the item you want to add to the Devices list in Windows 8.1.

Connecting on the Fly

Another way to add a device to Windows 8.1 is simply to connect it to your computer using the USB port. Windows 8.1 will search for the right device driver and finish the setup for you. If for some reason Windows 8.1 doesn't find the driver it needs, the operating system will let you know it can't find the driver. It will display an Action Center message, offering a link you can click to search for the correct driver and then download and install it.

Removing a Device

Over time you may find that you have a number of items in the devices list that you really don't need there. Perhaps your cousin visited and wanted to download tunes, so you added his MP3 player. A friend might have connected her camera. Perhaps you gave away the tablet you decided you'd never use.

You can clean up the Devices list and remove the devices you no longer need by displaying the Devices screen and pointing to the device you want to delete. Click or tap Remove Device, and Windows 8.1 removes the item from the list (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Windows 8.1 gives you the option of removing unneeded devices from your Devices list

If your PC is connected to a domain, Family Safety might not be available. Check with your system administrator.

Final Thoughts

Thank goodness, connecting devices is no longer a hassle with Windows 8.1. Now you can easily connect multiple monitors, add an MP3 player, connect your camera or Xbox 360, or easily work with your other computers in Windows 8.1. And the software does most of the heavy lifting, so the process is super simple for you.

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