The first time you boot into Windows 8 you’ll be introduced to the new Lock screen. This new way to sign-in is by far more functional than anything you might have seen in previous versions of Windows and even in other operating systems. The Lock screen is your first experience getting into the new Windows 8 user-interface (or UI for short), it offers quite useful information: time and date, weather, email, and, if configured, other apps with real-time statuses as well. It also provides battery information, that is of course, if you are using a portable PC.
The Lock screen covers the screen real estate entirely with a background, which you can customize at any time and it sits on top of the new sign-in screen where you can select a user and supply a password (if configured) to get into the account.
Like with most Windows 8 features, all aspects of the Lock screen can be customized, and it also offers what Microsoft calls “glance and go”, an experience that basically means that with just a peek at the screen you get useful live information without even signing in.
Unlock and sign in
In the new operating system there are various ways to unlock your computer. You can drag with your fingers the background image upward, tap or click anywhere on the screen or you can simply press any key. Then you’ll be presented with all the users accounts available and, if applicable, you’ll need to type a password.
The sign-in screen appearance will depend upon the amount of user accounts configured in the PC, however if this is the first time you are in front of Windows 8 and it is a new PC or an upgraded machine using a clean install, you will only see one account. Also keep in mind that if there isn’t a password configured in the account, which I strongly do not recommend, the operating system will bypass this altogether and you will go straight to the Start screen.
With Windows 8, Microsoft is introducing a number of ways to sign in: the traditional way, username and password, and now you can also choose to sign-in using a picture password and PIN. In the case you need to type a password with a touch-enabled device, you can choose the accessibility options from the Easy of Access button. You will find it in the bottom-left corner of the screen to bring down the On-Screen Keyboard among other options like Narrator, Magnifier, switch to High Contrast, Sticky Keys and Filter Keys. Also from the right you can click the power button icon and choose to Sleep, Shut down, or Restart your PC. If you don’t do anything Windows will default back to the Lock screen after a short period of time.
Customizing the Lock screen
If you are a Windows Phone user you’ll notice that many aspects of the UI and functionality look and behave the same in Windows 8, this is because Microsoft is trying to push the same experience throughout all its products.
All the options available about the Lock screen are in the new PC Settings (this is the new Windows 8 Control Panel), in the Personalize page and under the Lock screen tab.
Basically you can customize three features of the Windows lock, through the PC Settings: The main background image, apps that run in the background that provide status and notifications when the PC is locked, and which app is the one that will display more details:
Changing the Lock screen picture: Click or tap the Browse button, when the File Picker opens locate the background image you want to set. Note that Windows 8 allows you to choose images from different sources including from a folder shared on the network, your own photo library, and from other apps such as SkyDrive, Camera, and Bing (web images). Once you find your favorite image, click Choose picture to finish.
Adding apps to the Lock screen: You can include a total of seven Windows 8 apps to the Lock screen with real-time information. Keep in mind that not every app supports this feature. To add a new app, click or tap one of the empty slots (+) and from the flyout menu simply select the app you want to add — FYI: The slot also indicates the position of the app.
To remove any current app, just click or tap the app from the list and select “Don’t show quick status here”.
Single app with more details status: Sometimes you also have that single app which you are most connected with and having a little more information can be very helpful. Windows 8 also allows you to configure one app to show more details than the rest, and in most cases you’ll want to add the Calendar or Mail — but this is just me. The process to add an app here, works in the same way as adding apps to the lock with basic notifications, just look for the “Choose an app to display detailed status” option.
This far we covered in depth many details and how to customize this new feature in Windows 8, but how about disabling the Lock screen? Yes, Of course you can, if you want to keep things in a traditional way. However, it isn’t as easy as the customization we just went over. If you want to do this, in a previous guide I explained in great detail how to disable the Lock screen. I also created another set of instructions in case you want to prevent other users from changing the Lock screen background picture. This will come in handy when you have to share your PC with family or friends.