Windows 8 will let you take the same user account settings to multiple PCs and tablets. Here's how.

If you are currently someone with a multi computer setup involving two or more mainstream computers and maybe also a tablet, do you find it irritating that you have to make separate personalisation settings on each device? Microsoft wants to help you avoid that particular annoying time-waster via its new Sync Your Settings option.

The idea of synchronising settings across computers is not new – but it's only ever been implemented in a partial way across specific applications, and not across a whole operating system. How does it work? Well, in essenceMicrosoft stores information in the cloud, where each computer you want to synchronise can get hold of it. You'll need a Windows Live ID to take advantage, and when you log in to each computer it needs to be able to get onto the internet to access any settings changes you may have made and update itself according to your preferences.

So, let's look at how it all works, and what you can synchronise between different Windows 8 computers. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.)

See also: How to personalise a Windows 8 PC

Windows 8: Setting up a user

Windows 8 synch settings

Your first task is to set up a Windows account. First open the Charms bar by using the Windows key and C or sweeping inwards from the right edge with a finger. Then choose Settings and then More PC Settings, and finally select Users.

You need to make sure Users is selected in the left hand PC Settings pane.

You can add different users so that different people can share access to the computer and synchronise settings how they want. If users want to synchronise settings, though, they must have a Windows Live account – a local account doesn't provide this privilege. Nor, incidentally, can you download apps if you don't have a Windows Live account.  

When you choose to add a new user you do so with an existing Windows Live ID. If you don't already have one of these, then you can choose to sign up for one at this stage.  There are a couple of basic screens of information to be gone through to do this job – nothing too complicated.

You'll need to be logged in as the new user to make settings that will synchronise with that user's wishes, so if you are already logged in with a local account you may have to log out and in again before making settings.

Windows 8: Confirm and verify

Windows 8 synch settings

You'll have to go through a confirmation stage before sign in information is synchronised. It's a way of protecting your personal identity. Once you are logged in as the new user, go back to PC Settings and now choose Sync your settings instead of Users in the left hand of the screen.

First select Confirm this PC. Internet Explorer will open and you'll be logged in to your account. You'll see a new entry for the new computer. You can either delete the entry – which we wouldn't expect you want to do – or confirm that it is indeed a trusted PC.

Windows 8: Making your settings

Now it's back to the Sync your settings area again. You've got lots of synchronisation options now and they're all easily managed via on/off sliders. One overriding slider simply enables or disables all synchronisation for this computer.

Now you can scroll down the screen and decide what you do and don't want to synchronise simply by using the slider against each option. There are plenty of options making it easy to personalise the way things work. You can synchronise (or not) all of the following:

  • Personalise. The general look and feel, lock screen, and the picture used for your account
  • Desktop personalisation such as themes used and how the taskbar looks
  • Ease of access features such as the use of contrast and the magnifier
  • Language preference such as the display language and keyboard language
  •  App settings which can include a range of settings made in different apps you have installed
  • Browser settings for Internet Explorer including browser history, bookmarks and favourites
  • Other Windows settings including any settings you may have made for Windows Explorer and your mouse
  • Sign in information which may apply to web sites, networks or your HomeGroup

Windows 8: Saving on roaming data

Windows 8 synch settings

When you change any settings that are synchronised, Windows 8 will send information off to your cloud based storage so that they can be synchronised with other computers. You might not want this to happen when you are away from free Wi-Fi, for example when you are using a tablet that has mobile internet, if you'd rather not use up your data on this activity. You can simply turn off synchronisation on metered internet connections to stop this happening.

Visit Windows 8 Advisor for expert reviews of Windows 8, Windows 8 tips and tricks, as well as expert advice on how to get the most from Windows 8.