Well, getting started is pretty simple and we’re going to cover the things you should do right away to make sure you have the best experience getting started with your new Surface tablet.
These 8 steps should get you up and running on either The Surface RT (running Windows RT) or Surface Pro (running Windows 8) so, I’ll sometimes refer to Windows as “Windows 8/RT” just to signify that it is the same thing for the purposes of this getting started guide.
OK, ready? Let’s go….
- Have a Wireless Network Available: Make sure you have a working wireless network that you can access. You will need it to get the Surface configured.
- Get a Microsoft Account: Technically, you don’t need to do this but your Surface will work so much better if you do. You can do that by going to this website.
- Download the Microsoft Getting Started Guide for free from this link.
OK, now that your’re ready, the next thing you’ll need to do is plug in your Surface as you don’t know what condition the battery is in and you don’t want it running out of power while it is getting configured for the first time, it could be bad to say the least. Also, if you have one, you’ll want to make sure the keyboard is attached as there will be a little typing involved. It can be done without the keyboard but it’s easier with it.
- Attach the keyboard to the bottom of the Surface, it will attach magnetically with a satisfying “crunch”.
- Flip out the kickstand (the slot to get hold of it is on the left. It’s a bit awkward for right-handed folks but after a while you get used to flipping it out one-handed.
- Plug in the power cord and attach it to the Surface. The power connector is on the lower-right as you look at it from the front. The plug can go on either way and a small LED will light up on the end of the connector when it’s connected.
- Press the power switch, which is on the top-right of the tablet.
That’s it, you should see the device power up and display “Surface” in big white letters on the screen and you’ll see a little animation of dots going around in a circle that I call the “wait loop-de-loop”. Time to move on to setting up Windows.
After the wait loop-de-loop finishes, we can continue setting up your Surface tablet.
- The first thing it will ask is what display language you want to use. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you’ll pick English. Click Next.
- The license terms will appear.This is pretty standard stuff and, unless you’re a lawyer or a masochist, you’ll read it for about 20 seconds before your eyes start bleeding and you’ll wish you didn’t. So, just go ahead and click the “I accept the license terms for using Windows” check-box and click Next.
- Next, the Personalization options will appear; here you can select the color scheme you want to use and set the name of your new Surface. Pick a color scheme from the many options available then type in a name for your Surface in the field labeled “PC name”. I recommend you go with <your name>’s Surface (for example, mine’s “Tim’s Surface”)
- Click Next.
- It will bring up the Wireless connection screen (aren’t you glad I warned you about the wireless connection above?). Just select your wireless network from the list of available networks, enter the password and press Connect. You should get a connection to your wireless network and the setup process will continue.
- Now the Settings screen will appear, odds are that you can just press the “Use express settings” button.
- Now the “Sign into your PC” screen will appear. Since you already setup a Microsoft account (in the Before you Begin section, remember?) just enter the information for that account and click Next.
- It will ask for the password for your Microsoft Account. Just enter the password and click Next.
- Now it will want you to fill in some security info. This is so you can recover your password if you forget it. Go ahead and fill out the information it’s asking for. For the phone number, it’s best if you use your cell as they may send you a text message to unlock your account. Microsoft will not sell your information and they won’t try to use it to sell you things later. Click Next when you’re done.
- Finally, it’s almost done! You’ll see the wait loop-de-loop and the text “Creating your Account”. As long as the dots are spinning, it’s working so don’t panic if it takes a while to do this step.
- After a bit, it will start a little tutorial animation for you to watch that covers the basics of using Windows 8/RT.
- Next, you’ll get a screen with big white text proclaiming “We’re getting your PC ready” and smaller text saying “This will take a few minutes. It will. Don’t worry about it, go get a snack or something to drink and when you get back, you’ll be ready to continue.
- If you come back too soon (or didn’t take a snack break at all) you might see the next screen that says “Installing apps”. It too might take a few minutes.
- The next screen what will pop up says “Taking Care of a few things” in white letters. What it’s doing here is getting some last minute updates and security fixes from Microsoft. Like the last two screens, it might take a few minutes. Of course, if you had gotten up to get a drink and some snacks you might not of had to see this at all.
- And finally, a black screen that says “Let’s start” will appear just before the Metro interface pops up on the screen.
Now that your Surface is up and running, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the new version of Windows. The Metro interface is quite a bit different than what you would see in previous versions of Windows but, there is a more “traditional” Desktop interface included in Windows 8/RT that you can access with just a click. In this section, we’ll very briefly go over some of the things you’ll need to learn about in order to use your new Surface effectively.
- Metro Interface: This is the new interface unique to Windows 8/RT. It’s a tile based interface and is optimized for touch screen devices like the Surface.
- Tiles: Tiles are the multi-colored squares or rectangles all over the Metro screen and are the new version of program shortcuts from previous versions of Windows. To start an application, you just need to tap on a tile. You’ll probably notice that some of them are animated. These are called “Live Tiles” and are usually used to display dynamic information like the time or the latest email message to hit your queue.
- Charms: Are accessed by “bumping” the right side of the screen (moving your finger from off the right side of the screen an inch or two onto the screen). They are used to access program options.
- Classic Desktop: Microsoft included the classic desktop from Windows 7. You can access it by clicking on the “Desktop” tile. It works pretty much like you would expect except it does not have a start button. After a while, you get used to it missing and probably wont miss it but, if you happen to have a Surface Pro and can’t get used to the missing start button, you can install some 3rd party software and get it back. My personal favorite Start button app is from StarDock for $5.
- Office 2013 Preview:
Now that you’ve taken a few minutes to familiarize yourself with Windows, we can finish getting you started. You’ll want to update the default applications on the machine just to make sure you have the latest versions.
- From the Metro interface, click on the tile labeled “Store”. It’s usually green with a little shopping bag on it.
- After the Microsoft Store application opens, you should see “Updates (x)” in the upper right corner of the screen, the “x” will be replaced with some number. Click on it.
- Now the “App Updates” screen will appear, Make sure all of the apps have a little check box in the upper right of their tiles by clicking on any that don’t.
- Press the Install button at the bottom of the screen.
- You’ll get the “Installing Apps” screen next. It might take a couple of minutes but when all of the apps have installed, you’ll see “Your apps were installed”. Congratulations! All of your applications have been updated to the latest version.
- Click the Windows Button at the bottom of the tablet.
Next, it’s time to setup your mail application. The Mail application built into Windows 8/RT is a bit spartan but, does include all of the normal features you would need to send and receive email.
The Microsoft account you created should already be setup on the device but, if that’s not the account you want to use, you can add another mail account. In fact, you can setup several mail accounts on your Surface.
- Make sure you’re connected to a wireless network.
- From the Metro screen, open the Mail application.
- Open the Settings Charm by nudging the right side of the screen, and then tap or click Accounts.
- Select Add an account, and then select the type of account you want to add.
- Enter your email address and password and then tap Connect.
OK, now it’s time to install applications to make your Surface more useful. While the Microsoft Store is a bit bare in comparison to the Apple Store or even the Play Store (for Android tablets) it is constantly adding applications and there are already several “must have” applications. The Microsoft Store is organized to help you easily sort software by type.
Browse through the store and see what appeals to you. You can always uninstall an application if you don’t like it. Be aware, though, while some titles are free, some will cost you some money.
OK, that’s it for this post. Hopefully, you’ve found this to be useful. Please share your thoughts by leaving a reply. Your feedback is appreciated.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.