I routinely set up a Windows Live ID for my clients when they get a new computer. There are many programs and online services in the world; Microsoft’s programs and services under the Windows Live name are well designed, free to explore, and reasonably simple – a good choice for people who want to do some new tricks without being overwhelmed.

Here are the steps to get started.

Windows Live ID is a single sign-on service from Microsoft that allows people to log into many websites and services with one account. A Windows Live ID is an email address and a password stored in Microsoft’s servers. It’s free. Follow the instructions here to log in with your Windows Live ID, or set one up if you don’t have one already. If you’re at your own computer, check all the boxes to sign in automatically and remember your password – the services will then work automatically.

Download and install Windows Live Photo Gallery, a free program for viewing and editing your photos. It’s an upgrade for the version of Windows Photo Gallery included with Vista, and also runs on Windows XP. It includes an easy way to share photos online for free. Here’s more information about Windows Live Photo Gallery.

  • Be careful when you install Windows Live Photo Gallery! You’ll have the option to install other Windows Live programs; only install the ones that you are genuinely interested in. Watch the checkboxes on the right – if you’re not careful, your Internet Explorer home page will be changed and you’ll get an unnecessary extra toolbar.

Explore Windows Live Skydrive, a free place to store and share files online. It is a genuinely useful service, completely free and very easy to use! You’ll have access to the files stored in Skydrive from any computer, and you can set up easily that can be shared with someone else, or left open for anyone. Once you’re familiar with it, it can be very handy! Here’s more information about Windows Live Skydrive.

Windows Live Mesh is (a) a place to store files online, (b) a program that runs on your computer to keep folders in sync on multiple computers, and (c) a way to get remote access to your computer from anywhere – and in the future it will do more! It’s a little more complex to get started with but it’s already one of the most interesting services available. There’s basic information about the service here, and notes about how to get started here. (If you get a message that the Mesh service is not available in your country, it’s a glitch – the instructions to solve it are here.)

The world is already flooded with online services, and this is just the beginning of a very big transformation indeed. We’re moving from complete dependence on our usual computer, to a much more amophous relationship with a number of computers and other devices that communicate with each other and a mix of locally installed software and services running up in the cloud. Stay sharp! Things are changing.

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