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Windows 8 Split Personality

Unlike Microsoft’s, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s, preference, I choose to keep my personal and business lives separate. I have family & personal friends. And then I have business friends & contacts. For the most part, those two worlds don’t interconnect. For a long while, Microsoft has chosen to ignore that view (with some exception) by grouping your entire life, personal and business, into a single ID. They do have plenty of business oriented tools, like Office 365 and OneDrive for Business, that overcome some of these obstacles, but those are all pay services, geared towards larger organizations.

To keep my worlds separate, I have a personal Hotmail ID for my personal; desktop, notebook, tablet and phone. I also have a business Live ID for my work PC. While there are some overlaps, like having my business mail on my personal machines, accessing things like my business OneDrive on a personal machine is always a chore. Typically requiring a web browser visit to accomplish. I have managed a few tricks along the way though, like using my personal ID to login to the Store on my office PC, allowing me to download/install the same apps on all my machines. Several of the apps I have installed for Windows 8.1/ Windows Phone use OneDrive, or an Azure server, for backup/restore, or to sync data. Up until now, all I needed to do on my office machine was to enter my personal ID when logging into the app for the first time, and data would be synced across personal/office machines. While my office machine continued to maintain its anonymity, with separate email, contacts, calendar, etc. Well, that’s all about to change.

I was playing with a new Universal (Win8/WP) Notes app over the weekend (more on that another time) and was surprised when I setup sync to my OneDrive account with my phone and tablet, and there was no login screen for my credentials. Or even for my two-step Authentication code. Sync just started working once I activated the feature. Exchanging emails with the developer, I discovered that this is part of a new OneDrive Quick Setup API. Basically, the future. That did not bode well for me trying to sync the app between my personal tablet, for example, and my office PC. When I installed the app on my office PC, it created a new folder in my office OneDrive account. I tried sharing the existing app folder from my personal OneDrive with my office OneDrive, but that didn’t fool the app. What is one to do.

The solution was right before my eyes, but I never realized it. I created a new User on my personal tablet, using my office ID. I now have an environment on the same machine, but with a Start Screen suited for my business needs. All my business  contact and calendar information is there. My business OneDrive is synced in File Explorer. And the apps I use specifically for business, or sync with my office desktop, can now sync with this new profile on my personal tablet. Switching between the two worlds only takes a few taps. Now, if I take a day off, or I’m waiting for the cable guy to show up, I can see and use most of the apps available on my work PC. Or, if I’m at home with my feet up eating some popcorn, I can update task and note lists, or prep for the next day. All synced up and good to go. Of course, there will still be times where I need to connect directly to our server to access some data, but that will be the exception.

Note that my work environment is very flexible, so this solution won’t work for everyone. And this assumes you have Windows 8.1 installed on both personal and office PCs. But, if you can load a work based User ID on a personal machine, this is probably the simplest way to stay connected, without actually being connected, so to speak. I plan to create the dual login on my Yoga 2 Pro, another machine that serves more than one purpose. While there is quite a bit of overlap on my Windows Phone between my personal and work life, editing emails, and performing other tasks are simpler on a full blown Windows 8 PC.