MS has it's answers.microsoft.com set of forums too. You seem to be aware of Start8, I use Classic Shell which is free and does pretty much the same thing. With it, you can set it up to always boot to the desktop and you can disable the charms entirely with it if desired.
I have a 32 GB flash drive I carry a good bit of stuff on including LibreOffice, Free AVG, Picasa, Firefox, Adobe, Windows Essentials stub, Acrobat Reader, AOL, 123Free Solitaire, Belarc Advisor, Easeus Todo Backup Free, EasyBCD, SpeedFan, MS memory diagnostics, NTPasswd, PowerPoint Viewer, Seagate hard drive diagnostics, Thunderbird, Treesize, UbitMenu, Word viewer, Ubuntu ISO, Classic Shell, CrucialScan, Undelete programs, Irfanview, MalwareBytes (free version), Skype, and some licensed software for the 28 computers at senior centers I support.
I have supported people using desktops and laptops (PC and Mac and Linux) and mainframes starting in the seventies, retired around 2002, but kept up with helping people. Having moved to a retirement community not long ago, I found myself again asked for help, and the word has spread, especially since the woman who usually gave help has moved away.
So here I am, in a community of a couple of hundred, with people running everything from XP to Mavericks, some sharp with everything and one dear couple who thought that because they had a mouse and a printer plugged into the laptop, that was all that was needed to keep it running.
I've used a mac for the last few years so have had to get myself up to speed on the later versions of Windows. Yesterday I opened the box on a new HP laptop and helped my friend get started. I knew there would be a lot of "stuff" to clean up, sample programs, etc, but I was shocked at how intrusive they are now. Downloading simple things like Adobe reader or Avast requires being wary of many programs that want you to download them. I find I have to clean up after grandchildren's visits, or visits by "savvy" progeny who install "really neat things" on their parents' computers and then go to their home 3000 miles away without leaving notes on what they've done. It's challenging, and I love it, but I want to be able to give people the simplest ways to use email and surf the web, and hook to a printer. NOTHING fancy.
So I have two questions.
a) Anyone know of a user group or forum I could join that would give me simple support when I encounter something strange?
b) What advice can you give me about useful, safe things I can carry on a flash drive, for instance, to install. Like Avast, or StartMenu 8? I'm ok with Macs (which seem to have a lot fewer problems) but newish PCs baffle me. The Metro view is like driving through a downtown of billboards on all sides. I know how to get out of it, of course, but how do I stop it from happening at all?/ Etc..
Any advice appreciated.