We’re a month away from Windows 10, but while you wait for Microsoft’s newest OS to come down the pipe there are still plenty of tricks to learn for Windows 8.1 (and they’ll stand you in good stead once the next version does appear). Here’s how to take more control over system notifications.

As is often the case elsewhere in Windows 8.1, notification settings are spread out over different areas of the operating system and aren’t always where you’d expect them to be. This awkward mix of old and new ways of working is something Microsoft is looking to do away with in Windows 10, of course.

Getting notifications working right is important—you don’t want a flurry of pop-ups and bleeps interrupting you when you’re working, watching Netflix or about to drift off to sleep. Fortunately, if you can find them, Windows includes some handy configuration options to changing what shows up on screen and when.

Disabling Notifications From Certain Apps

Not all applications are created equal and there are no doubt certain apps that you’d rather not hear from. Open up the Settings charm and choose Change PC settings from the bottom of the panel, then pick Search and apps. Click (or tap on) Notifications and you can start to make changes.

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Scroll down to the apps list and you can disable notifications from any programs you don’t want to hear from—note that these are all modern Windows 8 apps, apps which have permission to display system-wide notifications no matter what mode you’re in.

Setting Up Quiet Hours

If you don’t want to hear from any apps at all during particular times of the day, use the quiet hours section—you can set a start time and an end time, but if you actively start using your PC then the feature is disabled and notifications will start coming through again.

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At the top of the options screen you can choose to switch notifications off entirely, hide them from the lock screen and keep them muted. There’s one other option: From the Settings charm, click or tap Notifications and you can mute them for a specific length of time.

Configuring Notification Sounds

Over in the venerable Control Panel section of Windows 8.1 (you can find it via the Settings charm), follow the Change system sounds link to assign a different tone to the pop-ups that appear from your Windows 8 apps. Notification is the setting in the list you want to adjust.

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Choose an audio snippet from the drop-down list or use Browse to find one from disk; the Test button lets you hear what it sounds like in advance. You can also set notifications to silent. By the time you’ve finished, you should have a setup that’s more to your way of liking whatever device you’re on.

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