How to convert your original Surface RT into an HD Digital Photo Frame

How to convert your original Surface RT into an HD Digital Photo Frame

In the first part of this series I shared some ideas on how to repurpose your older tablets as secondary access devices for all kinds of digital data including recipes, music, movies and television.

In this follow up to that article I want to share with you how I turned my old Surface RT into an HD Digital Photo Frame.

I recently upgraded my wife to the Surface 2 for her casual consumption activities and that means her Surface (RT) was now taking up space on that storage shelf I mentioned earlier. Through a simple process I have turned that Surface into a digital photo frame and since it connects to our WiFi network and uses its own Microsoft Account I can upload images to a designated folder from any of my other devices that will then be picked up and shown on the screen.

With the Surface running Windows 8.1 the first thought for having a slideshow appear on the device would be to use that feature on the Lockscreen. However, that means displaying the date and time on the screen as well. I prefer that the view of those images be cleaner and I also wanted to block casual access to the system itself and Windows 8.1 provides a great feature to lock down any account on the device so it can only run one app.

So here is how I set up the Surface as our new family digital photo frame. Note: I do have a gallery of images to show you major stopping points along this process (opens in a new frame) that will help with your bearings as you go through this process.

1. Create a unique Microsoft Account that you can add to the Surface. You need a MSA in order to download the digital photo from the Windows Store and to have access to OneDrive for accessing the images to be displayed.

2. Add the new MSA on the Surface while logged in with the systems current Admin account at PC settings>Accounts>Other accounts. Once it is added you will need to log into the new account so the profile can be setup. After setup is complete there is no need to worry about customizing anything because the device is going to be used with one single app in kiosk mode.   For ease of access go ahead and assign a PIN to this account for logging into the device with this account.

3. Open the Windows Store under your new account and download Picture Frame Slideshow. I tested several digital frame apps and this one seemed to provide the best results. It also has a Jumble display mode that deals with all manner of image sizes and resolutions so that eliminates any squeezed or stretched images.

4. Next activate OneDrive for your new MSA created in Step 1. Once this is setup you should now have a OneDrive folder in File Explorer. Open that root folder up and create a folder named Photo Frame. This is where the pictures for your digital photo frame will be stored.  You can go ahead and stock it up now from external devices or websites such as Facebook. Remember the idea here is to cycle through photos over time and not create one single repository. Otherwise, it will take hours for your images to be shown off and that defeats the purpose of having a digital photo frame that shows you the latest images. Once this folder is created you can easily access this accounts OneDrive storage via the web on any of your other devices and add/remove images to refresh what is being shown on the screen.

5. Open up the Picture Frame Slideshow app now to get it setup. Expect the screen to be black as this is normal because there are no image folders selected yet. Swipe in on the right side of the Surface to open up the Charms and then select Settings. Here you want to Select different folder and pick that Photo Frame folder you created in OneDrive.  Click Choose this folder and then OK. You then need to select Transition between pictures: Jumble and then set the Delay between pictures: I find that 5 seconds works well but you can personalize this to your taste. Swipe in from the right side of the screen twice and you will see the photo frame in action if there are already images in the Photo Frame folder that you created earlier on OneDrive.

6. Turn off all notifications for this account in PC settings>Search and apps>Notifications and then turn the volume down since there is no reason for sound to come out of your digital photo frame.

You can go ahead and log out of the special MS Account you just set up and log back into the admin account on the Surface.

The next step is to set up the new MS Account for assigned access.

1. Open up PC settings>Accounts>Other accounts and tap/click on Set up account for assigned access.

2. Tap on Choose an account and select the new account.

3. Tap on Choose an app that this account can access. From here scroll down the list of apps until you find Picture Frame Slideshow and then tap on that entry to select it.

You can now log out of your admin account and restart the Surface in order to finalize the setup of the assigned access for the photo frame account.

When the system starts back up just log into the photo frame account you established using the PIN that was created and it will start up in kiosk mode running the Picture Frame Slideshow based on the settings you established earlier.

No other apps can be accessed in this mode. If for some reason you need to log into the admin account just tap the Start button five times in quick succession and you will get the log in screen to do that.

If you ever reach the point where you want to modify the settings for the Picture Frame Slideshow then you have to remove the extra account from assigned access and restart. Once that is done you can log into that account and modify those settings. Of course, after that you have to go back through the process of adding that account back to assigned access with the Picture Frame Slideshow, restart and then start up kiosk mode by logging into the photo frame account.

Let us know how it goes.

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