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Windows 8

Posted on October 27, 2012

Earlier this week, too much fanfare, Microsoft released the newest version of the most popular operating system in the world, Windows 8. I know this is one of several thousand blogs to write about it, most either love it or loath it but I am in between, meh. They are calling it “re-imagining Windows” which is really two systems in one – the Metro tiles and the standard Windows Desktop (Windows 7 minus the Start Menu).

I installed the beta version months back using Parallels in a virtual machine to play around with it. I did this for a day or two before I deleted it – didn’t really excite me enough to keep it or use it. Then today I decided to upgrade an old Dell laptop from Vista Ultimate to Windows 8 Pro. The price was right at $40 vs $250 for a Windows 7 upgrade. At least they got that right. Microsoft is going to do whatever they can to get people to upgrade seeing as there is still a huge number of PCs still running Windows XP and a large number of people with Windows Vista and 7 who have no care to upgrade.

The upgrade process was uneventful and took about an hour to download and install. However, if you plan to upgrade read the fine print as upgrading from Window 7 migrates your programs (now called Apps) and Windows Vista and XP upgrades will only take your files (or less). Regardless, it is always good practise to backup anything important before you upgrade an operating system.

Metro or whatever it is known as (Start Screen?) greets you with flashy tiles when you start your PC. I have absolutely no use for this on a PC. I use social media very little and don’t like stuff flashing and changing (yes Twitter, I don’t care what people had for breakfast today). It is possible to turn off the “live” in the tiles, but then what is the point at all? First thing I did was remove all the tiles except Desktop and Weather. The tiles are fine for phones and tablets and perhaps the recreational PC user but it is just an extra step between you and the programs you want to use. There is also no easy hack yet to bypass the start screen and go straight to desktop besides pressing Windows Key-D.

I also took some basic benchmarks before and after installing Windows 8. Using NovaBench, Windows Vista made it to around 150 and Windows 8 pushed it to 300. Both are pretty poor ratings but it was an older laptop but the performance improvements were relatively good.

Many people are going to complain that the Start Menu is gone, but the quick searching is a fine alternative – didn’t Ubuntu do this a while back? Press Windows Key and Q to quickly search for anything and it is fast. I think the reason Microsoft did this was because the average PC user doesn’t even use the start menu, most just load their desktop with shortcuts or from the task bar. I have a feeling that this is going to be horrible for disorganized people using Windows 8, tiles and shortcuts are going to be in overload – especially when every App installed will create new tiles and new desktop shortcuts and most users will not delete or organize them. Maybe they will ressurect the Desktop Cleanup Wizard (argh) to combat this.

I had a few compatibility issues and I bet lots of people will encounter this but that is standard fair for new OS releases. Even now finding Vista/Win7 drivers can be a pain and HP will make sure everyone has to buy a new printer.

One of the key benefits is if you live in the Microsoft ecosystem with Windows 8 phone, tablet and PC – they have worked hard to make this seamless across devices. I use iOS devices and don’t plan to switch any time soon.

Also of note, the great free anti-virus Microsoft Security Essentials is now replaced with Defender that is built in. This is probably a necessary change so that tablet and phone users have some sort of protection. Given Microsoft’s track record with viruses, having an infected phone or tablet will destroy their chances of building any success in those markets.

Bottom line, $40 is a good price for an upgrade and you will eventually have to see it on your next home PC. Business will most likely wait a year to start upgrading. Don’t be scared of the change, it isn’t that significant and at least it is easy to learn. If you aren’t sure what to do when you install it, move your mouse to the corners of the screen and you will find your way. I applaud Microsoft for the changes they make but only time will tell if this will break “every second Microsoft Operating System system sucks” trend.

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