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on 22 November 2012
Windows 8

I would advise that someone who wants to upgrade their machine to Windows 8 to first download Microsoft's upgrade advisor. This will check applications and hardware for compatibility with Windows 8.
Microsoft also has its own pages called Microsoft Compatibility Centre which lists a vast range of software and hardware which will (or won't) work with Windows 8. Both 32-bit and 64-bit, Windows 8 RT and Windows 7 are also included.
Having worked in I.T. for many years (going back to the days of Windows 3.1), and have already installed the pre-releases of Windows 8, I knew what to expect from the upgrade and its new look.
My PC is nearly 4 years old with a 320 Gig Hard Drive, 4 Gigs of RAM, 1 Gig Nvidia Graphics card and a USB Wireless adapter.
I created a new spare partition from the free space on my Hard drive and copied over all the documents and data that I wanted to keep. I already had another copy of documents and data on DVD.
I powered up my machine and set it to boot from the Windows 8 DVD. I selected clean install, resized and formatted my first and second partitions. The installation was fairly quick and I had Windows 8 installed on my machine in under 1 hour.
Windows 8 had installed most drivers apart from my printer, Wireless Adapter and Graphics Card. I downloaded the latest drivers for my USB Wireless adapter and had some trials at getting it to work. Looking on the Internet I found that other people had the same issue and the solution was to install the driver in Windows 7 compatibility mode. Doing this I got access to the internet.
I ran the Windows update in the Control Panel and this downloaded a further 750 Megs of updates.
Once all the drivers where working I installed Office 2010 and other standard applications, and customised the Windows 8 Start tiles.
Finally I created a standard user account which I use for everyday use.

I have now been using Windows 8 for a couple of weeks without any problems, and no crashes.
I'm used to the interface and have created a few shortcuts on my desktop's start bar.

Should you upgrade to Windows 8 ?
If you are still using Windows XP, then remember that Microsoft will stop supporting it from 9th April 2014.
If you are still using Vista then Microsoft will stop supporting it from 18th April 2017.
If you are using Windows 7 and happy with it then the choice is yours if you want to upgrade to Windows 8. Support for Windows 7 will stop in 15th January 2020.
(That is the current dates for extended support from Microsoft. The products themselves will of course still work).
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Windows 8 runs well but is very different and the new tablet focused interface is somewhat jarring on a desktop PC. That this has been designed for platform devices to compete with the dominance of Apple is very apparent in its whole design.

When you boot, the first thing you see is the new Start Screen. This has replaced the old start menu and pulls apps and services together into this one screen presented as "live tiles" integrating deeply with Windows Live and it's services.

The look and feel is now very clearly optimised for tablets and it's going to be a shock to the system for a lot of people and you have to question whether it's of any real use to Windows 7 users who have all they need.

Programs are all now available via the "apps" search from the start screen, you need to search for them and can then pin them to there or your task bar. Once you start to get used to where things are it does fall into place. A tip for easier navigation is to press the windows key and just start typing the name of what you want to do.

If you prefer to work with the desktop in the traditional way then you'll want to hit the "desktop" option from the start screen.

I've tested a range of my programs and most worked fine for me. The only thing I've had to change was to switch to using Windows Defender for anti virus as my old one didn't work anymore.

Windows 8's main strength is in performance. It runs well and is slightly snappier than Windows 7 was. Having said that, you will get a much more significant speed boost if you install a Solid State drive, that brings huge gains rather than small boosts though I have experienced some reliability concerns of late with mine.

So windows 8... runs well but is very different and I couldn't recommend it for those happy with their current set-up.
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on 26 October 2012
The new UI that greets you when you first log on to Windows 8 definitely takes you by surprise - and takes time getting used to. It definitely makes sense on a touch-enabled device, but very little on a traditional desktop/laptop. There are nice sides to it (weather app, easy searching a few others) - but I still find Microsoft's decision to "impose" it on non-touch users rather pre-mature.

HOWEVER - the moment you switch to the traditional desktop mode, this version shines. It loads/shuts down faster, it clogs your PC memory less, there are many small tweaks here and there. It's the "leanest" version out there - absolutely no bloatware (and the few "New UI" apps can be easily uninstalled - compare that to Vista!).

Very easy installation and initial setup.

So, to sum up - if you are using conventional desktops/laptops, most likely you won't use the New UI much - but in no way will it make your traditional desktop experience less efficient and productive. Treat it as just a new form of the now gone Start button, and it's a better form of it. Yes, you have to change the way you do a few things - but without that we'd be still stuck in the DOS era.

If you are using anything older than a Windows 7, go for it - it's a no brainer at this price. If you are using Windows 7 - you might stick to it... However, it is obvious that touch interface is the way forward - there is no coming back to the old ways. So why not embrace the new Windows and master it earlier, rather than later?..

PS Go for the upgrade version available through Microsoft website - it costs only £24.99, is only a 2GB download, and you can still use it for a "clean" install if you wish. Plus you can get the Media Center Upgrade for free for limited time on Microsoft's website as well.

EDIT Some of the readers seem to be confused by the "clean" install I mention in my "PS". Essentially, if you buy Win 8 from Amazon or download it directly from Microsoft, you have 2 options:
1) "Upgrade" to Win 8 - and keep your files, settings and programs (depending on Windows version you currently use).

2) Make a "Clean" install - that is format your system drive, thus deleting all your files, settings and programs etc, and install Win 8 from scratch. This has been the better way of moving to a new OS for ages, whether we talk about Windows, OSX etc. However, if this is something that sounds confusing for you, just ignore this option and enjoy the easy "upgrade" path:).

UPDATE 28/11/2013

So, more than 12 months into using the system, I must say most of the above points still hold (to clarify - have been using it on 2 desktops and 2 non-touch laptops):
- I have never got to using 'Modern UI' apps, bar occasional use of Weather and News apps
- The OS has proved very stable and 'light' in terms of resource footprint
- Shines on new hardware, boots up and shuts down instantly
- Very fast installation, especially on newer hardware

And with the free 8.1 update, I am ready to up the score to 4.5 out of 5:
- You can now boot directly into desktop
- You can switch the 'Modern UI' into showing 'all apps' instead
- The 'Start' button is back - sort of; it takes you to 'Modern UI' if you left click on it, but gives you all the key options when you right-click on it
- The above 3 points essentially allow you to avoid 'Modern UI' 99% of the time if you don't like/need it, giving you an extra light and fast OS without forcing you to adapt to new UI
- 'Modern UI' apps have been significantly updated, which has made them somehow useful even on a desktop PC
- SkyDrive native implementation is so convenient that it is my default folder for documents now.

Bottom line - with 8.1 update Windows 8 has removed the most annoying innovations while keep all the good stuff, and I see no reason to buy Windows 7 now at all, especially if using newer hardware.
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on 30 June 2013
Upgraded from XP 32 bit to Windows 8 64 bit. You need to do a custom installation to achieve this. If you have some computer experience you can continue to use your existing files (but many applications will need to be reinstalled). I think it's best to install Win 8 onto a separate hard disk if you have one.

I like the new Windows. There is no Start button in the Desktop window, but think of the new 'Home' screen as one big start menu. You can find all your applications by typing a few characters into the search box, and they open up either in full-page mode, or inside the Desktop window.

Windows 8 has its own anti-virus and firewall, so no need to get a separate program to slow it down.

Review update - things I forgot to mention 1st time round:

* You are confronted with your 1st tough decision upon installing... should you set up a Microsoft account or a Local account?? Here's my advice:
Set your *1st* account up as a *Local* account, it is the admin account. You won't have access to any apps in the App Store etc. but the admin account does *not* need these features (App Store apps are installed per-user, not for the whole computer). Once ready, you can create your user accounts for all the users you need, and these are suitable as Microsoft accounts - all the new features of Win 8 will work.

* Win 8 had a built-in driver for everything on my computer - it's 6 years old, so not surprising. Old logitech webcam does not work, nor does bluetooth modem.

* I can dual boot with XP after custom-installing on a separate drive - I do not enjoy going back to XP, but it's there if I need it.

* I am resisting re-installing iTunes, it pretty much destroyed my XP performance, and I don't want to risk ruining Win 8 - which is smooth and fast enough, even on my old computer.

* If you previously used Windows Live Mail: You can install it again in Win 8, and point the mail store to your old location. It upgrades beautifully, and all you will need to do is put your passwords in again. All your messages, accounts etc will be set up. You need to export your contacts from the old installation and import them into the new version. Search the web for detailed instructions on locating and setting the mail store for Windows Live Mail. It needs .Net 3.5 and I could only install that from the Win 8 DVD, it did not work from the web - again, search the web for installing .Net 3.5 in Win 8.

2nd update:
Also worth mentioning Windows 8 has built-in parental controls, using Microsoft logins. For your children's login accounts, you can get detailed activity reports, and the ability to block various web sites and applications if you need to.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 October 2012
Update 07 Nov 2012:

After 10 days of on and off use of Windows 8 final version I'm afraid I still can't say I like it. Windows 7 just works well for me and Windows 8 too often gets in the way. I can work round Windows 8's less than desktop friendly design but I don't upgrade just so I can "work round issues". I upgrade for increased features, performance or productivity. When I upgraded a few years ago from the awful Windows Vista to Windows 7 I was over the moon with how much better Windows 7 was. Windows 8 feels the opposite - like a downgrade from something that works to something that "challenges" you to get on with your work and keeps getting in the way. Yes you can work round its interface issues but why spend money and time doing this when Windows 7 works well on the desktop.

I've seen lots of comments by other users saying how Windows 8 is a massive performance boost. But this has not been my experience. Boot time is faster but otherwise it seems the same speed as Windows 7.

Perhaps its me? Others claim amazing boosts of speed - so I had a look on the Internet for reviews and one thing they do agree on is Windows 8 does boot faster.

However in terms of performance its largely the same as Windows 7 overall. Sometimes Windows 8 is faster, sometimes Windows 7 is faster.

Tomshardware website benchmarked games performance and said

"With A Couple Of Exceptions, Gaming on Windows 8 Is A Similar Experience

Aside from those couple of idiosyncrasies, performance under Windows 8 is indistinguishable from Windows 7. Any speed-up or slow-down would be almost impossible to identify during game play, and we expect compatibility issues to get patched quickly by game developers."

Website Bit-tech benchmarked a final release version of Windows 8 and found:

"All in all our benchmarks suggest that performance does take a hit when upgrading to Windows 8. The multi-tasking performance degradation is a particular blow to Windows 8, but one which the faster boot times do soften somewhat"

But you can also find reviews where Windows 8 comes out faster. I suspect the reality is the performance is overall the same.

Also Microsoft removed the pretty Aero interface and replaced with a plainer and less CPU demanding interface - which may well help performance. You can easily disable Areo on Windows 7 if you wish for a very slight performance boost.

I've also looked at lots of reviews to see the "amazing new features" of Windows 8. But to be honest there is nothing I've seen that's made me think - "WOW - that feature alone is worth the hassle of upgrading"

Overall Windows 8 is really Windows 7 but re-designed for tablets and smartphones.

Original Review:

Windows 7 - to copy Apple's marketing "Just works" on the desktop.

I've been using Windows for almost 20 years and Windows 7 is the best Windows for the desktop ever - reliable - easy to use and make your life easy and productive.

I've downloaded and installed Windows 8 on a spare PC and I have to say its the most stressful version of Windows ever!

Forgot everything you have learnt before and prepare to start from scratch and learn a whole new OS.

With each new version of Windows I found my productivity increased. With Windows 8 I found productivity hit rock bottom for a while as I re-learned how to do the things that had become second nature on earlier Windows.

I'm typing this on my Windows 7 PC after a session on Windows 8 and its good to be home - where everything is familiar and easy.

Windows 8 is very much a tablet operating system that can be installed on desktop and laptops but not specifically designed for desktops.

I've not tried Windows 8 on a tablet but I can only assume it works very well there.

Overtime on the desktop you will learn Windows 8's new ways and how to cope with it on a desktop. But it never really feels as natural or easy to use as Windows 7 was on a desktop.
Initially you'll spend a lot of time Googling simple things like "How do I minimise a window", "Where's the control panel", "How do I close a program"

For example when I first ran Internet Explorer and downloaded a PDF file on the Internet. This caused Windows PDF viewer to open. This is an "App" not a program - it uses the Metro interface. So it means no minimise options, no close PDF document options. It runs full screen and cannot be windowed.

So on Windows 7 if I want to open say 3 PDF documents and view them at the same time in separate windows I can do this easily. On Windows 8 this appears to be impossible - the default Metro app is full screen and can open only one document at a time - so no way of reading and comparing multiple documents.

There are ways round this ( install Adobe Reader ) and a quick search on Google will find a solution. But spending time solving these annoyances takes up time and reduces productivity.

Another "issue" that may confuse people is there are two version of Internet Explorer 10 in Windows. There's the Metro version and the desktop version of Internet Explorer 10. They both look and behave slightly differently. As someone who sometimes has to provide computer support I can see this is going to confuse some people!

This brings me on to the Start Screen - which has replaced the Start Menu. The Start screen looks a little Fisher Price in design but I thought never the less it might be useful as a way of quick accessing my most popular programs. The first issue - if you use Internet Explorer - is that as far as I can tell you can only add the Metro version of Internet Explorer to the Start Screen. The desktop Internet Explorer - the one most useful on a desktop - is not available via the Start Screen - you need to go to the desktop and then click the Internet Explorer icon. I did Google for a while to find a solution but couldn't. I also found the Start Screen rather limiting in terms of organising tile shortcuts to software. As far as I can tell you can't change the size of the tiles and while you can move them about only within certain "slots". Ideally I'd like 3 large tiles at the top for my most popular software and smaller ones beneath - but so far I've failed to figure out how to do this even after a bit of Googling. I guess I need to spend more time researching this but I've proper work to get on with!

And that's the way it is with Windows 8. Instead of doing boring work you initially spend your time much more fruitfully by Googling solutions to things that were easy and obvious on Windows 7.

An operating system should be invisible - it should let you get on with your work as quickly and easily as possible. It shouldn't keep getting in your way and forcing you to stop to look for ways round operating system issues.

For example in I think Windows 7 Microsoft introduced the ability to Pin large icons to the Start menu. I used this to pin my 5 most used programs. So now I have 3 quick ways of launching a program. Either via a large icon on the start menu. Via an icon on the desktop. Or via a pinned icon on the task bar. I used a combination of all three because I have a lot of software installed and it worked great for me as with a mouse I could quickly open my most used applications. Now with Windows 8 I have no start menu - we still have icons on the desktop and the task bar but lost the Start menu. That's not progress for me - that's a step backwards. Also the Start menu pinned icons let you mouse over them and you'd see your last opened documents ( or pinned documents ). So in a few shakes of a mouse I could mouse over Excel icon and then mouse over one of my most used spreadsheets and open it. All done very quickly and easily. Now in Windows 8 I need to go to a desktop icon and launch Excel. Then once in Excel go to the recent documents menu and then select the document. So what was easy and quick in Windows 7 is now a little more work in Windows 8. Doesn't sound a big deal but all these little things that help speed up your use of the system help and mount up when you do them a lot. If in a fit of madness I was to upgrade my main desktop to Windows 8 I'd lose these little shortcuts and as far as I can see not gain a whole lot in compensation.

Eventually Microsoft will kill off all former versions of Windows and the Windows 8 way will be the only way. My plan is to keep using Windows 7 for as long as possible! The only reason I installed Windows 8 on a spare computer is as well as writing software I also have to provide support for it - and eventually my customers will be using Windows 8 and so I need to know how to use Windows 8.

I really wish Microsoft had released a Windows for tablets and a separate Windows for desktops. They are quite different devices and have quite different interface requirements. By creating one Windows for tablets and desktops its created an operating system that just doesn't quite work as well on desktops - I think Microsoft have prioritised the needs of tablets.

Having said all this while I personally haven't taken to Windows 8 I'm sure some people will absolutely love it. I use Windows at work - I'm a software developer - and therefore need something productive for content creation. But if you use it mostly at home for content consumption - say browsing the internet and sending the odd email - then it may well be you will love the new Windows 8.

One thing I would recommend to make life more bearable on Windows 8 is learning some of its new keyboard shortcuts. There's a lot of things that can either no longer be done on a mouse or for which using a mouse is more challenging.

On the plus I've found Windows 8 installation to be very smooth and trouble free but no better than Windows 7. Windows 8 also seems fairly rock solid - no major crashes or issues. Again no better than Windows 7.

And eventually it does become easier to use and more productive - not as easy to use or productive as Windows 7 but certainly better than the initial shock you get on first running Windows 8.


Apologies if this review is a bit of a long ramble.

To summarise:

1. Going from an earlier version of Windows to Windows 8 is a major shock to the system

2. A fair bit of re-learning is required. Depending on your skills level this might take a few hours or a few weeks.

3. Time spent re-learning Windows would be fine if at the end of the learning you find yourself working more productively. But even with time while Windows 8 becomes easier to use it still feels like someone tried to shoehorn a tablet OS on to a desktop. It just requires a bit more effort on a desktop than Windows 7.

4. So essentially you end up spending time learning something that ends up not being quite as good as what you already had!

5. Windows 8 seems very stable and was easy to upgrade. But no more stable than Windows 7.

6. There's no massive new features in Windows 8 that make you think "I really must upgrade just for that new feature"

7. It loses some features. Would you like to play a DVD movie? Not on Windows 8 you won't unless you pay for an upgrade! Start button? Not without buying some new software to bring it back

8. You can simply ignore the new Start Screen - though it will keep popping up when you do certain things every so often whether you like it or not.

9. Ignoring the Start Screen you have the same desktop as Windows 7 - but no Start menu. I actually found the Start menu useful! So for me its removal is not a bonus

10. I've not found a clean Windows 8 to be any faster than a clean Windows 7. But I am running them off a fairy fast computer with SSD drives

A one word summary "New Window 8 - like Windows 7 but with no Start menu and everything in new places".

If you have been using Windows before and often thought to yourself - "When will they get rid of that damn Start menu" then Windows 8 is your dream come true! Personally I found it very useful....


Useful keyboard short cuts which I found off the Cnet website include:

Win+C: Open charms
Win+Q: Search charm
Win+H: Share charm
Win+K: Devices charm
Win+I: Settings charm

Win+Q: Search apps
(tip: an even easier way to search apps is to just begin typing from the start screen)
Win+W: Search settings
Win+F: Search files
Windows 8 Apps
Win+Z: Get to app options
Win+.: Snap app to the left
Win+Shift+.: Snap app to the right
Ctrl+Tab: Cycle through app history
Alt+F4: Close an app

Win+D: Open Desktop
Win+,: Peek at desktop
Win+B: Back to desktop

Win+X: Open system utility settings menu
Win+PrntScrn: Take screenshot and save to Pictures
Win+Tab: Open switch list
Win+T: Preview open windows in taskbar
Win+U: Open Ease of Access Center
Ctrl+ESC: Start screen

Learning some of these keyboard short cuts does make Windows 8 a little easier to use.
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on 17 January 2013
It would seem windows 8 was designed with tablet PCs in mind and they've implemented this horrible metro interface. They're tried to make this "Hip and down with the kids" but they've forgotten what most people want out of their operating systems and that's simple functionality. Even closing an application takes some fiddling around or searching for a guide, because a simple red x button or minimize would be such a hard thing to include(rolls eyes). There is ofcourse a desktop screen which is more familiar, but without a start menu. You can download unofficial third party applications to install a start menu and make it more like Windows 7, but why not just stick with windows 7 and have better program/game compatibility to.
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on 24 February 2013
I've been using Microsoft products ever since the DOS era and have always looked forward to the "leatest and greatest" Windows release.

Even Windows Vista is among the list of Microsoft Operating systems I used for quite some time. I saw the good things about that OS and recognized faulty drivers were the main culprit for the initial abysmal performance - I saw myself forced to switch back to Windows XP, but moved to Vista again when SP1 arrived and since that moment used the OS on a daily basis until Windows 7 arrived. For me, Windows 7 was an improved Windows Vista. I love Windows 7 mainly for its better system performance, Aero Snap features and improved task bar that greatly facilitates multi-tasking by combining the live thumbnail preview first introducted in Windows Vista with the grouping feature known from Windows XP.

When I surfed on the internet to learn more about the upcoming Windows 8, I found myself for the very fist time not looking forward to a new Windows release. I just didn't believe in the dual Modern UI/desktop paradigm and just could not believe Microsoft's decision to force the new Start Screen on traditional PC users. To me, the fact that almost instantly numerous "start menu replacement" utilities (both free and commercial) started to emerge proves that Microsoft made a very big mistake.

Fast forward to today. Last week I decided to give Windows 8 a fair chance. I still wouldn't allow Windows 8 on my desktop PC. However, we have a PC hooked up to our TV in the living room that we use for watching films and family pictures and listening to music. Media Center on Windows 7 offers just a fantastic experience for that purpose. I figured that Windows 8 with the new Modern UI could be a good candidate for replacing Windows 7 on our living room PC and I decided to buy a copy of Windows 8. That was a big mistake.

I experienced the following issues with Windows 8:
- The dual Modern UI/Desktop is confusing and inconsistent. Even worse, you can't get around having to use both. For example, there's no file explorer in the Modern UI interface so I have to switch to Desktop to open the contents of a USB stick. Then when I open a picture on that USB-stick, I am being sent back right to the Modern UI interface where the Photos app is opened.
- Windows 8 is unfinished. For example, I can change some PC settings through the Change PC settings menu in the Modern UI but when I want to change keyboard settings, I'm being sent to the Control Panel in Desktop.
- I had high expectations for the Music, Video and Photos apps bundled with Windows 8 but they're not even close to being a replacement for Windows Media Center:
* The Music app does not display album art embedded in my MP3's and does a very bad job of navigating through our music collection as it misses some of the filter options that Media Center's had for years
* The Music, Video and Photos apps do not support non-Windows networked locations. We have all our photos, videos and mucis on a NAS and were perfectly able to add content stored on our NAS to our Media Center libraries. However, the Music, Video and Photos apps only add content from your default Windows libraries (which can only be managed through Desktop - another annoying UI inconsistency!) and since those do not support non-Windows networked content (unless you sync that content locally) you're out of luck.
- The Music and Video app put a large focus on content offereds through cloud services rather than our own content which I personally find to be very annoying.
- I dislike the Charms bar. You need to navigate all the way up to the righthand top corner of the screen to have it show up and when you don't carefully scroll down vertically to select the desired icon, the bar disappears again and you have to restart the whole process

I'll be returning my copy of Windows 8 next week and switch back to Windows 7. No Windows 8 in our home...

I sincerely hope Windows 9 will correct the mistakes of Windows 8.

My advice: before you decide buying Windows 8 yourself: go to a store and "play" with the OS on a display model.
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on 24 January 2013
The PC version of Windows 8 is an early attempt by Microsoft to merge tablets and computers into the same concept. To do this, they have created an interface that works on both and a single application store similar to Apple's IOS or Google's Android. Although the traditional ways of working on the desktop still exist, it is clear from the default way the Modern (Metro) interface loads first, the lack of a conventional Start Menu and the App Store itself that Microsoft's priority is the new tablet-style interface.

The problem is that computers and tablets are used differently, typically the former will be used for more complicated tasks. However, anybody trying multi-tasking on more complicated jobs using the Modern (Metro) interface will soon discover the flaws of a tablet-style approach. Simpler does not mean more efficient in this case. The same case can in fact be used to justify the mouse over the touch-screen. A touch-screen may be more intuitive, but the precision a mouse gives cannot be matched by the new technology.

In short then:


* Simplicity - Windows 8 may appeal to those people who are unfamiliar with computers in general, the Modern interface does simplify things.

* Boot times - As the operating system hibernates instead of shuts down every time you turn it off, boot times are much faster. However, this may ultimately impact on stability.

* Desktop - For now at least, we can largely still use the traditional Windows ways of doing things.


* Less efficient - It's hard to justify how using the new Modern UI is more efficient than the old one.

* Compares poorly to Windows 7 - After using both, Windows 8 clearly feels less streamlined, professional and polished than the previous version. This is obviously not a good thing for an upgrade

* App Store - The fact that all Metro apps must be installed from the Microsoft store threatens to undermine the sheer flexibility that made computers so popular over the last 15 years.

In conclusion, Windows 8 is only a good upgrade for those relatively new to computers or those looking for future-proof investments, All others should probably stick to Windows 7.
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on 2 April 2014
For anybody who is using any previous version of Windows and considering upgrading to Windows 8.1, i hope you find this useful.

I am taking the time to write it because I am really tired of reading comments on tech sites that are deliberate attempts to deter people from upgrading to Windows 8.1 because they have an unhealthy level of brand loyalty to fruit, robot or penguin branded gadgets or software. This just creates `noise' that makes it difficult for genuine Windows users to see the real picture and make informed decisions about whether the upgrade is worth their money. I am sure my review will attract a considerable number of downvotes as a result.

I am an IT pro, I have used every version of Windows since the very beginning and along the way I have supported a variety of other Server and Desktop OS including OS/2, Linux, Unix and Mac. Currently I have to use Windows 7 at work every day and to be honest, I have grown tired of using it, it was great when it came out but now looks and feels dull, dated, slow and limited in comparison to Windows 8.1 (Never thought i would say that). It also lacks many features I now use everyday in Windows 8.1 and I often find myself attempting Windows 8.1 gestures, only to realise the gestures don't work because its Windows 7 I am using at work. By the way, my company (an Enterprise sized global company) only migrated to Windows 7 around 18 months ago so consequently would have no immediate plans to upgrade so soon afterwards and like many other enterprises will likely skip Windows 8/8.1 possibly even 9.

Since its debut in October 2012, my main desktop pc at home was set up to dualboot between Windows 8 x64 Pro and Windows 7 x64 Ultimate. However... from that date, I didn't boot into Windows 7 at home ever and just a couple of months later, I removed Windows 7 entirely. I installed the free 8.1 update as soon as it became available. My partners desktop and the media center in the lounge have been purely Windows 8, then 8.1 since the same time. We also have 2 Microsoft Surface tablets (Surface RT & Surface 2) and 2 Nokia Lumia phones with WP8.

Windows 8.1 works with all of my existing applications and games that run on Windows 7. I have zero compatibility issues with software. It also works with all of my hardware, however as with any new version of Windows, some manufacturers choose not to provide driver/software compatibility for products that are of a certain age on new operating systems. I recommend you check the hardware vendors websites before to see if your hardware has drivers/software available rather than be disappointed. Don't just rely on the "Windows Upgrade Assistant" that Microsoft provides.

The OS itself works great with Mouse/Keyboard just as well as Windows 7, it also works great with a touchscreen if you have one or are interested in purchasing one. If you are used to using keyboard shortcuts, don't panic, they have not gone away. It also works great with multiple screens.

Windows 8.1 has a great new user interface called "Start Screen" that is very easy to understand, it comprises tiles that provide you with dynamic information such as emails, news summary, weather, social media updates, photos etc. It requires very little time to understand the handful of gestures/keys/shortcuts you can use to interact with it. If you are mouse/keyboard only, I recommend a mouse with a scroll wheel so you can scroll the start screen and scroll or turn page on any scrolling/page turning modern apps without having to drag the scrollbar. For a very large percentage of people who are not IT experts, this is ideal for their use and if like my parents, many will not need to use the desktop at all. The Start Screen is customisable so you can group different tiles together (e.g. group all your news/interest sites/apps together or all your social apps together), you can label each group and you can resize tiles (5 different sizes). I tend to have the tiles that have the most useful dynamic content larger than the others, it gives a little more real estate for useful information I can catch at a glance. Customisation of the OS was a little coarse in Windows 8, but with some of the improvements in 8.1, that process became far more intuitive and refined. Apps that work in the Modern UI are sourced from the Windows Store (An app is pre-installed that allows you to browse, download and purchase free/paid apps). For people who use a pc for basic stuff (email etc) but also like reading news.. I think the News App and other alternatives available in the App store (Flipboard, News Bento etc) make reading about your interests and News much more convenient and much better than if you had setup RSS feeds. By default 8.1 is configured to boot to the start screen so for many users (less advanced users that do more consumption than creation/productivity) this is likely to be the best choice.
For anybody more advanced, IT professionals or people who use productivity software in their job, the new UI also has benefits. In my case I use this UI mostly for consumption of digital content, browsing web etc and for the other things I mentioned above. I particularly like seeing the weather, any new emails, news headlines and social updates at a glance before I head into my news app to see whats happening in the world, all whilst enjoying a nice cup of tea, it has become part of my morning and evening routine. There is also the added benefit that my Surface 2 tablet and Lumia phone has the same interface and all my stuff is syncd across all my devices without me lifting a finger.

As I am an IT Professional and user of productivity software, I spend most of my time on the classic desktop. Just like Windows 7 you can add shortcuts on the taskbar or desktop to your most frequently accessed stuff, if you choose, you can also `pin' shortcuts them to your modern start screen. Windows 8.1 enables you to boot directly to the desktop (instead of start screen) if you prefer. So if you don't like the new UI, you never have to see/use it. I prefer to boot to the Start Screen and click on the desktop tile when I am ready.

Now there is one element that has been entirely changed. That is the Start Button which was omitted from Windows 8, reintroduced in 8.1 but with different behaviour. If left click it in 8.1, it will by default take you to the "Start Screen". If right clicked it will present you with a list of power user options. What it doesn't do if you left click it is present you with the "Start Menu" which was the scrolling list of stuff you have installed and other options that was present in Windows 95 through to Windows 7. This is apparently what most of the negativity has been about and to some extent I can understand some genuine Windows users who like this method of launching applications would have preferred to have a choice. To cut to the chase, the Start Screen does provide an alternative `launcher' that is flexible to allow mouse/keyboard or touch input. For those that cannot survive without the start menu or feel it will take them longer to adapt, there are wide range of "Start Menu" software packages you can install free or buy for a small fee. "Classic Shell" is an excellent free start menu package and another very highly rated package is "Start8" by Stardock @ £4.99. That's right, like always, with Windows there are still multiple ways of doing the same thing so you can always find one that suits your usage style. Unfortunately though a significant % of the complaints about this are not from Windows users, they are from people who on tech sites are positively commenting everything from Apple, Google or Linux and attacking any article related to Microsoft. Quite a lot of other improvements have been made to Windows, the most beneficial new features for home users small business users are:

1. Improved Security - Baked in Antivirus, improved Smartscreen filter (to prevent phishing attacks), Secureboot (prevents bootkits infecting your bootsector that can re-infect your pc after removal of malicious software) and modern apps from the Windows Store - These run in a sandbox so are inherently more secure than traditional desktop apps.

2. Family Safety - Baked into the OS allowing parents to have control over what their children can see online and ability to limit use to certain applications and within certain time periods. Previous versions required separate download and it was part of a Windows Live package. Not something that I use, but I am pretty sure responsible parents would want to restrict their children from accessing porn or other inappropriate content. In older versions I think this was part of Windows Live Essentials which was an optional download, I don't have kids so somebody may correct me on that point.

3. Windows Store - Simple and safe method for acquiring free apps and purchasing paid apps.

4. Continuity of Support from Windows Updates - This is now particularly important for users who are still using Windows XP (about 38% according to analysts).

5. Continuity of Application support, many publishers have cut or will cut support for XP. For home users this can be an annoyance and also a security risk. For business users, its both a security risk and a business risk.

6. Modern Start Screen - Whilst this is the most controversial point I list, I see it is a significant benefit. It provides a starting point where at a glance, you can see useful dynamic information from things such as... News headlines, Weather, Whats on TV, Emails/Skype/Social Media updates & Messages, Whats on online TV or added to streaming services you may have subscribed to.. this is without having to even launch any of those programs.. so it could be considered to provide a kind of dashboard functionality. It also is the modern starting point from where you can launch your most used apps (modern apps from Windows Store and classic desktop applications) as well as grouping them into logical categories, all without the unnecessary clutter of the old Start Menu. If you want to quickly see every app... one click or a downwards swipe and you can see and interact with the full list that can be sorted alphabetically or by other filters. In complete contrast, I find the old Start Menu in previous versions of windows to be horrendous for organisation and after installing quite a lot of applications or games, would quickly deteriorate into an unwieldy scrolling mess. What was particularly annoying about it was the fact it deemed it necessary to not only create folders for each program and insert the program launcher, but it also inserted Uninstaller, help, weblinks, registration into each. In my view help, weblinks and registration would have been better if accessed through the applications themselves and as Uninstaller is duplication of control panel/uninstall programs function, these things that caused this clutter were wholly unnecessary and could have been avoided. I also hated the fact that publishers would create duplicate folders... so for example.. instead of every game from Electronic Arts being in one folder called "EA" or "Electronic Arts", with each EA game I installed, I would get multiple folders such as "EA", "EA Sports", "Electronic Arts", "EA Games" and many more variations. Then inside each would be the single player program, sometimes multiplayer program launcher, uninstaller, help, weblinks, sometimes configuration utility, sometimes registration. This greatly multiplied the unnecessary clutter and required constant cleaning up to merge these folders and delete all the junk. I am so happy that this was removed, but I do understand we are not all the same and accept that some people were used to it and would have liked a choice to continue its use or if/when they choose to change to the modern Start Screen. If Microsoft deserves any criticism, it is for not allowing these choices.

7. Modern Apps (from the Windows Store) - not only inherently more secure, but certain apps like news readers like Bing News, News Bento and Flipboard (amongst many others) provide a much clearer, much more intuitive and much less complicated way for many users to access and consume the news or read about their interests.. visually they are like reading a newspaper or magazine where you scroll or swipe to change page/flip page over. I feel that this really lowers the barrier to usage of PC's for things that people care about and use. I accept that some apps have better Desktop versions that have far more options, settings, but for many home users, these things can be daunting to use, overcomplicated and unnecessary. My personal use is a mixture of both... at the beginning I was probably 95% : 5% usage in favour of desktop apps, after 18 months of Windows 8/8.1 and Windows tablets, I am more like 65% : 35% with my tablet use responsible for most of the increase although the steadily growing number of modern apps and some of the better quality ones is a factor too. Without the tablet use, I guess it would be about 80% : 20%.

8. Compatibility with new peripherals and better future proofing for compatibility - Many hardware vendors use End of Support Life of an OS as a catalyst for ending support of an OS, any new products they release often do not have drivers written for them.

9. Lower resource footprint than Windows 7 - OS, Apps and Games run faster on the same hardware.

10. Much faster boot, sleep, hibernate and resume times. My media center in particular.. resumes from sleep in about 1 second and faster than my 60" TV resumes from standby. Boot time from POST on Maximus VI Hero/i7-4770K/32gb Ram with SSD RAID0 is about 7 seconds until I am typing in my password, this is with quickboot options in UEFI Bios all enabled.

11. Microsoft Account Integration - Sign into your pc once and you don't have to sign into each service separately. The account is tied to your Skydrive (now called OneDrive), People/contacts, Mail, Skype, Xbox Video, Xbox Music, Xbox Games and App Store. You can also associate your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Email accounts (Outlook, hotmail, yahoo, gmail etc) and the result is you only ever have to sign in once, It has a little bit of linking to do the first time, it is very straightforward to do and takes only a couple of minutes but after that, you don't have to think about it again. Why is this a benefit? I am certain that less computer literate users find having so many different account credentials to remember is very `offputting' and is a barrier to many who would like to use PC's and online services.

12. Baked in Cloud storage.. You now have "OneDrive" (Previously called "SkyDrive") as a storage location just like your local or network storage. This storage is accessible anywhere from your pc (after logging in with your MS account) or on any PC via a browser or app (by logging in with your MS account). Same for your WP8 smartphone. I am not certain but I expect there are iOS and Android apps for Skydrive/OneDrive too. This is completely free. I personally like this because it is free but the main reason is because my data is not being scanned to serve me ads.

13. Deeper integration with Social - Whilst social isn't everybody's cup of tea.. it would be disingenuous to argue that hardly anybody would want this.

14. Vastly improved built in Browser.. IE11 is much faster, has hardware acceleration, is much more secure and supporting W3 standards.. This is coming from somebody who never used IE (until IE10).. except to download Netscape and later Firefox. I am almost embarrassed to say it, but i now use IE11 more than i use Firefox. I especially like the sync'd tabs across my devices and when I choose not to be tracked or to clear my data, It really does mean my data is deleted and I am not being tracked. Microsoft's business is based on selling software and services and in the enterprise, security and privacy is paramount. It is not based on monetisation from datamining to serve you ads.

15. Much improved search capability.. "Integrated Search" displays content from multiple sources... local storage, remote/cloud storage, web, apps all from one query. Something that google is now rushing to mimic with Android.

16. Much improved File copy although I still wish that it had gone further by providing functional parity with Teracopy, albeit with a simple toggle "More" to expand and reveal options allowing more control and "Less" to hide those options for people who don't want it. I see this as an opportunity missed, but hope it comes in Windows 9. Until then, I recommend anybody to take a look at Teracopy if you regularly shift large amounts of data and want more granular control.

17. Baked in Email thats easy to setup once with existing Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail etc email accounts.. It also is very clean and doesn't post ads all over your app or sneak what look like emails in your inbox (but are actually ads/spam) like Google does.

18. New Refresh and Reinstall features allow you to refresh the installation without affecting your files should you ever have the want or need to do so.

19. Settings to control data over metered connections - Great news If you have a download cap on your broadband or are using a device with built in 4G.

20. Flight mode - great for when you take your notebook or tablet - almost expected feature these days, its new to Windows 8.

21. Much improved stability and reliability.. To be fair, Windows 7 was never known for unreliability or instability but like every OS when it was first released, was subject to early teething problems. Whilst i am not suggesting that i had a lot of Blue Screen of Death events, i did have some. In contrast, in my experience of Windows 8/8.1.. I've had one BSOD, that was shortly after Windows 8 launch. What is noticeably better though is how i have not had to reinstall Windows since October 2012 when i first installed retail WIndows 8. This is the first operating system i haven't had to reinstall after several months constant/heavy usage.

22. Same experience across all devices.. Its not only about having the same UI on desktop pc, laptop, tablet, smartphone... but it really benefits in situations like when you buy a new pc, instead of having to set everything up again from ground zero, you only need to login to your microsoft account on first boot and hey presto... your settings that were stored in the cloud are now on that device. Same benefit in the unlikely event you want or need to reinstall windows. In my example, after purchasing the Surface RT tablet when it launched in the UK, I signed into my Microsoft account and my preferences from my desktop PC stored in the cloud were downloaded to my tablet, when I replaced that with a Surface 2, same thing again.. on first boot, logged in with my MS account and voila.. saved myself a lot of time having to do it all manually and only required a minimum of device specific settings to be adjusted according to taste. If anybody is also considering buying a Windows 8.1 tablet (whether it be Intel x86 or Arm based), keep this point in mind... you will see the bigger picture a lot quicker than just using Windows 8.1 on a notebook or desktop only.

23. Works fantastically well with Touch devices and Touch Screens, but works just as well with a mouse and keyboard, although I would suggest you use a mouse with a scroll-wheel.
Less universally beneficial or less known but there nonetheless...

24. Much more informative and useful Task Manager.

25. Native support for USB3.0 - i accept that most users won't notice this benefit they will just use it. Its simply providing accessibility to USB3.0 peripherals.. what's the point in investing in slower USB2.0 peripherals? After all, USB3.0 peripherals are slowly becoming default.

26. Baked in support for NFC, Miracast, WiFi Direct & 3D Printing - not everybody is going to use them today, but i certainly use WiFi direct sometimes and over the coming years I expect i will use the others.

27. Storage Spaces.. improved way for adding more disk space (use up your spare disks from old PC's) combining your physical disks into one logical disk in Windows that grows as you add more disks to it. My parents have no idea what C: Drive is and if I gave them a D: drive and an E: drive, they would be even further confused. I don't wish to appear condescending, I just think my parents are no different from a lot of people.

28. Automatic Forced Restart following Windows updates - Absolutely annoying in Windows XP, Vista, 7.. automatic updates would install whilst you were away from your desk, you would come back and find that Windows had restarted your pc. If you had been at your desk, you may have noticed a message telling you it would auto-restart in 10 minutes, but that you would have the option to postpone it for up to 4 hours. This was not good enough and numerous times has resulted in me (and countless other people worldwide) from losing work. Windows 8.1 completely fixes this issue by adopting a much more flexible approach to restarts after windows updates. It will now auto restart only after 2 days by default.. if you do not restart before then. I have never lost work due to this issue since installing windows 8, although I continue to have it periodically on my notebook at work (Windows 7) often on Patch Tuesday.

29. Support for DirectX 12 - Certainly a benefit for PC gamers and they are a very large user group, Stats from Steam indicate an already huge and fast growing userbase. DX12 will rollout to Windows 8.1 via an update sometime in 2015 - it will enable significantly higher graphic performance on the same hardware, it hasn't been confirmed whether this will be available for Windows 7, but my expectation is that it is unlikely. My opinion is based on previous Microsoft decisions on availability of DX10 and DX11.

For Enterprise IT Sys Admins, Power Users, the list is also very significant.

The only features that I used that have been removed in Windows 8/8.1 were:
Windows Media Center
DVD codec

These were removed as the use of Optical Media has deteriorated very quickly and the use of cloud services including storage and streaming services has grown at a staggering rate. The issue with including these for legacy purposes was the royalties that would need to be paid to the patent holders. Microsoft elected to remove this cost from everybody, but provided the option that for those that wanted to continue to use DVD etc, they could pay a small fee for an upgrade pack (cost is something like £7 - £10 and upgrade/purchase is online and initiated from within Windows 8.1). However, I took advantage of the free offer by registering Windows 8 before the free upgrade offer expired.

Admittedly, like every previous release of Windows or any other OS, there were some rough edges or missing features from Windows 8 on day 1. Most of these have already been refined or added in the Windows 8.1 update and there will be more updates that further add features and refine existing ones. These updates will be available for free in the Windows Store App.

All things considered, Windows 8.1 gets my highest recommendation.
11 comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 December 2012
I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro three weeks ago and the writing of this review will be my last use of Windows 8 before I revert back to 7.

The radical overhaul of the user interface seems to be a feature that many users working on desktops just don't like -However, the UI isn't the sticking point for me. While it's a a whole new Windows experience, once you get a little accustomed to it, it's slick enough and relatively intuitive (bar Microsoft's well-documented but still bewildering decision to omit a 'Start' tab from the task bar in desktop view). The problem for me with Windows 8 is that the 64-bit version at least appears to operate more like a Beta than a general release and I've encountered several stability and compatibility issues.

From the outset, I had issues with vanishing interface icons. My particular issue is related to some sort of conflict between the system fonts and my own custom fonts (had the same fonts on Windows 7 without a moment of trouble), but a quick browse of internet forums readily demonstrates that Windows 8 icons are prone to disappearance for any number of reasons leaving users with an unusable interface or at best a dependency on the alt tags for navigation. Not good.

In addition to this problem, despite the MS compatibility checker informing me that my machine, peripherals and software were all compatible with Windows 8, I've since discovered that my Wacom graphic tablet has very limited functionality(depsite installation of the latest driver), Norton Ghost isn't compatible at all and hence won't work on Windows 8 (although admittedly Norton Ghost is now a bit ancient) and several of my Adobe applications have become very unstable since operating within Windows 8 (including Photoshop and Illustrator both of which are CS6 editions). I've tried to rectify the latter issue by uninstalling, reinstalling then updating the programmes but it's made absolutely no difference at all. Adobe 64 bit software just doesn't seem to like the 64 bit Windows 8 operating system.

My final gripe is with IE10 which (inevitably) comes bundled with Windows 8. I think there are very few people in this day and age who haven't yet realised that Internet Explorer is a piece of trash in comparison with other browsers and has been for several years now. I didn't ever expect IE10 to live up to the laughable 'blazing fast' claims of the MS advert and I wasn't disappointed. It's by and large the same piece of retrograde junk that it has been for the last decade with the additional 'bonus' of delivering the worst text rendering I've seen in a browser for a long time.

These issues combined make Windows 8 a dead duck for me. It's a shame because I actually think it could be a very good platform -it has some really nice features and the boot speed is very good indeed. I'll probably take another look at it after six months worth of updates have been released (or maybe when the first service pack is issued), but for now, it seems that there are just too many shortcomings for it to be an effective and efficient platform.
0Comment| 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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