The inner geek in me couldn’t resist. For $40, I had to try the upgrade of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8, on my desktop computer. I’m not unhappy with Windows 7 – it’s a very solid OS – but I wanted to try something new, and see for myself what has become a virtual battle ground:
The upgrade part was very smooth. I downloaded an .iso image of Windows 8 Upgrade from the Microsoft site (you can pay via credit card or Paypal), burnt it to a blank DVD disc, rebooted my computer, and started the installation almost instantly.
Microsoft has really improved this process. Every step was clearly explained and no major glitches occurred. The Upgrade disc scanned my existing Windows 7 software and drivers, and the vast majority of them were compatible (or so I was told) with the new OS. A few programs, like Win7’s Windows Security Essentials, had to be deleted before I proceeded, and would be reinstalled as new Windows 8 programs. (In the case of WSE, Windows 8 comes with a built-in Windows Defender that looks a lot like WSE, but with the old Vista name.) A few other programs, like Camtasia, will need to be manually installed.
I had a new OS on my computer in about 20 minutes. This really is quite amazing. In prior Windows OS’s, the process often took hours. In this case, everything was up and running in under half an hour.
Well, not quite. There were a few things I had to fix.
First, I had to disable the login screen. I like jumping straight to the desktop, but Windows reasserted its preference for signing in. (This is a vestige of Microsoft’s enterprise heritage, I suppose.) Thankfully, the process of bypassing the login screen is similar to Windows 7.
Next I installed Stardock’s glorious little utility, Start8. In my mind, Start8 is indispensable if you own a desktop or laptop without a touch screen. For reasons I’ll discuss in a later post, Microsoft should have included all the functionalities that Start8 provides. First, it allows me to boot straight to the traditional desktop, and bypass the Windows 8 start screen altogether. Second, it provides a traditional start menu that Windows users have utilized since the 1990’s. Moreover, Start8 is a light program that integrates effortlessly into your computer, and is a steal at $4.99. Finally, it still allows me to use the new Modern UI, but only when I’m curious. I am not forced to use the new UI; this is something I think is going to hurt Microsoft if they don’t provide some immediate changes.
I did have to buy a new (paid) version of Stardock’s Fences, and I was annoyed the older free version no longer worked, but after two days everything else has lived up to the Upgrade’s promise of full compatibility.
I am now running Windows 8 just like I ran Windows 7. The new OS certainly cuts the boot and shut down times in half, and opening and closing programs seems slightly snappier, even though they were never really slow in Windows 7. After examining the system data (which is presented in a much cleaner format), it appears the OS is certainly more efficient with RAM and CPU power.
The next thing, of course, is to discover what all the hubbub is about regarding the Metro, er, Modern UI. So far, it looks great for those with tablets and touch screens. Unfortunately for those with powerful desktops, large multiple monitors and a preference for a mouse, Windows 8 appears to be a significant step backwards. I’m not against change, per se, because change is meaningless; it’s just an alteration of direction. But I am against bad change, and for people like me it looks like Windows 8 is bad news for “traditional” desktops and laptops. Nevertheless, I won’t provide a definitive judgment yet; in a later post, I’ll offer a more thorough analysis of Windows 8.